Get Your Smoothie On!
With more people than ever starting the day off with a vitamin-and-protein-packed smoothie, we thought it was time to take a good look at the many different blenders on the market. While we found that today's models can do a lot more than just smoothies, be it daiquiris or hot soup (yes, you can make hot soup with nothing more than a blender), at they end of the day they are all designed with one task in mind. That is to turn everything you put in the container into a smooth liquid. Read more about our top picks . . .
- OUR TAKEPROSCONS
- OUR TAKE
- This unit is a winner with dial-controlled speed, a self-cleaning jar and blades able to turn fast enough to make hot soup or slowly and powerfully enough for perfect ice cream. We especially love the 2.2 hp motor that will liquefy everything you can throw at it!
- Endless speed adjustments with dial (no preset speed buttons).
- Unit self-cleans with water and a drop of soap.
- Powerful 2.2 hp motor.
- Hardened steel blades cut through anything (they are actually intentionally dulled!).
- 7 year warranty (they even pay for shipping!).
- The lid doesn't always latch completely closed—it's best to keep a hand on it.
- Crevices in the lid insert can be tricky to clean—best to remove and clean separately.
- Unit is somewhat loud when running.
- RUNNER UP (Performance)
- If you are in the market for a professional quality blender for less, unit from Hamilton Beach is a great bet. It has a powerful motor, manual as well as preset options, a BPA-free 64 oz. jar that is dishwasher safe and comes with a 5 year warranty.
- Powerful 2.4 hp peak power motor with thermal protection.
- Competitive price point for a professional grade device (there is a variant without the presets priced at under $200).
- Includes 4 presets AND variable speed dial.
- 5 year limited warranty.
- Unit is very noisy when running.
- Cleaning isn't quite as breezy as with the Vitamix.
- Warranty, while 5 years, is limited in that not everything is covered and customer pays for shipping to and from the repair facility.
- OUR TAKE
- This unit is a solid choice for those not looking to shell out $200+ for a high end blender. The combination of six blades does a good job of crushing ice for daiquiris and turning out "smooth" smoothies. If you just need a basic device for simple blending tasks, this will get the job done for less.
- Lowest price point in our comparison (priced at well under $100).
- Six blade combination helps liquefy contents quickly and smoothly.
- 72 oz jar is the biggest in our comparison (its perfect for daiquiris).
- Crevices make this device the most difficult to clean in our comparison.
- Doesn't feel as durable as our top picks.
- Only comes with a 1 year limited warranty (they pay for shipping to repair facility but customer pays for return shipping).
- OUR TAKE
- This blender is in somewhat of a no man's land. At more than $150 it isn't a budget unit, yet it doesn't feel as well built as the Vitamix or Hamilton Beach. It's worth a look, but we'd recommend spending extra to go with a better built unit.
- Cleaning is a breeze.
- Won't break the bank.
- 7 year limited warranty (keep the receipt/proof of purchase though or it won't be honored!)
- Jar is not dishwasher safe.
- Consumer reviews are less than stellar about the unit and warranty service.
- Food doesn't always blend completely during first go around—best to shake and then blend for one more cycle.
How We Chose
Build Quality, Variable Speed Adjustments, Cleaning and Warranty
There are hundreds of different blenders on the market with an incredible range of features, capabilities, sizes and prices. All of these options can make things a bit confusing. For example, power ratings can be listed in watts, peak hp, and what is referred to as "operating" horsepower. Some models have single blades while others have multiple blades. If all of this sounds confusing, don't feel bad. So how to sort the wheat from the chaff to figure out what really matters?
To simplify things, we focused on the basics. The primary purpose of a blender is simply to turn solids into blended liquids that are smooth enough to drink comfortably. While this is easy to do with fresh fruits and vegetables, things do get a bit trickier when you start adding ice and the frozen fruits hardcore smoothie drinkers buy in bulk at warehouse stores like Costco. Still the focus remains on turning solids into well blended and drinkable liquids.
With this focus in mind, we honed in on models across with high build quality. By this, we mean sturdy devices with powerful motors able to blend through solids such as ice and frozen strawberries. The pieces of the device need to fit together seamlessly to deliver power from the motor to blade in the blender jar in order to crush these frozen goodies.
Another important features we focused on was variable speed adjustments (usually in the form of a dial adjuster). This allows the user to vary the blade speed while blending to completely pulverize the food in the blending jar. You can start out slow if beginning with big frozen chunks and gradually speed things up as the pieces get smaller. Whats more, varying the speed of the blade changes the "vortex" created by the items in the blender jar, resulting in a more even blend. Some may just want to press a button and leave—while this is fine for heating up soups (more on this later), the truth is that most blends take 30 seconds or less with a high-end device. The takeaway is that you will be in front of the device to vary the blade speed.
To round things out, we decided to focus on devices that are easy to clean and come with long warranty periods. No one wants a device that makes great smoothies but is a nightmare to clean. What's more, device malfunctions happen—if you are investing $150 or more in one of these devices it is a good idea to make sure the manufacturer stands behind its products.
Weighing all of these factors, it is not surprising that the wildly popular Vitamix 5200 took our top spot. Among the many reasons we like the Vitamix, is its top notch build quality and endlessly variable speed control that puts the 2.2 peak hp motor to work on your toughest blends. Unlike the other blenders in our review, the Vitamix has a DULL hardened steel blade that smashes and pulverizes everything it comes into contact with, which means you get perfectly smooth and drinkable results every time. The Vitamix is also a breeze to clean and comes with by far the best warranty in our comparison (they pay for shipping to and from the repair facility and also have a great reputation for customer service). The downside—this great blender is the most expensive in our comparison.
