Oster Versa Performance Blender review: Oster's Versa proves powerful but tedious

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MSRP: $149.99

The Good For $150, the Oster Versa gives you the tools you need to blend anything you can think to throw at it.

The Bad Managing its many accessories is confusing and tedious, and a lot of the plastic pieces are flimsy.

The Bottom Line Using this blender is a pain, but once you get it up and running, it can keep up with machines that are more than twice as expensive.

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7.6 Overall
  • Performance 9
  • Usability 5
  • Design 7
  • Features 10

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.

So many pieces... Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

The feeder cap is convenient, but doesn't seal as well as the rest of the lid. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

The spindle turns the blades. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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 food processor attachment is tedious to assemble. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

Lots of presets to use. Colin West McDonald/CNET

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.

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