Editors' note, September 21, 2014: We received the following statement from Blendtec in response to this review:
"We have investigated CNET's problem with the damaged gasket and determined that this was in fact not an issue with the blender itself, but with the seal on the jar. We are continuing the investigation of this issue, and we are in the process of reaching out to all registered Designer 725 owners to address any potential concerns. Meanwhile, we encourage consumers to read the entirety of the CNET review. With the exception of this jar malfunction, the blender shined. We are confident the issue will be resolved shortly, and the Designer 725 will be recognized as the standard in high-performance blenders. We also encourage any Blendtec customers that believe their product may be experiencing similar issues to call 1-800-Blendtec with any product concerns or questions."
In the quest for ultra-high-power blending, two names sit above the rest: Vitamix and Blendtec. Last year, we reviewed the Vitamix 7500 alongside the Blendtec Designer Series Wildside Blender , and the two essentially finished dead even with each other.
This year, Blendtec upped the ante with its new $650 Designer 725. Though it looks almost identical to previous models, the 725 features even more power than before, along with refined touch controls and new presets. After Vitamix impressed me last year, I was excited to test the 725 out and see if Blendtec had truly pulled into the lead.
Unfortunately, the Blendtec 725 proved too powerful for its own good. Before we could complete our tests, it had shredded the rubber gasket at the base of the jar, rendering the thing unusable. Repeated tests with additional units produced the same damning result, with shredded rubber even ending up mixed in with our ingredients. That's an unacceptable design flaw, and a complete deal breaker for anyone looking to spend big on blending.
First things first: this is a ridiculously powerful appliance. With a 1,725-watt, 3.4-peak-horsepower motor, the Blendtec 725 is built for serious blending performance. For comparison, the Vitamix 7500 boasts a 1,440-watt motor, while the Blendtec Designer Series Wildside Blender from last year claims 1,560 watts.
Blendtec puts that power at your your fingertips with a well-designed touchscreen interface. I wasn't wowed by the touchscreen on last year's model, but the Blendtec 725's refinements left me impressed. You'll find presets for everything from soups to smoothies to salsas, along with with a 100-speed manual slider that lets you rev the thing up exactly as you please. All of it felt intuitive and easy to use, and it looked good, too.
The base of the blender is built from brushed stainless steel, which gives it a little bit of extra heft. This is a good thing -- with all of that power revving around, you want the Blendtec to stay put on your countertop as you use it. For the most part, the 725's bulk kept it in place.
Another design upgrade: the Blendtec 725 has personality built into it. Turn the thing on, and it'll tell you hello, or one of dozens of other preprogrammed messages. The same goes whenever you finish a blend, or when you turn the machine off. It'll walk you through the presets, offer recipe suggestions, and keep track of how many times you've used it, congratulating you whenever you reach a new milestone. Complete enough blends, and it'll even offer a URL that you can follow to claim a free recipe book, gift card, jar discount, or some other reward. As blenders go, it's a charming little sidekick.
The Blendtec Designer 725 comes with the same, 36-oz. "WildSide+ Jar" as the model we reviewed last year, and offers a cleaning cycle as one of its presets. Fill the thing with a few cups of water and add a few drops of soap, and you'll be ready to rinse it out at the touch of a button. When I tested it out, it worked just fine -- though for messier blends, I'd often need to follow the cycle with a quick wipe to get out a few final bits of food, then run it again.
When a blender boasts a 1,725-watt, 3.4-horsepower motor, you're going to expect it to rise to the occasion no matter what you're throwing into it. For years, Blendtec has built much of its marketing around this very expectation, with the popular " Will it Blend?" series of videos showing off the product's propensity for doing things like reducing like reducing an iPhone into glittery dust.
Blendtec is always careful to advise users not to try stuff like that at home, and we heeded that advice, keeping our smartphones stashed away and sticking instead with the usual roundup of ice, whipped cream, pancake batter, pesto, and almond butter.
Up first, ice. Some low-power blenders will actually struggle to break ice down into snow if you aren't sure to add water into the mix, too. Not the Blendtec 725. Within seconds, I was fully equipped to throw a snowball at one of my colleagues on a 70-degree day. Instead, I kept things pacifistic and added some cold coffee and chocolate syrup, whipping up a tasty, photogenic mocha frappe in no time flat (testing blenders for a living does come with its benefits).
Next up was the smoothie test, and again, the Blendtec made it look easy, blending orange juice and frozen strawberries into an exceptionally smooth, bright pink concoction well before the 40-second smoothie preset cycle was finished. I weighed the results, poured it through a colander to try and catch any unblended bits, then weighed it again. The result was exactly the same, meaning that my smoothie was, in essence, 100 percent smooth.
Homemade whipped cream was next on the list, blended from heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract. It came out light, fluffy, and evenly blended within seconds (it also tasted incredible on top of my mocha frappe). Pancake batter, another of the lighter tests, came out evenly blended as well, with only a minimal amount of powdery globs stuck beneath the blades.
