Breville Hemisphere Control Blender review:

This Breville's performance stands out

The Breville Hemisphere Control is easy to use due to its control panel, which is clear, concise, and offers specific preset options. There's no tricky locking mechanism on the pitcher, which just lifts off the base. In addition, the loops on both the plug and lid offer ease-of-use that is certainly convenient but may be even more useful for those with arthritis in their hands.

When we discussed how to evaluate usability, cleaning was a primary concern. Cleaning blenders used to be a huge pain. My old blender, for example, had a base piece that screwed on, a rubber seal, the blade piece itself, the pitcher, the outer lid, and the inner lid, all of which needed to be hand washed separately. Breville wants to make life easier for you. The blade and pitcher are integrated and inseparable. This might make cleaning a little more difficult if you try to do it the old fashioned way with a sponge, but Breville recommends a much easier cleaning method. Simply fill the pitcher a third of the way with warm, soapy water, and then run the blender on low speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Rinse and let dry.

When shopping for a blender, or any appliance for that matter, performance most likely tops the list in terms of what you care about. If performance is your priority, the Breville will not disappoint.

We devised a series of blending tests, some of which simulate real usage scenarios and some which assessed the functional limits of each blender. Preliminary tests included crushing ice as well as making smoothies, pesto, and pancake batter. More rigorous tests were, in many cases, more revealing and involved milling whole almonds into almond flour, turning that almond flour into almond butter, making whipped cream, and determining whether or not a blender could grate/shred/blend an entire 8-ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese.

Blender smoothie consistency
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

The Breville offers a couple of options for ice crushing, both of which worked well. The ice crush preset will give you perfectly acceptable frozen drink ice. The snow preset will give you fine, snow-cone-quality crushed ice. So whether you're making margaritas or snowballs, the Breville gets the job done.

The Breville breezed through smoothies as well. The smoothie preset does a great job of pulverizing the ingredients uniformly and mixing them evenly, without heating them up. I appreciated the convenience of a smoothie preset that, while not at all necessary, proved to be one of the little design touches that made the Breville so easy to use.

Katie Pilkington/CNET

Pesto was an elegant solution to test many questions we had about not only a blender's ability to handle leafy greens, but also its ability to process foods with different sizes and shapes into a uniform blend without the assistance of a lot of liquid. The Breville performed well. After 15 pulses, it turned a single batch of ingredients (spinach, garlic cloves, Parmesan cheese, walnuts, and olive oil) into a uniform pesto. It was chunkier than the pestos made in the Ninja or Vitamix 7500, but I was still impressed with the Breville's ability to blend those ingredients without my intervention. I didn't scrape the bowl at all in between pulses.

We made pancake batter in the blenders to answer two questions. First, would the shape of the pitcher or location and height of the blades leaves dry ingredients wedged in corners, against the pitcher, or under the blades? Second, could the blenders mix a powdered ingredient with a liquid until it became a smooth batter? The Breville performed well in this test. Once, I had to take a spatula and scrape the sides of the pitcher where some of the batter had gotten stuck, but the end result was perfectly smooth pancake batter.

Katie Pilkington/CNET

Whipping cream tested the blenders' abilities to handle a delicate operation. It was a bit of a finesse test, but all of the blenders were able to make whipped cream in less than a minute. This could be a real time saver, especially if you're used to using a hand mixer. This isn't a common use for a blender by any stretch, but showed the versatility of many blenders, especially the Breville, which made fluffy, delicious whipped cream in 30 seconds.

From here, the tests got more rigorous, especially for the smaller blenders. The Ninja and Blendtec both claimed to be able to make almond butter. We wanted to take the test a step further or, to be technically correct, backwards, and make almond flour as well. We pulsed two cups of raw almonds in each blender until they were milled into flour. Some blenders, like the Cuisinart, couldn't finish the task completely. The Breville made great, uniformly ground almond flour in 20 pulses.

Katie Pilkington/CNET

To make almond butter, you process this almond flour, no additives required, until the oils release and the mixture becomes almond butter. Our recipe suggested that, in a food processor, this process can take ten minutes. That time frame became our benchmark: if the blender could make almond butter and it could do it in less than ten minutes, we'd call it a success. We weren't surprised that the high-end Blendtec, Vitamix, and Ninja blenders succeeded. We were impressed, however, that the KitchenAid and the Breville could. Though it required a little coaxing in the form of frequent pitcher scraping, within 10 minutes, the Breville produced smooth almond butter that tasted better than many store-bought brands we've tried.

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Finally, we performed the torture test. If you've been following our reviews, you know that, for many of our appliances, we devise a test to see how well they can perform when pushed to the limits. For blenders, it was dropping an eight-ounce block of cold, sharp cheddar cheese into the pitcher, turning the blender on high, and seeing whether it could grate or pulverize the block of cheese. The Breville passed the test with ease, reducing the block to finely chopped pieces of cheese that would be great melted on top of a casserole. The Breville really distinguished itself on this test . Most of the blenders could handle the cheese, but they would either heat up and, therefore, melt the cheese, or create something we described as "cheese snow," which doesn't look as good as it sounds. The Breville, however, produced cheese crumbles which seemed the most usable to us after the fact, with no melting or distortion.

The Breville's performance was outstanding and is, therefore, one of our top recommendations.

Katie Pilkington/CNET

Care and maintenance
The Breville Hemisphere Control Blender comes standard with one-year limited warranty. You can buy a replacement pitcher, inner lid, or outer lid on the product's Web page. A one-year warranty is fairly standard for the category, but Breville's site lists authorized service centers that, presumably, could repair your blender should the need arise.

If you plan to use your blender for nothing more than smoothies or frozen beverages, you don't have to spend the money for a $199 Breville blender and could save those pennies and purchase a Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart for $39. If, however, you're looking for a blender that will offer a lot of bang for your buck in the form of versatility in addition to doing the work of at least one other small appliance, then you would do well to look at the Breville as a smart addition to your kitchen lineup.

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