A microwave is one of the most necessary kitchen appliances in every household. They are designed to serve a great purpose in our kitchens with their convenience and great efficiency. A microwave not only handles huge quantities of foods, but it also saves us time and energy, thus, making our lives easier. There are various types of microwaves to fulfill specific needs, such as, Countertop Microwaves, Built-in Microwaves, Over-The-Range Microwaves and Drawer Microwaves. In addition to this, microwaves come in a combination of features namely grill microwaves, convection microwaves, steam microwaves and more. Our article on the types of microwaves discusses more on this.

Now, the question is, which microwave you should buy! Before making any sort of investment, you should consider whatever your particular needs are. There lies a great deal of confusion when it comes to choosing between a Built-in and an Over-The-Range Microwave. In this article you will find every detail regarding how both of them work, what purposes they serve, features they come with and the price point of both of the types with a thorough differentiation which will enable you to select the best one for your kitchen.

Difference Between Over-the-Range and Built-in Microwave

1. Over the Range Microwaves

What are Over the Range Microwaves

Over the Range Microwaves or OTR Microwaves are a combination of a microwave oven and a range hood. So, they can be a great choice for you if you don’t have any range hood in your kitchen. OTR microwaves are also the best option for smaller kitchen where the installation of a dedicated range hood would be problematic.

An OTR microwave enables you to save more space in your kitchen area as it works as a 2-in-1 device which offers both convenient cooking and efficient ventilation. They are manufactured to be installed over the cooktop surface area so that it can eliminate all the smoke and odors which occur while cooking, just like a ventilation hood. There are different venting options available to suit every kitchen. Microwaves with an external venting type capture all the grease and smoke from your kitchen and exhaust it outside, while the ones with a recirculating venting type filter the polluted air through a charcoal filter and release clear air into the kitchen. Some OTR microwaves have a convertible design for transforming the ducted venting into a recirculating one.


  • 2-in-1 design ideal for smaller kitchens.
  • Designed for both cooking and ventilation.
  • External and recirculating venting options.
  • Features in-built lights for more convenience.
  • Comes in different sizes and wattage, generally over 800 watts.
  • Includes convection fan for advanced cooking.
  • Smart sensor, pre-heating options and other functions.


  • Wall-cabinets should be in a reachable and comfortable height.
  • Fans have low capacity compared to ventilation hoods.

Factors to Consider while selecting an Over-the-Range Microwave

1. Size

Size is a non-negotiable thing to take into consideration before buying an Over-the-Range microwave. To buy the most suitable OTR microwave, you have to pay the much needed attention to the size of your oven as the microwave is going to be placed above it. A proper OTR microwave should match with the existing kitchen range in size and dimension in order to vent out the smoke, grease and oil perfectly. If not exact, an OTR microwave which is a bit larger than the range is going to work better than a smaller one. So, do not just go and invest in a microwave hurriedly before determining the apt size your kitchen needs.

2. Cooking Option

Determining the cooking needs of your family helps in choosing the suitable microwave oven for your kitchen. OTR microwaves come with sensors and convection fan to ensure utmost functionality. Sensor, in any type of microwave, is a highly convenient option to have optimal results. It enables the microwave to detect the steam which is produced while cooking in order to control the cooking time automatically so that you don’t have to worry about turning the OTR microwave off on a busy day. Plus, Over-the-range microwaves come with a convection fan which circulates hot air for roasting and also baking. So, you can easily put a chicken to be roasted flawlessly and bake delicious birthday cakes for your children in a small amount of time.

3. Venting

An OTR microwave is a good alternative to a range hood. Not only it will cost you less, but it also saves space. All you need to do is to select an OTR microwave with a high CFM so that it can work as nicely as a dedicated ventilation hood does. Convertible Over-the-Range microwaves offer both; ducted and recirculating ventilation. They are better than the ones with only one type of venting option as you can change the venting system according to your needs. Also, the grease filters are easy to clean and made from durable material. However, you must comprehend that these don’t quite match up to the peak performance of powerful under-cabinet range hoods.

Due to the dilemma of selecting between bulky range hoods and potentially less effective over the stove microwaves, some clever range hood alternatives have made it to modern household kitchen. Do check them out if you plan on putting together a kitchen without a range hood. Additionally, you could also opt for a cleverly designed cooktop with downdraft venting provisions. These suck down steam and fumes from pots and remove from the kitchen in a rather peculiar way that makes range hoods or over range microwaves redundant.

