Why Would Anyone Pay For A High Powered Blender?
Drinking green smoothies each day for breakfast is a quick and easy way to eat an entire day’s worth of vegetable and fruit. The leafy greens (e.g., spinach, kale, chard, collard greens, etc.) give you a ton of vitamins and minerals, and the fruit sweetens the smoothie so that it doesn’t taste bad. The fiber in whole fruits and leafy greens help smooth out the sugar rush. We’ve personally been drinking green smoothies for breakfast since 2010 and sometimes even drink them for lunch.
Making green smoothies requires high-powered blenders. A “normal” blender is too weak to completely pulverize strawberry seeds or to perfectly puree spinach, let alone self-clean (by blending soapy water for several seconds). And most normal blenders have low-wattage motors and cheap internal parts which don’t stand up to lots of use. Some normal blenders even use plastic parts in the external or internal gear assemblies.
- A juicer strains out solids and gives you only juice. That’s not that good for you, because you end up wasting a lot of food and potentially getting a sugar spike since there is no fiber to slow down sugar absorption into your body. Continual sugar spikes eventually lead to diabetes.
- A regular blender can’t blend fruit/vegetable matter finely enough to avoid lumpiness. For instance, this KitchenAid KSB560ER 5-Speed Blender costs $130, but it’s only good for easy stuff. Ann used to have that particular blender and tried to make green smoothies in it (e.g., spinach and kale mixed with fruit). But her attemps at green smoothies would be chewy even after several minutes of blending. In theory if she ran her blender for say, half an hour, it might create a genuinely smooth smoothie, but it’d also be a rather hot smoothie due to blade friction, and heat will degrade some of the nutrients found in raw greens. Also, most regular blenders will break after a while when confronted with ice cubes or frozen fruit, because they use plastic sockets/parts.
- A high-powered blender like a Vitamix or Blendtec is powerful enough to liquefy whole fruits and vegetables in a minute, with no lumps or small pieces of chewy vegetables. (If you go to professional establishments like Jamba Juice, you will find Vitamix and Blendtec machines because customers hate lumpy smoothies.) A truly high-powered blender like Vitamix or Blendtec should be capable of rupturing plant cell walls, making for easier absorption of nutrients.
A Brief History of High-Powered Blenders:
Vitamix is an Ohio company founded in 1949 by William Barnard and still controlled by his descendants.1 For decades, the Vitamix company of Ohio held a monopoly on high-powered blenders until Blendtec showed up.
Blendtec, under the K-Tec company umbrella, is a Utah company founded by Tom Dickson in 1975.2
Even after Blendtec became a prominent competitor in the 1990s, Vitamix and Blendtec avoided cutthroat competition. Sure, they would try to one-up each other in minor ways, but both companies made their products in the USA and priced their blenders in the $400+ range and made huge profits.
By the 2000s, the market for high-powered blenders was becoming ever more saturated, and things got downright nasty. Blendtec boasted about how it’s “Wildside” (five-sided) jar was resistant to cavitation (blender blades creating an air pocket and blending air instead of food) and did not require a plastic “plunger” to puncture cavitation bubbles, unlike Vitamix’s jar. In what could be construed as an admission that Blendtec’s jar was better-designed, Vitamix blatantly copied Blendtec’s Wildside jar design. That resulted in Blendtec suing Vitamix for patent infringement and winning a jury trial in 2010; the final judgment totaled $24 million against Vitamix.3 After the lawsuit, Blendtec wasted no time making a Wildside jar that is compatible with Vitamix blender bases. Blendtec also gave away thousands of Wildside jars to existing customers for free as a marketing stunt to draw attention to its successful lawsuit.)
By the 2010s, new competition emerged to seriously challenge the dominance of Vitamix and Blendtec. The trick is to figure out which clones are good and which are not, since many of them are made in China, which has had a checkered history of manufacturing. Right away, we can eliminate a bunch of would-be contenders:
Don’t believe hyped-up wattage claims. There are a lot of cheaper blenders that advertise high wattages, such as the Oster Pro 1200, which is advertised as a 1200-watt blender. Those wattage numbers refer to peak wattage–that split-second of time when a blender first starts up. The continuous blending wattage is often far lower than what you get with a genuine Vitamix or Blendtec (see below for a table how the Oster Pro 1200 used only 450 watts at the wall, on max power when blending water). Many of these blenders have cheap internal components or are finicky since you need to disassemble them to clean them after each use–NOT how I would want to spend each morning.
