The WMH31017AB-2 Over Range microwave oven from Whirlpool features a large 1.7 cubic foot interior, easily cleaned white inner surfaces, bright blue clock / function display, powerful yet hidden venting, and 1,000 watts (1 kilowatt) of heating and cooking power. This built in oven an excellent choice for heating most any frozen food single or two-serving dish in less than five minutes, and carries the well-known and well-trusted Whirlpool name. The unit usually holds up well for up to ten years of everyday residential use without failing, and offers among the most useful program features and modes that that you can find on any microwave oven designed for use in home kitchens. We have found this unit adopted as standard home kitchen equipment in at least one high-rise apartment building with over a hundred apartments, and reports of failures or problems with it are rare, and usually occur, simply because the renter failed to read and follow the instructions. Operation is simple and virtually fool-proof, but just don’t fall asleep or leave the unit otherwise unattended while heating food with it.
Advantages, Pros, Features, and Benefits
- 1.7 Cu. Ft. Capacity. Large enough to hold typically sized food plates, mugs, glasses, and bowls.
- Quick and easy installation. If you’re simply venting into the room, above-stove installation is a snap, so long as you have a space on a solid wall for it.
- Easy to read, bright blue display. The readout shows the time of day when oven is not operating, provides visual prompts during the setting of cooking times, and shows how much time is left to go during heating.
- Sealed membrane function buttons and numeric keypad. Keyboard contacts are protected from food or oil contamination, by a durable but flexible plastic shield.
- Rotating, removable carrousel glass plate. This plate is THICK and heavy; unlikely to break unless dropped on a concrete floor from several feet up.
- Easy grip door handle. Features a large opening for fingers behind it, for quick grabbing and releasing.
- Demo mode. Allows you to practice entering various times and commands on the keyboard (for practice or mastery), without actually activating the unit.
- Auto shut-off. This safety feature virtually eliminates any user microwave exposure, as it stops the cooking energy as soon as you start pulling on the handle to open the door.
- Control lock. You can “lock” the oven, to prevent accidental starting by children et al. A padlock icon displays when this feature is activated.
- Preprogrammed cook time and power settings for popular foods. The unit provides quick-access buttons just beneath the display for instantly setting up parameters for proper heating of popcorn, pizza, and potato.
- Stage cooking. You can program multiple cooking periods, or stages. For instance, you can program a cooking session to start off for five minutes at 30 percent power, followed by a 2 minute period with 50 percent power, and ending with three minutes at 90 percent power. This could be used for defrosting food, and then cooking it with one programmed cooking session, without having to set times and powers to the different levels during heating.
- Add 30 seconds key. A feature on at least several Whirlpool models, allows you to add 30 seconds more to the current cooking time left on the display, without stopping the cooking to do it. You can also press this key when the oven is OFF, to start it heating and put thirty seconds on the remaining-time clock. One of our favorite features.
- Defrost feature. Allows you to enter the type of food you wish to defrost, along with how much of it you’re defrosting. This microwave then figures out the correct power level and time amounts, for adequate defrosting without much spot overcooking of the food.
- Soften / melt key. Quickly sets heating power to lower, gentler levels, for heating milk, melting butter, or softening chocolate, et al.
- Reheat key.
- Adjustable power level. Ten levels of duty-cycle based power throttling
- Hidden vent. The vent louvers are not visible from the front; a good thing, as these often accumulate unsightly and hard to clean grease and grime over time. This simplifies cleanup of the oven’s visible exterior, and cuts down on the fan noise too, as the vents being hidden eliminate any direct sound path from fan to users’ ears.
- Variable speed vent fan. Two fan speeds allow you to adjust how hard the vent fan blows, so as to further reduce air noise output when your cooking requires less air circulation to keep your kitchen cool and less steamy. The blower moves a maximum of 220 CFM which is enough to pull most steam and (hopefully no) smoke away from your stovetop; even when you’re running all four burners.
