If there's one sure way of knowing that you've become middle aged, it's when you feel a burning desire to have your kitchen appliances match your tiles.
When I was young, before I hit the ripe old age of 30, I had a Tesco value microwave. It was white, had a dial for the power level and a dial for timing. Both were largely irrelevant as regardless of what setting you aimed for, you ended up with food that was nuked on the outside and stone cold on the inside. The risk of salmonella made the average meal a pleasingly exciting Russian Roulette-type experience. However, I was young, so I didn't mind.
Now, though, I care about matching things. A tragic fact, but there it is. So when I got my kitchen redone a year ago, I wanted a microwave that would look smart on the worktop and blend in with everything else. I also wanted one that would have at least 800 watts, and have electronic time and power settings rather than dials. So, with that in mind, it was off to Argos I went.
Ten minutes later, I emerged with this the Sanyo EM-S2298R. I bought it solely because it was glossy black with a red handle, and thus matched my kitchen (which, since you ask, has grey and black chequered floor tiles, black worktops, glossy white units and red, grey, black and white wall tiles). Less importantly, it was also 800 watts and had electronic controls.
~*~ How It Looks ~*~
Like a microwave, really. I love you all very much, but I'm not going to go and measure its dimensions for you or anything. It'll fit comfortably on the average countertop and will accommodate most plates. That said, I have square plates from John Lewis and, whilst they will fit in, the angles mean that they won't turn on the turntable. It's never affected how hot the food gets, though, and the turntable seems to merrily rotate under the jammed plate without damage to crockery or microwave. The door is one that opens by pulling the handle rather than pushing a button and the cooking time is set by turning a dial (although this registers electronically, rather than via a timer counting down).
~*~ Functions ~*~
I'll mention only the ones that I use fairly extensively, as otherwise this'll go on forever. Other details can, no doubt, be found on the manufacturer's website.
*Basic cooking - just put the food in, turn the dial for the desired time (it increases in 10 second increments) and press the button in the centre of the dial at the bottom to start the cooking process. As with any microwave, it's a good idea to cover the food, but it won't dry out excessively if you forget. As long as the right time has been set I've always found that the food is heated thoroughly with no cold spots.
*Power level - there are 6 different power levels which can be accessed by pressing the appropriate button. This is useful when heating things like soup, baked beans or poached eggs which have a tendency to be a bit explosive, or when reheating previously cooked food.
*Defrost - or, as I like to call it, 'the magic setting'. With this function you input the weight of the food to be defrosted, and press the start button. So far, so good, but this microwave somehow knows when the food is ready and will stop itself regardless of whether the time is up or not. It's not right all the time and occasionally I'll need to pop something back in for a couple of minutes, but at least 70% of the time it magically guesses when the food is properly defrosted. Such is the wonder of modern microwaves.
~*~ Other Stuff ~*~
There is a kitchen timer that can be set whether the microwave is in operation or not and there's also an 'auto cook' setting, which includes baked potatoes, rice, fish, and popcorn amongst other things, but I confess that I've never used this function: I like to live life dangerously by working out my own cooking times.
The power cable is quite short so the microwave will need to be placed reasonably close to a power point. It's a weighty beastie so anyone with limited mobility in their arms will perhaps require help to lift it out of the box. There is a small digital clock above the function buttons, and it's fairly intuitive to set the time. As with most microwaves, it beeps to tell you when the food's finished cooking. However, in its eagerness to be a helpful microwave, it keeps on beeping at junctures which are just long enough to irritate the hell out of you. If you open and close the door it will stop, but this feature is surprisingly annoying if you've put your pie on to reheat and want to leave it in the microwave for five minutes while your chips finish cooking. No one likes being chivvied by their appliances.
~*~ Cleaning ~*~
Most surfaces are smooth and the glass plate is dishwasher safe, so it's not difficult to keep it clean as long as it gets a wipe down on a fairly regular basis. Obviously, any very abrasive cleaning products will strip the paint and expose the internal metal, so unless you want a rather large electrical fire, don't clean it with Brillo pads or a flamethrower. The glossy outside can be easily cleaned with a soft cloth and kitchen cleaning spray.
It's never given any hassle since I bought it a year ago and all the buttons and functions still work perfectly. It has uncomplainingly put up with the odd explosion and with the cat being fascinated by pressing all the buttons and opening the door.
~*~ And Now, The Good Stuff. Exploding Things! ~*~
It's a mid-range microwave, so it's fair to say that it won't make your dinner explode with quite the same alacrity that a budget one will. However, if you're really committed to the cause of detonating food, you'll find that the best results are to be had with baked beans and eggs. If you've got pyromaniac tendencies, you might be interested to learn that I managed to start a small fire by accidentally putting a bag of microwave popcorn on to cook for 40 minutes rather than 4 minutes. If you don't want the smell of burning corn permeating your soft furnishings but yet still want a quality electrical fire, though, you always have the option of doing what my friend Gail did - absentmindedly using the microwave to reheat a plum pudding that contained at least a fiver in small change wrapped up in tinfoil.
I should probably point out at this juncture that none of these courses of action would be recommended by Sanyo. I say you should quit worrying and live a little! (Although please don't sue me when you get burned to death).
Overall, this is a really smart-looking microwave with a good range of functions. It's currently available in Argos for £69.99, although I'm sure I paid less than that so it might be worth waiting for a sale. The best bit of all is that its full name is the Sanyo EM-S2298R Black and Red Easi-Tronic Microwave. Those of you old enough to remember will know that you just don't get more Tomorrow's World than the phrase 'Easi-Tronic'.
Short name: Sanyo EM-S2298R