In particular, the Ninja series of blenders is one of the stupidest designs I’ve ever seen. The marketing photos don’t show you what a real Ninja looks like for good reason: the blender uses a central, plastic shaft of multiple blades that goes right up through most of the height of the blender jar. The manufacturer expects you to insert and remove that central shaft for cleaning or when swapping out blender jars. That’s a notable safety risk. Furthermore, the central plastic shaft and gears will wear down faster than steel, and plastic can also leach chemicals out over time. Moreover, blending hard things like ice cubes can gouge out tiny pieces of plastic, and that plastic goes right into your food. It’s bad enough that most blender jars are made out of plastic–you don’t want the blade shaft to be made out of plastic, too! Lastly, you can tell the Ninja has cheap internal components because there is no manual control like on any good blender; you get basically three power levels and a pulse button.
The Pointless Rehashes
Some companies decided to contract with Chinese factories to make blenders that perform about as well as USA-made Vitamixes and Blendtecs–at about the same price. But what is the point of paying $400 for a Chinese knockoff when you can get the real thing for the same price, made in the USA?
For example, the KitchenAid Torrent is supposed to deliver results similar to a Vitamix or Blendtec. But it costs as much as Vitamix/Blendtec, is made overseas rather than in the USA, and is not as versatile. The entire unit is 22 pounds and is thus hard to move around on your counter. You need to place the jar perfectly centered, and the latch that lets you do that seems flimsy. You have a tiny hole through which you can drop ingredients while blending, and if you want to drop in anything bigger, you need to stop the blender and detach the entire jar. Worse, you need to reach under and clean the hole after each use. On the bright side, it has no exposed gears like a normal blender because they are hidden away inside the machine itself. But so what? The guts of the machine can break, same as any other blender.
The Mysterious Black Boxes
Cleanblend is the poster boy for black-box blenders where you don’t know what’s going on inside. Basically someone in the USA decided to import Chinese-made Vitamix knockoffs in the hopes that the Chinese factory didn’t cut corners. Do they own and operate their own factories in China? Doubtful. Spot checking a batch here or there just doesn’t cut it, not when it’s a blender that comes into contact with food that you put into your body every day. If you thought safety regulation were weakly enforced in the USA, China is even worse. Don’t be fooled by its all-metal jar connection; what is on the inside counts, too. Just because a car looks good on the outside does not mean it necessarily has good, reliable components on the inside. The same goes for blenders. Another problem is long-term viability: will the company be around a decade from now? Will it still be making replacement parts and jars? If a company doesn’t have enough invested in a brand, it may abandon it if there’s a problem like a lawsuit or design defect, and restart under some different name and design.
The Real Contenders
As eagle-eyed readers may have guessed from reviews where I might have a blender in the background of a photo, I’ve used a Blendtec Total Blender for many years now (since 2010), but in 2015 I started long-term testing of other blenders as well, including a Vitamix and two Osters.
The short story:
- If you don’t mind Made in China, then get an Oster VERSA 1400-watt Professional Performance Blender with Low Profile Jar + Bonus Cookbooks, BLSTVB-RV0-000.
- If you must have a made-in-USA blender, and you don’t want presets or care about fitting the blender underneath a cabinet, then get a Vitamix 5200.
- If you must have a made-in-USA blender, and you want presets or care about fitting the blender underneath a cabinet, then get a Blendtec with Wildside Jar, unless you are comfortable with spending hundreds of dollars more for a Vitamix Professional Series 750 Blender.
Vitamix carries a confusing array of blender models. The main products to be aware of are the 5200 (also comes in a “6300” variant with preset cycles: smoothies, frozen desserts, and hot soups) and the 7500 (750 variant has presets: smoothies, frozen desserts, hot soups, purees, and self-cleaning cycle). The 5200/6300 use tall jars that will not fit under most kitchen cabinets. The 7500/750 use wider, shorter jars of the same capacity and will fit under most kitchen cabinets. There are also claimed improvements like slightly higher horsepower and slightly less noise, but as far as I can tell, that’s mostly marketing mumbo-jumbo. Likewise, the puree and self-cleaning cycle presets are unnecessary, since you’d likely use manual power control for those anyway.
