Countertop Microwave vs Built-in Microwave: Difference and Comparison

A countertop microwave provides flexibility in placement and easy installation, making it suitable for various kitchen layouts and ideal for renters or those with limited space. On the other hand, a built-in microwave offers a sleek, integrated appearance that maximizes counter space and enhances the overall aesthetic of modern kitchens, albeit requiring professional installation and a potentially higher initial investment.

Key Takeaways

  1. A countertop microwave is a standalone appliance that sits on a countertop or table and is easy to move, install, and use.
  2. On the other hand, a built-in microwave is integrated into a kitchen’s cabinetry or wall and requires professional installation and dedicated space.
  3. Countertop microwaves are more affordable and portable, while built-in microwaves offer a sleeker, more integrated look.

Countertop Microwave vs Built-in Microwave

Countertop microwaves are small and less powerful than built-in microwaves, ideal for small kitchens and can be moved easily. Built-in microwaves are larger and more powerful than countertop microwaves and are part of a larger kitchen appliance package. A professional install them.

Countertop Microwave vs Built in Microwave

Comparison Table

FeatureCountertop MicrowaveBuilt-in Microwave
InstallationSits on countertop, plug-and-playInstalled above cooktop or in wall, requires professional installation
Countertop SpaceRequires countertop spaceFrees up countertop space
CapacitySmaller capacity (under 1.5 cu ft)Larger capacity (1.5 cu ft or more)
PowerLower wattage (around 700-1000 watts)Higher wattage (around 1000-1800 watts)
FeaturesFewer features (may not have grilling or convection)More features (may include grilling, convection, and sensor cooking)
CostGenerally less expensiveGenerally more expensive
AestheticsWide variety of styles and colorsCreates a streamlined, built-in look

What is Countertop Microwave?

A countertop microwave is a versatile kitchen appliance designed for convenient heating, cooking, and defrosting of food items.


Countertop microwaves utilize electromagnetic radiation to generate heat within the food, causing molecules to vibrate and produce friction, thus heating the food quickly and efficiently. They come equipped with various power levels and cooking settings to accommodate different types of food and cooking requirements.

Design and Placement

These microwaves are freestanding units that sit on a countertop or any flat surface within the kitchen. They feature a compact and portable design, making them suitable for small kitchens, apartments, dorm rooms, or areas with limited space. Countertop microwaves come in a range of sizes, from compact models ideal for solo individuals or couples to larger units capable of accommodating family-sized meals.

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Installation and Convenience

One of the primary advantages of countertop microwaves is their ease of installation. They require no special mounting or built-in cabinetry, allowing for straightforward setup and mobility. Users can simply plug them into a standard electrical outlet, making them convenient to move or relocate as needed. Additionally, countertop microwaves are more affordable compared to built-in or over-the-range models, providing a cost-effective solution for households on a budget.

Flexibility and Maintenance

Countertop microwaves offer flexibility in terms of placement, allowing users to position them wherever there’s available counter space. This versatility makes them an ideal option for renters or individuals living in temporary housing arrangements. Maintenance is relatively simple, involving regular cleaning of the interior and exterior surfaces to remove food splatters and spills. Most models also feature removable turntable plates or trays that are dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.

countertop microwave

What is Built-in Microwave?

A built-in microwave is a specialized kitchen appliance designed to seamlessly integrate into cabinetry or wall units, providing a sleek and cohesive look while offering the functionality of a conventional microwave.

Integration and Design

Built-in microwaves are specifically engineered to be installed within cabinetry or wall units, allowing them to blend seamlessly with the surrounding kitchen design. Unlike countertop microwaves, which sit on the kitchen counter, built-in models are recessed into a designated space, creating a streamlined appearance and maximizing available counter space. They feature a trim kit or frame that helps to achieve a custom, built-in look, enhancing the overall aesthetic appeal of the kitchen.

Installation and Professionalism

Installing a built-in microwave requires professional assistance due to the complexities involved in integrating it into existing cabinetry or wall units. Professional installers ensure proper alignment, ventilation, and electrical connections, ensuring the microwave functions safely and efficiently. While the installation process may incur additional costs compared to countertop microwaves, the result is a polished and professionally finished kitchen layout that adds value to the home.

Functionality and Features

Built-in microwaves offer similar functionality to countertop models, including various cooking presets, power levels, and defrost settings. However, they boast additional features such as convection cooking, sensor cooking technology, and advanced control panels with touchscreen displays. These features enhance cooking precision and versatility, allowing users to achieve restaurant-quality results with ease.

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Space Optimization and Convenience

One of the primary advantages of built-in microwaves is their ability to optimize kitchen space effectively. By recessing the microwave into cabinetry or wall units, homeowners can free up valuable counter space for other appliances or food preparation activities. Additionally, the built-in design reduces clutter and enhances the overall flow and organization of the kitchen, creating a more functional and visually appealing environment.

built in microwave

Main Differences Between Countertop Microwaves and Built-in Microwaves

  • Installation:
    • Countertop microwaves are freestanding units that require no special installation and can be placed on any flat surface.
    • Built-in microwaves are designed to be integrated into cabinetry or wall units and require professional installation to ensure proper alignment and ventilation.
  • Placement and Space:
    • Countertop microwaves occupy countertop space and are suitable for kitchens with ample counter space or for those seeking portability.
    • Built-in microwaves are recessed into cabinetry or wall units, maximizing counter space and offering a sleek, integrated look that enhances kitchen aesthetics.
  • Flexibility and Mobility:
    • Countertop microwaves offer flexibility in placement and can be easily moved or relocated as needed.
    • Built-in microwaves are stationary once installed and are not easily moved, providing a permanent solution for kitchen layouts.
  • Cost and Value:
    • Countertop microwaves are more affordable upfront and offer a cost-effective solution for households on a budget.
    • Built-in microwaves require a higher initial investment due to professional installation costs but add long-term value to the home by enhancing the kitchen’s aesthetic appeal and functionality.
Difference Between Countertop Microwave and Built in Microwave

Last Updated : 01 March, 2024

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