Dirt cheap • Voice commands work well
Limited voice command presets
Amazon’s Alexa-enabled microwave is dirt-cheap buy if you need a simple microwave.
We did this to ourselves.
Welcoming Amazon’s Alexa into our home with trojan horse devices like Echo smart speakers, smart displays, set-top boxes, tablets, and the zillion other things the digital assistant has infiltrated was only the beginning.
So it’s not at all outrageous Amazon’s now put Alexa into a product you’d least expect to find it: a microwave.
The first question most people I’ve shown the AmazonBasics Microwave ask is: “Why would I want Alexa in my microwave?” And my response has been the same: “Why wouldn’t you want to use voice commands to control your microwave?”
Interest piqued, the follow-up question is always: “How much does it cost?”
“$60, which is about what a microwave of this size and power already costs without Alexa,” I tell my suddenly more interested pals.
And that is how Amazon’s gonna sell a ton of these Alexa-supported microwaves.
The product name gives away everything you need to know about the quality of this smart microwave: It’s as basic as any AmazonBasics product.
A high-powered microwave for cooking a 20-pound turkey centerpiece, this microwave is not. This 700-watt microwave is good for making popcorn, or reheating a cup of soup or a rubbery Salisbury steak you picked up in the frozen aisle.
Its power is comparable to the non-smart $50 Sunbeam microwave of the same class I picked up from Target about six years ago and its size is the perfect fit for a college dorm room, basement man cave, or tiny apartment.
Amazon’s smart microwave will heat up your frozen veggies or Campbell’s just fine with the press of the Alexa button below the keypad on the front. Just say “1 cup of noodle soup” after pushing it.
Unfortunately, even with Alexa, the microwave didn’t make the mundane task of reheating food any faster or less of a chore.
Feeling too lazy to muster up extra energy to press the Alexa button even though you just had enough strength to place a casserole onto the glass plate? Not to worry, you can use a voice command like “Alexa, reheat six ounces of casserole” instead.
Whether you press the button (no need to say “Alexa” first) or don’t (in which you do have to use the Alexa command), you’ll still need to have an Echo device nearby it for the voice commands to work. There are no microphones built into the food-heating machine. Instead, when you press the button or call on Alexa, the microwave wakes up a nearby Echo device and uses it to listen to your voice command.
Unfortunately, even with Alexa, the smart microwave didn’t make the mundane task of reheating food any faster or less of a chore.
It didn’t feel magical or futuristic the way the original Echo and Alexa voice commands did when I first installed that in my apartment way back in 2015. On the contrary, this sad, basic microwave only reminded me how terrible microwavable food is and that I need to spend more time eating with friends and family instead of by myself.
Limited “cooking” options
True story: That Sunbeam microwave was my very first microwave. My parents never owned one and for good reason: You should learn to cook or starve. That, or get a job so you can buy takeout.
I bought that crappy low-powered microwave because an ex-girlfriend wanted it and I secretly wanted to relate to modern civilization, I guess.
But the thing is: A 700-watt microwave just isn’t very powerful. Sure, it’s enough for reheating certain foods and beverages and you can defrost small portions (between 50-70 ounces) of meat such as chicken, beef, or pork, but you’re probably mostly gonna use it to pop some popcorn or reheat leftover pizza.
Ain’t nobody doing any real “cooking” with the AmazonBasics Microwave. Amazon could have went all-out and made the Alexa smarts cook the crap out of foods so nerds like me can remain glued to our YouTube and Reddit, but it didn’t.
Even with voice commands, the microwave only knows a very limited number of things to reheat, defrost, and cook.
Amazon gave me a reviewers guide with a list of stuff to try out with the microwave and Alexa controls. So I went shopping and tried out as many as my budget allowed.
Alexa worked with aplomb for reheating basics like coffee, soup, noodle soup (not to be confused with regular soup for some reason), but it fell short on warming up my severely frozen chicken sandwich when I told it “1 burger.”
Some dinner plates still required personal intervention. For example, I told Alexa to “reheat 1 dinner plate” (a Salisbury steak with potatoes and a side of mac and cheese) just two ounces over the recommended “12 ounces = 1 plate” definition and was grossed out by the frost still visible on sections of the rubbery meat and mac and cheese. Whipping the mac and cheese to mix up the frost and flipping the steak over and then reheating it again cooked it a little better, but the preset just wasn’t enough. In the end, it was still trial and error to add more time to fully heat up the meal.
If I’ve learned one thing from using voice assistants at home it’s this: If it fails to understand me or it doesn’t accomplish what I want the first time, I’m less likely to ask it to try again. With this Alexa microwave, after a few improperly heated or cooked sessions, my frustration made me ignore the futurism and just pressed the damn number buttons.
Maybe the thing that annoyed me the most was that the microwave didn’t know how to cook bacon. If there’s any one thing Amazon should have focused on when teaching Alexa cooking skills, it should have been delicious, crispy bacon.
But no… I had to cook bacon the old-fashioned way: like a caveman pressing still pressing buttons.
The microwave works with some nuanced voice commands such as “Alexa, microwave for 3 minutes” or “Alexa, reheat milk for 2 minutes on low power,” but I’d hardly say they’re more convenient than manually entering the settings.
And there’s also a built-in “Dash Replenishment” feature that keeps a tally of how many bags of popcorn you’ve eaten and then reorders more at a 10 percent discount before you out of it, but like meh. All I’m hearing is “Here, keep eating popcorn you fatty!”
It works, but it’s nothing special
There’s nothing to really dislike about the AmazonBasics Microwave. It’s a microwave! It reheats things, and it does so just fine.
Amazon is making it seem like adding Alexa to such a boring home appliance somehow reinvents the microwave. It doesn’t.
The thing’s $60 and didn’t catch on fire during my week of attempting to use it to cook several meals. Should you buy one? Go for it if you don’t need something more capable or it’s your first microwave. Did I mention it’s only 60 bucks? The Echo is separate, so if you don’t already own one I recommend an Echo Dot, which is frequently on sale for less than $50. That’ll get you cooking, but mostly on your own, since Alexa isn’t much help.