Best answer: If you're already an Echo user, the AmazonBasics Microwave can be an affordable microwave that you can keep for years. You better keep that Echo nearby because it can't hear you on its own, though, and its lower-end 700 watts means your food might cook more slowly.
Alexa, nuke the popcorn: AmazonBasics Microwave ($50)
So how smart is this microwave?
The AmazonBasics Microwave may sound fancy with its Alexa integration, auto-refilling popcorn, and simplified controls, but let's get one thing very clear very quickly: you can't talk directly to the microwave. That Alexa button that sits bottom center on the microwave's controls does not turn on a microphone in the microwave, because the AmazonBasics Microwave does not actually have a microphone or speaker inside it. That Alexa button instead signals a paired Amazon Echo device to go into listening mode — or you can just say "Hey Alexa" — and then give your command. Without an Amazon Echo device paired to it, the AmazonBasics Microwave isn't any smarter than other low-wattage microwaves on the market.
That isn't to say that this microwave is worthless without an Amazon Echo; you can still use all of the normal functions as you would on a "dumb" microwave using the number pad and the function buttons for power level and basic defrosting. If you bought this microwave for your dorm room but couldn't get your microwave set up on the dorm's funky Wi-Fi — many dorms Wi-Fi systems don't play nice with Amazon Echo devices — you could still use the microwave normally. And you'll find it's actually cheaper than other microwaves of the same wattage.
You just wouldn't be able to use the Alexa controls for smarter reheating/defrosting operations like "OK Alexa, reheat one bowl of soup" or the 10% discount on reordering popcorn through Amazon Dash Replenishment.
Watts the problem with 700W?
Microwaves come in a range of wattages, mostly between 600W and 1,200W. This difference in power is why 1 minute in your mom's microwave perfectly preheats your frozen pizza for the toaster oven while 1 minute in your cheap apartment microwave leaves spots still frosty — the higher the wattage, the more energy the actual microwaves directed at your food have when generated at full power. Higher power microwaves also tend to heat food more evenly.
700W is the lower end of consumer microwave power, and while this makes food cook a tiny bit longer or less evenly — a problem the AmazonBasics Microwave tries to minimize with its glass turntable — sometimes higher wattage models simply aren't an option. Most college dormitories have strict wattage limitations for resident microwaves, so the AmazonBasics Microwave can be a safe purchase for college-bound kids, regardless of if they can get Amazon Echo working in their dorm room.
Cooking with Echo
Prepare food and order discounted popcorn with Amazon Alexa.
Affordably priced as microwaves go, the AmazonBasics's lower wattage means that it should be allowed even in tiny dorm rooms, but it's not smart on its own — you have to have an Amazon Echo to talk to the microwave through. The 10% discount on popcorn is great for those of us with regular movie nights, but that popcorn might take longer to pop with a 700W microwave compared to the more normal 1,000W.
$50 With coupon: MNATIONS10
$60 $10 off
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Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.