At first it felt a bit unfair to compare the $454 Blendtec Designer Series WildSide Blender to other models. I mean, have you ever seen Blendtec's "Will it Blend?" videos? If not, I'll give you the short of it -- they attempt and succeed at grinding up things like iPads and laser pointers in their powerful blenders. Not just chunks of plastic and metal, mind you. I'm talking about powdery stuff that you'd never guess was once a living, breathing gadget. If they can do that to a tablet, just imagine what they can do to actual food.
Still, I wanted to know if Blendtec really deserves all that "Will it Blend?" hype. The best way to find out was to test and compare a whole bunch of blenders that run from budget buys with basic functionality to over-the-top industrial-strength models. So we tested the $454 Blendtec, the $39 Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender, the $149 KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender, the $199 Cuisinart PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender, the $199 Breville Hemisphere Control Blender, the $199 Ninja Ultima Blender, and the $529 Vitamix 7500 Blender. And while I didn't sacrifice an iPhone or any other device to the Blendtec during my testing, I still feel comfortable saying that it does in fact live up to the hype.
What it comes down to is this: Do you actually need a blender that can reduce Apple products and other popular electronics to a fine powder? If so, the Blendtec is your blender. It can act as a substitute for other small kitchen appliances like mixers, food processors, and coffee grinders, too. Given that, its $454 price becomes slightly less ridiculous. And, in the spectrum of Blendtec models, it's actually quite conservatively priced. There's the $1,034 Tom Dickson Extreme Blender named after Blendtec's founder and CEO (he's also that guy in the "Will it Blend?" videos) and even a $1,499 Stealth model that claims to be the quietest, most advanced blender in the world.
If you are a super hands-on cook and make a ton of stuff from scratch regularly, this is a fantastic option. It might also work in a professional capacity -- maybe a coffee shop or a catering business that needs something fast, tough, and easy to clean. And if you can't spend that much on a blender but want a similar level of power, take a look at the Ninja. It's $200 and it comes with two 16-ounce single-serving cups for smaller, on-the-go portions.
This model is part of the Designer Series and you can get it in black, red, cream, and, for about $50 more, champagne metallic. It weighs 8 pounds and has a 13-amp, 1,560-watt motor (the $529 Vitamix's motor comes in at 1440 watts, the $200 Ninja's is 1500 watts). The Blendtec measures 7 inches wide, 15 inches tall, and 9.25 inches deep, which isn't that huge, compared to the Ninja or the Vitamix.
Generally, I like the way this model looks. It isn't exactly unassuming, but Blendtec does make a clear effort to streamline the design. I also like the pitcher a lot -- it's made of durable plastic and it has a total volume of about 90 fluid ounces, compared with the Vitamix's 64-ounce and the Ninja's 72-ounce pitchers.
The pitcher handle is easy to grip and the lid is easy to remove. There's no spout on the lid, but the jar itself has corners that make pouring very simple. And unlike the Ninja's fussy locking lid and twist base, the Blendtec's jar requires minimal effort to secure into the base.
The presets are a bit harder to use than I anticipated. Where the Hamilton Beach model I tested comes with labels like, "smoothie," and "mix/milkshake," the Blendtec only has images. For example, you press an image of a whisk to run the batter setting and an image of a citrus slice denotes "whole juice." I really wish those icons were labeled. Sure, if you read the manual or visit the website you can figure it out, but that seems a bit high maintenance for a blender.
I also find the pulse mode a bit awkward. When I didn't pulse in perfect time, the blender would return to the "home" screen and I would have to press the pulse button to start the cycle all over again. Basically, I felt like I was doing something wrong whenever I used pulse.
I also noticed that the bottom of the jar got hot after certain tests. I know that this thing works hard to crush up almonds for almond butter, but it got really hot. I didn't encounter that with the Hamilton Beach at all, but then again, the Hamilton Beach couldn't make almond butter. So, just be aware when you're making something like nut butter that has to run for several minutes -- it might get hot.
Like the Hamilton Beach and some other more basic models, the Blendtec comes with presets. I mentioned them above with minor complaints, but they are in fact an pretty useful feature. This model comes with batter, ice crush, smoothie, ice cream, whole juice, and soup settings. I tested the batter, ice crush, and smoothie presets and they all worked very well. Neither the Ninja nor the Vitamix have presets at all.
Another interesting aspect of this blender is the smooth display panel. Rather than a touch pad, buttons, or dials, the Blendtec has a sensor surface. It's entirely flat and it only illuminates when it's in use. In addition to the presets, there's a sliding sensor that allows you to adjust the speed with ease.
Blendtec's WildSide jar is another interesting feature offered with this model. Instead of a traditional four-sided pitcher, this one has a smaller, fifth side called the "WildSide." Blendtec claims that this creates a "better blending vortex" than other brands. We can't pinpoint the exact effect of the pitcher design against other models, but as a whole the Blendtec aced the performance tests, so maybe there's something to this WildSide design after all.
Knowing that Blendtec blenders can reduce pretty much anything to tiny bits left me with extremely high expectations. And as predicted, this impressively powerful blender excelled at nearly everything I threw its way.
One of the presets that comes with this blender is ice crush. That's a very common setting on blenders, so I had to test that functionality on the Blendtec. I tried to crush bagged ice, cubed ice from the fridge, and cubed fridge ice mixed with water. It handled everything with extreme grace, blending quickly and effortlessly.
The only time it had a problem was with a very large hunk of bagged ice. It was too large and too solid even for this most powerful of blenders. Most of the blenders had a similar reaction to the bagged ice. It seems that cubed ice, or better yet, cubed ice in water is the most effective route.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The Blendtec did a fantastic job on smoothies. Like ice crush, it has a smoothie preset and I found it to be incredibly accurate. Press the smoothie button, and presto -- perfect, chunkless fruit concoctions in seconds. The Breville and the Vitamix blenders performed equally well; all three yielded a "smoothness" percentage of 98.46. That basically means that there weren't any bits of fruit left over after the smoothie cycle had finished. The Hamilton Beach performed the worst with a 96.41 percent smoothness. It was still plenty drinkable; it just wasn't as smooth.