Delivering impressive results across the board, the Toshiba EM131A5C is one of our favorite microwaves we've reviewed. This larger model quickly and evenly heated all sorts of different types of food and has plenty of user-friendly and convenient features and functions. It did particularly well at defrosting frozen items completely without cooking them. This is one of our favorite kitchen appliances, and we highly recommend it to anyone searching for the cream of the crop.Editor's Note: This product review was updated on March 17, 2022 where it was awarded a Top Pick Award
Toshiba EM131A5C Review
Pros: Excellent at defrosting, convenient
Cons: Large, expensive
Compare to Similar Products
$141.99 at Amazon
|$250 List||$120 List||$75 List||$110 List|
$119.95 at Amazon
|Pros||Excellent at defrosting, convenient||Even heating, integrated heat sensor, large capacity||Excellent with packaged frozen foods, compact, very easy to use||Inexpensive, above-average performance, compact||Good at defrosting meat|
|Cons||Large, expensive||Large, no time defrost, no volume adjust||So-so with mixed leftovers||Low power, Amazon Alexa device required for some functions||Not the most convenient to use, heating performance could be better|
|Bottom Line||An excellent all-around product with a large capacity, this model has convenient features and is exceptional at defrosting||This is a top-tier appliance with a large capacity and very even heating||For those with limited kitchen space, this is the best compact model we tested||This compact model is a great value, offers good performance, and features smart home integration||This product pairs average results with an average price, failing to stand out from the competition|
|Rating Categories||Toshiba EM131A5C||Panasonic NN-SN936B||Kenmore 70919||Amazon Basics Micro...||Panasonic NN-SB458S|
|Frozen Foods (30%)|
|Ease of use (10%)|
|Specs||Toshiba EM131A5C||Panasonic NN-SN936B||Kenmore 70919||Amazon Basics Micro...||Panasonic NN-SB458S|
|Wattage||1100 watts||1250 watts||900 watts||700 watts||900 watts|
|Size||1.2 cu. ft.||2.2 cu. ft.||0.9 cu. ft.||0.7 cu. ft.||0.9 cu. ft.|
|Dimensions||20.5"W x 12.8"H x 17.1"D||19.44" x 23.88" x 14"||17.7"W x 11.0"H x 14.5"D||17.3"W x 10.1"H x 14.1"D||19.1"W x 11.5"H x 14.8"D|
|Internal Dimentions||15"W x 9.5"H x 13.1"D||18.4"W x 10.4"H x 18.5"D||13.6"W x 9.3"H x 12.4"D||10.9"W x 6.9"H x 10"D||13.9"W x 8.1"H x 12.4"D|
|45 Sec Heating Temp Rise||111 F||112 F||83 F||70 F||89 F|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Toshiba EM131A5C is one of the larger and more expensive products in our microwave review, but it's also one of the highest performing across the board, taking home one of our coveted Top Pick Awards in this category.
The EM131A5C got off to a decent start in our first round of tests in the Heating metric, delivering above-average results. This metric covers five sub-tests. We assessed the speed and evenness of heating by measuring the temperature increase in a beaker of water and by making a heat map with marshmallow fluff. We also compared and scored how evenly this microwave heated a mixed plate of leftovers, canned soup, and some slices of pizza.
Heat Map Test
Our Heat Map test comprises 35% of the total Heating score. We cut a sheet of parchment paper into a disc the size of each microwave's turntable tray, and covered it in a thin layer of marshmallow creme. After heating the marshmallow on high for two minutes, we measured hot and cold spots and noted any burned areas.
While most of the marshmallow spread heated up consistently, we found there is a solid hot spot in the center of the sheet, causing it to darken significantly more than the rest, to the point of burning.
Heating Speed Test
To measure the heating speed, we put a 125 mL beaker of room temp water in the center of each microwave and heated it on high for 45 seconds. This test resulted in 20% of each appliance's Heating score.
The Toshiba EM131A5C did much better in the speed test, raising the 125 mL of water a whopping 110.6°F after 45 seconds of microwaving. In this test, the Toshiba microwave blew the other products (forgive our pun) out of the water.
Unfortunately, this model performed less impressively in our leftover heating test, which accounted for 15% of its Heating score. We used the sensor reheat function on our plate of green beans, sausage, and potatoes.
We found that it barely heated up the food, and there was a significant temperature discrepancy between the different types of foods.
Most of the ovens did a great job heating the soup in our tests when heated according to the microwave's instructions. This test also comprised 15% of the Heating score.
The Toshiba EM131A5C tied for first place here, heating the soup to the perfect serving temperature upon following the heating instructions.
For the final 15% of the Heating score, we reheated two slices of pizza to test for even heating and satisfactory eating temps.
This appliance unfortunately didn't do great with the pizza. The crust turned out quite cool, while the cheese was scalding.
The Toshiba EM131A5C performed even better in our second series of tests, heating up premade frozen foods evenly and effectively. We scored performance by using a group of thermometers stuck into different areas of a Hot Pocket, personal-sized frozen lasagna, and a frozen burrito and comparing the differences in temperature.
This microwave performed impressively with the Hot Pocket, heating it almost perfectly with an average difference of 7°F between the left, right, and center. It did almost as well with the frozen burrito, with the average temperature difference only increasing to 13°F between the different areas.
However, it only did about average with the frozen lasagna, showing marked temperature differences across the entire lasagna.
It was in our defrosting metric where the Toshiba EM131A5C stood out from the rest of the competition, easily delivering one of the best overall performances we have seen out of any microwave to date. In this metric, we attempted to defrost a one-pound block of ground turkey using the appropriate settings.
Without cooking it, this appliance perfectly defrosted the entire block in just under 10 minutes, notifying you to flip the meat halfway through defrosting.
Ease of Use
Our last round of tests looked at the ease of operating this kitchen appliance, where it scored quite well. We compared the ease of using the interface, how well the preset functions worked, the internal lighting, and if it slides around on the countertop during normal use.
This microwave has a +30 Seconds button that automatically starts once you hit the button, as well as quick start functions for 1-6 minutes. It has a solid internal light and stays in place easily, not moving at all when opening, closing, or pushing buttons.
It can be used as a standalone timer, and we found the popcorn preset to be quite effective, with some kernels just beginning to overcook at the end of it but none burning.
Should You Buy the Toshiba EM131A5C?
If you want a large capacity and high-power microwave that does an excellent job with frozen foods, then this should be one of the first options you consider. It performed almost perfectly in our defrosting tests and heated most foods very evenly. However, those with small kitchens and small budgets should look elsewhere.
What Other Microwaves Should You Consider?
The only other microwave we tested that scored on par overall with this one was the Kenmore 70919. If you eat a lot of frozen packaged items, we'd recommend the Kenmore or the premium Panasonic NN-SN67KS, although that one comes with a premium price tag.For a more budget-friendly option, the Amazon Basics 0.7 is much mightier than its price tag and size would suggest, scoring above average across all test metrics. The Toshiba EM925A5A is another smaller, affordable product. It had a good showing with frozen foods and scored high for ease of use.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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