The Best Microwave For College Dorm Life In 2022

When it comes to picking the best microwave oven for a dorm room, there are four things you really need to look out for:

Size & Space: The dorm microwave you buy needs to be compact enough to fit in a small space, while still being big enough to tackle the most common jobs of both cooking and reheating leftovers safely.

Power Rating: Most microwaves have a power rating of between 600 and 1200 Watts. I recommend a minimum power rating of 700 Watts to properly cook and reheat food. Just be aware that your RA may have strict limits on appliance power. Always check first before buying the microwave!

Interior Capacity: The interior capacity should be large enough to fit a plate. That’s important for when you just want to quickly reheat some leftovers. Of course, this needs to be balanced with the overall size of the appliance, and the amount of space you have in your dorm room.

Controls & Features: You’ll be able to choose from touchscreens, rotary dials and push buttons. Most microwaves also offer a range of heat settings. Additionally, think about any presets you might find useful for the most common jobs. You’ll pay more for these features, but they can take a lot of guesswork out of the equation.

With those four things in mind, I’ve extensively researched the market to find the best dorm microwaves that meet these crucial guidelines.

The winner?

Sale
Amazon Basics Microwave, Small, 0.7 Cu. Ft,...
  • Now it’s easier to defrost vegetables, make popcorn, cook potatoes, and reheat rice. With an Echo...
  • Compact size saves counter space, plus 10 power levels, a kitchen timer, a child lock, and a turntable.
  • Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new presets.

The Amazon Basics microwave came out on top for a number of reasons.

First, its 700W power rating means it has enough oomph under the hood to handle both cooking and reheating food. Although it lacks presets, it does have ten different power settings which gives it a decent amount of versatility.

The overall size remains compact, but it features a 0.7 cubic feet interior cooking space with a 10 inch turntable. That’s more than enough for the typical dinner plate!

Finally – despite its budget status – it has a little smart-tech built in too. The integration with Alexa makes this microwave about as convenient to use as you could hope for.

It’s the best overall dorm microwave for the typical college student, in other words. There are always some other factors to consider though.

If you want more presets, for example, then consider the Comfee Compact Microwave Oven instead. If you want to grill as well as microwave – and the increased power rating won’t get you in trouble – turn to the Emerson Grill Microwave Oven.

Power level on the Emerson aside, each of these options meet the main buying points I’ve outlined above. They just provide different pros and cons for different situations.

Keep reading for a closer look at all of the microwaves I shortlisted for this article. After that, you’ll find a more detailed buying guide which looks at the criteria in much greater detail.

(Heads up! If you click on a product link and make a purchase, I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. I never recommend a product I wouldn’t use in my own kitchen, and this helps keep the site running. Thank you.)

College Dorm Microwave Reviews

Let’s take a closer look at both the Amazon microwave and the others that I shortlisted for review in this guide.

Amazon Basics – BEST OVERALL

Just as the name suggests, the Amazon Basics Microwave is an entry-level mini microwave that’s an excellent choice for college students.

It’s one of the smallest I discovered for this guide, which is always useful in a dorm room! At 700 Watts though, it’s more than powerful for the kind of meals you’ll be making.

Sale
Amazon Basics Microwave, Small, 0.7 Cu. Ft,...
  • Now it’s easier to defrost vegetables, make popcorn, cook potatoes, and reheat rice. With an Echo...
  • Compact size saves counter space, plus 10 power levels, a kitchen timer, a child lock, and a turntable.
  • Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new presets.

Although there aren’t any presets as such, you do have access to ten different power levels. For basic cooking, it’s a cost-effective but solid performer.

Finally, and as you’d expect from Amazon, the company’s microwave also has fully integrated support with the Amazon Echo. Only simple controls are available at the moment, but there’s a chance new presets will be delivered through this smart speaker in the future. 

If you’re interested in presets, read on to the Comfee microwave oven I’m looking at next. For a little more money, you get quite a lot more bang for your buck.

As an extremely accessible and effective dorm microwave though, the Amazon Basics takes my top pick overall.

  • External Size: 17.3” (W) x 10.1” (H) x 14.1” (D)
  • Turntable Size: 10.0”
  • Interior Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet
  • Power Rating: 700 Watts

Comfee Countertop Microwave Oven

Comfee’s Countertop Microwave Oven is very similar to the Amazon Basics appliance, but it packs in a few extra features that might be of interest.

Like the Amazon model it has a power rating of 700 Watts and has 0.7 cubic feet of interior cooking space.

COMFEE' EM720CPL-PM Countertop Microwave Oven...
  • Stylish stainless steel finish, compact size: 0.7 cubic-foot capacity, 700 watts and 11 power levels
  • Mute function, settings, clock, kitchen timer, child safety lock, easy auto-cook functions: Popcorn,...
  • One touch express cooking function with 1-6 minutes and +30 seconds functions, and two defrost settings...

