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Last year, I decided to replace the microwave that I'd owned for about a decade as the interior coating was coming away. I use a microwave on a daily basis, just for very simple tasks such as heating the mug of warm milk I have every night and warming my youngest son's weetabix in the morning. I didn't particularly need any special features from my new microwave but I did want a digital rather than a dial-based model, as I find them to be more accurate. I also wanted my new microwave to work in ten second increments, again for accuracy and to be at least 800 watts for speed. I didn't think I was asking for a great deal but I actually really struggle to find a simple digital model that offered a ten second button. Eventually I found this Samsung microwave (ME89F1S) that seemed to offer the features and power I required.
I reserved this microwave online from my local Argos store so hadn't seen it in the flesh before purchasing. As soon as we unpacked this from the box, I knew that it had been a mistake. I did mutter something about returning it but my other half was reluctant to go to the hassle of returning it.
One of the reasons why I disliked this microwave from the outset is because it is so big. Most electrical appliances (particularly microwaves) tend to get slightly smaller as time progresses. I can certainly remember our first family microwave from the 1980s being a huge beast of a thing! I had expected this new microwave to be smaller than its predecessor but, if anything, it is slightly bigger. The capacity is a fairly standard 23 litres, so large enough to cope with your everyday cooking needs (including fitting in an Avent microwave steriliser) but certainly no larger than average. The exterior is considerably larger than the interior, as this has an extremely large keypad panel making the microwave look like a massive black boxy contraption. My worktop space is limited in the kitchen and I would have preferred this to be a smaller model, without sacrificing internal capacity. There just seems to be a huge amount of wasted space with this microwave and I wonder if it could have been downsized if the number of (mostly totally unnecessary) additional features had been reduced.
My main gripe with this appliance is its ease of use. I can generally work my way around most kitchen appliances without too many problems but this machine makes the most simple of tasks frustratingly difficult. There are far too many 'function' buttons for one thing and the labelling used is totally illogical. I defy anybody to get this microwave to work on the first attempt without having to be on intimate terms with the user manual first. There are so many different buttons to select from, with none of them being clearly marked. Instead, they have random symbols with varying designs of wavy lines and just bizarre hieroglyphic style images.
One of the few buttons that is marked with an identifiable symbol is the 'child lock' button, marked with a padlock. This is another thing that irritates me; the large number of totally unnecessary features. Yes, I am a mother of three children and, yes, I am conscious of child safety, especially in the kitchen, but that does not mean that I appreciate totally meaningless safety features. In all honesty, of all of the potential hazards in the average kitchen, a microwave is one of the least likely to be within the reach of a toddler. Our microwave, like most, is situated high up on a kitchen worktop and if my kids were running riot around the worktops I think I'd need more than a child lock to keep them safe. That aside, the child lock doesn't even do what you might want it to do to avoid hazards - it doesn't actually lock the microwave door to prevent a child from removing a potentially boiling hot item from inside. The lock simply prevents the key pad from being used. So whilst it might stop your toddler from microwaving the pet hamster, it won't prevent them from tipping out the contents of the appliance on themselves. (Both are entirely moot points given the likelihood of the machine being out of said child's reach anyway.)
More space is wasted to incorporate dedicated buttons for 'auto functions' such as being able to cook ready meals for the required length of time, according to the type and weight of the meal. All this might sound very clever but, in all honesty, I am totally perplexed by the need for this kind of feature. Surely, anybody cooking a ready meal would find it quicker to follow the instructions on the back of the packet rather than mess about weighing the item and then consulting the manual to work out just how to key in all the vital details? Even if reheating a home cooked meal, I would just stick it on high for a couple of minutes and keep stirring and checking. I really don't see the need to over-complicate a pretty basic microwave function.
A further 'useful' feature is the inclusion of a free steamer 'power bowl' which can be used within the microwave. I did have visions of steaming everything to perfection using this little device but, again, it's far too much of a faff to use this (suspiciously basic looking plastic) steamer power bowl as it involves weighing out the ingredients used and then calculating the cooking time. Generally speaking, if I'm using a microwave then I want something to be quick and easy - I really don't want to be messing about in that way. Needless to say, that device is sitting gathering dust whilst I just stick my veg in a pan.
I chose this digital model precisely because I preferred the precision involved. Again, I was sadly mistaken. Yes, this offers increments of 10 seconds but, bizarrely, there isn't a one minute button. There are numerous buttons sat there for all sorts of meaningless and unnecessary functions but nobody thought to include a button that increases the timer in increments of one minute? Bizarre! Instead, setting the required amount of time involves pressing two buttons beforehand, to set the correct power - even though 99.9999% of the time something will be heated on 'high' - and then going up in increments of 10 seconds to select the correct cooking time. I'm not sure if the people that designed this microwave have ever had personal experience of using one but I suspect not.
The (quicker) alternative is to bypass this long winded process and use the 30 second 'quick start' button. This method is flawed as the microwave will automatically start and begin counting down on the first press of the button so you do need to be quick and press the correct number of times before losing track. This also loses the element of precision - I didn't want a microwave that goes up in 30 second increments but this is what I end up with by default as it is much quicker to use this option.
The only good thing I can say about this microwave is that it does actually perform reliably, once the poorly thought out operating process has been completed. Food heats evenly and consistently and the interior is coated with a mess resistant anti-bacterial liner that really does seem to repel any splashes and marks, making it incredibly easy to wipe down after use. There is even a button that can be pressed after use to remove any lingering smells left behind but, like much about this machine, it is a pretty unnecessary addition and so badly labelled that I'm not 100% which of the many buttons actually offers this function.
I paid £84.99 for this microwave back in July 2012. It is currently available from Argos for £89.99, which I feel is vastly overpriced. I truly regret buying this microwave and have only kept it as I can't justify replacing an expensive appliance so soon after purchase. I live in hope that this will prove to be faulty and give up the ghost but, alas, thus far it has proven to be pretty reliable and robust. That is where the positives end and I can't recommend this microwave to anybody else, unless they are looking for a steamer in which case I'd recommend that they actually invest in a steamer instead. Whilst this model will heat food quickly and efficiently, it is so poorly designed and unnecessarily complex that I find it a real pain to use. It works but I really wish it didn't.
Microwave: Microwave power output 800 watts / 6 power settings / Auto start/cook / Speed defrost / General information: Button control / Anti-bacterial interior / Interior capacity 23 litres / Child safety lock / Accessories included: power steam bowl / 8 programmes / Size H28, W49, D37cm / Weight 12kg / EAN/MPN/UPC/ISBN: 8806071401843 / By Samsung /