Blendtec carries a cheaper Total Blender series and a Designer series. The main benefit of the Designer series is that the manual power levels are controlled via touchscreen instead of + and – buttons. That means you can ramp up and down in speed more quickly than before (with the swipe of a finger rather than repeatedly pressing + or -). All Blendtecs come with preset cycles.
Oster VERSA 1400
So far I’ve encountered only one blender that delivers legitimate Vitamix/Blendtec-level performance, features, and warranty while costing substantially less. In some ways it’s actually better than Vitamix. Its official name is the Oster VERSA 1400-watt Professional Performance Blender with Low Profile Jar + Bonus Cookbooks, BLSTVB-RV0-000.
Here’s a quick comparison table, followed by an in-depth explanation:
|Blender Comparison Guide|
|1. Ease of Use/Cleaning||Very Good||Excellent||Very Good|
|2. Performance||Excellent||Very Good||Excellent|
|3. Manual Control||Excellent||Very Good (Designer); else Good||Very Good|
|4. Preset Cycles||Yes if you pay extra||Free||Free|
|5. Compactness||Yes if you pay extra||Free||Free|
|7. Jar Design||Good||Excellent||Good|
|9. Warranty||7 year jar+base||7 year (8 for some models) jar+base||7 year jar+base|
|10. Country of Origin||USA||USA||China|
|11. Other Notes||The best models are best but cost a lot||Annoying cycle counter||Smelly|
1. Ease of Use/Cleaning
No matter how good a machine is, if it’s hard to use, most people will give up on it.
The Oster Versa is the most intuitive to use. It’s not foolproof, but it’s close.
- If you put the jar on wrong, it won’t even turn on thanks to a safety sensor.
- If you push any button, including Pulse, it stops any preset blending cycle.
- Due to the dial design, you can either rotate it clockwise to blend with manual speed control, or rotate the dial counter-clockwise to go into Pulse/Preset mode (at which point you push the Pulse button or any Preset button). Therefore you can’t hit Pulse while in manual speed mode, which prevents sudden, awkward changes in blending speed.
- When blending in manual speed mode you rotate the dial right for faster speed, and left for slower speed. If you go too far left, you turn the machine off and have to start over, but there are markers telling you how far you can go left before turning off.
- The on/off switch is on the front of the machine and you can tell if the machine is on by a pulsing red glow around the Pulse button when it is left on but idle.
- There is no countdown timer telling you how many seconds are left in a cycle.
Blendtecs are about as intuitive as the Oster Versa, though pushing +/- or swiping a touchscreen bar doesn’t feel quite as intuitive as turning a dial.
- Manual speed control is done with + and – buttons (or a touchscreen slider bar for Designer Series models). Hold down + to speed up. Hold down – to slow down. (With a Designer Series model, you can swipe a touchscreen bar to the appropriate speed setting; it’s faster than pushing + and – a bunch of times or holding down + or -.)
- If you’re already blending (e.g., with a Preset) and you hit any Preset/Pulse button, it stops the blend.
- The power on/off switch is on the back of the machine, but it’s easier to tell if the unit is on or not because the front LED panel will glow when the unit is on.
- There is a countdown timer telling you how many seconds are left in a cycle.
Vitamixes are least intuitive.
- If you hold down the Pulse lever on the left and then try to crank up the speed using the central dial, the speed will not increase until you let go of the Pulse lever and then pulse again. However if you start a manual-speed cycle by using the button on the right, you can then increase or decrease the speed using the central dial.
- If you use the central dial to select a preset, and then hit Pulse, it makes a nasty screech and makes me wonder if some internal components got damaged.
- The on-off switch is on the front bottom of the machine and it’s easy to tell if the machine is on or not, because a small blue LED light will shine if the machine is on.
- There is no countdown timer telling you how many seconds are left in a cycle, but the blue LED will flash a few seconds before the end of the cycle.