4. Work Surface

A well-lit cooktop area provides enough visibility and brightens your kitchen. You may think that installing an OTR microwave would create a shadow over the range as it is supposed to be placed above it. But, Over-the-Range microwaves come with LED lights to make sure you can work without any problem. The cooktop lights are also energy-efficient. These extra add-ons make them ideally suited for an under-cabinet installation and not the best option for installing on a countertop.

Read more about OTR Microwave specifications in our dedicated Over-the-Range Microwave Buying Guide.

Check Out Reviews of Over-the-Range Microwaves:

2. Built-in Microwaves

Built in Microwave for Kitchen

Built-in Microwaves are designed to be  installed into a cabinet or wall. Having a similar capacity like other types of microwaves, a Built-in microwave is made to save a good amount of counter space in the kitchen. So, it is also a very nice option to consider if your kitchen has limited space.

Most of the customers get confused between a Built-in microwave and a Drawer microwave because they consider both designs to be same. But that’s absolutely not the case. You should install a Drawer microwave below the oven or countertop and it should be pulled out just like a drawer, whereas a Built-in microwave can be installed anywhere the cabinet is (or the wall). The Built-in ones are great if you want to save more worktop surface area and want a convenient microwave that can be tucked into a cabinet or wall.

Related: Check our reviews of the best microwave drawers / Pros and Cons of Microwave Drawers.

To install a Built-in microwave, you should carefully measure the cabinet or the space where it is going to be fixed to find the perfect model with exact size and dimensions. Also, a licensed contractor is needed for the installation. If your kitchen has an electric wall oven, installing a built-in microwave right above would introduce the functionality of a wall oven microwave combo in your kitchen.


  • Saves valuable worktop area.
  • Comes with various heating methods.
  • Features different sizes and wattage, generally over 800 watts.
  • Comes with sensors and convection fan.
  • Has various pre-set options to save time.
  • Durable design for long-lasting performance.


  • Hard to find a model with required size and dimensions.
  • Installation is tough and can’t be done without a contractor.



  • Saves valuable worktop area.
  • Comes with various heating methods.
  • Features different sizes and wattage, generally over 800 watts.
  • Comes with sensors and convection fan.
  • Has various pre-set options to save time.
  • Durable design for long-lasting performance.


  • Hard to find a model with required size and dimensions.
  • Installation is tough and can’t be done without a contractor.

Factors to Consider while selecting a Built-In Microwave

1. Cabinet Size

Measuring the cabinet size is the most important thing to consider before buying a Built-in microwave. As the Built-in microwave is going to be installed in the cabinet or wall, the size and dimensions of the microwave should be exact or a little smaller than that of the cabinet. If you notice some little gaps between the microwave and the wall or cabinet, don’t worry, those gaps are going to be filled with the trim kits.

2. Cooking Options

Like the OTR microwaves, the Built-in ones too feature sensor cooking to sense when the food is ready and automatically turn off the microwave. And they also have convection fan for excellent baking and roasting. The Built-in microwaves with all these features included is going to cost much more than a standard one.

3. Price

Built-in microwaves are more expensive than OTR or countertop microwaves. This type of microwaves are designed to have the aesthetics to go with the whole kitchen decor. Built-in microwaves come with added hardware to avoid heating which contribute to it’s higher price range. The cost also depends on the cooking options the microwave offers.

Built-in Microwave vs Over-the Range Microwave | At a Glance

Built-in Microwave Vs. Over-the-Range Microwave
FeaturesBuilt-in Microwave Over-the-Range Microwave
InstallationCustom Cabinet InstallationDirectly above the range
Cooktop Lights No Yes
Sensor Yes Yes
Convection FanIn Selected Models In Selected Models
Wattage Over 800 watts Over 1000 watts
VentilationNo Yes
Price Expensive Moderately Priced


As every kitchen has different needs, which one is better – an OTR microwave or a Built-in microwave, becomes a subjective matter. It’s completely based on your specific needs which should be determined before considering buying any type of microwave. Both OTR and Built-in microwaves are designed to satisfy different needs. However, an Over-the-Range Microwave works as a microwave oven and a range hood. It is also manufactured to save countertop space and comes with a lot of features. Convertible OTR microwaves also allows you to change the venting type. So, if you don’t have the space or not willing to spend more on a dedicated range hood, go ahead and buy an OTR microwave.

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