The Blendtec seemed to do just as well as I began blending heavier mixes, too. We easily made spinach pesto from scratch, reducing thick, leafy greens, shredded cheese, walnuts, garlic, and olive oil to a chunky green sauce in less than a minute. We also dropped a whole block of cheddar into the thing -- the Blendtec utterly demolished it, something most blenders we've tested can't even come close to doing.
This brings us to the almond butter test, where our testing began to derail. Making almond butter requires you to blend almonds down into almond flour, then continue blending that flour until it releases its oils. At that point, you should start seeing spreadable butter.
This is a tough challenge for most blenders, and it typically requires several minutes of blending or more, with frequent breaks to scrape the goop off of the sides of the jar and back into reach of the blades.
Fewer than half of the models we've tested have been able to get all the way to spreadable butter, but I was confident that the Blendtec 725 could do the job. Last year's model had no problem with the test -- Blendtec even highlights nut butter as a signature recipe for the brand.
Sure enough, the Blendtec 725 produced almond butter, but when I lifted the jar off of the base at the end, I noticed something concerning: bits of shredded rubber littered over the machine, along with a distinctly unpleasant smell. Looking underneath the jar, I found the stuff coated around the inner rim. The Blendtec had blended itself.
The problem stems from the rubber gasket that surrounds the jar's spindle, forming the watertight seal at the the bottom of the jar. That spindle needs to sit straight in the base of the blender as it spins -- if the jar tilts around during blending, it'll grind the gasket against the base. This is why some other high-power blenders, like the Ninja Ultima, go as far as building a locking mechanism into the base to help reinforce things. Blendtec offers no such reinforcement -- which means there's nothing to stop that gasket from meeting very intense friction against the base of the blender.
That's exactly what had happened. With all of that horsepower, the Blendtec 725 tends to wobble a bit when blending heavier foods. After a few minutes spent blending almonds, I had shredded the gasket. This meant that the jar was no longer watertight -- fluid dripped out the bottom when I tried to run a cleaning cycle. Worse, the spindle no longer sat at a firm, perpendicular angle to the base of the jar. With part of the gasket blended away, you could wiggle the spindle back and forth a bit, which meant that further blending would be even wobblier than before, exacerbating the problem further.
I told Blendtec about the problem, and they offered to send me another WildSide Jar, telling me they'd never heard of this problem before. I found that hard to believe, given the fact that similar gasket issues come up repeatedly in user reviews -- including ones posted on Blendtec's own website.
At any rate, the original jar was no longer usable, so I agreed to try my tests again with a new one. I even held the top of the blender down this time, trying my best to keep things straight. It didn't matter. The noisy Blendtec rumbled and vibrated terribly beneath my hand, and within five minutes, the gasket on the new model was shredded.
I wanted to rule out the possibility that our Blendtec base was defective, so I ordered a second unit this time from a mainstream retailer. Once it arrived, I repeated the almond butter test with the new base and jar. This time, the result was the worst of all. The bottom of the jar began smoking after six minutes of blending. When I stopped to investigate, I found that not only had the gasket shredded again, but the rubber bits had actually made their way into the nut butter.
The almond butter test is a challenge, but it isn't a torture test. We're simply following a recipe that a reasonably powerful blender should be able to pull off. We've seen blenders from Ninja, Vitamix, and Breville do just fine, even after blending on and off for upward of 15 minutes.
In fairness, Blendtec recommends making nut butter using the "Twister Jar,' a special jar with built-in side-scrapers that's sold separately. I tried one out, and sure enough, it handled the almond butter test brilliantly. That said, comparable blenders from Vitamix and Ninja were able to make nut butter without need of a special jar -- as was last year's Blendtec model, which uses the same WildSide Jar as the 725 and boasts a nearly identical base design, too.
Simply put, this was an unacceptable result for any blender, let alone one that costs $650. What's more, we were able to replicate the failure with multiple WildSide Jars and multiple bases, meaning that it's a likely issue for anyone who purchases the 725. User reviews I've read seem to suggest that it's a flaw with the jar, which seems right to me -- although it's worth noting that we weren't able to replicate the problem with the earlier, less powerful Blendtec model. Clearly, the 725's extra power also seems to be a part of the problem.
For high-power, high-performance blending, you've got plenty of options. I suggest sticking with the Vitamix 7500 , the Ninja Ultima , or the smaller, less expensive Breville Hemisphere Control Blender . Even the clunky Oster Versa proved itself capable once we figured out how to use it.
As for the $650 Blendtec Designer 725, it's an extremely powerful appliance -- but it isn't designed well enough to handle all that power. As a result, it grinds the jar's gasket far too easily, rendering the jar unusable and potentially spitting shredded rubber into your food. There's no way I can recommend such an appliance to anyone, at any price, under any circumstances.