- Quiet operation. While you’ll still hear a whirring of the internal and vent fans when in the same room with this unit, the WMH31017AB-2 is one of the quieter ones we’ve tested. Little vibration, noise, and hum were heard in adjoining rooms; particularly rooms that share a wall with the one on which this unit is mounted. the room adjacent to the one with this mounted microwave oven. While we would not recommend mounting this on any common walls with bedrooms, as the oven door slamming during breakfast preps may awaken people who want to sleep in, the operational noise of this Whirlpool oven is notably low.
- Mesh vent filters. The vent air passes through these dishwasher safe filters that help remove any airborne grease droplets from the air.
- Charcoal vent filter. This replaceable filter helps remove strong cooking odors from recirculated kitchen air.
- Multiple venting modes. Can vent to outside or can recirculate air indoors.
- Lit oven interior. This microwave oven provides a light inside the oven that lights up throughout any cooking operation or any time the door is opened. Allows you to clearly see the dish inside while it heats / cooks / rotates.
- Stove hood light. There’s also a separate under-hood lamp, that illuminates the stove top below. Turn this on to see better what you’re boiling or frying down there. Features two levels of brightness; FULL and HALF.
- Multiple color schemes available. The WMH31017AB-2 can be purchased in black, white, silver, and black-on-stainless colors. Note however that each color has a slightly different model number. The one discussed in this piece is black.
- Limited one year warranty.
- Reasonably priced for a large, above-stove microwave. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price is $229 (subject to change without notice). However, we’ve found this microwave for as low as $188.10; perhaps even cheaper on eBay.com sometimes.
Problems, Concerns, Limitations, and Cons
- Maximum cooking power is a little low. The advertised top cooking power level of this microwave is 1 KW. However, other similar capacity units offer 1,250 watts, which significantly shortens tea heating or popcorn popping times. So we’d prefer the higher power.
- Preset cooking features require codes. You either have to know, or look up, the correct numeric code for the particular food you’re defrosting, heating, or cooking. Find these codes printed on the inside of the door.
- Installation template may be hard to use. One template is part of the oven’s packaging cardboard and is hard to cut out.
- Included mounting hardware may be inadequate for numerous arrangements. Users report that they had to make numerous trips to hardware stores to find bolts long enough to work in their deep-cabinet scenarios.
- No protective upper vent grill included. Easy to drop objects E.g. nuts, bolts, washers,… and dirt into the oven’s mechanism therefore.
- May be a bit deep for standard installations. If your kitchen features standard-depth cabinets, this microwave may protrude some inches out in front of them. It’s front-to-back length (depth), is a bit greater than other, better aligned oven installations.
We’ve owned (or rented in apartments) several Whirlpool microwave ovens over the decades; one 1984 vintage unit we used for 18 years. That one never did fail, but we gave that 700 watt relic away, to clear the stove bay for a higher power model. But yes, the replacement we selected was also Whirlpool.
Like those earlier units, the WMH31017AB-2 appears solid, well designed and constructed, highly rated by various consumer magazines, durable, widely available, safe, efficient, and affordable. Our only real grip is that accessing the pre-programmed food cooking features is a little awkward, due to having to enter numeric codes for desired foods. But until they implement a voice entry interface, where you can simply say, “pizza,” “vegetable soup,” or “clam chowder,” we suppose that these number codes efficiently enough, convey to the oven what pre programmed food you want it to cook. This minor hardship therefore, is simply one of those inevitable complexities of operating a microwave oven, that advancing technology across the industry will resolve in the future. We like this oven, and rate it thus, at 93 out of 100.
- Installation Instructions
- Microwave Hood Combination Users Instructions
- Official Product Page at Whirlpool.com
- Owner’s Manual
- Where to Buy the Whirlpool WMH31017AB-2 Over Range Microwave Oven
- 2015-10-22: Added appropriate tags.
- 2015-09-01: Originally published.