Oster Versa Performance Blender review: Oster's Versa proves powerful but tedious
The Oster Versa is an unusual blender to say the least. At a price point of $150, it still qualifies as a budget blender, yet it offers a generous 1100 watts of power and enough accessories to make any size kitchen look cluttered. Dealing with all of those pieces, cleaning them, and putting them together into their various unsteady configurations was an adventure, and not a fun one.
Get the right pieces together, though, and the Versa can blend. In fact, it kept up with the best blenders we've tested. It completed all of our tests, even our stress tests. It took a little longer in some cases, and sometimes I had to switch to one of the many accessories, but it can finish any job you throw at it. The tradeoff for the cheaper price is a little bit of time and a lot of tediousness. If you're willing to put up with a few headaches to save a couple hundred bucks, the Oster Versa is a solid buy.
Design and Usability
Starting with its weak spots, the design and usability categories are the reason I can't universally recommend the Oster Versa. The somewhat flimsy pieces don't fit together well, requiring you to fiddle constantly and keep the instruction manual on hand whenever you want to use one of the many accessories. Overall, these pieces take up a lot of space and offer few handy ways to effectively store them. The result is a blending experience that is more difficult than it has to be and never allows you to just pick the thing up and go.
For the $150 price tag, you get a base stand with 1100 watts of power, a 64-ounce jar with a blade attachment and a sealing ring, two smaller 20-ounce cups designed for blending on the go with their own separate blades, and a 5 cup food processor bowl complete with a shredder, a separate piece to attach it to the base, and yet another blade. All food containers are BPA-free plastic.
You can purchase this box of tricks from Oster's website, Amazon, and other major retailers in the United States. You can also find a 1400 watt model for $100 dollars more. Oster has no plans right now to make either Versa available overseas.
The clear plastic jars, black bases and lids, and red accents look fine. The main container even feels sturdy with a top that slides firmly into place, creating an effective seal. It has a feeder cap that turns into place easily, but won't seal like the rest of the lid. I'm not sure why they made such a bulky top with a snug fit along the edges only to make it impossible to seal the container because of the feeder cap, but it still proved convenient from time to time when adding ingredients mid-blend.
For most tasks, 64 ounces of space is plenty and matches even the much higher-end Vitamix 7500 in capacity. To assemble this Oster unit, you'll need to flip it upside down, put the foam sealing ring along the edge of the hole, cover it with the blades, which sit on a thin metal sheet akin to the lid of a soup can, then secure all of that with the large plastic cap which screws onto the bottom of the container. Just make sure you twist this on firmly, and check it yourself out of the box after you give it a wash.
Turn it right-side up and fit the whole container, blades and all, to the base. The plastic cap you screw on over the blades has a star shaped hole which fits onto a small metal spindle, similar to any other Oster model . A squared lip outside of the cap fits over the border of the base to keep it snug, while still allowing you to place the handle at any angle to suit your handedness.
It's a nice balance of flexible positioning combined with the intention of a secure fit, but it's undone by the spindle that turns blades. The jar won't always sit all the way on the spindle and because of the squared lip, you won't be able to help it short of removing the jar and turning the spindle -- an imprecise measure at best -- or reaching in with a utensil and manually spinning the blades. Worse, you often won't notice as the only telltale sign is a very slight wobble as it sits in place.
When you try to blend with the positioning askew, the blades won't turn and the machine will screech like a trapped animal. Sometimes, after I noticed the issue, I'd work the spindle in place by doing a quick pulse while pushing down. Though that worked a majority of the time, a few times I had trouble finding that sweet spot even after several attempts, and it's certainly not good design when, in order to perform a machine's basic functionality, you have to look for a sweet spot.
Sadly, the large jar is the easiest of the various accessories to use. All of its associated pieces are machine washable, or you can blend hot water and a little soap. The food processor attachment fits on the base with a separate plastic cap with a similar hole that fits on the spindle. That cap can't go in the dishwasher, so make sure to set it aside so you don't confuse it with the many other pieces that look similar.
The first time I used it, I put everything in place as shown in the diagram. I turned it on and was greeted by that familiar screeching. I disassembled, reassembled, and tried again, turning and pulsing and trying to fit it the right way -- more screeching. Turns out the plastic cap snaps onto the plastic container. It does say this in the directions, so my struggle was user error, but with the various pieces and the occasionally counterintuitive arrangement, the Oster Versa facilitates lots of opportunity for you to make a mistake.
Once it was working the food processor attachment proved a handy option for multitasking on our challenging tests, but the plastic is flimsy and wobbles while you blend even when you properly fit it. The to-go cups and included lids were a nice touch. You can blend a smoothie in a 20-ounce jar, remove the blades, pop on a lid, and take your drink on the road. But assembling these cups to blend also requires a sealing ring, a separate blade, and a lid, so it's not nearly as simple as similar single serve options such as the Nutri Ninja or the Hamilton Beach Stay or Go .
Features and Performance
Looking at just the design and usability, the Oster Versa seems like a poor product, and it's true that those aspects prove to be large detractions, but the fact that it has tons of features that work well once they're up and running brings this machine quite a bit of redemption. Performance rightfully counts for the most in our assessment and all of its blades and attachments added up to an effective blender.
In addition to all of those physical pieces, you're given a variety of blending options via modes and presets. A dial on the base lets you run the blades at low, medium, or high speed and shift from one to the next as necessary while blending. On the right, buttons for "Dip/Salsa" and "Smoothie/Frozen Drink" run programmed modes that automatically go through different speeds and settings optimized to make the named food types.
