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8 types of microwaves explained

With no shortage of configurations, features and price points on the market, finding the right microwave for your kitchen can mean taking a lot of information into account. Use this guide to learn more about the 8 most common types of microwave ovens, including how they can fit into your kitchen’s layout, family’s budget and day-to-day cooking routine.

What are the different types of microwaves?

The most common types of microwaves include built-in, over-the-range, countertop, undercounter, wall oven and microwave combination, smart and convection microwaves. Each type can vary in their placement within the kitchen, whether they’re built into a wall, installed above the range, sitting below the countertop or freestanding. Whirlpool brand even makes a low profile over-the-range microwave to give you more cooking space on the stovetop underneath.

Your microwave search will also lead you to units with differing power levels, finishes, sizes, feature line-ups, configurations and more. Read on to learn more about what each type of microwave can offer your kitchen, or browse these microwaves from Whirlpool to find the right fit.

Whirlpool® Over-the-Range Microwave

Installed between the cabinets above your range, over-the-range microwaves clear up space on the counter and vent smoke and odors from the range or cooktop below.

Whirlpool® Low Profile Microwave

Low profile microwave hood combinations live above the range or cooktop in a sleek, compact design that fits your family’s favorites without sacrificing precious space in the kitchen.

Whirlpool® Built-In Microwave

Built-in microwaves are installed directly into pre-existing cabinetry and can have doors that either open from top to bottom or side to side, creating a clean aesthetic with a top-of-the-line feel.

Whirlpool® Countertop Microwave

Providing the ultimate portability, countertop microwaves can go anywhere on the kitchen counter and come with both basic and more high-end features.

Also called drawer microwaves, under-counter microwaves are built into lower cabinetry and slide out just like a drawer, making it easy to slip food in from the top.

Whirlpool® Convection Microwave

Convection microwaves let you heat, bake and roast foods by combining the powers of a microwave with heating elements of a convection oven.

Whirlpool® Wall Oven and Microwave Combination

Wall oven and microwave combinations feature a streamlined, built-in design that combines the wall oven and microwave in one with the microwave on top and the oven below.

Whirlpool® smart microwave

Sometimes called bluetooth microwaves or connected microwaves, smart microwaves come in a variety of configurations and connect via Wi-Fi or bluetooth to your phone or smart home network so you can cook more conveniently.1



1. Over-the-range microwaves

Over-the-range microwaves make space on the counter by conveniently mounting between the cabinetry above the range or cooktop, keeping all of your cooking in one centralized location. These microwaves often offer ventilation, and are available in models that vent air outside of your home or filter and recirculate air back into the kitchen. Models typically include two types of filters: a charcoal filter that reduces odors and a grease filter that helps clear the air.

Over-the-range microwaves come in capacities large and small. They’re available with a wide range of features, like Whirlpool® models with the CleanRelease® non-stick interior. You can even elevate your kitchen with style that stands out and a microwave that fits in thanks to the Flush Built-In Design, like on this Whirlpool® Microwave. When closed, the door sits flush with standard depth cabinets for a sleek, seamless look.5

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Whirlpool®  Low Profile Microwave in brown cabinetry Whirlpool®  low profile microwave in brown cabinetry

2. Low profile microwaves

Like over-the-range models, low profile microwave types install above the range or cooktop and under the cabinets in place of a range hood. These space-saving models are sleek, compact and fit and vent like a hood2. They’re ideal for those whose cabinetry is too low for a typical over-the-range microwave or people who simply value more space above the cooktop. 

Low profile microwaves are compact but offer powerful cooking and venting features and a roomy interior. For instance, this 1.1 cu ft. Low Profile Microwave Hood Combination from Whirlpool brand offers a 3-Speed, 400 CFM Motor Class3, 1,000-Watt Cooking Power and plenty of room for large bowls and casserole dishes. Browse the Whirlpool® Low Profile Microwaves below to find the right fit for your kitchen.

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Built-in microwave in wall above built-in wall oven. Built-in microwave in wall above built-in wall oven.

3. Built-in microwaves

Built-in microwaves are installed in a wall or within existing cabinetry and often come with high-end features that round out a premium look and feel. These microwave types free up space elsewhere in the kitchen and are available in a range of sizes and power levels, making it easier to find the right fit for your family’s favorite dishes. Built-in microwaves can even be professionally installed in other places around the kitchen, including underneath the counter in a drawer style.

For a flush and seamless look, consider the Whirlpool® Built-In Microwaves below that include a trim kit and feature an integrated design with tap-to-open doors.

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Whirlpool® Countertop Microwave in front of white backsplash Whirlpool® Countertop Microwave in front of white backsplash

4. Countertop microwaves

These freestanding microwaves sit on your kitchen counter and are simple to set up and start operating. Though they’ll compete for counter space with other kitchen appliances, countertop microwaves offer the ultimate in flexibility and are easy to relocate around the kitchen as the need arises. Plus, most models are ADA compliant.

