Customer Reviews: Panasonic NN-SD681S Stainless 1200W 1.2 Cu. Ft. Countertop/Built-in Microwave with Inverter Technology
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on December 29, 2012
While I liked the idea of the "Inverter Technology" that lets you easily cook at lower power without duty cycling the microwave, that feature doesn't outweigh Panasonic's poor warranty policies. My microwave died after two months of use - everything was working fine one moment and then the lights went out, dead as a doorstop. (Being an electrical engineer, I think it's a safe assumption that the power supply is what died but that's only an assumption)

Had this died within the 30 day period, Amazon would have printed out a shipping label, had UPS show up at my front door to pick up the defective unit and most likely cross-shipped a new microwave out to me so I could have a replacement in just a matter of days. Instead, since it was outside the 30 day period, I had to go through Panasonic's warranty service. Their only option is to have me hand-deliver the defective product to an authorized Service Center; the nearest one is a 90 minute drive from here. That would be understandable if I lived in rural Nebraska but I live in a heavily populated area and would probably pass thirty or forty Starbucks and at least three Best Buys that I can think of on the way to the Service Center. There's no option to ship the product by UPS; I have to drive it to the repair center. Of course they're unlikely to repair or replace the microwave on the spot so that'll be another three hour round trip to get the repaired microwave. This is a somewhat pricey microwave but to have to take six hours out of what little free time I have on the weekends just isn't worth the trouble. I'll just chalk this up as an expensive lesson in how not all manufactures are customer-centric and go look for another (non-Panasonic) microwave.

I can't comment on the overall reliability of Panasonic microwaves - I only have my own experience to go on. Perhaps out of a thousand appliances only one dies in under three months and I'm just lucky this time around.

As far as the design goes, some things I liked, some things take some getting used to. The spin knob instead of numeric keypad is "cute" and does the job but it does take some getting used to. It's pretty easy to overshoot the time you want and have to backtrack to get to your goal. The "always-on" variable power setting is pretty nice - I'd much rather use continuous power than have it cycle on and off to approximate partial power. I don't think it's quite linear, though - cooking at half power seems to deliver closer to two thirds power - two minutes at half power is much hotter than one minute at full power. Again, you can get used to it and make adjustments based on experience.

The "auto cook" feature was a bust. I eat plenty of frozen dinners and the cooking time was a) never right (food came out much hotter than if I'd just followed the directions on the box) and b) took significantly longer (I think it cooks at low power until it detect steam, then a quick blast and you're done) If the frozen box said cook for six minutes, then "auto-cook, frozen dinner" would take eight to ten minutes. That feature was quickly ignored, sadly.

Also, there are plenty of gripes here about the light not coming on when you open the door and let me add to that long list. While you don't -need- the light to put a plate into the microwave, it's a nice thing to be able to see what's going on. It's really a matter of "what were they thinking?" when the designers opted to have a dark, unlit box rather than the (very standard) lit interior. There's no getting used to that one, it just seems wrong. Not that it's horribly inconvenient but why did they feel the need to make it even a little bit more inconvenient than necessary?

Would I buy this unit again (if I hadn't had reliability issues?) Maybe, maybe not. I can't say that the features that make this microwave more compelling (variable power, large turntable) outweigh the disadvantages (useless auto-cook programming, no interior light, odd dial interface). There are other microwaves out there that are competitive with this one and there's no distinct advantage with going with this particular product line...


Quick update, 24 hours after posting this review. On contacting the Panasonic "Customer Service Center" I discover that it's a guy fixing appliances out of his home in a residential area! He actually asked me to call ahead before coming down so that he could make sure he's home - and mentioned that between 8 AM and 9 AM was most convenient for him. I was expecting at least a commercial storefront but this seems awfully small time to be the best that Panasonic could offer!

