When Amazon released a cheap microwave with built-in Alexa integration, most of us scratched our heads for a second and then quickly moved on. But now Sharp has created its own microwave powered by Amazon’s digital assistant, and somehow it’s even more confounding than the original.
Unlike the $60 Amazon Basics microwave with Alexa, Sharp’s microwave features a much more luxe design and a higher price tag, with the Sharp Smart Countertop Microwave Oven available in two sizes: a $150 1.1-cubic-foot model or a $170 1.4-cubic-foot version. Even for the cheapest model, that’s nearly three times the price of Amazon’s model, which is a significant amount of frozen chicken tendies.
Many people might find the inclusion of a digital assistant in their microwave quite objectionable, or at least a small annoyance, but the idea behind being able to control a microwave with your voice isn’t quite as silly as it seems.
The traditional line of thinking is that because you still need to physically put food inside the microwave, voice controls don’t add much to the equation. However, the real benefit of voice controls on a microwave is to bypass the typically clunky and often arcane interface microwave manufacturers have been trotting out for the last three decades. Controls on microwaves are often so unintuitive that the only functions people regularly use are Time Set, Add Minute, and the freaking Popcorn button.
By using voice controls via Alexa, not only is Sharp’s microwave a potential boon to accessibility, Sharp said its smart microwave offers 30 different voice commands with at least 10 different food presets such as, “Microwave fresh vegetables,” or, “Defrost two pounds of meat.” And for anyone who has tried to do either of those two functions recently on a regular microwave with buttons, voice controls are starting to sound like a better alternative.
There is some confusion, though: The smaller 1.1-cubic-foot option is said to include 30 voice commands with at least 10 food presets available by voice, while the larger model comes with more than 70 voice commands and more than 50 food presets. Now I get that the larger model might be able to accommodate a wider range of foods, but having five times as many voice-activated food presets seems very strange.
We’ve reached out to Sharp for more info regarding its smart microwave line, but unfortunately because initial information is so limited, it’s hard to say why the range of voice commands between the two models are so different, or even how the number of voice commands for Sharp’s microwave compares to what’s available with an Amazon Basics microwave.
Another important caveat is that like the Amazon Basics microwave, Sharp’s smart microwave doesn’t come with a built-in mic, which means you’ll need to rely on wifi and a paired Echo device or the Alexa app to support voice controls.
But the other standout feature of Sharp’s smart microwave is that it has been “specifically tuned” to deliver “optimal popping results” with Orville Redenbacher’s Microwave Popcorn, whatever that means, which could be a small bonus for anyone truly devoted to Big Poppa Pop.
[Update 12/13] Sharp says that one of the main advantages of its smart microwave compared to the Amazon Basic model is much higher power output of 1500 watts compared to just 700 watts. Sharp also says the reason why the bigger 1.4 cubic foot model supports a larger number of voice commands it because has additional sensors that it allow it to perform functions with multiple steps, especially as it relates to the microwave’s Sensor Cook and Melt/Soften features.