It brings a little more than this to the (dinner) table, however.

For a start you get 6 presets built in. These are for pretty basic jobs like microwaving pizza, popcorn, beverages and reheating, but are definitely helpful.

Beyond that, the Comfee also features “quick cook” buttons covering periods of 1-6 minutes. There are two defrost settings too, which is not often seen on microwaves at this end of the budget range.

Finally, the Eco mode reduces standby power by up to 50%. When you’re a college student, every cent saved on the bills helps!

  • External Size: 17.3” (W) x 13.0” (H) x 10.2” (D)
  • Turntable Size: 10.0”
  • Interior Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet
  • Power Rating: 700 Watts

Commercial Chef Counter Top Rotary Microwave

The Commercial Chef microwave is really only suited for those who need very basic controls on their appliance.

These controls consist of nothing more than two rotary dials for controlling the temperature, and timings of operation.

Sale
Commercial Chef CHMH900B6C 0.9 Cubic Foot...
  • ELEGANT DESIGN - This countertop microwave oven features an interior capacity of 0.9 cubic feet - and...
  • ASSURED CONVENIENCE - Customize cooking experience by adjusting the six power levels for a variety of...
  • SAFETY FEATURE - A 30-minute timer will helps keep things safe; the user can’t accidentally enter a...

What you do gain with this appliance is a larger interior cooking space at 0.9 cubic feet. The overall chassis is larger than many of the other options in this guide, however. 

You’ll need to judge whether the simplicity and cooking capacity are worth these trade-offs. I find it hard to recommend against the competition, and for this specific purpose.

Still, this is a viable option if you feel truly out of your depth with fancy controls, and just want to be able to make the most primitive dorm room meals.

  • External Size: 21.0” (W) x 17.0” (H) x 13.0” (D)
  • Turntable Size: Unknown
  • Interior Capacity: 0.9 cubic feet
  • Power Rating: 900 Watts

Black & Decker EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven

Black & Decker might be more familiar to you as a power tool brand, but it’s gradually been increasing its collection of kitchen appliances over the years.

This 700 Watt microwave features touch controls that include half a dozen presets, quick start buttons for briefer cooking times, and a defrost option as well.

BLACK+DECKER EM720CB7 Digital Microwave Oven...
  • Pre-programmed buttons for popcorn, potato, pizza, frozen vegetable, beverage and dinner plate
  • 700 Watts with 10 power settings, clock and kitchen timer, 30 Seconds Express Cooking
  • Large LED digital display, easy-to-read control panel, child safety lock, interior light, removable 10”...

In addition to that, you also get 10 separate power settings for quickly picking a heat, and then setting a timer.

I wouldn’t write off the Black & Decker completely, and in many ways it meets the criteria you want from a dorm microwave. So far, so good!

Historically though, I’ve found these appliances don’t last as long as those from more mainstream kitchen brands. For that reason, it doesn’t get the same seal of approval from me personally.

  • External Size: 17.3” (W) x 10.2” (H) x 13.0” (D)
  • Turntable Size: 10.0”
  • Interior Capacity: 0.7 cubic feet
  • Power Rating: 700 Watts

Emerson 1100W Griller Microwave Oven

Emerson’s Griller Microwave Oven is better suited for those college students who want maximum versatility from their microwave.

Doubling as both a grill and a microwave, you have so many more options for cooking in your dorm room.

Emerson 1.2 CU. FT. 1100W Griller Microwave...
  • 1.2 cu ft of cooking space Metal front and black cabinet
  • 11 microwave power levels 1 pure grill power level
  • 99-minute, 99-second digital timer Time and weight defrost LED display with digital clock

Just keep in mind that the Emerson has the highest power ratings (1100 Watts) in this guide. Make sure you’re staying on the right side of the regulations if you decide to go down this route.

The extra power and functionality also means a larger size overall, and a bigger interior cooking space of 1.2 cubic feet too. 

A total of 11 different power settings gives you slightly more control than the other dorm microwaves I’ve looked at. Those heat settings are backed up with 9 presets for tackling common tasks from frozen pizzas to beverages.

  • External Size: 20.6” (W) x 17.3” (D) x 12.8” (H)
  • Turntable Size: 12.4”
  • Interior Capacity: 1.2 cubic feet
  • Power Rating: 1100 Watts

Buying Guide

Let’s go back to those buying criteria, as well as a few other things you might like to think about. Why do they matter, and how might they affect the microwave you decide to buy?

The Important Of Wattage

Typically speaking, the higher the Wattage on a microwave, the faster the food cooks.

This comes at something of a price, however.

