The Best Air Purifiers For College Dorms – Get Great Fresh Air For Your Room!

Best air purifiers for college dorms featured image

Got allergies, odor, or other air quality problems in your dorm? Picking a great air purifier’s a smart decision.

In this post, I’ll show you 5 of the best air purifiers for college dorms along with the details & pros and cons to know before buying.

There’s also some helpful basic information to help you learn more about air purifiers and what they do. Read on to find out more and see some of the best buys for your money!

Contents

How do air purifiers work?

Diagram illustrating how an air purifier works

Most popular air purifiers sold today like this GermGuardian AC4825 use a highly effective design with one or more filters. These are efficient at cleaning the air as, unlike other products sold using gimmicks, they remove contaminants from the air you breathe. They do so by circulating the air in a room and cleaning it as it passes through the filters.

While there are different kinds sold out there, most air purifiers work using a simple, but effective, concept: They use fans to move air through a very dense type of filter material called a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter to permanently trap unwanted particulates.

They’re both efficient and safe as they don’t produce any by-products that can cause headaches or other symptoms that products like ozone generators can cause. In addition, most of the better quality purifiers sold also include 1 or more added filters or cleaning stages to do things like trap hair or dust and odors, too.

To trap odors and airborne chemical vapors, also called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), a filter with activated carbon is used because of its odor-absorbing properties.

A filter stage called the pre-filter may or may not be separate from the odor-absorbing filter and has another purpose. It catches larger particulates like pet hair, dust, and fibers before they can reach the main (HEPA) filter and can even be vacuumed for longer life.

It’s all about cycling and cleaning the air

As they run they circulate the air in a room, continuously cleaning it. Purifiers are recommended for rooms like dorm rooms based on the square foot size which affects how much air must be circulated.

For example, a small room purifier has less air to circulate and clean and can use a smaller fan. While a large or medium-room purifier has to use faster or multiple fans to circulate & clean the air efficiently.

Purifiers are often (but not always) rated on how many times they can circulate & clean the air for their greatest recommend room size.

Most also have selectable fan speeds and you can set them to a low speed for quiet operation at night. You can also find some with bonus features like a germ killer to eliminate airborne microbes.

What is a HEPA filter?

Diagram showing HEPA filter efficiency
A “true HEPA” is a filter meeting the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard set back in the 1950s. This standard requires that the filter can trap 99.97% of all substances entering it.

A HEPA filter can remove contaminants smaller than a microscopic 1/1,000,000 of a meter (1 micron) in size! That’s way below what the human eye can see.

As an example, dust and hair are very large while dust mite particles are close to 5 microns in size. Pollen is close to this size as well. However, some air quality problems like smoke can be much smaller, including below 1 micron wide.

Air purifier HEPA filter material example close up

An up-close look at a HEPA filter with a foam seal around the edges. Used in air purifiers and other air cleaning systems, they’re made up of very dense fibers in a folded shape held in place inside a frame.

HEPA filters are made of a very dense, folder material made up of fibers that allow air to pass but stop airborne contaminants. Electric fans draw in air, force it through a filter, and the clean air is released back into the room.

As I mentioned earlier, HEPA filters meet a standard in which they can trap 99.97% of all particles that pass through them. This means that  for every 10,000 particles than enter a HEPA filter, only about 3 escape!

They’re used for a range of air problems such as:

  • Allergens (plants, pets, etc)
  • Pet dander & hair
  • Dust mites
  • Dust & fibers
  • Smoke particles

…and more.

What is a pre-filter/activated carbon filter?

The most effective air purifiers include both the HEPA filter section and a pre-filter/activated carbon section, too. They work together to remove not just microscopic particles (as the HEPA filter is best at) but also odors, vapors, and larger elements like pet hair or dust.

As I mentioned earlier, air purifiers may include an extra filter called the pre-filter. This is a section which, when added along with the main HEPA filter, gives some extra benefits. They’re often a mesh-like material and in many cases can be replaced separately as needed.

As a HEPA filter can last a range of months (8-12 months for example, depending on circumstances) it’s great if we can extend its life before replacement is needed.

A pre-filter can trap things like larger fibers, hair, and dust before they can reach and prematurely clog up the main filter.

GermGuardian FLT4825 dirty filter vacuum example image

An example of dust buildup on one of my air purifier’s pre-filters. Since there’s so much buildup of dust, it’s smart to vacuum it off to keep the filter working and airflow good until replacement time.

In many cases, once the pre-filter has become very dirty (like dust buildup) you can brush it off or vacuum it to keep it working well until replacement time comes.

Most quality brands include an activated carbon treatment on the pre-filter itself. Activated carbon can absorb and trap odors and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are bad for your health or can cause headaches, coughing, and other problems.

In many, but not all, purifiers, you can replace these separately to keep maintenance costs low. That’s great, since why should you replace the HEPA filter and spend money when it’s not needed yet?

Room size and choosing the right purifier for your needs

Diagram showing example of calculating room size coverage for an air purifier

A purifier is usually recommended by the manufacturer based on the (largest) room size to use it in. While in a few cases it may be listed in cubic feet, normally this room size is given in square feet. To figure out a room’s size in square feet, just multiply the width times the length. In the example above, this AC4825 model is good for rooms up to 155 sq. ft. in size. That’s a room of about 10 x 15 1/2 feet in size.

What you’ll find when shopping is that many have a recommend maximum room size they’ll work for. It’s not that they can’t work in larger rooms. However, an air purifier that’s good for smaller rooms like college dorms can’t move enough air efficiently in larger rooms.

Most of the time, an air purifier is recommended for a room size (small, medium, large, etc) based on square feet. To find out the square feet size of a room, just multiply the length times the width.

Understanding the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) rating

Levoit LV-H132 CADR ratings label

Example of a CADR label provided by some, but not all, air cleaning appliance manufacturers. The 3 numbers shown tell you the effectiveness of the purifier’s air cleaning.

In case you’ve never heard of it, the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) is an industry-standard way of testing and determining an air cleaner product’s effectiveness.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) is an organization that verifies home appliances for the industry. While they’re nice to have for comparing similar products, CADR rating tests are voluntary and not required by law.

CADR ratings are numbers used to help you know an air cleaner’s performance before buying. The rating numbers are based on “higher is better.”

In order to find out how well an air purifier cleans the air, 3 types of tests (smoke, pollen, and dust) are performed in a controlled lab environment and the performance is given a rating. The purifier is then given a rating the manufacturer may display in ads or specifications if they like.

What to know when shopping

There’s one problem, though. For lower-priced air purifiers, even from high-quality brands, it’s not unusual for them to not include CADR performance numbers.

When it comes to small room air purifiers, you can definitely assume that there aren’t any CADR numbers provided then it’s somewhere under 100.

