If smoothies and shakes are staples of your diet, a single-serve blender might be for you. Single-serve blenders allow you to blend smoothies or shakes right in the travel cup. Since the blade assembly screws on top of the travel cup and then off after blending, you don't have to wrestle with (and clean-up) a pitcher. This simplicity is one of the reasons why owners rave about these machines despite some issues with durability: no matter what the price point.
On the lowest end of the price spectrum is the Hamilton Beach Single-Serve Blender 51101B (*Est. $16). It gets rave reviews from hundreds of satisfied owners, who say it's cheap, quiet and blends well for most -- even smoothies with ice or frozen fruit.
The Hamilton Beach 51101B has two parts: a lidded travel cup and a blender base. At nearly 12 inches tall and weighing about 2 pounds, the Hamilton Beach is small enough for a tiny dorm room and light enough to pack in a suitcase. It's not built to last -- we saw frequent owner complaints that the motor burns out or the lid cracks, although several owners say theirs has lasted more than a year. Still, the Hamilton Beach gets better reviews than other single-serve blenders in this price range.
If you want to blend more than one drink at a time or own a more versatile machine, the Cuisinart SmartPower CPB-300 (*Est. $70) comes with four lidded travel cups, a 1-quart blending jar and 1-cup chopping bowl. Twice as powerful as the Hamilton Beach, it also churns out frozen cocktails, grates Parmesan cheese and more. In fact, in one test, it performs as well as standard blenders; however, users who like very thick smoothies with lots of frozen fruit and little liquid say the Cuisinart can't power through extremely thick mixtures. This isn't the only complaint about the SmartPower CPB-300: several owners say it breaks quickly.