Heavy-duty blenders are multifunction machines that go beyond the normal blender call of duty: crush ice, purée soups, whip up smoothies and blend smooth frozen drinks. With varying capabilities, these machines can knead bread dough, cream nuts for butters, pulverize whole grains to make custom flours and blend hot soups from scratch.
The Vitamix 5200 (*Est. $450) can perform all of these tasks and more, reviews say. It can pulverize whole fruits and vegetables (seeds, skin and all) into a perfectly smooth drink. It turns ice into fluffy snow-cone material in seconds. In one top test, the Vitamix 5200 out-blends its archrival, the Blendtec Total Blender Classic Four Side (*Est. $430). Popular Mechanics also did a head-to-head with the two blenders using Blendtec's recipe for peach ice cream. The Vitamix won with a creamier result than its opponent.
Not that the Blendtec is a slouch. It does a very good job of blending smoothies, margaritas, soups and more in tests -- it just doesn't achieve the same silky-smooth results as the Vitamix. Critics say the Blendtec's soup doesn't become hot like the Vitamix's. Meanwhile, the Blendtec roars so loudly that several owners resort to wearing earmuffs or earplugs in the kitchen. The Vitamix isn't quiet, but experts and owners agree that it's more bearable than the Blendtec's auditory output.
Durability is Vitamix's trump card. The Vitamix 5200 has shrugged off years of abuse in the Cook's Illustrated test kitchen, and owners report Vitamix blenders are still going strong after 20 years. Owners also say warranty service is prompt and friendly. The Blendtec Total Blender Classic Four Side doesn't fare as well. One in 10 Amazon.com reviewers rate it low, usually complaining that it broke -- and that Blendtec's customer service didn't impress.