In fact, somewhere around 75 is probably a good guess. That doesn’t mean they’re not good quality, but it’s just harder for a very small purifier to move as much room air as a bigger model can.

Therefore, it’s easy to see why better-performing models are those recommended or medium or large-sized rooms – they have more fans or a more powerful fan design.

Note: You can always use a purifier recommended for a larger room in a small room. They’ll simply work faster than a small room purifier would the same space. 

What kind of air purifier do I need?

Ionizer and ozone generator examples image

Examples of products that claim to use special features like ozone or ions (charged air elements) to clean the air. Left: An ionizer air purifier. Right: An ozone generator. Ionizers aren’t as effective as a filter-based purifier and aren’t recommend. Ozone generators are similar, but can be more effective but only at dangerous ozone production levels. Both can produce by-products that can irritate your breathing passageways and are best avoided.

Stay away from “ionizers” and ozone generators! These are often very ineffective and a waste of your hard-earned money! The level of ozone at which point they become effective at purifying the air is unsafe and will cause several health problems (or at the very least, discomfort).

I recommend picking a quality HEPA filter air purifier. Ionizers and ozone generators sold as “purifiers” just don’t have the proven performance of a good filter-based purifier. That’s because the don’t remove contaminants quickly & efficiently like how a HEPA purifier does.

★ 5 of the best air purifiers for college dorms ★

Our top picks at a glance

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ OUR #1 CHOICE ★GermGuardian AC4825
  • Best seller and overall an excellent value! Easy to use and quiet.
  • 155 sq ft coverage, 100+ CADR lab tested rating
  • True HEPA, carbon filter for odors, UV-C germ killer
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageULTRA QUIET!Levoit LV-H132
  • Electronic controls and super quiet operation
  • 129 sq ft, true HEPA + carbon filter
  • Touch controls, night light, and memory feature
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageGermGuardian AC4100
  • Great for dorms and small rooms
  • Same HEPA filter + carbon filter quality as larger models
  • Includes germ-killing feature
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageHamilton Beach TrueAir
  • HEPA filter can be vacuumed for longer life
  • Works upright or on its side. Great compact, effective air cleaning.
  • Simple 3-speed control. Available in pet version and 2 colors.
Check at Amazon
sample-table__imageUnder $50Holmes HAP9240
  • A great budget choice! Affordable version of a true HEPA filter.
  • Built-in ionizer for additional cleaning. Up to 109 sq. ft. coverage
  • Simple/easy controls. Works on its side or vertically
Check at Amazon

Product reviews and details

1. GermGuardian AC4825 – A best-selling model that’s also a good value, too.

Best seller product review badge graphic image
Hands-down, the GermGuardian AC4825 is one of the all-time best-selling air purifiers today and it’s easy to see why!

You’ll get not only more room coverage for your money but the addition of an ultraviolet (UV) germ killing feature, too.

Take a look at why it’s one of the best well-rounded values today:

  • True HEPA filter
  • UV-C germ killing feature
  • Super-easy filter maintenance
  • Inexpensive replacement filters
  • Separate pre-filter for reduced costs
  • Filter check reminder feature
  • Carrying handle for easy moving
  • Available in white or the AC4900 style, too
  • Lab tested CADR rating of 100+
  • 155 sq. ft. room coverage

Good air purification performance

The true HEPA filter and odor-absorbing pre-filter work together to keep your dorm room fresh, reduce allergies, and let you breathe & enjoy college the way you deserve.

Nasties such as dust, hair, and more get blocked by the pre-filter which can be replaced separately to keep costs down. The HEPA filter works great to block all kinds of terrible allergens, dust mites, pollen, and even mold spores to freshen the air you breathe and reduce sickness.

Unlike many competitors in its price range, the AC4825 also offers lab-tested performance with a CADR of 100+.

While it may lack the fancier features found in others, it’s one of the easiest to use and very reliable as well. I’m a big fan as I own one myself!

In fact, you can read more in my detailed review of the AC4825 here.

AC4825E top controls image

Top-down view of the control panel. A simple 3-speed fan rotary control is easy to use for anyone. The power indicator LED will blink to remind you when it’s time to check the filters.

A 3-speed fan control is provided and a great choice for those who prefer simple controls & operation.

The filter is easy to remove and replace by opening the rear door and simply swapping it out. A replacement reminder is included as well.

UV-C germ killing feature

GermGuardian AC4825 side view UV-C feature glowing

When switched on, the UV-C feature also doubles as a nice glowing blue trim around the front and sides. It’s a cool look I love as I own one myself!

The ultraviolet light feature (UV-C) works with titanium oxide to break down & destroy illness-causing microbes & germs in the air around you. It’s a nice addition that most competitors don’t offer. 

When switched on, you’ll see a soft, safe glow in the translucent trim around the base of the top that lets you know it’s working to destroy germs.

Overall opinion

At 22 inches in height, it’s not as compact as other models, but fits well into corners or other spaces. Replacement filters cost about $15-20 and last about 6 months depending upon use. You’ll also find many 3rd part options offered for those of you on a budget, too!

The GermGuardian line of purifiers is one of the most reputable on the market, and without a doubt the AC4825 is a true “workhorse” that people love, judging by the thousands of great buyer reviews.

I’ve enjoyed mine, too, and I love how hassle-free it is to use. The fan speeds are good, it’s relatively quiet, and works well to solve a whole range of air quality issues.

The true HEPA filter and pre-filter are some of the easiest to replace I’ve ever used! If you’re in the market for a good value but not a wimpy purifier, it’s a great compromise between cost & performance.

While it’s not as quiet as some competitors, it’s still pretty low in noise when running. But that’s one of the few tiny gripes I have since I’ve enjoyed mine so much.

PROS:
  • Simple 3-speed fan switch is great for nearly everyone
  • Better overall value for the dollar vs competitors
  • Great filtering performance
  • Quiet fan operation on low speed setting
  • Germ & microbe-killing UV-C feature not found in many others
  • Filter replacement reminder
  • Nice blue glow when UV-C is on
  • Soft LED when power is on
  • Tower shape is great for corners or areas with vertical space
  • Good room size coverage (155 square feet)
  • 3-year limited warranty
CONS:
  • No auto-sensing modes
  • No electronic controls
  • No auto-off feature
  • Cannot wash & reuse filter (can vacuum)
  • Older design vs competitors like Levoit
  • Warranty requires paying for return shipment for service

As a happy owner, I can say it’s a solid, reliable purifier that works well to clean the air and is definitely a good choice for the money. I love mine so much I bought other GermGuardian models to use and test, too!

It’s a great match for your dorm room or bedroom while you’re at college.

Take a moment and see why it's one of the all-time best selling purifiers today at Amazon.