All of these blenders are capable of making green smoothies without the use of tampers (the little rubber rods that come with some blenders that you are supposed to use to mash ingredients down into the blades; see my tamper-avoidance guide here; the Oster Versa 1400 should be treated like a Vitamix). Other things might require use of a tamper but Blendtec gets no bonus points here, because even Blendtec’s vaunted Wildside jar sometimes needs a rod or spoon to pop cavitation bubbles.
As for cleanup:
- The Blendtec is probably the easiest to clean thanks to its dull blades and square-sided jar. This is more important for things like nut butters, where you want to use a spatula to scrape out the nut butter without worrying about shredding the spatula head against blender blades or running into curves like you’ll find in the Vitamix and Versa 1400 jars.
- That said, all three blenders clean up easily with a drop of dish soap and 20 seconds of blending on High. That’s a lot better than less-powerful blenders that require you to disassemble the jar for cleaning after each use!
- However, all blenders with plastic jars will get eventually get cloudy if you make enough smoothies. You can get rid of most of this by filling the jar with a mixture of hot water and dishwasher detergent and letting it sit for a half-hour (or much longer for tough cases), then pouring it out.
The Vitamix produces smoother smoothies than the Versa, though that’s partly due to the Versa 1400’s exceptionally short smoothie cycle of only 10 seconds on medium and 20 seconds on high. I highly recommend using the Versa 1400’s “Dips/Spreads” setting instead, which is two 10-second pulses on Medium and 30 seconds on High. (FYI, the Soup cycle is 20 seconds ramp up to medium and 5 minutes on high, so don’t use it for smoothies unless you like them hot.)
The Blendtec usually turned out fairly smooth smoothies but occasionally hiccuped when confronted with large pieces of frozen fruit. The Blendtec uses dull blender blades, but I think the bigger factor is how it only has two blades instead of four. (When you spin at ~250 mph, a dull blade is enough. Even Vitamix agrees with Blendtec that you don’t need sharp blades.4) Also, the Blendtec’s Smoothie cycle lasts just 25 seconds, which we don’t recommend. Use the Whole Juice setting which is 50 seconds long.
The bottom line is that the Vitamix produces the smoothest smoothies, followed by the Versa, followed by the Blendtec. The gaps are pretty big if you use the too-short smoothie presets on the Versa and Blendtec. If you use the longer presets like those recommended above, the Versa and Blendtec blend almost as smoothly as the Vitamix. The Vitamix still produces the smoothest smoothies, but not by enough that most consumers would want to pay hundreds of dollars more. If you’re a professional chef, though, it would be worth it.
Also, if you were ever curious as to whether there is a difference between the lower-cost Osters claiming to be 1000 to 1200 watts vs. the Versa 1400’s 1400 watts, see the table below:
|Blender Power Comparison (Blending 3 Cups of Water)|
|Oster Pro 1200 (advertised peak wattage: 1200W)
||Oster Versa 1400 (advertised peak wattage: 1400W)
(advertised as peak 2hp = 1491W)
|Blendtec Total Blender (advertised as peak 3hp = 2237W)|
|Weight (pounds) of Blender/Jar||3.46/4.41||6.97/2.89||8.51/2.51||5.50/1.68|
(Blender weight refers to the weight of the base only, not including the power cord. For the Blendtec, a power setting of “5” was used for medium power testing for wattage.)
The Versa, Vitamix, and Blendtec all hit 1000 watts, whereas the Oster Pro 1200 maxed out at 450 watts. This is what I mean by how you should be skeptical of manufacturer peak horsepower or wattage ratings, which is unfortunately the number that most manufacturers advertise. Who cares if the Oster Pro 1200 hits 1200 watts for a millionth of a second, if it can’t sustain it?
Note that these wattages were for water; if I were blending something thicker then the continuous wattages could go up. So I have little doubt that the Blendtec Total Blender, advertised as 1560W (continuous) and 3hp/2237W (peak) could actually hit those numbers in some cases. Same with the other blenders that advertise their continuous wattages.
Also note that the Vitamix is the best at low-speed blending, able to go down to 85 watts. But the Blendtec and Oster Versa 1400 were also pretty slow at their minimum power settings. Low-speed blending is nice for times when you just want some light blending (e.g., when you want to chop something but not liquefy it entirely).