We chose the Hamilton Beach Professional 1800 Watt as our "performance" runner up because it has great build quality, a powerful 2.4 peak horsepower motor and preset modes as well as a variable speed dial. This great blender missed our top spot because it quite loud and the 5 year warranty does not include shipping to or from the repair facility. Still, it is competitively priced (especially the version without the presets, which has a list price well below $200) and a great choice for those looking to get professional quality blender.
We chose the Ninja Professional 1000 Watt as our "budget" runner up because this device has great consumer reviews and a list price well under $100. If you will not be making heavy duty smoothies, but instead are looking for something to blend ice for drinks and the like, this a great budget choice. The build quality, warranty and lack of a variable speed dial leave a bit to be desired, but the price is unbeatable.
The Oster Versa Pro didn't make our top spots because it is in somewhat of a no-mans land in terms of price and features. While it does have a solid build quality and variable speed dial, consumer reports about troubles with bearings and less than ideal post-purchase customer service are a warning sign that is hard to ignore.
A Blender is the Sum of its Parts
Like most appliances, any blender you buy is only as good as the sum of its parts. For today's comparison we looked at several areas that we deemed to be important in finding the best model to fit your needs and your budget and termed them "build quality." A good blender should be able to turn things like ice, frozen berries and even tough fibrous kale into a smooth liquid without overworking the motor and burning it out. This requires the right combination of motor power, drive train, blade design and jar shape. Each of these combine to create that swirling vortex that sucks the solid foods into the blades and turns out a consistently blended liquid.
We recommend looking for units with 2 peak horsepower or more, durable rubber stops, metal drive shafts and bulky metal gears to connect the drive shaft to the blade(s). A quality blender that is "built-up" with these features should be able to withstand years of use.
Power Output of the Motor
Of all the various pieces that go into building a good blender, the motor is the heart of it all. Many believe that the more powerful the motor, the more effective the blender will be. To a certain extent this is true since you need a motor that is not going to lose a significant amount of blade speed when tough ingredients are tossed into the blending jar (other components include the drive shaft and blade gears). While some "budget" models have motors rated as low as 500 watts, if you want a blender that will stand up not only to tough ingredients but also the test of time, you shouldn't settle for anything less than 1000 watts. And if you have the budge, we'd recommend going even higher to something with 1,400 watts or more.
The Blade Controversey
The vast majority of blenders on the market have sharpened blades made from various types of steel. They come with short blades, long blade, curved blades, straight blades, single blades or multiple blades. The truth is, that as long as these blades maintain something close to their original sharpness, most do a decent job providing they have a powerful enough motor.
Our winner, the Vitamix 5200 however comes with a DULL blade. Yes, you read that right, the blades in the Vitamix are rounded rather than being sharpened. Surprisingly, this blade produces the best results, in part because of the overall speed of the blade and its hardened steal construction, but also because of the power output of the motor that doesn't slow down for anything (including your fingers or the silicone spatula you are using to scrape the sides down!).
The All-Important Jar and Vortex
For our purposes, we only recommended blenders with a jar capacity of 64 fluid ounces or more. This is enough to make three large smoothies in a single go. More important than capacity though, is that the shape and size of the jar play a significant role in the quality of the "vortex" created by the blade. Smaller jars and those with flat bottoms tend not to create the active vortex needed for maximum smoothness. A slightly curved base like the one found in the Vitamix jar, tends to create a stronger and more effective vortex that helps pull the solid ingredients down and into the blades where they can be effectively pulverized.
The Do's and Don'ts of Blender Safety
DO - Allow hot semi-liquids and liquids to cool for approximately three to five minutes before turning on the blender. This will help prevent the sudden release of scalding hot steam that can cause severe burns.
DO - Always open the lid with the opening facing away from you, the cover will help deflect any steam away from your face when you are blending hot foods.
DO - Use a single drop of your favorite dishwashing liquid and then fill the jar with hot water until it is one-third full. Run the blender on high speed for approximately 45 seconds, then rinse all parts with hot water and towel dry. Many models can be put in the dishwasher, but keep in mind this can dull the blades over time (if you have model that needs sharp blades that is).
DON'T - Use any type of utensil (besides the enclosed tampers) when the blender is running. Always turn it off before scraping down or using any kind of utensils like a spatula or scraper.
DON'T - Use your blender if the power cord has become frayed, there is a significant risk of shock and fire.
DON'T - Allow a child to use your blender unsupervised, this is a recipe for serious injury and disaster.
DON'T - Blend thick heavy foods for periods longer than three minutes; this can cause your blender to overheat, which could damage the electric motor.
Seriously . . .
We started ReviewDECIDE on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
- Photo of mixed fruit in blender jar from iStock.
- Photo of woman using blender from iStock.
- Photo of blade mechanism from iStock.
- Photo of ice cubes and fruit in blender from iStock.
- Photo of serrated blade from iStock.
- Photo of water vortex from iStock.
- Woman and child operating blender from iStock.
- Photo of food exploding out of blender from iStock.
- Photo of group jumping in office from iStock.
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.