NEW GermGuardian AC4825W white model

Good news! You can now get the AC4825 we happy owners love in white as well.

Want some a bit different looking? Check out its twin, the sleek AC4900CA version here.

2. Levoit LV-H132 – A great addition to your college dorm. Quiet air cleaning + nice features.

Levoit LV-H132 purifier white front view

GermGuardian isn’t the only air purifier company to pay attention to – Levoit has produced some true winners like the LV-H132 for a few years now.

Without a doubt, it’s one of the quietest purifiers I’ve ever tested & owned!

Because of its stylish looks & compact design, it’s a great match for dorms, bedrooms, study halls, and much more. The LV-H132 uses a 3-stage true HEPA filter that’s great at eliminating odors, allergens, pet dander, dust mite by-products, and a lot more.

Levoit LV-H132 features image

The LV-H132 provides electronic touch controls. It’s simple to use and works well. Additionally, a memory feature means that upon the next power up it returns to the last settings you used.

Of the products listed here, it offers the most features in addition to a very pleasant and quiet operation on low speed.

A built-in night light with 2 brightness settings is a bonus feature.

The convenient filter replacement reminder lets you know when it’s time to inspect the filter and replace it if needed.

Replacement filters run around $30 and are simple to replace by opening the top cover.

Overall, I’m impressed. After much testing and use, I really enjoyed using it.

PROS:
  • Shorter height than competing tower purifiers
  • 2-year warranty
  • 3 fan speeds
  • Night light with 2 brightness levels
  • Nice looking, modern design
  • Electronic soft button controls
  • Quiet operation on low level won’t disturb sleep
  • Filter replacement reminder
  • Great build quality & high reliability
  • Easy filter replacement
CONS:
  • Smaller room coverage than others in its price range (129 sq. ft.)
  • No auto-off timer feature
  • No air quality sensor
  • Electronic controls may not be suitable for some

It’s an excellent purifier with wonderful buyer reviews and great air cleaning performance.

Be sure to check out why it's one of the best sold today and was awarded the Amazon's Choice label.

Levoit LV-H132 black model

UPDATE: A sleek new black version is now available too!

3.  GermGuardian AC4100 3-in-1: Super-compact air cleaning for offices, dorm rooms, and for a lower price.

GermGuardian AC4100 angle view

A great budget-priced model (around $50 or so), the AC4100 has an excellent reputation and is a nice little purifier that’s great for smaller rooms.

Measuring only 7.5 x 6.5 x 11″ in size, like other best-selling GermGuardian models it uses a true HEPA filter & activated carbon section to produce fresh, clean air and permanently remove those terrible air contaminants and odors that make your college dorm uncomfortable.

Check out what you’ll get for how little you pay:

  • True HEPA filter
  • UV-C germ killing feature
  • Super-easy filter maintenance
  • Inexpensive replacement filters
  • Separate pre-filter for reduced costs
  • Filter check reminder wheel
  • Also available in kids version (AC4150) in 3 colors w/ night light

Ultraviolet (UV-C) germ killing feature

You wouldn’t expect it for the price, but you’ll also get a germ killing feature activated by a switch on the front. A UV light along with titanium dioxide work to destroy germs and microbes for healthier air and reduced sickness.

Filters and replacement

GermGuardian AC4100 filter replacement how to image

Filter maintenance on the AC4100 is super-easy! Just pull the tab and remove the rear cover. Next, you can easily remove the filter assembly. You’ll be done in seconds.

Replacement filters cost about $10+. For your convenience, there’s a filter installation date wheel on the rear to help you know when it’s time to replace it.

Image of a GermGuardian AC4100 showing HEPA and activated carbon filtersUsing it is very easy with the 3 speed fan control. It’s quiet and generates a pleasing low noise level on the lowest setting. When set to high a sound like white noise is produced.

Unlike other models, the UV-C is an on/off switch and not a pushbutton control.

Final opinions

Like some other GermGuardian models I’ve tested, I’m not thrilled that there are no indicator lights for the UV-C feature being turned on or filter replacement. You’ll have to check the switch to see if you left it turned on as there’s no light.

Also, because of the compact size, it’s not the absolute quietest you’ll find, either. Still, it’s fairly quiet compared to others I’ve owned, and shouldn’t be a problem for sleeping or studying.

However, those are fairly minor complaints and overall it’s a well-made little purifier that’s a good choice. In fact, I reviewed the AC4100 in more detail here.

PROS:
  • Simple 3-speed fan control and on/off UV-C switch
  • UV & titanium dioxide design to kill germs
  • Great filtering ability for its small size
  • High speed setting moves a lot of air for purifying quickly
  • Filter replacement reminder wheel (month installed)
  • Low filter replacement price (about $10+)
  • Filter replacement date wheel (marks month installed)
  • Sleek, modern design
CONS:
  • 1 year warranty is shorter than other models
  • Fan speed on high could be slightly better
  • No filter replacement reminder
  • No more colors offered
  • No indicator light for UV-C “on”

Following the same great quality that has made GermGuardian purifiers some of the best today, it’s a great choice.

Definitely worth reading the many great buyer reviews that helped a best seller at Amazon.

4.  Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet – Compact, affordable, and quiet!

Hamilton Beach True Air purifier black front view

have a tighter budget? The Hamilton Beach TrueAir Ultra Quiet isn’t just affordable but also a well-made and compact popular model.

The genuine HEPA filter can be vacuumed clean. With the exception of heavy use, you won’t have to replace it as often as other products. You’ll not only save money for the upfront cost but in maintenance, too!

Hamilton Beach True Air purifier black top view

Controls are simple and easy to find on top. There’s an easy-access release for opening the filter for maintenance, too.

What I really like is how simple it is to use via the 3-speed rotary control. It’s a pretty quiet purifier, too, and you can sleep peacefully without worrying about being disturbed at night.

It’s small at only 8.5 x 13.5″ but the room coverage is a great 140 square feet. It’s a good choice for small rooms & offices.

One of the best things about the True Air is that it can be turned on its side to fit into smaller areas. Nice!

Nice! With the True Air, you can easily vacuum off the HEPA filter for extended life. It’s a great feature I love.

One drawback is that there’s no activated carbon/pre-filter section like some more expensive competitors or the GermGuardian AC4100. However, the easy access for cleaning the HEPA filter helps make up for that.

It’s available in both a nice black color and white as well. One weak point is the lack of odor absorption, so if bad smells are an issue in your room it’s not a good choice.

Otherwise, if you’re in the market for a small room purifier that’s affordable (below $50) and great for dorms, it’s a great option.

