Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Blender review: Easy but slow smoothies to grab and go

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
  • Overall: 6.7
  • Performance: 6.0
  • Usability: 7.0
  • Design: 7.0
  • Features: 8.0
Review Date:

The Good The inexpensive Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Blender creates blends smoothies that travel, plus it can grind beans and other solid foods in its special cup. The blender is also dishwasher-friendly and easy to clean by hand.

The Bad With a weak electric motor, short blades, and all-plastic parts, the Stay or Go will neither tackle tough blending tasks nor impress appliance style hounds.

The Bottom Line For simple, travel-size smoothie making, look to the affordable Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Blender, but you'll have to spend more for hard-core food processing.

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If you have your heart set on owning a blender and have money to burn then there are plenty of high-priced choices from the likes of Vitamix, Blendtec, and Oster. Budget appliance maker Hamilton Beach, however, suggests that members of the smoothie set should save their cash and buy its $40 Stay or Go Blender. For much less than the competition, this compact machine competently whips up fresh, fruity beverages. It also offers a range of accessories for taking your blends on the run and even grinding coffee beans and other solid items. But as the old adage goes, you get what you pay for. Underpowered and with short blades, not to mention cheap all-plastic construction, this mixer is far from a premium performer.

Design and features

Judging from its small stature and modest appearance, you might be tempted to dismiss the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Blender's abilities. I know I did, at least at first. With its all-plastic build materials and slight 2-pound, 11-ounce weight, this home appliance certainly won't stop you in your tracks with its looks. That said, this mixing machine can tackle quite a lot despite its compact size.

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Included are two travel jars and a grinding cup. Colin McDonald/CNET

Bundled with the Stay or Go is a handy array of hardware that when combined offers plenty of food prep flexibility. Besides the standard 32-ounce blending jar you'll also find two 16-ounce travel jars designed to both mix ingredients in and carry blended contents out the door with you. Their plastic drinking lids sport wide, mouth-shaped openings that are perfect for guzzling down thick liquids. Just remember that there's no way to completely close the jars, so don't flip them over.

Interestingly, Hamilton Beach threw in another accessory, a short 8-ounce vessel it calls a grinding cup. Meant specifically for pulverizing solids such as coffee beans, hard cheeses, and cookies and crackers, it's clear this blender is geared up to do double duty as a standalone electric grinder.

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This blender is small but comes with lots of ways to mix things up. Colin McDonald/CNET

Usability

As far as controls go the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go keeps things simple, almost to a fault. Unlike competing (though admittedly more expensive) blenders such as the KitchenAid 5-Speed and Hamilton Beach's very own Smoothie Smart Blender, the Stay or Go lacks multiple revolutions-per-minute (rpm) modes or any fancy presets for creating smoothies or crushed ice. Instead this appliance is a one-speed, two-button pony.

On the front sits a wide rocker key, really more of a fat switch, one end labelled "Pulse/Off" and the other "On". As you'd expect tapping "Pulse/Off" will tell the blender's starlike blade assembly to spin up, then rotate to a stop. You can also deliver sustained pulses by holding this key down for as long as you'd like. Similarly, hitting the "On" switch engages the motor indefinitely while tapping "Pulse/Off" puts the brakes on the blades.

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The controls are far from complicated. Colin McDonald/CNET

I like how the Stay or Go comes apart easily for hassle-free cleaning, which makes it a breeze to wash by hand. Of course since the blender is dishwasher-safe, I bet most people will just toss the gadget into their trusty mechanized kitchen helper.

Performance

Even with Hamilton Beach doing its best to brag up the Stay or Go's blending chops, it was immediately clear to me that this mix maker is underpowered. Sure, the company claims the appliance has a motor that delivers 650 watts of peak power. Without more specific details to frame this spec such as rpm, I can't say how that translates to blending power.

In any case, the Stay or Go's motor can't match the sheer food-shredding might of pricier products like the $260 Ninja Ultima (1,500 watts, 3,700 to 24,000rpm) or $529 Vitamix 7500 (1,400 watts, 37,000rpm). Also frustrating is the blender's small blade assembly, which uses short, stubby cutting edges. It simply doesn't have the reach or slicing ability of larger appliances. That said, for a mere $40, the Stay or Go does get the basics done without breaking the budget.

Ice

As far as I'm concerned, crushing ice into a suitable state for frozen drinks is an absolute staple capability for any blender. I'm sad to report, however, that the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go delivered subpar results on this crucial test. No doubt because it's saddled with a comparatively weak motor, two cups of bag ice stopped the appliance dead in its tracks. While I definitely saw ice powder in the bottom portion of the blender's 32-ounce jar, the top of the container remained chunky after 15 or even 30 blending pulses.

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Plain ice cubes caused this blender trouble. Brian Bennett/CNET

It was only after I added about half a cup of water to the hopper along with the ice cubes did I see any real blending action. Then it took 30 pulses to churn my ice mixture into a recognizable slurry fit for frozen beverages. And the end product was nowhere near what I would call smooth or uniform. By comparison, the more expensive $100 Nutri Ninja (also designed for single-serve blender duty) took fewer than 10 pulses to pound ice and water to its will.

Smoothies

Whipping up smoothies is the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go's raison d'etre, and thankfully you can depend on the blender to perform. Using our traditional recipe of frozen strawberries and chilled orange juice, the appliance took a total of 45 pulses of the motor to achieve a pleasing liquid consistency. I measured that the blender turned in a high smoothie consistency percentage of 97.64. Keep in mind that other, higher-octane machines such as the Nutri Ninja creamed smoothies properly in much less time (10 to 15 pulses).

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Where to Buy See all prices

Hamilton Beach Stay or Go Blender 52400

Part Number: 52400
MSRP: $39.99 Low Price: $36.99 See all prices
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