Countertop microwaves tend to enter the market at a lower price point than other microwave types, but are available in a wide range of capacities, features and finishes. Some models, like this Whirlpool® Microwave, feature a Keep Warm setting that helps food stay warm and ready to serve for up to 60 minutes while you wrap up the rest of your meal.

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 5. Under-counter microwaves

Under-counter microwaves are installed into lower cabinetry, offering a modern aesthetic and discreet placement. Unlike a traditional microwave door that swings to the side, opening an under-counter microwave is as simple as sliding the microwave out. The waist-height nature of these models increases accessibility, and most models include effective lock systems. Under-counter microwaves offer a premium feel, but tend to enter the market at a higher price point than their countertop and built-in counterparts.

Whirlpool® Over-the-Range Convection Microwave in modern cabinetry Whirlpool® Over-the-Range Convection Microwave in modern cabinetry

6. Convection microwave ovens

Convection microwaves offer all of the capabilities of both a microwave and convection oven, providing the best of both worlds for your family’s cooking needs. Like a convection oven, a convection microwave oven features an oven-like heating element with a fan that circulates heat throughout the unit, adding baking and roasting to your microwave’s resume.

7. Wall oven and microwave combinations

Wall oven and microwave combinations merge the wall oven and microwave into one streamlined unit, providing a convenient layout that maximizes available space both on and over the counter. The microwave door swings down, opening just like an oven’s door does for an integrated look and feel. While these units can come with a high price tag, they’re often accompanied by premium features like Air Fry Mode and Frozen Bake Technology available on select Whirlpool® models. Browse Whirlpool® Wall Oven and Microwave Combinations below to learn more about combination units for your kitchen.

Shop wall oven and microwave combinations from Whirlpool brand

Person using a smartphone to monitor air fry temperatures in their Smart Microwave Oven from Whirlpool brand Person using a smartphone to monitor air fry temperatures in their Smart Microwave Oven from Whirlpool brand

8. Smart microwaves

Smart microwaves offer a variety of Wi-Fi enabled, remotely controlled and adaptive features that bring a whole new level of convenience to cooking. They may include features like voice control with a compatible voice-enabled device and other smart features you can enable from home or on the go with compatible smart devices. Smart microwaves are available in a variety of configurations, and can exist within every type of microwave listed above. Browse the models below to learn more about smart microwaves from Whirlpool brand.

Shop smart microwaves from Whirlpool brand

Which type of microwave is best for you?

The right microwave for your home takes your family’s budget, cooking habits, kitchen layout, preferred aesthetic and more into account. Walk through the considerations below to help you decide which microwave type best fits your family’s cooking needs, use this microwave buying guide, or take advantage of the Whirlpool® Appliance Finder to help narrow down your options. Compare the benefits of microwaves vs range hoods.

Kitchen size and fit: Though all microwave types come in a variety of sizes and capacities, be sure to consider where in the kitchen you have the most space and how you’d like to streamline the cooking process. Kitchens with limited counter space might benefit from built-in models that tuck the microwave away, whereas those with limited or low-hanging cabinetry may make the most of their space with a countertop model.

Style: Your kitchen’s existing aesthetic can be a great guide for choosing the right microwave for your home. Models are often available with white, black or stainless steel exteriors and modern or more traditional design elements. The Flush Built-In Design on select Whirlpool® Microwaves helps elevate your kitchen even more with a sleek, seamless install that sits flush with standard cabinet depths.

Features: Pre-programmed settings, defrost settings, sensor cooking and other features can make cooking more convenient and eliminate some of the guesswork, but only if they’re features that support your family’s cooking routines. When reviewing types of microwaves, consider how often your family might take advantage of a particular model’s feature set to avoid paying more for features that sit dormant.

Installation requirements: The right microwave for your kitchen may be contingent on what kind of installation process you’re willing to take on. If you value convenience and portability in the process, a model with a simple setup may be the way to go. Keep in mind that some microwave types may require professional installation assistance, especially if ductwork is required. 

Power and wattage: More powerful microwaves cook food faster than those with lower wattages. If you often make meals and snacks that might benefit from more even cooking and faster cook times, it may be worth paying a little more for a microwave with the power to handle your family’s favorites.

Budget: If you’re on a tight budget it may be best to steer clear of higher price point configurations like wall oven and microwave combination units or under-cabinet models. Luckily, most microwave types come in less expensive standard models and pricier, more premium models. Shop these microwave sales from Whirlpool to find a model that best fits your budget.

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Shop all Whirlpool® Microwaves for your kitchen

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1. WiFi & App Required. Features subject to change. Details and privacy info at whirlpool.com/connect.
2. Based on 24″ minimum install for under-cabinet hoods and Low Profile Microwave Hood Combination.
3. Performance varies based on installation. Resources available at aham.org. 
4. Select frozen foods only. Appliance must be set to remote enable. WiFi & App Required. Features subject to change. Detail and privacy info at whirlpool.com/connect. 
5. When installed in standard cabinet depth 12-¾".