PROS:
  • HEPA filter effective for average dust and allergens
  • Main (HEPA) filter can be vacuumed and reused
  • Can be used on its side
  • Quiet operation
  • Nice design
  • 2 color options
  • Simple 3-speed operation control
CONS:
  • Limited room size coverage
  • No pre-filter or carbon filter section
  • No power indicator lights or filter replacement reminder
  • No sleep or auto-shutoff mode

Need small-room relief for dust, allergens, and more? It’s a nice affordable option worth checking out, especially with thousands of great buyer reviews!

Take a moment to see why it's one of the best-selling small purifiers at Amazon.

5.  Holmes HAP9240 HEPA-type desktop purifier – A low-cost performer & great for dorms!

Holmes HAP9240 air purifier product imageLooking for a competent but lower-priced choice? The Holmes HAP9240 may be exactly what you’ve been looking for. You’ll get a great compromise between performance, filter options, and price.
It’s not the smallest but measures a reasonable 14.8 x 11.4 x 7.2 inches in size.

Featuring a small size that’s perfect for countertops, shelves, and even desks, the Holmes can also be placed vertically on its back. The purifier features built-in rests on the rear to allow it to stand on its end.

For around $50 or so, it’s a good value. Check out the features:

  • Near-HEPA air filter quality for less money (filters 99% of particles)
  • Up to 100 sq. ft. room size coverage
  • 3 cleaning speeds and low noise operation
  • Filter reminder indicator light
  • Optional ionizer feature
  • Can be used in a vertical position
  • Black color option (availability may vary)
  • 3-year limited warranty
  • Washable pre-filter
  • Affordable replacement filters
  • 12 month HEPA filter life

The Holmes desktop air purifier includes a washable filter and HEPA-type filter (left). (Right) Have special air cleaning needs? You’ve got some good options! Pick one of the 3 additional filter options for specialized air cleaning relief.

It uses a HEPA-type filter that’s similar to the filtering qualities of a true HEPA filter. The filter can remove 99% of all particles down to 2 microns in size (as opposed to the 0.3 micron standard of a genuine HEPA filter.)

It’s a budget model but still a good performer for many common air quality problems. The 2-micron particle size rating works well for pet dander, dust, and standard allergens.

I wouldn’t recommend it for cigarette smoke, however, at least not without a carbon filter.

Shown: The Holmes HAP9240 controls are super-simple to understand and use. The filter reminder (left) shows the filter condition and can be reset as needed. Right: The optional ionizer feature is as simple as an on/off switch with light. Center: Choose from Off or 3 fan speeds with low-noise operation.

A built-in ionizer with off/on control is an extra feature that produces a safe level of charged molecules that bond with pollutants in the air. While it’s not the main air cleaning contributor, it’s a nice touch you may enjoy.

Filter check reminder

At power up, the unit will check and show you if it’s time to check and clean or replace the filters using the dual-color light on the control panel. When needed, you can easily reset the check filter light using the reset button provided.

It’s unique in that the pre-stage filter can be removed and washed to be reused. Fan speed is adjustable and while not as quiet as the Levoit and others here, it does offer low noise when at low speed.

Room size coverage and air cleaning performance

It’s recommended for rooms up to 100 square feet in size – just right for dorm rooms! The air cleaning performance is good, too, as it removes allergens, dust, pet dander, and much more from the air very well.

While there are quieter models out there, you’ll pay at least $30-$40, and in my opinion, it’s very quiet on the lower 2 settings. Overall, it’s a nice little budget model I’m sure that’s a great match if you’re on a budget.

Just like experience with it, buyers love it, too, as it’s one of the best-reviewed budget purifiers today.

PROS:
  • One of the most affordable and biggest sellers on the market
  • 100 sq. ft. room coverage
  • Easy slide control switches & 3 speed settings
  • Pre-stage filter can be cleaned and reused
  • Low replacement filter cost
  • Additional filter options
  • Can be positioned vertically
  • Includes ionizer with on/off control
  • Lower cost version of a true HEPA filter with nearly the same standard of performance
  • Available in black
  • 3-year limited warranty
CONS:
  • Not as sophisticated as pricier models
  • No germ-killing feature like the GermGuardian products offer
  • Cannot turn off light indicators on panel
  • Styling is more bland

Overall, it’s a very good budget air purifier that’s a great combination of price, performance, and features.

I’ve enjoyed mine and I’m sure you will, too! Be sure to check out the great buyer reviews at Amazon.

Additional reading

Want one of today’s top new air purifiers? Have a look at my review of the Levoit Core 300 here.

Want delicious food that even a nearly broke student can afford? Check out my helpful list of the best toaster ovens for college students.

The Best Affordable Toaster Ovens For College Students – Great Food On A Budget!

Best affordable toaster ovens for college students featured image

The college and student life is tough. You’re short on time, money, and let’s face it – you can’t always eat well. Don’t worry though – I’ve got the answer!

A great toaster oven can help you save time, money, and hassle…all while letting you cook some fantastic meals easily.

I’ve put together a list of 4 of the best affordable toaster ovens for college students below. Each one’s a great choice and only $50 or less!

Read on as there’s a ton of free & helpful information you can read before spending a penny.

Contents

Infographic – Toaster oven college facts

Toaster ovens for college tips and facts infographic

How do toaster ovens work?

Hamilton Beach 31401 cooking examples image

Toaster ovens are a smaller version of conventional large ovens and use an oven rack for cooking just like they do. Unlike their larger counterparts, however, they’re much more efficient – not just in cost, but also by providing faster cooking and lower energy use. Despite being small, many offer some great convenience features. Don’t let the name fool you – “Toaster” ovens can do a lot more!

A toaster oven is a small cooling appliance which uses electrical heating elements to cook food by heating air inside a sealed baking container.

Most are small in size. For example, many have a general size around 12 to 15″ width x 12″ to 15″ tall (about 30.5-35 x 30.5-35 cm). The depth is often of a similar dimension, although the particular dimensions vary a lot based on the model and design.

Most (but not all) of today’s popular toaster ovens are in fact convection ovens. Convection ovens are an enhanced version of traditional cooking ovens of the past.

Convection cooking uses an electric fan to move the air around the food, providing better heat distribution which results in better results. This is especially important for foods like pizza or others with a crust which is better with an evenly toasted surface.

Toaster ovens also may include features not found on larger home ovens, like specialty bread toaster features, toast timer presets, and more. They’re designed to give great convenience and ease-of-use that conventional ovens don’t offer.

What’s especially great is how affordable they can be for students!

Image showing a toaster oven heater element

Image of a typical toaster oven baking french fries. Shown is the red glowing electric heater element which warms the air for cooking. The amount of cooking power (and cooking speed) of a toaster oven is based on its power rating and design.

While the name “toaster oven” may imply that they’re ideally suited for bread, in fact that’s not true at all. They’re actually quite competent for many wonderful cooking tasks where a larger oven isn’t required.