The bottom has a button to pulse the blender and a unique option to run the blades in reverse for when food gets stuck. On the left, an on/off button functions like a safety. Press it and it will start to blink, letting you know that the machine is active. Press it again, and you disable all of the other buttons.
I used the presets during testing, and they turned out to work pretty well. Both have smart combinations of speeds and occasionally spin the blades in reverse to keep everything moving. Both options will run the same preset route no matter what, and if something does get stuck, you'll need to finish your food with another mode. Still, for the most part you can make a smoothie by pushing the button and walking away, knowing when the blender stops, your drink is done. That's a nice option to have.
To test the actual performance of the blender, we ran it through our usual series of tests designed to check its basic functionality, its flow, and its ability to work through difficult stress tests. We crush ice, and make smoothies, whipped cream, and pancake batter to start, then up the difficulty by making pesto. We test the limits by trying to work 2 cups of whole almonds into almond flour, then into almond butter without any additives. Finally, we drop in an entire 8-ounce block of cheddar to see what happens.
I started with smoothies. Getting a consistent drink was a slower process than I would have thought given the 1100 watts of power. The Nutri Ninja turned out a great smoothie in 10 to 15 pulses with only 900 watts. After 15 pulses, the Oster Versa still had large chunks of strawberry sitting on top of the mix. It wasn't quite done after 30 pulses. Once I held it down for a few seconds, it finished the job, and it creates a cycle well enough if you let it run, but I wasn't impressed with the speed of this simple task.
Next, I used the smoothie preset, and it started to change my mind. The blender ran on its own for about a minute, turning the blades forward and backward and doing a pretty good job of keeping everything moving. The result was a great drink without any chunks.
The next run on the preset wasn't as successful, one of the strawberries got stuck in the blades early, and I wasn't seeing the same flow that I did the first time. I pulled it off when the run stopped automatically, just to see, and it still turned out better than I expected. A few small chunks hadn't finished processing. I could have easily fixed the issue with an final pulse or two, but it was good to know the preset isn't perfect every time. Though, it came pretty close.
Most budget blenders struggle to crush ice. Given the time it took the Versa to make a smoothie, I expected it would need a bit of help to get through 2 cups. This was the first time the Versa pleasantly surprised me with its performance -- it gave me a fine powdery snow in all three tests within 15 to 25 pulses -- and it wouldn't be the last.
Whipped cream again took longer than I expected, but after 60 pulses, the results looked great and it passed the flip test -- it held its shape and remained in the jar even when I inverted it. Pancake batter showed me the machine's tendency to flick small particles to the walls, and I had to help it get through the mixing process by scraping the sides a few times. Little bits could also be found beneath the blades after it was done, showing that they aren't perfectly positioned to scrape the bottom of the container.
Since the Oster Versa took a little longer than expected on the basics, I doubted it would be able to complete the stress tests. Fittingly, it started to struggle and jam as I tried to turn tightly packed spinach with some spices and oils into pesto. But as soon as I turned down the speed, the blades were able to work through the jam and grab the remaining loose leaves of spinach. I turned it back up once it had worked through the ingredients once and I had smooth pesto in no time. The dedicated food processor attachment did the same task in even less time.
The Oster Versa was even able to turn whole almonds into almond butter, a task usually only mastered by the top end machines. It took 13 minutes, which is longer than our benchmark of 10, and I had to help it by mixing the almonds several times, but those accommodations are more than reasonable for a budget blender.
Oddly, it was the 8-ounce block of cheddar that showed just how well this Oster can work. My surprise after the pesto and almond test was magnified when it decimated the cheese with only a little assistance necessary from me. Even better, it left the small chunks of cheese edible, something many of the high end blenders can't say as they tended to burn the pieces with the heat from their engines and hard working blades.
I tried the cheese again with the dedicated food processor and shredding disk. This time, I wasn't able to fit the whole 8 ounce block, but I cut it in half to make two long pieces, and slid them both down lid's feed tube. It worked like a charm, as the accessory quickly turned both chunks into nicely shredded cheddar. It was the first time any blender cheese test left the result both edible and aesthetically pleasing.
The 20-ounce jars work well, and even made a smoothie a little quicker than its big brother. In all smoothies, I noticed a few collected strawberry seeds after the blending completed, and checked the Versa's ability to break down small things like seeds and stems by putting in a half cup of black peppercorns.
The big jar just bounced them around when I pulsed the blades. Once I left it on, it managed to grind them pretty well, but a few kept bouncing no matter what I did. Thus, in terms of breaking down seeds and stems, an advantage goes to a dedicated smoothie machine like the Nutri Ninja, or the more powerful blenders that decimate everything, like the Ninja Ultima or the Blendtec Designer Series Wildside Blender .
Still, it'll get the job done pretty well. In fact, once you find the right combination of pieces, it'll get every job done pretty well.
Our four main criteria for blenders -- design, usability, features, and performance (with performance as the most highly weighted in determining the final outcome) -- were split down the middle with the Oster Versa. Both design and usability didn't prove poor enough to classify it as broken, but were both notably weak, particularly compared to the other blenders we've tested. That said, the $150 Oster Versa is more diverse than anything below its price range, and it's much better than the $60 Oster Beehive .
In terms of performance, the Oster Versa keeps up with our bests machines that cost twice as much and more, such as the $549 Vitamix 750 and the $259 Ninja Ultima . For the discount, though, you're losing out on sturdier machines that are more compact and easier to use. If that's a sacrifice you're willing to make for the cost, then once you get past the initial learning curve from the myriad accessories, buying the Oster Versa might make you feel pretty smart.