3. Manual Control
Vitamixes can go slower than the other blenders, which is occasionally useful when you’re trying to do things like mix up ingredients without pulverizing them too much or heating them up too much.
Regular Blendtecs are a little harder to control because you have to push + and – buttons to change speed settings, which is a real pain compared to turning a dial. The Blendtec Designer series attempts to fix this by using a touchscreen slider bar instead, but you are still limited to a small number of power settings for the cheaper models (as few as six).
The Oster Versa 1400 is closer to a Vitamix than a Blendtec, as you just dial a speed setting. But the Oster can’t go down to as slow of a speed as the Vitamix.
4. Preset Cycles
Oster and Blendtec give you presets for free. (The Blendtec presets are: ice cream/frozen yogurt, ice crush/milkshake, soups/syrups/fondues, sauces/dips/dressings/batters, whole juices, and smoothies. The Oster Versa 1400 gets dips/spreads, smoothies, and hot soup.)
Vitamix on, on the other hand, expects you to pay a small fortune for the privilege of having preset blend cycles on its machines. E.g., Vitamix’s 5200 and 6300 both utilize tall jars, but the 6300 comes with presets cycles: smoothies, frozen desserts, and hot soups, and costs $100+ more as a result.
Vitamix’s short-jar models (the 7500/750) have the same kind of pricing disparity, where you pay $100+ more for the 750’s presets: smoothies, frozen desserts, hot soups, purees, and self-cleaning cycle. (There are also claimed improvements like slightly higher horsepower and slightly less noise, but as far as I can tell, that’s mostly marketing mumbo-jumbo. Likewise, the puree and self-cleaning cycle presets are unnecessary, since you’d likely use manual power control for those anyway.)
That said, you don’t absolutely need presets; you could also manual-blend everything as necessary to get the consistency that you personally want. But it’s sometimes useful to be able to push a button and walk away, or push a button and zone out instead of paying attention, especially when you’re waking up.
The Vitamix 5200/6300 use tall jars that will not fit under most kitchen cabinets; the total height is about 20 inches. The 7500/750 use wider, shorter jars of the same capacity and will fit under most kitchen cabinets’ 18-inches clearance, but those cost over a hundred dollars more.
In contrast, Blendtec is 15.25 inches tall, and the Oster Versa 1400 is about 17.25 inches tall. Thus they both fit underneath most kitchen cabinets’ 18-inch clearance. For free.
Additionally, the Oster and Vitamix jars are 64 ounces (tall or short jar), whereas the Blendtec’s Wildside jar is 90 ounces. That might be a plus for Blendtec, for those who want to make big batches.
The Blendtec bases are lighter and tend to bounce around more, but that’s a minor inconvenience, and I have never, ever had one flip over on me even when severely tested with big blocks of ice.
In my opinion the Vitamix is more dangerous because if you use the tamper while blending at the same time, there’s the possibility of food shooting out of the tamper hole (it’s happened to me before) and of the jar being knocked out of alignment (it’s happened to me once; I was pushing down slightly askew, the blender started making a terrible sound as the gears decoupled, and I quickly turned off the machine to prevent further damage).
The Oster Versa 1400 would have the same problem as the Vitamix–but it doesn’t, because the Versa has an automatic safety. Every Versa 1400 jar bottom comes with a little plastic notch that pushes a button on the blender base. If the jar ever loses contact with the blender base, the button sensor knows, and shuts down the blender base automatically.
Each of these blenders has the usual safety shutoffs in case of overheating.
7. Jar Design
- The Vitamix 5200/6300 use tall jars that will not fit under most kitchen cabinets. The 7500/750 use wider, shorter jars of the same capacity and will fit under most kitchen cabinets’ 18-inches clearance. You get to pay extra for the privilege of that compactness, of course.
- In contrast, Blendtecs and the Oster Versa 1400 fit underneath most kitchen cabinets’ 18-inch clearance just fine. For free.
- The Oster and Vitamix jars are 64 ounces (tall or short jar), whereas the Blendtec’s Wildside jar is 90 ounces. That might matter for, say, large families.