Here are some of the most common uses for college students:

  • Toasting sliced bread or bagels
  • Baking: muffins, bread, etc.
  • Cooking and crisping small pizzas
  • Cooking meats and vegetables
  • Re-heating take-out foods such as french fries
  • Cooking frozen foods like Hot Pockets, burritos, and chicken nuggets

You’re nearly unlimited as far as what kinds of snacks or meals you can cook with one, in fact. As college budgets are often very strict (yes, I’ve been there, too!) it’s really up to you as far as how much you’d like to spend.

However, as I’ll show you below, there are some excellent buys for about $50 and below.

Special features

Hamilton Beach Toastation bagel example image

Are you a bagel or toast lover? Some models offer a unique feature: a traditional pop-up toaster on top of the cooking oven. For those who love toast but want it even faster, it’s a great way to get your tasty bread. 

While I’ve mentioned several of their uses above, there are some other features you should know about before shopping. They’re also unique to the particular model and design so it’s important to check before buying.

  • Preset heating selections: Temperature presets make cooking easier, as some offer preset temperatures for common foods
  • Timer function: A common (and excellent) feature, a cooking timer allows adjusting how long the oven will run and then shutoff
  • Crumb or drip tray: Wonderful for cleanup. A removable tray or pan that catches fallen crumbs from toast or other foods as well as dripping oils or fat.
  • Cooking settings: baking, broiling, toasting, and keeping food warm are common options
  • Toast darkness setting/timer: Allows cooking perfect toast! Set the toast darkness level and/or timer and you’re done!
  • Air fryer: Not common on budget models, this is a special cooking mode that somewhat replaces oil frying results with a healthier alternative. Great for french fries, chicken wings, and many traditionally fried foods.

In order to keep costs down, most sold today use electro-mechanical components and rotary dials. Some models, however, (normally more expensive units) have digital controls and a numeric display that shows cooking information.

While I generally prefer digital controls, in my experience the standard dial controls work very well in quality models I’ve tested.

What kinds of foods can they cook?

Toaster oven cooked foods example (pizza, wings)

Top: The best cheap frozen pizza I ever ate in my life! Perfect for college life! I tested a Cuisinart toaster oven for pizza and got fantastic results. Bottom: You’ve got lots of food options, including wonderful foods you’d normally pay for at a restaurant like chicken wings. This particular model, the Cuisinart TOA-60, features an air fryer cooking option. I love it!

Possibly a better question to ask is, “What CAN’T you cook with a toaster oven?” They’re so versatile, it’s kind of hard to think of what that might be.

Generally speaking, most limitations are the size of the oven vs how much food you’d like to prepare.

There’s an amazing range of possibilities! Some of the most common cooking tasks that make them perfect for the student life are:

  • Inexpensive (but tasty!) frozen foods like Hot Pockets, small pizzas (9-12″, depending upon the oven), nuggets
  • Fish and chicken fillets as well as whole small chickens, too
  • Toasted bread, bagels, muffins, brownies, and so on
  • Re-heating leftovers and slightly crisping crunchy foods
  • Make original, fast, and inexpensive foods that are tasty: quesadillas, home-cooked fries, baked potatoes, shrimp

…and the list goes on and on!

Image of fresh cooked Hot Pockets from a toaster oven

An excellent food for the college budget, Hot Pockets like these pizza-flavored ones I cooked come out of the oven hot, fresh, and crunchy. I was delighted by how delicious they were – FAR better than any I’ve had in the past from a microwave oven!

The good news is that most products include an oven rack, crumb tray, and baking tray so you can get started right away without spending any more money.

One drawback to these small appliances is that if you need more cooking pans it can be hard to find one that’s the right size. Many off-the-shelf cooking pans are designed to fit larger ovens, unfortunately.

How long to preheat a toaster oven

In a recent post answering the question, “How long does a toaster oven take to preheat?”, I set out to find out how much time you’d have to wait for cooking food.

What I found was pretty interesting!

Toaster oven preheat time measurements graphic

My real-world test results to find out how long preheating typical toaster ovens would take. Left: A standard-sized Black and Decker oven. Right: A larger Cuisinart TOA-60. The results were pretty good! Compared to larger ovens which can take up to about 15 minutes, toaster ovens take up about 1/2 – or less – the same time. Nice!

To do so, I used a digital thermometer and temp probe along with my stopwatch app. The results were pretty good, actually.

In both cases, my toaster ovens took 1/2 half the time of a larger appliance. Based on my measurements, you can expect to wait about 5-6 minutes or so depending upon the model.

Do I have to preheat my oven?

While you don’t have to, I definitely recommend it except for a few situations. Preheating a toaster oven brings it up to a ready temperature so that the food will have a consistent cooking temperature from start to finish.

When performing functions like using the warming setting to re-heat leftovers or keep food fresh and hot until you’re ready to eat, it’s not necessary.

For most cooking tasks that need a relatively high temperature, however, it does make a difference.

Toaster oven cooking times

I know from personal experience how tough working, going to school, and just trying to find time get things done can be. It’s rough!

The great news is that you can get some quality food in those brief moments in between studying and everything else. But how long does it take to cook many foods in a toaster oven?

Real-world testing and facts are better than just guessing or Googling for someone’s opinion, so I dug in deeper. I measured cooking times for a variety of foods.

Toaster oven frozen pizza cooking time measurement

Image showing the toaster oven cooking time I measured for a typical budget college meal – a mini frozen pizza. I tested using my Cuisinart TOA-60. Note that cooking times will vary from oven to oven. In this case, convection baking made a big difference!

It’s very important for me to clarify that I used the convection baking option in my test oven.  In case you weren’t aware, you’ll more often get better results by using convection baking. That’s especially true for items with a thin crust or thin and/or flat like a pizza is.

Generally speaking, the time required depends greatly on the oven size and power rating.

Here are some estimated cooking times based on what I’ve measured. Note that this assumes you’ve preheated the oven>

  • Frozen pizza: About 5-7 minutes
  • Hot Pockets, burritos, and similar thick frozen foods: 5-8 minutes
  • Chicken nuggets: 7-10 minutes
  • Fish fillets: 7-9 minutes
  • French fries: Around 6-9 minutes (varies by cooking feature, and lightly oiled fries etc)

Think of it this way: by the time it would take to have food delivered or even drive to a restaurant, you could already be eating a fresh meal cooked in your dorm or apartment.

You’d also easily save 1/3- 1/2 the money, too!

How long does toasting bread take?

Toaster oven toast results example image

Testing average bread toasting times. Out came perfectly toasted medium-darkness white bread. Delicious!

As they are called toaster ovens, after all, I thought I should put them to the test in that area as well.

