The 'superpower' of blenders. Cook's Illustrated editors praise the Vitamix 5200. It's the one they've used in their test kitchen for years, and it's the gold standard against which they judge all other blenders.
"There's virtually nothing it can't handle," Cook's Illustrated says of the Vitamix 5200. Real Simple magazine calls it a "superpower." Stringy kale -- the Waterloo of lesser blenders -- blends up smoothly in both tests. Cook's Illustrated also creates silky-smooth crushed ice and frozen margaritas, both notoriously tough tasks for home blenders.
In another top test, the Vitamix 5200 is the only blender that aces every task -- frozen piña coladas, crushed ice, puréed soup and grated Parmesan cheese all turn out excellently. Not even the Vitamix's pricey archrival, the Blendtec Total Blender Classic Four Side (*Est. $430), can match it.
In fact, the Vitamix outperforms the Blendtec (and every other blender) in a Popular Mechanics head-to-head test. The Blendtec includes its own peach ice cream recipe (frozen peaches, half and half, sugar, vanilla and ice cubes), but the Vitamix makes it better. "The difference was huge," testers say. "While the Blendtec ice cream was icy and chewy, the Vitamix ice cream had a smooth, ice cream-like consistency, impressing all of our tasters. It's a recipe we'd make again."
Owners say the Vitamix never stumbles, no matter what they throw at it. It churns nuts into nut butter, kneads dough and grinds coffee, spices and even grain (if you intend to frequently knead dough or grind your own flour, Vitamix sells a special "dry" container/blade assembly (*Est. $145) designed to be more efficient). Vitamix says the friction of the blades can create hot soups in four to six minutes, and owners say it really works: "I made a broccoli cheese soup that took me less than 10 minutes, from refrigerator to serving in bowls!" one Epinions.com user writes.
Owners say they regularly toss whole fruits and vegetables into the Vitamix 5200 -- skins, seeds and all -- to get a perfectly smooth purée. Popular Mechanics testers complain that they can't get whole bananas and oranges to puree in the Vitamix 5200 without pushing them down with the included tamper, and they can't get a whole apple to purée completely. However, Vitamix does recommend cutting whole, large produce into halves or quarters first.
Easy to use -- and it blends itself clean. The Vitamix 5200 is simple to use, reviews say: Just set the jug on the base and flip the switch. A dial lets you control the speed, from 1 to 10.
The half-gallon jug holds much more than most blenders, and features a locking lid to prevent spills. It has a removable plug in the middle, so you can add ingredients while the blender is running or poke the included tamper in to prod food toward the blades. "The tamper works well, and no matter how hard my son tries he can't get it to hit the blades," one Epinions.com user writes. (The tamper has a collar to prevent it from dipping too far into the blender). Popular Mechanics testers don't like using the tamper -- "it takes extra work and blender babysitting." But other experts find the Vitamix 5200 simple to use: It scores very good for convenience at a top testing organization, where experts like the well-balanced, easy-pour jar, clear controls and easy cleanup.
The blades don't detach from the jar. "With no base to unscrew, cleanup is a snap," say testers at Real Simple. Vitamix recommends whizzing soapy water in the blender to clean it, and owners say this works well. "Clean immediately after use and it will be effortless," one Epinions.com user writes. None of the parts should go into the dishwasher, Vitamix says.
The Vitamix's beauty -- well, it's in the eye of the beholder. "First impressions: This thing is big, loud, and ugly!" writes one Epinions.com user, who still gives it 5stars. Another calls it "somewhat industrial-looking ... not very sleek or attractive," but another says it "has a nice design" and "looks good on my kitchen counter." The jug is clear, and you can choose from five colors for the base: black, white, red, platinum or brushed stainless.
At 20.5 inches tall, several owners note that the 64-ounce model doesn't fit in the standard space beneath upper kitchen cabinets -- but Vitamix sells a shorter 48-ounce version that does (it's 17.4 inches tall). Both have the same footprint (about 7 by 9 inches) and weigh 10.6 pounds.
Built to last. Reviews reference Vitamix blenders that have lasted for 20 years or more. The Vitamix 5200 has survived years of use in the Cook's Illustrated test kitchen. "Its performance comes at a steep price, but its exceptional durability (not to mention seven-year warranty) makes it cheaper in the long run than a less expensive blender that needs continual replacing," editors say. While most blenders carry only a one-year warranty, both the Vitamix 5200 and its Blendtec rival carry seven-year warranties -- and for an additional $75, Vitamix will extend the warranty to 10 years.
