There's a large middle ground between cheaply made budget blenders and all-powerful, all-expensive, heavy-duty ones, and this is where you'll find the Cuisinart PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender. Priced at $199, it aims for the sweet spot: its high wattage and sturdy, die-cast construction qualify it as a worthy upgrade from basic countertop models, but its price leaves it affordable enough to make sense for the frugal shopper.
Cuisinart isn't alone in this approach. Shop around, and you'll find the $199 Breville Hemisphere Control, the $259 Ninja Ultima, and the $149 KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender, and that's just naming a few. All of them are positioned as reasonable upgrades for your kitchen, but which ones deliver? And how does the Cuisinart stack up?
To put it bluntly, it doesn't. The PowerEdge was matched or outperformed in almost every way by the other models in its price range, as well as the less expensive KitchenAid model and, at times, even the bargain-priced Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender, which only costs $39 -- a fifth of what you'll pay for the PowerEdge. If you're shopping for a Cuisinart blender, I say consider one of the less expensive models, and if you're looking to spend around $200 on an upgrade, save it for the Breville or the Ninja.
Designed to impress
The PowerEdge is a well-built blender that looks good, too, and coming from Cuisinart, that isn't terribly surprising. We were similarly impressed with the designs and builds of the SS-700 single-serve coffee brewer and the CSO-300 steam and convection toaster oven, so call it a hat trick with the PowerEdge. Clearly, Cuisinart knows a thing or two about designing appealing appliances, and that's part of what you're paying for when you invest in the Cuisinart name.
The appeal starts with the die-cast metal that constitutes the base of the machine. It's sleek, sturdy, and appropriately heavy. Just touching the thing gives you the sense that it's more powerful than the average blender, and with 1,000 watts under the hood, this is certainly true. Looking over the base, you'll find the blender's easy-to-use controls, and a blue, backlit LCD screen that counts up as you run a cycle. As for the jar, it's a sizable 64 oz. and made out of thick, BPA-free plastic. I definitely prefer the feel of glass, but lightweight plastic makes sense on a jar that's over 40 ounces, and as plastic jars go, the Cuisinart's feels sturdy and durable.
All of that said, the strength of Cuisinart's design isn't enough to give it an actual edge over the entirety of the competition, especially when you put it up against perhaps its most obvious competitor: the lookalike Breville Hemisphere Control Blender. That die-cast base on the Cuisinart is great, but the Breville has one, too, along with an even better looking LCD counter. The Cuisinart's controls are a cinch, but so are the Breville's -- plus you get a few additional preset options. At just under fifteen inches tall and just over eight inches wide, the Cuisinart takes up a lot less space than a beastly blender like the Ninja, but the Breville's footprint is smaller still.
Taking an even closer look at the two blenders, you'll find the Cuisinart falling even further behind. The Breville nails the subtler, finer touches of modern design, most notably with a smooth, rounded-bottom jar that gives the ingredients nowhere to go but down. The Cuisinart's jar, on the other hand, bulges in and out, which I guess is supposed to make the thing easier to grip (in case, for some strange reason, the handle isn't enough for you). In actuality, all these bulges accomplish is to create four little plateaus inside of the jar where food can occasionally get stuck and miss the blades entirely. Even down to little details like the ringed "Assist Lid" and its matching "Assist Plug," the Breville just feels like the smarter design. If the two blenders are wearing the same costume to the party, the Breville's the one wearing it better.
In terms of design, the Cuisinart really only has two distinct advantages over the Breville: its 64-ounce jar is bigger than the Breville's 48 ounces, and its 1,000 watts surpass the Breville's 750. I expected that this second point would give Cuisinart the edge in our performance tests, but as you'll see, numbers can be deceiving.
No edge with basic blending
The mainstay of the blender is the smoothie. Thankfully, the Cuisinart passed this test when we broke out the orange juice and frozen strawberries to whip up a simple smoothie -- but so did all of the blenders that we tested. Each and every smoothie from each and every blender met our standards, and this didn't come as much of a shock -- like I said, making a smoothie is one of the first things a blender is supposed to be good at.
Once you start splitting hairs, though, you can start to see some slight separation among the models that we tested. Unsurprisingly, the "worst" result came from our cheapest model, the Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender. The Cuisinart was second worst, barely one half of a percentage point better than the Hamilton Beach and a point and half below the top-scoring models: the Vitamix 7500, the Blendtec Designer Series Wildside Blender, and -- you guessed it -- that pesky Breville.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
Hair-splitting aside, the Cuisinart is perfectly capable of whipping up very decent smoothies time in and time out. Like many of the blenders we tested, it even has a dedicated smoothie preset -- just toss your ingredients into the jar, press the button, and wait thirty seconds. For those of you who like your smoothies first thing in the morning, when you're still half asleep, this kind of idiot-proof design is particularly helpful.
Still, it's worth noting that the much more affordable Hamilton Beach model also makes perfectly fine smoothies, and also boasts a dedicated, one-touch smoothie preset. For consumers looking for something more upscale, the KitchenAid Diamond Blender makes satisfying smoothies as well, though it does lack a preset. Either way, if all you're interested in is your daily smoothie fix, you'd likely be getting more bang for your buck than you would with the Cuisinart.
To test the low settings of each blender, we moved on to our whipped-cream test. With a recipe consisting of heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract, we wanted to see how well the blenders fluffed our concoction to life. The Cuisinart did fine here, as did all of the blenders with the exception of the Hamilton Beach, which produced whipped cream that wasn't quite firm enough for our liking, even after we had pulsed the recipe a couple of extra times.
Another low-speed test we ran involved pancake batter. Using store-bought instant pancake mix and the corresponding amount of water, we wanted to see how uniformly each blender would produce batter in a given time. The Cuisinart struggled here, leaving globs of unmixed powder clinging to those little plateaus I mentioned earlier. As a result, the batter we were able to pour out was disappointingly thin, good enough for crepes, maybe, but not pancakes.
Low-speed tests are all well and good, but this is a 1,000-watt, 1.3-horsepower blender we're talking about -- it was time to crank things up a bit and see what the PowerEdge was capable of.