Sharp R-820JS Convection Grill Microwave Oven Score: Not As Sharp As We Had Hoped – CNET

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Aside from the advances in moisture sensors and convection cooking that some newer models offer, microwaves haven’t received the volume of updates or attention from other kitchen appliances. However, the few updates they have received have resulted in huge price differences. For example, I can go to my local grocery store and find a countertop microwave for around $ 60. I can also order online and pay more than $ 1,000.

Given the spectrum, the price of the Sharp R-820JS at $ 289.99 isn’t that shocking. However, since our basic expectations for microwaves are to reheat leftovers or frozen meals and make popcorn, this price range raises some questions. While it’s certainly not the most expensive in this category, I’d hope the Sharp outperforms the bargain model at $ 60 for $ 290. For $ 290, I expect to be amazed.

It gets it right about half the time.

If you completely ignore the defaults on this model, the Sharp R-820JS will perform adequately. It heats up as do all of its competitors, but preferences are important features so we cannot ignore them in our analysis. With this model, many of these presets resulted in epic errors. These shortcomings became all the more apparent when we compared the Sharp’s inconsistent defaults to the defaults of the rest of our test group’s models, such as the Whirlpool WMC50522AS, which is far more consistent in this regard.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

The design of the R-820JS is largely what you would expect from a microwave. It has a silver-colored metal facade and a stainless steel interior. It would look more durable and inexpensive if it had a rust-free exterior, like the Panasonic NN-SD997S does, or at least if it had a stainless steel front or panel.

The Sharp is by far the smallest microwave in this first group of tests, with an interior space of just 0.9 cubic feet and a 12.75-inch carousel. That internal measurement isn’t the best indicator of usable space, however, considering the next largest unit, the Amana AMC2166AS, has an interior space of 1.6 cubic feet, but has a carousel that is only 0.025 inches larger.

If the Sharp is a respectable size for a small to medium-sized countertop microwave, it pales when you compare it to larger microwaves like the 2.2 cubic foot hot tub and Panasonic, both of which have 16-inch turntables.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

I’ll be honest: along with the other microwaves in our test group, the Sharp doesn’t look like it’s the second most expensive. The R-820JS isn’t a bad looking microwave, but the only way to read the display is to stand in front of it and the buttons look like they belong on a toy microwave rather than a real one. If you’re buying a microwave for looks only, unless you like the look and feel of a grown-up easy-bake oven, this is probably not the device for you.

For more practical buyers, the guts of the machine are more important. This is where the spotty performance I mentioned earlier is going to be an issue.

We have developed a series of tests to examine the core characteristics of each microwave manufacturer. We also tested the features that we believed would be useful for the average consumer.

As a basis, we tested how long it would take each microwave to bring a cup of water to a boil. Because this is a lower powered microwave, the Sharp lasted longer than the other models, taking 3 minutes and 30 seconds, compared to 2 minutes and 20 seconds for the higher powered hot tub.

We then completely ignored any popcorn manufacturer’s instructions and tested the popcorn preset.

The Sharp’s popcorn preset is, in a word, miserable. A 3.2 ounce bag of popcorn contains an average of 448 grains. In all of our preset test runs, Sharp only popped an average of 36 kernels. That is a bang efficiency below 10 percent. It’s like Sharp ignored the lower power of its own microwave.

Katie Pilkington / CNET

I then made a bag of popcorn according to the directions on the popcorn box. This method produced 69 non-popped kernels, a number that is much closer to expectations and in line with Panasonic’s default performance. The Sharp can make popcorn well enough. You just can’t use the preset to do this.

I continued down the preset rabbit hole and tested the preset potato function. Instead of using sensors like the Panasonic, the Sharp asks for the number of potatoes you want to cook and calibrates the time accordingly. I ran this test three times, each with an Idaho potato weighing 11.5 ounces to 14.3 ounces.

The default setting for the Sharp is 5 minutes of cooking time for a potato plus 5 minutes of resting time. The result was two potatoes that were severely undervalued in the middle or almost raw in the case of the largest potato. The Amana also asks about the number of potatoes, not their weight, but it cooks them more thoroughly.

Colin West McDonald / CNET

Presets that determine cook time based on a number of elements rather than weight seem to be a design flaw for microwaves like the Sharp, which lack a moisture sensor, especially when the foods in question are inconsistent, like potatoes.

I’m not sure even a sensor would help the Sharp as its presets didn’t do much better on frozen dinners. We tested Stouffer’s one-serving lasagna, as well as macaroni and cheese, the former for its density and the latter for the fact that it is fairly representative of the frozen food category.

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