Vitamix blenders enjoy a loyal following and for good reason. Like the, they have a history of offering impressive power in thoughtfully designed and simple to use packages. Vitamix machines tend to be expensive too and the company's new top tier model, the $620 (£478 in the UK, roughly AU$820 in Australia) doesn't break the mold.
The Ascent 3500 comes close to meeting the expectations I have for a Vitamix product. It's easy to operate and keep clean. It even uses NFC wireless technology to sense its blending jar by itself. That said, the Ascent 3500 doesn't perform as well as one might expect for a Vitamix -- or any blender with such a high price. I'd point you to cheaper yet more capable blenders such as the $260 , $454 and even the older $529 Vitamix 7500, before recommending this one.
Design and features
Everything about the Vitamix Ascent 3500 screams high-end. First off, this appliance is heavy. The machine's base tips the scales at almost 15 pounds (14.9 pounds, 6.8 kg). It feels substantial, too, and that's a good thing. I've found that the heavier the base, the more stable a blender tends to be. It's also a sign the machine has a robust drive chain. With a strong 2.2-horsepower motor, the Ascent 3500 doesn't disappoint here either.
Secondly, the blender has a handsome stainless steel finish that adds to the Ascent 3500's premium appearance. You can choose between two other styles as well, graphite metal or white color schemes.
What's really striking is the Ascent's LED display. Within this black, rectangular strip are white lights that communicate the blender's status. For example you'll see information here for blade speed, elapsed time, or indicating if you've engaged one of the blender's automatic programs.
Five different presets blend ingredients for smoothies, frozen desserts, soups and dips and spreads, all at the push of a button. A final mode runs a cleaning program. All you need do is fill the blender pitcher halfway with hot water and a drop of dish soap before you run it.
A physical "variable speed" dial sits at the center of the control panel. Spinning the knob right or left dials the velocity of the blades up or down. All of the Ascent 3500's other controls are flat, touch-sensitive keys that lie flush with the blender's front face. They include icons for pulse, start and stop, along with plus and minus keys to adjust automatic blending time.
Like many modern blenders, including the, and , the Ascent 3500 comes with a pitcher and blade array joined into one unit. The 3500's 64-ounce jar is on the small side compared with those machines, the Blendtec being the biggest with a 90-ounce capacity.
A blender with high-tech tricks
As a marquee blender, the Vitamix Ascent 3500 is one of a vanguard of appliances with app-connected smarts and other technologies. For instance, the blender base and jar talk to each other through NFC (near field communication) technology. This lets the blender know whether the container is present or not, to avoid potential accidents.
The ability isn't just for safety either. Vitamix says different jars with custom NFC chips will soon help the Ascent alter its auto-blending programs to match the size and style of jar you're using. Vitamix plans to offer 8- and 20-ounce blending containers sometime later this year.
One trick you can do now is use the blender with the Perfect Blend wireless scale and mobile app. Together they walk you through a library of preapproved Vitamix recipes. The scale costs an additional $100, though, and you're already paying a hefty bundle for the appliance.
Performance and usability
The Vitamix Ascent 3500 relies on a 2.2-peak-horsepower electric motor to drive its steel blades. On paper, it gives the machine less power than the Kitchenaid Pro Line Series (3.5 peak HP) and Blendtec Wildside (3.8 peak HP). Even so, the Ascent handled our battery of grueling blender tests well enough, if not spectacularly.
With the exception of our cheese and nut butter trials, we consider a blender to be worth its salt if it can process its given ingredients in 10 to 15 blade pulses.
Many blenders suggest you add a little water along with the ice you plan to pulverise. Regardless, the Ascent 3500 transformed two cups of rock-hard bag ice into an almost snow-like powder in 10 high-speed pulses.