* Prices may differ from that shown
I use my microwave pretty much every day, and as a result, we seem to have gone through 3 in about 5 years as I have bought cheap and lived to regret it. I was very frustrated with the last microwave I chose, so this time I stropped at my husband and said if you are so good, you pick one.
He approached this the way that he approaches buying a new car. It required a week of online research, a short subrscription to Which, and at least two visits to shops to look at the machines in person before he commited to buying this model. We were lucky that it was in costco, and it cost £120 rather than the £135 plus that it is available for elsewhere.
This is not just a microwave like my last two, it also has a grill feature. Not that I'll end up using it that much as I have a grill on my oven, but it would have been very handy when we had our kitchen replaced. It came with a little rack to use if you do use the grill which is a round stand with wire on it like on a grill pan.
The microwave itself is larger than my last model inside which is a bonus. It definitely has a robust feel to it. I don't feel like the door will fall off if I open it a bit vigourously. It has the dimensions of 27.9 high, 39.5cm deep, and 48.8cm wide. This is a capacity of 0.81 cubic feet or 23 litres inside the microwave which is more than ample for a large dinner plate, and big enough for any bowl or dish I've used inside it. The plate is able to turn freely and it is so silent when it is in use I often look at it again to see if I actually switched it on. Even the beep to tell you it has finished its programme is just a couple of discreet high pitched beeps.
We have got it mounted out of sight on a wall in my walk in pantry, so I wasn't too bothered by physical appearance. However, I do find that it is quite attractive to look at with a stainless steel outer surface. Unfortunately it does show fingerprints up rather too easily around the door release switch and where you close the door, but they also easily wipe off with a damp cloth.
It is a fairly powerful microwave with a top heating output of 950 watts, and it can be altered to 100 W, 275, 300, and 600 manually through pressing a button at the top of the display panel. Altogether there are 6 power levels. You can also choose auto-defrost modes, auto-cook, and auto-combine which uses the microwave and grill. There is a sticker on the inside at the top of the door to direct you which programme you might choose to cook items like pizza, quiche, or defrost common items like bread. The grill has a slightly higher power output of 1000 watts.
===Using this microwave===
At first, I had to get my husband to show me how to use this. I couldn't figure out at first how to do it by just having a fiddle. Maybe a sign I am getting a bit older. However, once shown, this is fairly simple to use. You start by working from the top of the machine downwards. First select your power output and programme using the buttons underneath the digital clock. Then there is a dial to turn to select your time to cook for. You then press the start button. Should you want to stop the machine, there is a stop button, and a restart. You can also use a timer if you choose. When the food is ready, the button at the bottom opens the door and it opens smoothly, not jerkily.
Once I got used to using a shorter cooking time as it was a more powerful machine, I have not had any problems at all cooking food, and my machine gets used at least once daily, if not more.
Most of my microwave cooking is pretty basic which is why I have always gone for a basic machine. All I want to do usually is reheat my husband's dinner when he comes in from work late, or warm up a meal accompaniment like baked beans or vegetables, or sometimes cook a microwave cake in a few minutes. However these basic machines have all been rubbish.
My last machine the inside of the machine had a painted metal surface which started peeling once I had cleaned it a couple of times, and this then went rusty. Really I should have returned it. This time, this machine has a special acrylic lining which should be (and has been) a lot easier to wipe out after use without wearing out.
===The Which factor===
For the purpose of the review, I asked my husband what it was in the Which magazine that made him choose this machine. Apparently, from their testing, this machine was better at defrosting than other models (allegedly 40% quicker), and was also found to cook the food more evenly. I can definitely say the cooking is more even than in my previous machine, though I think this is also to do with the fact that the machine is larger and the plate can turn freely inside to rotate the food as it is cooking.
The next swaying factor was that this was a solid machine. When he spent time in the shop looking at different models, this one just felt more robust. Things like the door opening really smoothly, and not feeling like it would lose a button or have the door fall off its hinges.
===The Final Verdict===
Cooking for a family, this is a great microwave having the larger capacity. It doesn't feel like it is an overly large machine like the microwave with grill that we had as our first machine together as the dimensions are not massive, it is just less wasted space where the buttons are located. We are lucky we have space to store it out of sight, but even if it had to be on the side in the kitchen, it is not an ugly machine, and it also has the advantage of a child proof door lock. I am also pleased that it has a one year manufacturer's warranty as I do not seem to have the best track record with microwaves.
I would have preferred to have spent a little less on a microwave if I am honest, but I have to admit, in this case I think my husband did do a pretty good job at picking it. My only tip is shop around, as I just did a quick google on prices, and it varies between £135 and £150, and if you can get it cheaper that is always better in my opinion.
(Olympic relay team entry for TEAM GP)
Panasonic MICROWAVE WITH GRILL / Short name: Panasonic NN-GD371SBPQ