- Vitamix’s jar’s pour spout causes a lot of drippiness. Oster slavishly copied the idea of a pour spout, though Oster squared it off so it dripped less. The best design is Blendtec’s lack-of-a-pourspout. You just pour out of any corner of its square-shaped jars, with minimal dripping.
- Vitamix’s lid is circular and you have to pull out its gripper arms to make it grip the outside of the jar. If you don’t pull hard enough, the gripper arms look like they are locked in place but are not, so you run the risk of the lid popping off during blending. It’s a stupid design. Blendtec and Oster both use completely symmetric, square-shaped lids that fit into the jar regardless of orientation; that’s a much better design as it’s easier to use, less finicky, and makes it obvious that the lid is secure.
- The center clear piece of plastic that can be used as a 2-ounce measuring cup and which covers up the lid’s fill-hole fits only two ways on the Oster and Vitamix, making them more finicky to use. The Blendtec’s middle piece fits any way you turn it.
Each of these companies uses BPA-free plastic jars (apparently because glass jars can eventually fracture when blending hard objects like ice cubes at the kinds of speeds that these high-powered blenders are able to achieve).
All of these blenders can easily blend ice, frozen drinks, ice cream, smoothies, and even hot soup (the friction from the blades eventually heats up water–though it’s very energy inefficient, and you should use a stove instead). But if you want to blend grains, Vitamix recommends special Vitamix 32-ounce Dry-Blend Jars. Conversely, if you want to blend things like nut butters and hummus, you can do it in a regular Blendtec jar, but Blendtec recommends its Blendtec Twister Jar. Don’t feel like you have to get the Twister jar, though; we’ve made plenty of nut butters and hummus with the regular jar. Similarly, we’ve had success in making everything in the Oster Versa’s jar, too. Even if a jar isn’t as well-suited to the task as a specialty jar, you can just blend for a little longer to get better smoothness.
Lastly, all of these blender jars have nonremovable blades. That’s not a big deal since you can self-clean the jars anyway. What’s more interesting is how the jar bottoms differ: Oster’s jar bottom has an all-metal base. Vitamix uses plastic. Blendtec’s jar bottom is practically nonexistent. I guess they trust their sealant that much, and it can’t be that bad else they wouldn’t still be giving out 7-year warranties.
All of these blenders are loud. It doesn’t make much sense to choose among these blenders on the basis of noise level, because even the “quietest” blender is still loud. The Vitamix has more of an airplane kind of ramp-up, whereas the Blendtec is a little bit rougher sounding, like gardening equipment. The Oster Versa 1400 sounds more like the Vitamix than the Blendtec.
Vitamix claims that its 750/7500 blenders are quieter than their 5200/6300 models, but the difference isn’t enough to justify a big price increase.
All of these come with 7-year warranties, though recently Blendtec bumped up some models to 8 years.
10. Country of Origin
Vitamix uses Swedish motors and Blendtec has some foreign-made parts, too, but the vast majority of the parts and assembly is USA. The Oster Versa is made in China.
I caution against buying anything made in places like China by small companies with little at stake. Many small companies are really just importers; they exercise little to no oversight of what really goes on in those Chinese factories. Furthermore, if those little companies run into trouble such as a lawsuit over leaking chemicals or someone swallowing broken blender blades, they are more likely than big companies to declare bankruptcy and start another company somewhere else. Why not, when you have so little brand equity at stake?
Oster isn’t one of those little companies, though; it’s a huge consumer products company that has been in the blender business for decades. So I would feel relatively comfortable buying an Oster-made blender.
11. Other Notes
Vitamix’s best model, the 750, has it all: excellent manual controls, power, compact height, and preset cycles. But Vitamix makes you pay extra for both the compactness and the presets, to the point where the 750 is almost priced out of the market.
Blendtec has a blender cycle counter display that can’t be turned off. Presumably the counter is there to ensure that smoothie stores don’t buy consumer units and abuse the 7-year warranty under commercial workloads. That said, the mere presence of the counter discourages me from blending any more than absolutely necessary, to the point where I sometimes under-blend. But if you don’t care about the counter, it’s not a big deal. Just don’t blend it more than 10,000 times in 7 years or you could be mistaken for a business user. (That averages out to 3.91 blend cycles per day, each and every day including weekends and holidays.)