Wanting this issue to be over and done with, I went out and bought a microwave from a different manufacturer - Kenmore Stainless Steel 1.2 cu. ft. Countertop Microwave 69123 which is OEM'ed from LG and similar in design to a number of other Kenmore and LG microwaves. It's the same size and the same power rating but in so many ways the Kenmore is much, much nicer than this Panasonic. The user interface is significantly more informative - to the point of displaying whole phrases ("reheat: plate") so you've got feedback on what's happening. The door opens much more smoothly on the Kenmore (I hadn't realized how much that mattered until I got one that worked smoothly) and low and behold, a light comes on when you open the door! There's even a nice feature that reminds you every few minutes that the heating is finished but you forgot to take out your cup of tea. In retrospect I guess I'm glad I got the Panasonic first because it really makes me appreciate how much more I enjoy the Kenmore's design features! (And, if there ever happens to be any problems, I can just drive it to the nearby Sears and drop it off to be fixed!)
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VINE VOICEon October 6, 2011
I've only had this 2 days, but I thought I'd get a quick review up on it.
This oven is so new, even Panasonic didn't know about it. I called them up, and their customer service knew nothing. A search on the Panasonic website came back blank.
So, what the heck, I bought it. It appeared to be very similar to the SD688 models, with one exception. The digital display got panned on the 688 as being hard to read from a normal standing angle. I guessed that this fancy blue display was their answer to that, and I was right! The bright blue display is very easy to read up close without bending over., and from an angle.
I rarely cook in a microwave, so all of the fancy button options are moot. "Inverter Melt", "Popcorn" "Inverter Turbo Defrost". If I have to keep the manual handy to use my microwave, I'm not likely to use that feature.
I did try the "Sensor Reheat" feature on some boneless chicken. It stopped it at the right time.
I like the dial feature, it's very intuitive. The one minute button is nice.
One thing a Microwave does, is it sits there on the counter most of the time doing nothing. This does that very well. The SS finish and the square lines look really good. At 20" wide, it just right for my counter. It's taller than my old oven, so I can fit my salad dressing cruet in there.
Another thing a microwave should do is last for years. We'll have to see on that one.
I will update as more details become apparent.
More observations 10/12/11:
I tried the Sensor Reheat a few more times. It seems to work pretty well. It's weird though if your timing your food prep, setting the table, or whatever, because there's no preset time.
The 'Inverter Melt' function works quite well. Here is where the inverter technology makes a difference - it actually heats at low power. Conventional microwaves just cycle full power off and on to achieve 'low' power.
I tried 'Sensor Cook' with some potatoes. I set it on 3. Silly me - 3 is for omelets. For potatoes, use 7. Fresh vegetables - 8. There's no explanation what the different settings actually mean. Forget it.
So with all this fancy technology, Panasonic could have added one basic non-technological feature:
The light. It only comes on while cooking. But not when you open the door. Really? That's enough to almost give me buyers remorse. It never occurred to me that this feature, that's been around for 30 years, would be missing.

Edit 2/18/12: After 4 months and prompting by a fellow reviewer, I'm bumping this to 4 stars. Mechanically, the engineering is excellent. The inverter technology is extremely useful, making it a more versatile and valuable tool in the cooking process.
Still, the software side is gimmicky and borderline absurd . Take the Melt & Soften button, for 1 example. I can melt butter by setting the power to 1 or 2 and 30 seconds. Or I can use the Melt & soften button, saving me several whole button pushes! I have a choice of 15,16,17,and 18. But,it would be nice to know which power setting that button selects, instead of "Butter, Cream Cheese", etc. Imagine if your conventional oven had settings for Ham, Chicken, and Turkey, but didn't tell you the temperature if you use them. I just don't get it. Panasonic, please just tell us what these programs really mean.
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on December 7, 2011
Another reviewer gave a lot more details, and that was helpful. I'll keep it short and stick to the things I noticed:
1) No light when you open the door, which is odd, but doesn't really bother me.
2) You set the cooking time with a dial, rather than typing it in on a keypad. The dial to set the cooking time is good, I guess. Not much easier or more difficult than a keypad, so I don't have a strong opinion about it.
3) Prior models (according to reviews) had problems with the door lock and the display. Both are great on this model. Door locks solidly and the display is very easy to read.
4) The Sensor Reheat button worked very well the few times I've used it to reheat leftovers. They came out nice and hot, but not overdone. That's the only feature I've used, other than just setting a time and pushing "start".
Overall, we are happy with this product, after about a month of daily use. It's a good compromise between power and size. I wanted a more powerful microwave than our prior, very compact, one. I also wanted to have it be a reasonably small size, so I checked dimensions carefully. This one had the best size/power combination for us.
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on January 30, 2012
Update (January 2015)

Microwave is now dead. After 3 years of moderate use the microwave began acting erratically. The microwave would stop running after 3 seconds or only run on 'Popcorn' mode, etc... for about one week before it finally quit running entirely.