I love toast and think it’s great. But what I didn’t know is that my toaster ovens would produce the best toast I’ve ever eaten in my life.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that!

Cuisinart TOA-60 toaster time settings measurements chart

I measured toasting times for 4 slices of bread using my Cuisinart, on all 3 available darkness (toast timer) settings. Other ovens are somewhat similar, depending upon their design. Medium (my favorite) was fantasticA perfect brown toast evenly placed across the bread. Wonderful!

Similarly, other models will have about the same results. I’d estimate a difference of 1-3 minutes in some cases, but generally you should get about the same results.

Ideally, look for a model that makes toasting easy by providing dial controls marked with toast darkness settings already. It makes it easier to use and you can also get consistent results that way.

★ 4 of the best affordable toaster ovens for college students ★

Our top picks

ImageProductDetails
sample-table__image★ Our #1 Pick! ★Black & Decker 4 Slice
  • Excellent cooking and value under $50! Toasts 4 slices
  • 30 minute timer, 4-function cooking
  • Great for pizzas too! Easy to use settings
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageHamilton Beach Toastation
  • Built-in dedicated pop-up toaster
  • Great simple cooking and reheating
  • Easy to clean w/ crumb tray
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageEasy access topHamilton Beach Easy Reach
  • Roll top door for easy, safe food access
  • Fits 4 slices or 9" pizza
  • 30 min. timer. Slip-resistant knobs
Check on Amazon
sample-table__imageDash Compact
  • Fantastic for toast, pizza, even cookies!
  • Precise temp dial, 30 min. timer
  • Easy to clean. Set and forget auto off feature
Check on Amazon

Reviews and details

1. Black and Decker 4-Slice Stainless Steel – Get great features, easy cooking, and fantastic food under $50!

Black and Decker 4-slice toaster Editor's Choice imageIt seems like there are just so many options to choose from out there. However, I’ve come across one that’s a fantastic budget value not just because it’s affordable, but it offers so much.

The Black and Decker 4-slice model TO1313SBD toaster oven is simply one of THE best values for today’s college student.

While it’s budget-friendly, it doesn’t skimp on quality. There’s a very nice stainless steel finish, simple but well-designed control panel, all the basic features you need, and a front door that’s easy to open and use.

Not only that, but it also features the company’s proprietary EvenToast design to produce toasted bread that’s 30% more evenly done than competing products.

With a maximum temperature of 450 degrees, it’s excellent for many dorm or apartment cooking jobs:

  • Baking
  • Toasting
  • Broiling
  • Reheating leftovers or take-out

It’s one of the best choice when you want a well-rounded toaster oven but have a budget, too.

Black and Decker 4 slice toaster controls image

The controls are user-friendly and simple but get the job done really well, in my opinion. You’ll get temperature presets, a cooking timer, and 4 main cooking modes that cover nearly all cooking tasks you have. There’s also a power light to show when the oven is and isn’t in operation.

Although it’s one of the most affordable models sold today I’m impressed with the features (and performance, too).

Quickly select one of the many settings using the rotary dials:

  • 0-30 minute cooking timer
  • 4 cooking modes: Warm, toast, broil, and bake
  • Adjustable temp dial with toast preset

Black and Decker 4 slice toaster bread example

Bagels, bread, and so much more toast nearly perfectly thanks to the even heating in the Black and Decker – 30% better than leading competitors! Fit up to 4 bagel or bread slices on the oven rack. The removable crumb tray (bottom) makes cleanup easy afterwards.

Ready for some fantastic, fresh toast after a hard day of classes or working? You’ll get some of the best you’ve ever had, up to 4 slices at a time. Black and Decker’s EvenToast technology works to more evenly toast bread for better results. A cheap electric toaster can’t even come close!

When you’re finished, just slide out the crumb tray found at the bottom for easy, hassle-free cleanup. I really like how well it works and how it keeps cleanup so simple.

The crumb tray also works well to capture drips that may happen when cooking meats and other foods.

Black and Decker 4 slice toaster oven removable trays

Top: Cleanup is easy! Slide out the bottom crumb tray after cooking or toasting for easy access. Bottom: The oven rack also conveniently holds the baking pan/drip pan underneath. It slides out easily for use or for handwashing when needed. One thing I also really like is the nice front flip-down door. It’s well-designed, lets you see the oven interior easily, and prevents burns as the handle is heat-resistant.

Cooking performance and other features

Measuring only 16.5 x 10″ in size, its small might fool into thinking it’s less capable. I’m happy to say that definitely not true!

The Black and Decker TO1313SBD is ready of some pretty cool cooking jobs:

  • Cooking personal pizzas up to 9″ in size (with great, toasty results!)
  • Baking and broiling meats like chicken, fish, chicken and fish sticks, and more
  • French fries and baked potatoes
  • Baking small breads or bread sticks
  • Re-heating cold leftovers or takeout food
  • Keeping food warm or warming leftovers

Yes, it is a small toaster oven, meaning that you can’t cook an enormous tray of chicken breast fillets, for example. However, it’s fantastic for those everyday college meals, snacks, and getting something hot and fresh ready for a get-together or study session.

Overall, I’m pretty impressed with it despite the low price (often well under $50 if you shop smart). I also like how it heats up quickly.

However, it’s not perfect of course, and I do have a few minor complaints. The outside of the oven gets pretty hot during cooking. Also the baking/broiling tray that’s included isn’t was wide as it could be (it’s a bit shorter than the inside width of the oven).

Honestly, though, that definitely doesn’t detract from what’s a great value and a great buy. The toasting function is excellent and it’s a great low-priced toaster oven that just seems to hit all the right points where it counts.

PROS:
  • One of the most affordable
  • Fast warm-up time
  • Good, clear, simple controls
  • Adjustable timer control (30 mins)
  • Bake, broil, toast, and warm functions
  • Great for personal pizzas up to 9″
  • Great, even toasting performance
  • Removable crumb tray
  • Baking/drip tray stores underneath top rack
  • Power on/off light
  • Heat-resistant door handle
  • Nice flip-down front door
  • Stainless steel construction
  • Easy to clean
  • 2 year warranty
CONS:
  • Outside of oven gets hot while cooking
  • 30 min. max timer ability
  • Baking/broiling tray isn’t full width of inside
  • 450F maximum temperature
  • No digital display or controls
  • No power cord storage

Simply-put, the Black and Decker is one of the best affordable toaster ovens I’ve found. It’s also one of the most popular among buyers, too!

Because of how well it works, the quality, and the excellent value, I awarded it my Editor’s Choice rating.

Don’t put with bad food any longer! Head over to find the lowest price (with free shipping!) at Amazon now.