The Oster Versa 1400 had a rubber smell for weeks, yet I was unable to find that many other people who complained about the smell, so I guess I’m just extra-sensitive . Still, the Versa’s rubbery smell lasted longer than the Vitamix’s smell (which smelled for several months). The Blendtec did not smell for more than a day or two.
For those who care, there is extra room at the bottoms of the Vitamixes/Osters to store unused power cord, similar to how you can wrap unused cord around most vacuum cleaners. That’s for people who don’t like extra cord dangling around.
All blenders can create air bubbles so that the blades cut air instead of food (this phenomenon is called cavitation). Vitamix and Oster give you a tamper (basically a piece of plastic with a guard so you can’t shove it so far down that it touches the blades) to pop the bubble. Blendtec does not, because it claims its jar designs don’t cavitate in the first place, but that’s not entirely true. Nevertheless, I’ve figured out ways to make green smoothies without ever using a tamper; see here for more details.
Overall, my top recommendation goes to the Oster VERSA 1400-watt Professional Performance Blender with Low Profile Jar + Bonus Cookbooks, BLSTVB-RV0-000. It has a somewhat faster lowest-speed setting compared to the Vitamix, but on every other metric it ties or beats the Vitamix, including on ease of use and price. You can think of it as getting 95% of the performance of a Vitamix for half the price.
If you’ve ruled the Oster out for whatever reason (e.g., you don’t want a made-in-China blender) and have to decide between Vitamix and Blendtec, and you can afford it, get the Vitamix 750 Blender. You get a machine that can go lower speed than its rivals, can fit underneath cabinets, and has presets. (If you don’t need presets, get the Vitamix 7500 instead.)
If you are on a tighter budget, then either get the Blendtec WildSide+ Jar or the Vitamix 5200. If they are the same price, get the Blendtec if it needs to fit under a kitchen cabinet, else get the Vitamix. Usually the Blendtec is a little cheaper, though, in which case get the Blendtec. I tried to ignore the little things like the Vitamix’s drippier spout, more finicky cover, harder-to-clean sharp blades, harder-to-scrape narrow, circular base, inability to slide underneath counters, inability to grind dry as well as wet in the same jar, and how if you use the tamper, you have one more thing to clean in addition to the harder-to-clean lid. But for regular day-to-day usage, a Blendtec is easier to use and to clean.
A few more tips for those struggling with Blendtec vs. Vitamix:
- If you get a Blendtec, get the Blendtec WildSide+ Jar and don’t bother with the Blendtec FourSide Jar! The Wildside jar costs only a few dollars more and yet can hold more food (90 vs. 64 ounces) and gets stuck blending air less often. So if you are buying a bundle deal (blender base + jar), it’s definitely worth paying slightly more for Blendtec with Wildside Jar.
You may see listings for both “Wildside” and “Wildside+” jars. They are functionally almost identical. Blendtec says that the difference is that the WildSide+ jar features two vertical ridges on the interior walls to disrupt the blending pattern even further and accelerate the blend. But don’t sweat the ridges; that’s a minor difference. The important part is the fifth wall, which creates asymmetric pressure. Thus food tends to get dragged down into one corner of the jar and into the blades more easily than with symmetric jar designs.
- If you want to get the best of both worlds between Vitamix and Blendtec (responsiveness + shorter, easier-to-clean jar that can dry-grind, and presets at an affordable price) and don’t want to get the Oster for some reason, then here’s a hack: buy a Vitamix base with a Blendtec Wildside jar built for Vitamix machines. (However, this may void the remainder of your Vitamix warranty.) You can get either the Wildside+ Rebel Jar or the Wildside+ XR Jar. The “Wildside Rebel” jar is also available on Amazon. However, the “Wildside XR” jar is only available through Blendtec’s own site. (A Vitamix standard base is 8.25 inches tall, and the Rebel jar is about 9.5 inches tall, though it overlaps slightly with the Vitamix base. That’s a total of about 17.5 inches, compared to 20.5 inches for a Vitamix standard base with Vitamix blender jar. Most kitchens have 18 inches between the top of the counter and the bottom of the cupboard. Measure your own kitchen space to make sure.)
