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Blendtec Designer Series WildSide Blender review:

This high-end model ups the blender ante


Blender smoothie consistency
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The Blendtec did a fantastic job on smoothies. Like ice crush, it has a smoothie preset and I found it to be incredibly accurate. Press the smoothie button, and presto -- perfect, chunkless fruit concoctions in seconds. The Breville and the Vitamix blenders performed equally well; all three yielded a "smoothness" percentage of 98.46. That basically means that there weren't any bits of fruit left over after the smoothie cycle had finished. The Hamilton Beach performed the worst with a 96.41 percent smoothness. It was still plenty drinkable; it just wasn't as smooth.

Colin West McDonald/CNET


This was the only test where I wasn't completely satisfied with the result. I tested two different serving sizes here and found that the Blendtec significantly underperformed with the smaller serving size. It required 2 cups of spinach for the pesto and in fact, the motor was so powerful that it pushed the few ingredients quickly to the sides of the blender bin and made it a challenge for the blades to reach. So, with smaller servings of things, you might have to intervene a bit with a spatula. Mix and try again.

On the other hand, when I doubled the recipe to 4 cups of spinach, it responded as expected, yielding the most perfect pesto I've ever seen. So this model is fantastic at pretty much everything, but if you're planning to blend for one or two people, you might find yourself a bit surprised. The Vitamix and the Ninja had less trouble on the smaller serving size, so that's something to think about. A large family shouldn't have a problem with the Blendtec, but the other two high-end models might be better for smaller servings (unless you don't mind breaking out the spatula and pushing the ingredients back toward the center of the Blendtec a couple of times).

Megan Wollerton/CNET


As you may already have read in my review of the Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender, neither the Cuisinart nor the Hamilton Beach made the transition from almond flour to almond butter. That kind of created the dividing line between food processor-capable machines and regular ol' blenders.

The Blendtec actually comes with a recipe book that includes nut butters, so I was pretty curious about how it would react. It took fewer than 20 pulses to achieve uniformly ground almond flour and about 7 minutes to achieve smooth, spreadable almond butter. I did have to stop, remove the lid, use the spatula to mix the almonds periodically and start again, but you would probably have to do that in a food processor anyway. Overall, this was a very successful test.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

Whipped cream

Ry Crist/CNET

The Blendtec produced perfect whipped cream, ready for a cup of cocoa or some waffles. I got hungry throughout blender testing but this one in particular really cause some stomach rumblings. Every machine did fine, but the Hamilton Beach performed the worst, yielding slightly "loose" whipped cream.

Pancake batter

Ry Crist/CNET

This test really illuminated the utility of the presets for me. At first I tested the Blendtec without using the batter preset and it left a lot of mix in the bottom of the container. Then I tested it using the batter preset and it performed flawlessly, leaving no traces of batter or unmixed ingredients in the jar.

Megan Wollerton/CNET

That's why I'm glad the Blendtec comes with presets. I might not have ended up with perfect batter otherwise. The equally high-end Vitamix made perfect batter without needing a preset, though.

Megan Wollerton/CNET


I also wanted to see how this all-powerful blender would react to an entire 8-ounce block of cheddar. It was kind of like the nuts, washers, and bobby pins test we recently performed on vacuum cleaners. I didn't expect a whole lot from the less expensive, less powerful models and I expected perfectly shredded cheese from the more expensive blenders.

The Blendtec, the Vitamix, and the Ninja all shredded the cheese quickly and powerfully -- to such an extent that the shredded bits began to warm due to the effort of the blenders and turned into a more solid gunky mess in the bottom of the containers. Since this was more a test of overall power and less a test of edibility, that was a definite success. The Blendtec, the Vitamix, and the Ninja are all incredibly powerful machines.

On the other hand, the KitchenAid and the Breville also managed to reduce the 8-ounce cheddar chunk to shredded bits. Perhaps because they are powerful but not as powerful as the other three models, they didn't turn the cheese into melted globs, but instead produced cheese that you could actually use in cooking. That was a surprise. The Hamilton Beach and the Cuisinart performed the worst, chopping up very little of the cheese and leaving most of the chunk in the jar untouched.

You really can't go wrong with this blender, unless you consistently need it to blend small amounts of things, or if you don't actually need such a powerful machine. That's my problem with the Blendtec, the Vitamix, and the Ninja. They appeal to everyone because they truly are great at what they do and you see it in action and think, "I would make almond butter every week in this thing!" or "Yes, look at how well it shredded that cheese!"

But how much of that actually aligns with your cooking needs? It's kind of like picking the right car for your lifestyle. Sure, you look at the 2014 Bentley Flying Spur and think, "Yes! I would drive everywhere in that thing," only to get it home and realize that you don't really feel comfortable with that much power on a daily basis.

So, ask yourself if you'll actually use it. If not, save your $454 and get something else. The $40 Hamilton Beach is great for the most basic things, the $200 Breville yields consistently great results without all that fancy power, and the $200 Ninja is a similarly powerful, feature-rich appliance that's a bit more affordable.

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