I've knocked my rating from 5 stars down to 2 stars. I expected more than 3 years of use from a microwave that was hardly ever tasked with anything more challenging that reheating food on occasion. It was a very nice microwave while it lasted which is why I'll leave the review with 2 stars (maybe I was unlucky), but I can no longer recommend this unit.

I'm leaving the original review and yearly updates in their entirety below for the sake of information and posterity. However, I do NOT recommend this microwave.


(Original 5 star review)

We're a family of 4 with two little ones. We don't actually "cook" with microwaves too often, but primarily use our microwaves to heat veggies, reheat left-overs, etc... With regards to our needs, the Panasonic NN-SD681S has met and exceeded our expectations.

Coming from a 900 Watt microwave I think our favorite feature is just how much more quickly this 1200 Watt microwave accomplishes its tasks. Steaming vegetables takes about 1 minute less than with our previous microwave. Heating a beverage takes less than a minute now. I will say though that steaming can really kick up alot of moisture inside the microwave. It gets moist to the point of being fairly wet, needing a towel dry.

I've not used the sensor reheat feature on any microwave before this one. Frankly I expected the sensor reheat to be something of a gimmick. However it does an outstanding job of reheating food thoroughly. As a test I reheated a plate of chicken, potatoes, and veggies together and was surprised how each item was more or less 'appropriately' reheated. Only a couple of instances over the past few months when something was a little cooler on the inside than outside after a reheat.

As a parent of young children I appreciate the child lock feature. Which is a code that when entered sets the microwave into an unresponsive, stasis mode. Enter the unlock "code" to reactivate. The child lock is easy to use, and as long as your kids don't learn the "code", it should keep the occasional, or habitual button masher from accidentally turning the microwave on when you're not looking.

This unit is loaded with a variety of features and settings. Some of which may not be familiar to all users. Fortunately Panasonic provides a pretty straightforward users guide that does a good job explaining the various features and their functions.

Wireless users be aware, this microwave, located in about the center of our 600 sq ft first floor, decimates the wi-fi signal for the entire floor when running. Music, movies, downloads, anything that requires a wireless signal stops shortly after we begin using the microwave. Changing router locations (located on the 2nd floor) did not help whatsoever. Not a deal breaker, but those whose smoke/CO2 detectors are interconnected via wi-fi should probably make note of this. I'd guess this is a potential problem for most microwaves, so I won't knock Panasonic for this.

Unfortunately this microwave does not have the best alert/reminder system. It beeps 5 times after finishing its cycle. That's it. I haven't noticed it providing any follow up warning of completion beyond that. Our previous unit had a steady, 4 second beep and would beep every couple of minutes thereafter until it was opened. A much better system in my opinion.

Other thoughts. It turns out that no light when opening the door isn't such a big deal for me. The blue LED screen is easy to read. Stainless steel is a very sleek and modern look, and it does pick up prints easily. This unit is a space saver compared to similar units. Coming from an all push-button microwave, I appreciate the retractable knob control more than I thought I would.

Looking at the whole picture in terms of price, features, and performance, and I feel the NN-SD681S is a solid value and would recommend it to anyone currently in the market for a microwave.

Update (April 2013):

The microwave continues to perform well after more than a year of moderate use. We barely notice it's there, which is a testimony to its effectiveness.

Two things I have noticed:

1. It's loud. Forget having a conversation with someone across the room when this thing is on. Though given that we don't run it for more than a few minutes at at time (boiling veggies for example), it's not a big hindrance to us.

2. The door release button does require some effort/force to open. As a parent of younger children that's actually a plus for us. However I can see where some users might be turned off by that.

Update (March 2014)

Just a quick update to verify that the microwave is still going strong after more than 2 years of service. A reliable microwave with no problems so far.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon November 14, 2011
In most ways, this microwave oven is similar to the earlier Panasonic Prestige NN-SD688S model. Both are virtually identical in size, and most functions overlap. The functional changes, though minor, are not insignificant.