What’s the difference between the Wildside Rebel and the Wildside XR? Well, per the Q&A at Blendtec:
The Rebel jar comes with the replacement socket to replace the old plastic Vitamix socket with ours. The actual coupling between the drive and the jar is different from Blendtec to Vitamix. The metal socket on the Rebel actually changes the coupling to a Blendtec style coupling (though it still isn’t compatible with Blendtec jars). With the new coupling, it also makes it so that the Vitamix fitted with the new socket won’t work with the regular Vitamix jars since the size is different. So once the Rebel socket is installed, only the Rebel jar can be used with that machine unless the socket is replaced again with the original Vitamix socket.
The XR jar is designed to fit onto an existing Vitamix without any modifications necessary. Essentially, it uses the exact same coupling and size as the Vitamix jars, so they’re interchangeable. The only downside with this option is that you’re still using the plastic drive socket that Vitamix uses.
Besides this, there is no other difference between the two jars. They both operate/function the same. It just comes down to preference on which one you choose to buy.
- Vitamix and Blendtec have attempted to introduce a lot of different product numbers. It’s like the 1950s-1960s, when U.S. automakers kept selling the same car over and over again, with only slightly different styling for each model year. But in reality you can do just fine with the most basic Vitamix and Blendtec blenders:
- The cheapest Blendtec with Wildside Jar works just as well as the expensive Designer Series Blendtec models, except the designer series Blendtecs come with touchscreens that enable you to slide your finger to increase and decrease power faster than you could push the +/- buttons on the cheaper Blendtecs. I would only get the Designer Series Blendtec if you plan to use manual mode a lot. Most people probably don’t; the cheaper Blendtecs already come with presets for ice cream/frozen yogurt, ice crush/milkshake, soups/syrups/fondues, sauces/dips/dressings/batters, whole juices, and smoothies.
- You can even go cheaper and get the manufacturer-refurbished version for a little less money and still get a 7-year warranty in addition to a 30-day return period. A refurb is a machine that has been repaired but can’t be sold as new.
- On the Vitamix side, the cheapest Vitamix is the Vitamix 5200 (you can also get the manufacturer-refurbished 5200 model, renamed as model numbers because they are refurbished, for a little less money, though it reduces your warranty to 5 years).
- Yes, you get presets if you step up to the Vitamix 6300 (which you can also get manufacturer-refurbished 6300, renamed as model numbers because they are refurbished, with 5-year warranty instead of the normal 7-year warranty).
- But you probably can’t just use a preset and walk away, anyway; I often had to intervene with the tamper.
- Yes, Vitamix came out with second-generation motors that they claim are quieter, more powerful at 1640 watts (instead of 1500 watts), and which can use shorter jars to fit underneath kitchen cupboards. (The Vitamix 750 has presets; the Vitamix 7500 does not.)
- But they don’t sound much quieter to me, the horsepower difference is negligible in real-world usage (remember, even the most basic Blendtecs and Vitamixes run at 1500-1560 watts, which is already 2-3 times more than what a typical $100 blender offers), and if you want a shorter jar, you could get a Blendtec in the first place–especially since the Blendtec WildSide+ Jar holds 90 ounces, not 64, and is easier to use and to clean. On the other hand, Vitamix does give you control Blendtec can’t match short of their even-more-expensive top-of-the-line Designer Series models, so if you like very good manual control, get a Vitamix 7500 or 750 instead.
- Yes, you get presets if you step up to the Vitamix 6300 (which you can also get manufacturer-refurbished 6300, renamed as model numbers because they are refurbished, with 5-year warranty instead of the normal 7-year warranty).
Remember, the whole Blendtec vs Vitamix discussion above only applies you don’t want the Oster for whatever reason; else I’d rather get the Oster VERSA 1400-watt Professional Performance Blender with Low Profile Jar + Bonus Cookbooks, BLSTVB-RV0-000, which is an excellent Vitamix clone at about half the price. The only downside is that it’s made in China, but at least the company is Oster, a huge company that’s made blenders for decades; they won’t vanish at the first sign of trouble and offer a 7-year warranty just like Vitamix/Blendtec.