2. Hamilton Beach Toastation 2-Slice – Mini oven cooking power with pop-up toaster convenience.

Hamilton Beach Toastation

Want the convenience of a traditional toaster but the great cooking abilities of a conventional oven? Check out the wonderful Hamilton Beach Toastation 2-slice.

It’s a great way to get great meals in less space – and without breaking the bank!

Built into the top of the unit is a traditional-style pop-up toaster that can hold 2 slices of bread or 2 bagel halves. To keep things simple, there’s also a standard slide lever on the side to start the toasting process.

It’s very compact, too. At only 9 x 17.3 x 9.3 inches in size, it’s a great for your dorm room, apartment, or shared kitchen area.

Hamilton Beach 22708 toaster oven controls image

The Toastation is a great-looking and easy-to-use toaster oven you’ll love. Toasting bagels or sliced bread is a breeze! Just load the top section with 2 slices and pull the side lever down, with your toast darkness level dialed in (the top dial). Push the Cancel button at any time to interrupt the toasting process. For oven cooking, switch it to Oven mode, select any temperature up to 450 degrees, and enjoy great cooking performance.

I like how simple it makes everyday toast making and cooking. Craving freshly toasted bread? You’ll get it – with toast making that’s 24% faster than leading toaster ovens.

I found it really easy to use:

  • Set the toast darkness level dial as desired (1 of 6 settings)
  • Slide the mode switch to Toast
  • Insert bread and push down the side lever

In just a few minutes your delicious, golden toasted bread will pop up – it’s as easy as that! After use, the toaster will shut off automatically (no need to worry about leaving a switch on).

Preheat the oven for a little while and you’re ready to get to cooking!

What really got me interested in reviewing the Toastation wasn’t just the elegant and sleek design, but how well it works for small foods. Treats like mini-pizzas cook up really nice and cruncy.

You can fit up to 2 large 16″ pizza slices or one 9″ personal mini pizza for cooking. Pastries work really well in it, too. (Or Hot Pockets, burritos, or so many affordable but tasty foods I love!)

Hamilton Beach toaster 2 slice oven pizza example

What is the Toastation 2-slice toaster oven all about? Is it really worth your money? Here’s my take: it’s a really easy, reliable way to always get affordable, tasty food that helps make your student life easier. It’s not for really big items, but perfect for you and/or your roommate to cook items like small pizzas, french fries, nuggets, and many delicious budget foods. It also uses 73% less energy than a large oven!

While I’ve already told you many reasons why I like it, and while it really is very compact size, (so it’s great for studio apartments and dorm rooms) there’s another reason I’m a fan.

The Toastation uses as whopping 73% less energy than a large oven. That’ll put a nice dent in your electric bill every month! Over time that means the Toastation will pay for itself in savings!

I remember my college days: foods like chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and even leftover pizza from my weekend job helped me survive.

The Hamilton Beach can not only re-heat leftover food and cook frozen foods but also put a crisp crunch back on food that’s gone a bit soft.

Frozen foods like those I mentioned above also cook 28% faster than some other models, according to Hamilton Beach.

Baking rack and crumb tray

Your oven includes everything you need:

  • Baking tray
  • Oven rack
  • Crumb tray

What I really like is how when the front door opens the oven rack slides out to allow easy reach of your food. It’s a pretty neat little surprise on such an affordable model.

Time to clean up? No problem. Just pull out the crumb tray (found at the bottom) for wiping down with a damp soft cloth. The the baking tray is nice as well, and can hold a pretty good-sized portion including loose french fries or nuggets.

What I don’t like is that it doesn’t include a feature I love and recommend: a cooking timer.

However, if that’s not a priority for you, it’s a fantastic choice for some of the best toasting and the power of a compact and money-saving efficient toaster oven.

PROS:
  • Compact size
  • Simple operation
  • Easy & fast top-located toaster
  • 73% lower power use than large oven
  • 6-level toast darkness control
  • Adjustable oven temperature
  • Faster cooking for small foods
  • Faster than rival toasters
  • Rack slides out when door opens
  • Affordable price
  • Great for warming foods and cooking small meals
  • 1 year warranty
CONS:
  • Toaster is limited to 2 slices (4 slice model available)
  • No timer feature
  • Smaller oven size than rivals
  • Toasting isn’t as even as convection models
  • Some complaints that the door may stay open a bit

I recommend the Hamilton Beach for anyone who needs a great combination countertop oven and fast toaster for their everyday college and student needs.

It’s sleek, well-designed, and super easy to use choice. I really like it!

Check it out today. Be sure to see the great buyer reviews and low price at Amazon now.

3. Hamilton Beach Easy Reach – Classic styling, modern value & performance, with a super-convenient roll top.

Image of Hamilton Beach Easy Reach model 31334D toaster oven toasting functionWith its semi-retro sleek styling and a super-convenient roll top design, the Easy Reach toaster oven really stands out from the crowd. I was really eager to get my hands on this one!

There are 2 nice colors to pick from: contemporary gray or a lovely fire engine red.

It’s one of the easiest to use and most convenient countertop ovens I’ve ever tested and reviewed.

With the 2 dial controls you’ve got several great features at your fingertips:

  • Adjust the cooking temperature (up to 450 degrees)
  • Bake, broil, or toast a variety of foods and breads
  • Set the auto-off timer and walk way for hassle-free cooking

Wondering what makes the “roll top” design special? It’s a unique oven door that rolls back towards the rear of the oven, allowing easier access to your food. Unlike conventional toaster ovens, it can fit into even more limited spaces – fantastic for dorm rooms or any place where space is at a premium!

What I love about it how it enhances your cooking experience and everyday use. For example: cooking pizza? Just roll the door back to adding toppings or check the crust.

Are you a cooking perfectionist? The top makes it possible to insert a thermometer in your food or check your food without have to remove it from the oven. Very nice!

Not only that, but it’s safer than other ovens, too, as there’s almost no possibility of getting burns by accidentally touching the oven interior as can happen with others.

Hamilton Beach Easy Reach toaster oven open top example

The Easy Reach really sets itself apart and makes cooking a new experience. I love the roll top design – it rolls (slides) open easily gets out of the way so you can add toppings, seasonings, sauces, and more without hassle or the risk of burns. The curved glass door window is also great as it makes seeing your food at an angle possible, too.

love how the awesome roll top makes new things possible. For example, while cooking I don’t have to remove food to check the internal temperature or to add seasoning turn over items cooking. It’s a really cool and convenient feature in my opinion.

As I’ve worked with toaster ovens for some time now, I can tell you that it’s easy to have an accident and touch something hot. However, the Easy Reach greatly reduces the risk of burns as you’re far less likely to touch hot metal.