Cook's Illustrated editors were puzzled when the KitchenAid 5-Speed Blender KSB560 (*Est. $100) they once recommended began to break and leak within a year. So they scrutinized it to figure out why. They discovered that the KitchenAid's commercial-grade polycarbonate jug isn't as tough as the Vitamix 5200's, which is made from Eastman Tritan copolyester. It's "considered more durable and resistant to impact and the harsh combination of heat, water pressure and dishwasher chemicals" than polycarbonate, editors explain. Owners do find the jug very durable. "I have dropped this pitcher on the floor and all it did was bounce," shares one Epinions.com user.
On par with blender roar. In one expert test, the powerful Vitamix 5200 proves no louder than the average blender -- and quieter than its archrival, the Blendtec. At Cook's Illustrated (which measures decibels), it's one of the quietest blenders in the test.
But it's not exactly quiet. "The Vitamix is as loud as a lawn mower," complain testers at Popular Mechanics. But owners tend to agree with other experts that the Vitamix doesn't out-shriek a standard blender. And since it does its job so quickly, some owners point out, it's not loud for long.
The Vitamix 5200 goes beyond ordinary blenders: It can grind grain into flour, pulverize whole fruits and vegetables, turn ice into snow in seconds and even create hot soup with the press of a button, making it our top recommendation for a heavy-duty blender. But the Breville Hemisphere Control (*Est. $200) processes ice, margaritas, hummus and even tough frozen-pineapple-and-kale smoothies just as well in Cook's Illustrated's test. The Breville only carries a one-year warranty, though, and editors say time will tell if it's as durable as the stalwart Vitamix. Two similar Vitamix blenders also get outstanding reviews.
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Excellent Experts here thoroughly test more than 50 blenders, including the Vitamix 5200. They crush ice, blend icy drinks and more. They also consider noise, durability and convenience (ease of cleaning, etc.) before choosing the best buys.
Review: Vita-Mix 5200, Editors of ConsumerReports.org, June 2012
2. Cook's Illustrated Magazine
Very Good Although reviews are usually available only to subscribers, Cook's Illustrated has made their latest blender test results public. After years of test-kitchen abuse, the Vitamix 5200 is the gold-standard blender for the tough critics at the magazine. As usual, it tops the charts in their latest blender shootout -- but the $200 Breville Hemisphere Control performs as well. Time will tell if it's as durable as the Vitamix, editors say.
Review: Vitamix 5200, Editors of Cook's Illustrated magazine, Sept. 1, 2012
3. Real Simple
Good Editors here recommend five blenders out of 52 tested; they don't reveal which models they test. The Vitamix 5200 wins the Best Superpower award -- it can even blend kale and whole apples "with hardly a smidgen of pulp."
Review: The Best Blender for Your Kitchen, Lindsay Hunt, Not dated
Good Popular Mechanics lines up five blenders, forcing them to chew through whole fruit and ice. The Vitamix 5200 makes the smoothest purée, but only if you push the food down with the included tamper.
Review: 5 Blender Show-Down: Abusive Lab Test, S.E. Kramer, Oct. 1, 2009
Good About 20 owners review the Vitamix 5200, and a full dozen give it a 5-star rating. All appear to be real reviews by real people (not phony ad-type reviews); owners overwhelmingly praise the Vitamix.
Review: Vitamix 5200 -- 7 Yr Warranty Variable Speed Countertop Blender with 2 HP Motor and 64-ounce Jar, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Oct. 2012
Good Far more owners review the Vitamix CIA Professional Series blender, because it's the version Amazon.com sells. It's almost identical to the Vitamix 5200 except for the accompanying cookbooks and DVD. More than 180 owners give it an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars.
Review: Vitamix CIA Professional Series, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of Oct. 2012
Good The Vitamix 5200 attracts about a dozen owner reviews at Epinions.com. One says a $200 blender would work just as well, and another bought a reconditioned unit that broke (although both love the performance). The rest simply write at length about why they adore the Vitamix.
Review: Vitamix 5200 Variable-speed Blender, Contributors to Epinions.com, As of Oct. 2012