The NN-SD688S model improved upon its predecessor by replacing its cluttered interface with a more simple and usable one. This model retains that look and feel. It uses a dial for setting time, weight, cook settings, or other parameters that formerly used a keypad. On this model, the dial can be retracted when not in use. A big improvement over the previous model is the display. It now uses brighter blue numbers that can be seen from a bigger range of angles and heights, and should satisfy the objections people had to the earlier model. The new display also shows the cook level throughout the cook cycle, rather than only when setting it.

In addition to standard features such as timed cooking, a sensor reheat function, defrosting, popcorn and keep warm buttons, there are fourteen sensor cook settings for specific foods. The NN-SD688S had nine. When the door is open, a label lists the number to use for each food item, so fourteen settings are not overwhelming as they were on the earlier touch pad models. The beverage button disappeared when the previous model was released, and is still lacking. I found that feature useful on other microwaves.

By dialing a number for the cook setting, it has the appearance of setting a cook level. Since the items for each number seem unrelated, it's not possible to decide that something might be between eggs and soup and choose a level in between. However, many microwave ovens have specific buttons for certain foods, just as this has a popcorn button. I wouldn't question what else I could cook with a frozen pizza button, but consumers might question what level six (really setting six) can cook besides pizza. If you think of it as a replacement for fourteen preprogrammed buttons, you can appreciate its added simplicity for the listed foods.

Another addition is the Melt and Soften button. It can be used for melting chocolate, softening butter or cream cheese, and there's even a setting for softening ice cream. I haven't tried those settings yet, but they include ones I'd actually use.

There is a "recipe store" button that can store only a single recipe at a time, so if popcorn is not your thing and you want a custom button for something else specific, you can use it.

The inverter function raises or lowers the power level generatated by the oven, rather than controlling power by cycling on and off. The power was reduced to 1200 watts from the previous model's 1300 watts. I'm not sure how much difference it will make with the inverter settings, but could potentially affect anything heated at full power. Many recipes assume that you have 1000 watts, so cook time may be closer to that in a recipe. But I'd rather set less time and figure that out myself.

The previous model's stylistic flair was replaced with a more spartan but high end appearance. That model's four small feet provided little traction, causing the oven to move for some users when the door button was pressed. This model has pads on the front feet that prevent it from slipping. When I first tried it out, it didn't slip. When I moved it to its final location, it slipped far too much. Strangely enough, the back feet are no longer there, and the microwave sits on bare metal surfaces there. I ended up using an adhesive non-slip putty to keep the microwave in place. Perhaps the surface wasn't perfectly flat, but the feet don't seem to be adjustable. The new feet may or may not be an improvement.

The light does not go on when the door is open, and only lights while cooking. Many users find that very objectionable. I didn't like that omission, probably because I was used to having a light, but in a microwave with a white surface, it's less of a need than in a much larger conventional oven.

This model lets you set up to three consecutive cook settings (as opposed to its predecessor's five) so you could set a one hour delay, a cook time at a certain level, and a keep warm stage, for example. Five seemed excessive but I don't see what Panasonic gained by lowering it. In the example they gave in their previous manual, setting a cook time at one level followed by a cook time at a different level (something that instructions on food boxes sometimes suggest) could not be integrated with my example. Once the start button is pressed, all stages will be executed sequentially. The timer stage can be used independently, but not concurrently. With the microwave I'm replacing, I very often used the timer, even while the microwave was cooking. I find that loss a bigger annoyance than the light issue.
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on June 21, 2015
Purchased this unit a couple years ago. It worked fine up until about 6 months ago. There is some malfunction in the microwave/heating element that caused the side wall to get so hot it turned black and started melting plastic. Thought it may have been something splashed on the area , cleaned it and tried it again and it worked up to today. Again the same malfunction occurred and you could see the same area getting red hot, melting the side wall and nearly catching fire it we hadn't turned it off. It is outside of warranty and other reviewers report Panasonic's war ninety service to be sub par. I will not buy a Panasonic again
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on September 18, 2013
We have been using this new microwave for several weeks now, and it just works perfect. The best part of the design is the ergonomics of: walk up, spin the dial, and hit start. No need to repetitively hit many buttons, or push down hard and hold a button to do the most simplest of tasks. When I do not know how long to put something in for, such as a large bowl of water, it is still only two buttons: Sensor Cook + Start. Nothing yet has come out burnt, and everything has come out just the way I hoped it would; even the popcorn option produced a perfect bag the one time I have used it.
My only complaint is that it gives five beeps instead of just one when it is done. This however is vastly better than other microwaves that insist on reminding you every three minutes with very loud annoying beeps.
I researched microwaves both in stores and surfed for untold hours to find the very best microwave, and this is the model I chose. It was not available in stores, so I chose to go a week without a microwave and buy this here online.
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on December 23, 2013
Well, despite what appears to be mixed reviews, I ordered this for my new remodeled kitchen to match the rest of our stainless appliances. We've been using this for a few months now, and I am beyond thrilled with how huge of an improvement this microwave is over our previous LG microwave of nearly the same size.

