Not everyone wants or needs a full-size, general-use blender, and expensive, heavy-duty blenders are definitely not suitable or necessary for all kitchens. If you're going to use a blender primarily for iced, mixed beverages just for you, or you love a smoothie on-the-go, the single serve blender will quickly become your favorite appliance.
While it's not, technically, a single-serve blender, the Cuisinart SmartPower CPB-300 (Est. $70) is a great choice if you need a full-size blender, but you also want to be able to make individual smoothies for everyone in the family and give them the option of taking them to work or school. It includes one 32-ounce blend jar, an 8-ounce chopping cup and a set of four, 16-ounce travel mugs. You can use the large blend jar as a traditional blender, or you can make individual smoothies right in the travel mugs. Commuters, especially single people, love being able to make four smoothies before they have to run the dishwasher, while families appreciate being able to customize up to four smoothies.
The larger jar and chopping bowl means that the Cuisinart CPB-300 is more versatile than just solo smoothie makers, and it gets good reviews for pureeing and general mixing and blending. One expert reviewer says it's a full-service blender that takes up half the space of a normal one. Don't expect it to perform like a high-end blender, however, because that's not the market that it's targeting. However, if you only use your blender for occasional food prep, this will give you plenty of interesting options for use.
Where the Cuisinart CPB-300 really shines is in ease-of-use. All parts are dishwasher safe, and with several cups included, they don't need to be cleaned as frequently as they do when using a standard blender. The travel cups have lids, but with open holes at the top for drinking, which some user say make it perfect for a straw.
The Ninja Professional NJ600, which earns Best Reviewed status among sub-$100 blenders for general use, has a sister blender: the Ninja Professional Blender with Single Serve BL660 (Est. $140). The Ninja BL660 has all the great features of the NJ600, and also comes with two single serve containers. It's not as easy to use as the Cuisinart CPB-300, reviewers say, and has a rather large footprint, but if you need a full-size blender in addition to one for whipping up individual serving sizes, it's a choice that will work well either way.
It may sound like a strange adjective to use for an appliance, but the word "fun" is often included in reviews of the Hamilton Beach Single Serve Blender (Est. $20). People quite simply love it. It's the #1 Best Seller in Personal Size Blenders on Amazon.com, and it's at the top of most professional tests and expert reviews as well. One expert reviewer marvels at how it dominates in performance over single serve blenders costing three or four times as much.
It's easy to use, but owners say you'll get the best results if you read the manual and take a little extra care, rather than just tossing ingredients in willy-nilly and leaning on the blend button. Most have no problems blending normal smoothie ingredients -- ice cubes, frozen strawberries, banana chunks, apple pieces with skin, spinach, even sticky prunes -- as long as they include plenty of liquid. They also say they get better results on pulse than on the regular blend setting. The cup and lid of most -- but not all -- models are dishwasher safe.
The Hamilton Beach 51101B Single Serve Blender comes in black, but versions in white (51101), Red (51101R) and Green (51126) are available. All cost about the same. The Hamilton Beach 51108 Single Serve Blender has a stainless steel finish and costs a few dollars more, but is otherwise identical. The blender is styled to fit in most cupholders, even smaller ones and is reported as leak-proof. Be warned, though, durability isn't its strong point and it may last only a few months. However, most owners say, for the price it's worth buying another.