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AmazonBasics Microwave review: Alexa makes you popcorn, orders more in this compact, affordable microwave

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The Good Alexa voice commands add some convenience and give you some additional hands-free time in the kitchen. The popcorn replenishment feature is handy if you're really into popcorn. Amazon says it can add and improve features via software update.

The Bad You'll need to adjust recipes and settings for prepackaged food to account for the 700-watt power rating. Some of the preset cooking commands via Alexa produce poor results.

The Bottom Line Using your voice to control a microwave is a natural fit, and Amazon's competitive pricing essentially puts no premium on the Alexa-powered smarts. Even if you never use the voice commands, this microwave is a low-risk investment for one or two people in a smaller living space.

7.5 Overall
  • Performance 6
  • Usability 9
  • Design 8
  • Features 8

Review Sections

For $60, you can buy this AmazonBasics Microwave and find out what it's like to say, "Alexa, microwave 3 ounces of popcorn." Spoiler: It feels pretty natural. It doesn't save you any time -- you still need to walk up and put the food in, after all -- but in our voice-activated, everything-connected world, it seems like an obvious next step.

To be clear, the new AmazonBasics Microwave -- available as of today at Amazon.com -- doesn't have a microphone built-in. You'll need an Echo speaker nearby to parse your commands. But with Echo Dots going for as low as $24 during the holiday sale season, that hardly feels like a burden.

The Microwave is not yet available in the UK and Australia. $60 is about £45 or AU$85.

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"Alexa, microwave for 3 minutes."

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

In fact, the Microwave is one of the first products to make use of Amazon's new Alexa Connect Kit. Aimed at third-party device makers, the Alexa Connect Kit is supposed to make it easier to incorporate Alexa commands into other products. That makes the Microwave as much a proof of concept for Amazon as it is something you might want to buy. There's a good chance it will lead to other products like it, and not just other microwaves.

You'll find the AmazonBasics Microwave most useful in a smaller living space with one or two people. With a 700-watt power rating and 0.7 cubic foot design, it's not meant to support a family of four. It's priced accordingly, but keep in mind most microwave recipes assume you have a 1,000-watt model. Expect some trial and error when you first start using it. It also doesn't help that the preset Alexa commands don't always produce the best results.

A recurring revenue hook by way of an optional, automatic popcorn-reordering feature adds some additional convenience. This microwave isn't perfect, but there's a lot to like about it, and Amazon says it can improve the presets and other features via software updates over time. I wouldn't recommend any product on the promise of unspecified future upgrades, but based on what it can do today, I can recommend the AmazonBasics Microwave. It's a low-risk investment with some useful features you won't find in other microwaves in the same price range. Just be ready to navigate around the lower wattage cooking power. 

A small microwave with some Alexa smarts

$60 is about the going rate for a standard 700-watt, 0.7-cubic-foot microwave, at least on Amazon. With essentially no premium to buy this Alexa-equipped AmazonBasics version, what's there to lose? 

A microwave of that size and wattage can only cook so much food at a time. I tried cooking four, full-length strips of bacon in Amazon's Microwave, and they brushed the walls as they spun around inside, generally making a mess. It will also take longer to cook things than in a higher-wattage model. I wouldn't downgrade from a 1,000-watt microwave just for this one's Alexa integration. You can even find 1,000 watts of cooking power in a 0.7-cubic-foot chassis for the same price

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A voice command cheat sheet. 

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

All that is to say you have to really want to talk to your microwave to seek out the AmazonBasics Microwave. Don't be ashamed! There are plenty of things to like about the way Alexa works here. Saying "Alexa, microwave for 2 minutes," or "Alexa, stop cooking" feels like the way we should have been using microwaves all along. Unlike an oven or a toaster, microwaves are digital natives. They represent a quick service, stop-and-start vision of domestic progress that pairs naturally with Alexa's robotic acquiescence.

As with any voice assistant right now, there's a learning curve. You need to learn to say "Alexa, microwave one potato," as opposed to "microwave one baked potato." The latter simply won't work. Amazon includes a crib sheet in the box, and you can find a complete list of commands on this Amazon help page.

You may also need to adjust to cooking at a lower wattage. Most packaged microwaveable food gives you instructions assuming you're cooking at 1,000 watts or more. If you cook a lot of that kind of thing, get used to looking up conversion charts.

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