First of all, I was unsure of how much I'd like or dislike using the dial to set the time, as I've always had microwaves with individual numbers on a keypad. This worry was immediately assuaged the moment I used it for the first time. The dial makes it INCREDIBLY easy to set the time, whether you want to set it for 5 seconds or 5 minutes. You just turn the dial left or right to increase or decrease the time. Some previous reviews seem to think that the dial was overly sensitive; I did not share this sentiment. I felt like it was just right. You can turn it fast to instantly skip up to a couple minutes in time, or turn it slower and have complete control. Panasonic did an excellent job with the sensitivity and adjustment through this dial. In fact, it's probably my favorite "new" feature of this entire microwave.

Furthermore, the "inverter" technology is great, and it allows this Microwave to do things that my previous "smart" microwaves were unable to do. We constantly reheat meals for dinner the next night, and all we have to do is press "sensor reheat" and then the start button. The microwave does the rest of the work for us. No figuring out times, opening it, checking it, putting it in for a few more seconds, etc. I'm not going to pretend to know the in-and-out of what kind of sensors or technology the microwave is using to determine it, but this function ALWAYS results in our food being reheated to the perfect temperature, without ever overcooking it in the process of trying to warm it back up.

The inverter function always helps with lower power applications like melting chocolate, softening butter, etc. You can rely on the sensor to handle this for you, the inside of the microwave door shows you which setting to push for each of these tasks. We've tried almost all of them, and never once had anything come out to less than optimal temp/melt/softening. Makes this appliance indispensable for baking and cooking purposes. No more trying to melt chocolate chips over a steam bath on the stove top!

Appearance wise, this microwave is also a winner. The bright blue LED lighting on the display is very easy to read, even from across the kitchen. The stainless finish of the microwave is excellent as well, and combined with the control panel design, very modern looking.

And lastly, to focus on peoples main use for this, the full power cooking is excellent too. Being 1200W versus our old 1100W LG microwave, I wasn't expecting much of a difference in power or cooking speed. But at full power, this microwave cooks noticeably quicker than our older 1100W microwave did; very happy with the decrease in needed time that we've seen. And furthermore, it is significantly less quiet while cooking than other microwaves I've owned in the past.

All in all, zero complaints over the first few months, I'd have no problems whatsoever recommending this model to anyone in the future. I'll keep this updated over time if I have any other thoughts, or if we have any issues with reliability, but right now it's perfect. Let me know in the comments section if you have any questions or want me to address anything else, and I'll respond as quickly as possible.
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on February 11, 2013
This microwave only lasted 6 months before trouble started. At first, the Inverter cooking mechanism stopped working. Shortly thereafter, the entire microwave became intermittent. Sometimes pushing the start button worked, sometimes it did not. Another frustration with the product is the large amount of force that is needed to get the door open. You have to push the door button so hard that it moves the microwave. Quite a disappointing product overall. A product at this price level should do much better.
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on April 6, 2013
I purchased this product directly from Amazon only 4 days ago. I received it yesterday shipped from Amazon. Even though Panasonic sends a warranty form with instructions to register the product online, the warranty company ( Square Trade) declines the registration with the following reasons:

-Products purchased over 10 months ago
-Refurbished Products purchased over 90 days ago
-Warranties with Drops & Spills coverage for which the product was purchased over 90 days ago
-Expensive items that are over our price threshold
-Like-new or refurbished items on select categories.

Amazon advertised this product as New!! How can the warranty be declined??? I am really disappointed!!!

The microwave makes a loud noise when operating, and I am not sure if I have been had by Amazon or if the noise is common with this particular product. But I cannot express enough how disappointed I am with this purchase.
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