Champion ice-crusher, but smoothies and margaritas may turn out chunky. The Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 has a unusual design. Instead of a traditional slim jug with blades at the bottom, it has a wide, square jug with a post of blades running lengthwise through the pitcher. It's billed as a pro machine capable of grinding nuts into nut butter and making ice cream -- just like the pricey Vitamix.
Indeed, in one top test the Ninja blends piña coladas and crushes ice as fluffy as the Vitamix 5200. It even purées soup and grates Parmesan cheese nearly as well as the Vitamix.
But the experts at Cook's Illustrated say the Ninja left their margaritas "crunchy." And when they throw fibrous kale (a common green-smoothie ingredient) into the Ninja, it flunks.
The problem could be the Ninja's lethal-looking blades. Cook's Illustrated experts discovered that the best blenders minimize the gap between jar and blades, preventing chunks from getting stranded. The Ninja leaves big gaps.
"I tried making a green smoothie and it barely touched the spinach," says one Target.com customer. "There were large chunks floating in my drink and it was watery." It's a common complaint at Amazon.com, too: "It doesn't matter how long you let the Ninja run (even on the highest setting), your green smoothie will not be smooth. It will be chunky," one owner explains.
Others find that the Ninja can't fully blend frozen fruit. "I'd have long strings of frozen pineapple," says one smoothie drinker at Amazon.com. Another, who uses ice in smoothies, complains that the Ninja produced smoothies the consistency of snow cones.
The one task the Ninja really excels at is crushing ice, performing perfectly in every expert test. "I threw a few handfuls of cubes in, and a press of the button yielded evenly crushed, snowy-fine ice in just a few moments," says Jessica Harlan, About.com's guide to cooking equipment.
Experts find it easy to use, but some owners disagree. In one blender test, experts find the Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 (and another Ninja model) the simplest model to use and clean.
Most parts are dishwasher-safe; the base is the exception. The NJ600 comes with a generous 72-ounce, BPA-free plastic pitcher. The blade stalk rests on a post in the bottom of the one-piece pitcher; "less chance for leaking," explains About.com's Harlan who says it all works easily. The pitcher clicks onto the base, and the lid locks onto the pitcher.
But some users disagree. One Amazon.com customer can never get the blade, pitcher and lid aligned correctly ("NASA lunar landings require less precision"), and the blender won't turn on otherwise. Others find the lid frustrating.
"It's a bit of a hassle if you're blending something that requires repeated scraping of the sides," an Amazon reviewer complains. Another user agrees that the NJ600 takes a lot of scraping. "All that power seemed to just fling the concoction to the sides of the blender. I'd continually have to stop, unlock the top, scrape the sides, lock the top again and re-blend."
Several users -- and Harlan, a professional cooking equipment tester -- say they sliced their fingers deeply on the blades, which stick out all over the stalk in various directions. One owner at Amazon.com overfilled the NJ600 with lettuce, reached in to remove the excess, "and cut my finger open. I got six stitches. I wasn't accustomed to a blender having blades going to near the top of the container."
Looks professional… With its huge pitcher and no-nonsense black base, the Ninja NJ600 looks Vitamix-esque. After four months of frequent use, an Amazon.com owner reports that the Ninja "looks good (the chrome/stainless looking parts are plastic, too, but they still look decent)," although the lid started to pull apart.
However, another Amazon.com review says the NJ600's plastic pitcher scratches too easily. "It's now completely scratched up …from using a sponge to clean it out. ... You will not want this out on your counter." At about 14 inches tall, it does fit into the standard countertop space beneath upper cabinets.
…but don't expect professional grade ware. After testing it for a month, Cook's Illustrated editors don't expect the Ninja to wear as sturdily as the Vitamix 5200 -- which they have used in their own test kitchen for years. They give the Ninja 2 stars for durability, while the Vitamix earns a perfect 3 stars. As one Amazon.com user points out, Vitamix blenders "are commercial grade while the Ninja blender is not." Vitamix uses metal parts to turn the blades, whereas the Ninja is crafted with plastic parts. It does survive one expert durability test --crushing ice 45 times -- but most blenders do.
Average blender racket, but too loud for some. Expect the usual blender noise from the Ninja Professional Blender NJ600, two top tests say. Both Cook's Illustrated (which measures decibels) and another testing source rate it exactly in the middle of their loudness scales.
But like most blenders, noise is subjective. "The Ninja Professional is extremely loud, probably a little more so than some other blenders," says Harlan at About.com. Some owners agree, with one Amazon.com reviewer declaring it "incredibly loud."
But plenty find it on par with other blenders. "Its not too loud, though I wouldn't crank it up while someone is watching TV," writes one Amazon.com owner. Another finds it quieter than the cheaper Oster blender it replaced -- which was "extremely, annoyingly loud. This machine's noise level is acceptable to us. Your noise tolerance may vary of course."
It looks hard-core, but the Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 can't blend as well as a truly professional-quality blender like the Vitamix 5200 (*Est. $450). For less than one-quarter of the price, though, plenty of owners say the Ninja comes close enough.
Excellent ConsumerReports.org's experts test more than 50 blenders, including the Ninja Professional NJ600. They rank the blenders from best to worst, based on how well each one crushes ice, makes frozen drinks, purées soup and more.
Review: Ninja Professional NJ600, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, June 2012
2. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Very Good Usually only available to subscribers, blender test results from Cook's Illustrated are made available to everyone. They recommend the Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 --with reservations. It took only seven seconds to crush ice, but it couldn't break down fibrous kale or produce completely smooth margaritas.
Review: Ninja Professional Blender, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Sept. 1, 2012
Good About 200 owners review the Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 here, with very divided opinions. Half award it 5 stars, but about 40 percent rate it from mediocre to poor. The most common complaint is that it doesn't blend ingredients completely smooth.
Review: Ninja NJ600 Pro Blender, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Oct. 2012
Fair Jessica Harlan, About.com's guide to cooking equipment, says the Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 performs as well as blenders "four or five times its price." It turns ice into snow in moments, and it perfectly purées cucumber-yogurt soup. However, Harlan does slice her finger deeply while washing the blades, and she finds the Ninja "extremely loud." (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Review: Ninja Professional Blender (Model NJ600), Jessica Harlan, Not dated
Fair Almost all of more than 30 owners who review the Ninja Professional Blender NJ600 here love it. Only two give it less than 4 stars -- including one who says his frappe turned into more of an ice-slushy.
Review: Ninja Blender -- Black, Contributors to Target.com, As of Oct.2012