Image of Hamilton Beach Easy Reach model 31334D clean up features

Top: Don’t worry, although the roll top door is unique, it’s easy to remove and wash! Bottom: Done toasting or cooking? Slide out the crumb tray and just wipe it down. Very simple and hassle-free. The Easy Reach is one of the easiest to clean toaster ovens I’ve dealt with so far.

While you might be guessing that the rolling door design makes cleanup, it isn’t the case at all. In fact, it’s actually pretty easy to do. The door is removable for easy hand washing.

As with other products, there’s a nice crumb tray which catches crumbs or drips from cooking food. Slide it out for easy clean up and you’re done in jiffy.

Toasting operation

Toasting is quite easy as well, and I like how it works. (Not just for bread, by the way, but bagels, English muffins, and more)

The cooking timer dial includes selectable toast darkness levels. Place up to 2 slices of bread on the oven rack in the top tray position for optimal toasting both on the top and bottom of your bread.

For items such as bagels and English muffins or waffles, place the rack on the lower position. The toast function works well and my test items (bread, bagels, and a waffle) turned out well: evenly crisped and delicious.

General cooking

For general purpose cooking, you’ve got several options:

  • Bake personal pizzas, fish sticks, chicken, nuggets, fries, potato wedges, and much more
  • Broil delicious fish or chicken dishes like salmon or chicken strips
  • Warm/re-heat pre-cooked foods like takeout dishes or leftovers

Cooking is pretty simple as I learned:

  1. Choose the proper temperature
  2. For reheating/warming food, set a low temp and set the oven to “always on”
  3. For cooking (baking or broil) set the temperature and the timer

…and that’s it. When the cooking timer ends the Easy Reach will switch off automatically and your food is ready and waiting.

It’s very simple, although it’s not as powerful as other toaster ovens in the same (budget, under $50) price range. If you’re planning on cooking larger items like 1/4 chickens or steaks, you’ll need to allow more cooking time.

Overall I found it to be a great little oven that a good performer for its size. The owner’s manual, although a bit simple, is very clear and does help you get started easily.

Overall, it’s a great little toaster oven and is one of the easiest to use I’ve come across. The manual, while a bit simple, is very clear and helpful.

PROS:
  • Wide-view/easy-access rolling door cover
  • Bell sound when food is ready
  • Allows adding food toppings very easily without burning hand
  • Durable, wear-resistant finish
  • 30 minute auto-off timer control
  • Includes baking tray, crumb tray, and 2-pos. oven rack
  • Selectable toast darkness
  • Adjustable temperature dial (max. 450 degrees)
  • Great owner’s manual
  • Bake, broil, and toast modes
  • Rolling door is removable for hand washing
  • Great for bagels as baking rack can be moved to 2 positions
  • Holds up to 4 bread slices
  • Power indicator light
  • “Always on’ selection available
CONS:
  • Toaster darkness adjustment can be difficult
  • Oven remains on when door is opened
  • Knob markings could be more clear
  • No power cord storage
  • Limited to 2 bagels when toast (approximately)
  • Clicking timer sound
  • Odd toaster control (as opposed to separate toaster dial)
  • Warranty could be longer (Black and Decker offer 2 yr)

Although it’s not perfect, I’m impressed with how well it works and especially how convenient it is to use. I can’t get over how much easier it makes accessing food while cooking.

I also really like the “retro-ish” styling and the lovely red color. It’s a nice touch you simply won’t find on others.

Have a look now and it's one of the best-selling and highest rated budget toaster ovens at Amazon.

4. Dash Compact Toaster Oven – Restaurant style looks and modern cooking features on a budget.

Want something that offers modern styling and performance but won’t break the bank? Here’s a great one!

The Dash Compact toaster oven shows that when smart design meets modern styling great things can happen.

Even though it sells for under $50, you wouldn’t guess it. To me in person it looks more expensive that it really is and is reminiscent of a professional restaurant kitchen oven. It’s that nice.

You’ll also get to choose from 3 lovely colors:

  • Aqua
  • Graphite
  • Red

Even better, it’s very simple to use. Two controls are provided:

  • Temperature dial with 200-450 degree settings (with fixed temperature positions)
  • 15 minute adjust timer with auto shutoff

Baking, toasting, and other tasks are a breeze. Simply set the temperature and then the timer – then let the dash do the rest. The power light will stay on while it’s working and as the timer ends the power will shut off automatically.

As the timer runs out and the oven turns off you’ll hear a chime sound.

Dash Compact toaster oven size diagram

Small but powerful! Thanks to the smart design, the Dash Compact measures only 8.8 x 12.2 inches in size. The bottom-located controls help it take up less horizontal countertop space. It’s a refreshing approach to toaster ovens.

The Compact is an excellent fit for dorm rooms, a common (shared) kitchen, and so much more. What I really like about it is how the design has the controls on the bottom and not the side like others.

This results in less horizontal counter space being taken up. It also helps give it the unique look it has, too.

What’s included + features

Dash Compact toaster oven included items

Top: A slide-out crumb catcher tray is located at the bottom of the unit for easy clean-up after use. Bottom: How cool is that? The owner’s manual is not only clear, helpful, and well-written, but also includes some really nice recipes to get the most out of your new oven.

In addition to the oven tray and backing pan, the unit also includes a convenient crumb tray (which slides into the bottom) that makes clean up a snap.

Need to pull out the oven rack? That’s no problem, as it’s easily removed, too.

I have to say I was impressed with the owner’s manual. It’s clear, very helpful for getting started, and includes some excellent recipes I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Like other ovens in its power range, warm-up (preheat) time is fast, too, taking only 3-5 minutes to preheat before you’re ready to cook.

In my test the Dash Compact cooks well and is a great performer. My one and only real complaint is that there’s no toast darkness settings provided.

If you’re not big on toast, that’s not really an issue, but it’s something to be aware of beforehand.

PROS:
  • One of the easiest to use
  • Great owner’s manual + recipes
  • Auto-off timer
  • Compact size
  • Fast preheat time (3-5 minutes)
  • Design saves counter space
  • 3 colors available
  • Temperature dial uses fixed settings for better use
  • Cool temp bottom crumb tray
  • Large, clear front door
  • Great for mini pizzas
  • 1 year warranty
CONS:
  • Warranty could be longer (1 yr vs 2 yrs of Black and Decker)
  • Timer limited to 15 minutes
  • Some may prefer a lower temp setting option
  • No toast darkness settings
  • No rear cord storage feature

If you need a general purpose, great-looking, and modern toaster oven, the Dash Compact is well worth checking out.

While I wish it offered a few more features (toast darkness settings, and a 30 minute timer instead of 15), it’s designed mainly for general compact oven cooking. It does it well!

Be sure to find out why it's a hidden gem and see the great buyer reviews at Amazon.

Additional information

Want to learn more about toaster oven preheat and cooking times? Check out this helpful post where I measured oven preheat time.