I tested the new (relatively) budget-friendly Vitamix One. Here's what happened.
When it comes to Vitamix blenders, I find there's not generally much to complain about other than the price. With a loyal following of passionate fans, the mighty appliance has become something of a cult phenomenon. There's good reason for that too, since the blenders -- which start at $350 and go up (way up) from there -- fare well in most performance testing and are built to last for years. Vitamix blenders are also easy and intuitive to use and they look pretty sharp sitting on your counter.
Not everyone can drop $400 on a blender, and even those who can don't necessarily want to. There's a growing demand (and supply) for good blenders that don't break the bank but still do a fine job when put to those most critical of tests. Vitamix is looking to lock in that share of the market with the addition of a more "affordable" blender -- a streamlined and simplified blender called the Vitamix One. The One came out just last month and sells for $250 -- a full $100 less than Vitamix's previous entry-level model, the Explorian.
As someone both familiar with and fond of the brand, I wanted to try the Vitamix One myself to see how the latest model fared in some real-world blender testing. The One proved to be a solid midsized blender with Vitamix-caliber blending abilities. But with one glaring design flaw and reduced overall power versus other Vitamix models and blenders in the same cost range, it's hard to justify the still-bloated price.
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From a first glance at the One, it's clear this is a very different machine than any other in the Vitamix family. In fact, when my mom saw it over FaceTime she blurted out, "That's a Vitamix?!" The One is simple, with a streamlined body and just one single dial for control of the motor and blade speed, with no blending presets or even a pulse function, both of which are fairly standard on blenders these days.
The 32-ounce container that comes with the One is also smaller than any other Vitamix and the entire unit measures just 8 inches across and 12 inches high. Other Vitamix blenders are a few inches wider and some are as much as 5 inches taller. The One is lighter too, at just over 6 pounds, versus the 10 or more pounds that most other Vitamixes weigh.
I really disliked the single knob that turns the blender on and off, and controls the speed: It has almost no resistance when you're getting it started. If the blender is plugged in, even the slightest force on the knob -- accidental or otherwise -- will start the motor whirring, even if there's no blending canister locked into the motor base, and starts the blades spinning if the canister is locked into place. This happened to me a few times and I found the design choice baffling, annoying and perhaps even a little dangerous. A significant click to go from off to on or a main switch to power down the machine would have gone a long way for me.
The One sports a 1.2-horsepower motor, which is significantly less than the Explorian (2 hp) and thus the brand is marketing the One as a blender for smoothies, soups, sauces and less so for those tougher, albeit less common, blender duties. The power difference was noticeable in some of the testing, especially when done next to a Vitamix with more oomph.
Despite this being Vitamix's most budget-friendly model, it's still a $250 blender and I expected it to do just about everything a high-end blender should. At CNET, we have a few standard blender tests we like to give each unit we review to measure power, precision and overall blending performance.
I also happen to own an Explorian -- the next closest Vitamix in price -- so I've used that model for quick comparison in some of my testing. As you can see in the below photos, the Explorian is bigger and boxier than the One, but it also has more substantial blades and blending capacity.
Crushing two cups of ice took 18 seconds. There is no pulse function on this blender so you have to manually pulse by turning the knob or just let it run on high. I ran the same test with the $350 Explorian and it crushed the same amount of ice to the same consistency in about 10 seconds.
I make a lot of smoothies so this is as important a test as any for me. I dropped one cup of frozen strawberries and two cups of orange juice into the blender. In about 15 seconds the ingredients were blended to a perfect smoothie consistency. The Explorian did the job in a little closer to 10 seconds.
Next, I wanted to see how the One handles turning raw almonds into almond flour. This took an impressively short 16 seconds with no stopping or tamping needed to get a fine powder from the cup of raw almonds. The Explorian outpaced the One by just 2 seconds this time.
The pancake batter test is designed to see how quickly and comprehensively a blender can mix wet and dry ingredients. In about 20 seconds, the cup of water and two cups of pancake batter were thoroughly mixed. I did stop once to give it a spatula swipe when a few pesky clumps stuck out, but the batter turned out smooth and there was little unmixed gunk down by the blades.
In what has been deemed the ultimate torture test for our blender reviews, I dropped a block of cold cheddar cheese into the One hoping it would shred it into something that could be melted over nachos or a casserole. The blender whipped some of the edges off the block but it remained mostly intact. This is the toughest test we give the blenders, and the Vitamix One did not pass.
The blending cup is about as easy to clean as any other I've used, though not remarkable in any way. A good hard rinse in the sink with a spray nozzle usually got the job done. The streamlined base was easier to clean than most blenders since there are very few knobs, switches or hard corners to contend with.
Breville's Fresh and Furious blender ($200) gets consistent raves for its performance and has lots of blending presets (nine to be exact) to help nail your recipe, and the motor has a formidable 1,100 watts of power (1.4 hp), a smidge more than the One. KitchenAid's K400 Blender ($200-$260) doesn't have presets but it does have a more powerful 1.5-horsepower motor and a click-on dial that won't start without your blessing. The Blendtec 570 ($200-$280) is another option that provides a full 2 hp of operating oomph and more features, speeds, presets and blending programs than the Vitamix One. Ninja also makes several blender models in the $175-$250 range, including the Ninja Professional Mega System ($200) with its heftier 2.09-horsepower motor, 72-ounce blending jar and loads of attachments, including another 64-ounce round bowl that turns the blender into a food processor.
There's no doubt that this is a reliable blender with plenty of power and precision blending ability. It passed the smoothie test easily and made nut flour faster and finer than most blenders. If you really want a Vitamix but don't want to shell out $350, or you have limited kitchen counter and cupboard space to work with, this is a viable option. I don't think you'll have many complaints about the blender's results.
That said, this is now Vitamix's cheapest blender and, at times, I could feel it. The problem for me is at $250 it's still not cheap and that made the design issues and less-than-stellar performance in some of my tests all the more glaring. Having one knob to control everything felt limiting and clumsy and I really hated how easily this blender turned on, often when I wasn't trying to. The jump down from the Ascent to the Explorian doesn't feel as noticeable as the jump from the Explorian down to the new Vitamix One, and that's mostly due to design and user-friendliness. There is a noticeable drop in power too, but the One still blends like a Vitamix -- which is to say very well.
I liked the One, but I love my Explorian and if you have the coin and kitchen space to spring for that model, I think you'll be glad you did. Vitamix's new entry-level blender isn't a bad machine by any means but, at that price, it's just not the one for me.
The Vitamix One is available on Vitamix.com, Williams Sonoma and other select kitchen retailers.