The more powerful the microwave is, the more money you’ll typically have to spend on your purchase. It’ll also use more energy in the long run, so if you’re not making the most out of the extra space and cooking speed, it’ll hit your budget.

What about the minimum amount of power you should look for in a microwave?

700 Watts is the right sort of minimum power rating to look for. Given that we’re looking at small college dorm microwaves here, that’s enough power to both cook and reheat food correctly.

The Interior & Exterior Size

You won’t have a lot of room to work with in a dorm! For that reason, focusing on a compact size is as important as any other consideration.

You won’t be entertaining lots of guests with this thing though, so you don’t need a huge interior cooking space to work with.

Anywhere between 0.6 and 1.0 cubic feet in size is a good size to aim for.

Check the dimensions of the turntable plate as well. A 10 inch diameter should be just about right for the average dinner plate. This sort of size is very useful for heating up leftovers for a quick meal.

Controls & Features

Think about who’ll be using the microwave here.

If the microwave will only ever be used for heating up leftovers, you can get away with a simple timer microwave with rotary dials and a few heat settings. You really don’t need an advanced appliance.

The good news is that for only a little extra money you can get a microwave that comes with presets, multiple heat settings, and a few other useful functions. It’s worth the extra investment in my opinion.

If you really want to show off, you might also consider buying a dorm microwave that connects to a smart speaker, like the Amazon Echo. If that sort of convenience is important to you, check the product listing!

The Heating Technology

Different microwaves go about heating the interior in slightly different ways. 

This, in turn, affects how efficiently the microwave cooks the food.

More expensive microwaves use convection technology which results in very effective, even cooking.

Cheaper microwaves use a sort of “pulsing” tech to heat up the food. That’s less expensive to manufacture, but isn’t quite as efficient when it comes to energy use.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before I wrap things up, I’ll answer a few questions that commonly come up on this subject:

Can You Have A Microwave In A College Dorm?

The most sensible advice I can give here is to check with the housing authorities before you buy anything! 

Very few will ban the use of non-flame appliances (i.e. microwaves) outright, but there may be a limit on the power rating.

700 Watts is the level you want to aim for here, and that shouldn’t be a problem in most colleges. Again, check on a case by case basis first.

What’s A Good Microwave For A Dorm Room?

The Amazon Basics microwave ticked all the right boxes for me, and was my overall top pick.

Do College Students Need A Microwave?

If you’re allowed to have a microwave in your dorm room, then I really do recommend making the investment. Good food when you’re away from home is always a luxury worth taking advantage of.

A compact dorm microwave doesn’t cost much money at all, and it’s so much better to have access to your own appliance. That way you don’t have to worry about waiting in line to use the communal microwave!

How Many Watts Should A Dorm Microwave Be?

As mentioned further up the page, you’ll need to check with the college authorities. You can buy microwaves with a power rating as low as 600 Watts, but these won’t heat food efficiently or quickly.

Again, look for that minimum power rating of 700 Watts for the best results. 

How Long Should A Dorm Microwave Last?

Most reputable manufacturers supply their appliances with a 12 month warranty. That said, you can expect a decent microwave to last up to 6-7 years.

That’s assuming you take good care of it, and don’t exceed the operating parameters outlined in the warranty.

After 6 years or so, it’s always worth looking around at a replacement. Appliance tech moves quickly, and you’ll likely find some handy new features after this point.

Where Can I Buy A Dorm Microwave?

Dorm microwaves are readily available in the same places you’ll find a microwave for any use!

Major retailers often focus on bigger (read: more profitable) countertop appliances, but Amazon has a good choice of smaller microwaves that are better suited to college life.

Wrapping Up

The best microwave for college students combines compact size, power, and just enough features to get the basics done.

Balancing all those things together, I lean towards the Amazon Basics microwave. It’s small, it’s got enough heat settings to cover most needs, and it’s extremely cost-effective:

Sale
Amazon Basics Microwave, Small, 0.7 Cu. Ft,...
  • Now it’s easier to defrost vegetables, make popcorn, cook potatoes, and reheat rice. With an Echo...
  • Compact size saves counter space, plus 10 power levels, a kitchen timer, a child lock, and a turntable.
  • Alexa is always getting smarter and adding new presets.

If those presets are really important to you though, then I think you could justify splashing a little extra cash on the Comfee Compact Microwave Oven instead.

COMFEE' EM720CPL-PM Countertop Microwave Oven...
  • Stylish stainless steel finish, compact size: 0.7 cubic-foot capacity, 700 watts and 11 power levels
  • Mute function, settings, clock, kitchen timer, child safety lock, easy auto-cook functions: Popcorn,...
  • One touch express cooking function with 1-6 minutes and +30 seconds functions, and two defrost settings...

Click on those boxes to go straight to Amazon, and see how their owners have been getting on with their new purchase.

Happy cooking!