There are many different microwave ovens available. Some of them are big, other can fit even the smallest kitchen. And so on. There's also one more thing that differentiate microwaves. It's the interface or, in other words, how the appliance is controlled by a user. It determines the ease of use, various options and functionality. Due to controls microwaves can be split into two groups: analogue and digital.
Learn more about microwave ovens controls
Analogue controls have been used since the very beginning of microwave ovens. These are the simplest and very often the cheapest option, as there's nothing advanced inside the oven. The interface consists of two dials.
The one, with step settings, is responsible for the oven power level. Markings usually start with low and end up with high. It's rather rough setting option, but normally this level of precision is absolutely enough.
The other dial is time setting. Unlike the power dial, the operation is continuous. To set required time, the dial needs to be moved clockwise. This operation sets a mechanical timer, that counts down time, turning the dial anti-clockwise. Similarly to power settings, it's also not very accurate, but is close enough and fulfils the requirements.
This type of microwaves has two significant advantages. First of all it's usually cheaper than digital counterparts, and if the oven isn't used very often, there's no point of paying more than necessary. This type of controls is also usually faster than digital and if the oven is used for simple reheating or ready-made food
, there's no sense of buying a digital microwave.
There's also a flip side. Ovens like that have lower functionality, hence it is unable to use pre defined settings, that speed cooking up. Other limitation is the lack of user defined programs, but these are dressed to more advanced users. Last, quite important thing is cleaning. Analogue dials are rather difficult to clean and this can have an impact on the ease maintenance of the oven.
As the world has moved on, so has the electronics. Thanks to the progress, electronic/digital controls have started to be used. Ovens with this type of controls are usually more expensive, but offer increased functionality of the oven.
The control of power level is more accurate, however it's still set in step values. There's no one common power levels description. It's sometimes the actual power level, sometimes the percentage of the nominal (maximum) power or, similarly to analogue ovens – low to high.
Time control is usually managed by a microcontroller
, which assures the high accuracy. Is it necessary to have the cooking time so accurate is a completely different story.
These microwaves use two types of buttons. Either there are actual buttons sticking out of the panel, or there's a touch panel, where the buttons are hidden underneath the panel. Both have pros and cons. While real buttons give better feel/response to the user, they are more difficult to clean. And vice versa. Touch panel can be wiped easily, but often users complain about less responsive action.
Due to the presence of a microcontroller and memory, digital microwave ovens can offer additional functions, like weight defrost or meat cooking. All the necessary informations are stored internally. The only interaction required from the user is to type in weight, however some models are capable of weighing the food on their own. Additionally, some ovens offer user defined programmes. Whenever a common setting is chosen, there's a possibility to store it and recall it whenever required with just one button press!
These ovens tend to be overcomplicated for simple, every day reheating. Also, when there's no user defined programmes available, putting in all necessary settings is simply more time consuming than with just two dials. On the other hand there are loads of options, making such oven very versatile and for more advanced use, more user friendly.
Nowadays there are no real mixed analogue-digital microwaves. They are 'mixed' because of joining two control types: buttons and dials. Those dials are utilised by a microcontroller hence those microwaves have fully digital interface. The advantage of this kind of setup is ore comfortable use. They are especially useful for power and/or time settings.
Depending on the actual needs and budget people should try to purchase the most suitable appliance. For some people it will be a fully analogue oven, and for others fully digital, packed with loads of advanced functions. The choice is yours...