I have a Breville coffee grinder at home and in the CNET Appliance's Toaster Oven Extravaganza, the Breville Smart Oven was a top performer. As such, I had very high expectations for the $199 Breville Hemisphere Control Blender, expectations which were not ill-placed. It is a fantastic blender and went above and beyond in terms of performance.
We reviewed seven blenders in what I like to call the Great CNET Blender Bonanza. (Admit it. It's catchy.) Each model brought something to the table, some more than others. Even compared with the big guys like Ninja, Blendtec, and VitaMix, however, the Breville held its own and, in the end, won a positive vote.
It has the horsepower to handle heavy-duty tasks like grinding whole almonds into flour and then processing that flour into almond butter, no additives or oil required, but it also can handle delicate tasks like whipping cream. I genuinely believe that this blender could replace, at least in some instances, your hand mixer and food processor, making it an ideal choice for people who appreciate an appliance that multitasks as much as they do.
Its versatility and multitasking ability might not be what you need. Before we go any further down this path, you must to assess for yourself what, exactly, you require from a blender. Blenders like the Breville are wasted on me.
Why is a fantastic blender ever a waste? I use blenders to make beverages. End of list. In college, I used my blender exclusively for margaritas. Now I make smoothies in order to perpetuate the ruse that I am a health nut. I make them often, certainly, but they still don't justify an appliance as multi-faceted as the Breville. Not everyone will need all of its food-processing potential.
If you're looking for a frozen beverage mixer, you can get a fine product in the $39 Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender (Model 56206 -- there are two with that name). It made good smoothies, mixed well, and performed above our expectations. If, on the other hand, you're looking for a high-end blender that has plenty of functionality, smart design, and excellent performance, the Breville is an excellent choice.
The Breville Hemisphere Control is a 750-watt blender that measures 16.5 inches tall and leaves a footprints that is 7 inches wide and 8 inches deep at the broadest points. Depending on the height of your upper cabinets, this blender may or may not fit under them for countertop storage. That said, it is fairly average in terms of size, given other blenders on the market. What matters about this blender most, however, isn't so much its size as its power. While not the most powerful blender on the market, especially compared with the 1,560-watt Blendtec Designer Series Wildside Blender or 1,500-watt Ninja Ultima Blender, the Breville has plenty of power to perform well. In our tests, it often took the Breville longer to blend than the higher-powered models, but it still produced excellent results.
The user interface is clearly understood and the presets are useful, with options like snow (for finely crushed ice), mix, blend, liquify, and puree. There is also a smoothie button that will activate a minute-long timer and pulse-blending sequence. I didn't find the timer to be necessary, but you might think it a helpful feature.
While the timer wasn't so useful for me, the LCD window that displays it was. This indicator counts up for speed settings and down for presets, to give you complete control when using the blender.
The Breville features a 48-ounce round jug made of BPA-free plastic. This is not the largest pitcher available to lower-powered blenders. For example, the KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender has a 60-ounce pitcher, also BPA-free. The Breville's pitcher is marked with measurement lines that, while standard for the category, stand out because they are especially easy to read. This is due to their red coloring, which creates a lot of contrast, no matter what you put into the pitcher.
The design element I appreciate most about the Breville's jug, though, is its hemispherical shape, the appliance's namesake. The bottom of the jug is rounded in such a way as to prevent food from getting stuck in corners or nooks, ensuring that the blender's contents mix evenly without too much intervention from you. The Breville's outward appearance most closely resembles the Cuisinart PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender. Even still, the Breville, though similar in appearance, is vastly superior in both performance and usability.
You can't talk about the blender's pitcher without also talking about the blades. This is another area where Breville instituted some fantastic design choices. For example, there are multiple types of blades in the blender. You'll find sharp, serrated central blades that do the bulk of the processing. You'll also find contoured blades that hug as closely to the hemisphere shape as possible, preventing food from clinging to the bottom of the pitcher. This is a nice touch that saves you from having to pause the appliance every 5 seconds to scrape the sides and bottom.
Breville includes some nifty, though not necessary, bonuses to the design, such as loops in both the lid and the power cord that make for easy grabbing. The Breville also has an on/off switch, which lets you turn the blender off without unplugging it, a feature that might be appealing if you intend to make the unit a permanent fixture on your countertop.
Blenders aren't especially known for high-tech features. To my knowledge, no one has invested in developing a Bluetooth blender. Why would they? Blend my smoothies, make my piña coladas, and I shall leave thee be, blender, and not criticize thy lack of whimsy. That said, blenders like the Breville have some great user interface features that make the whole blending experience more intuitive.
I know that blending was never that hard to begin with, but I can appreciate a blender that makes an easy task even easier to perform. This convenience comes in the form of presets. Perhaps my favorite Breville preset is the smoothie button, which, over the course of a minute, pulses and blends the contents into a uniform and perfectly drinkable smoothie. The only thing that could make that process easier would be if the blender filled itself.
Other presets like "snow" and "puree" highlight the Breville's versatility. If you were so inclined, you could make some pretty awesome snowballs on that snow setting. Yes, I tested it. Yes, they get good loft. And, yes, they will explode upon impact (see video). I imagine it can make snow cones as well.
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)