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Vitamix Ascent 3500 review: The Vitamix Ascent 3500 doesn’t perform like a $620 blender

The Ascent 3500 had no trouble blending smoothies.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

Smoothies

The Ascent 3500 only needed 8 pulses to blend frozen strawberries and orange juice into a drinkable slurry with a few noticeable chunks. After 10 pulses on high speed, the mixture was completely smooth and ready to drink.

I was also able to liquify OJ, frozen strawberries, plain yogurt and honey into a properly blended mixture in 50 seconds using the smoothie program.

Blending the ingredients into a proper pesto wasn't a problem.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Pesto

Making pesto in the Vitamix Ascent 3500 wasn't difficult, either. The machine achieved pesto after 15 pulses (high speed) but was most of the way there after 10 pulses.

Whipped cream

Our whipped cream challenge wasn't quite as easy for Ascent. Heavy cream in the blending jar was still runny after 10 pulses. It was only after 15-plus pulses, then spinning the blades on high for 15 seconds, that the blender created a thick and fluffy topping.

Pancake batter

Blending up a smooth pancake batter in the Ascend 3500 was also a breeze. After 30 seconds ramping up from slow to high speed, I had a consistently smooth liquid mixture.

The Ascent's Achilles heel.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Almond butter

One of the toughest tasks we ask of blenders is to create nut butter from dry, raw almonds. A few powerful machines such as the Blendtec Wildside, KitchenAid Pro Line Series, and Vitamix 7500 completed the challenge in under 8 minutes.  

The Ascent 3500, I'm afraid, did get there eventually -- but needed a full 45 minutes. Additionally, I had to take frequent breaks to open its jar and vigorously stir the contents by hand, otherwise the blades spun uselessly.

One of our toughest torture tests is processing a block of cheddar cheese into small bits. The Ascent accomplished this without much help.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Shredded cheese

The ultimate torture test we've devised is to drop an 8-ounce block of sharp cheddar cheese into a blender's pitcher, flip the switch, and see what happens. The Ascent machine impressively obliterated the gummy cheese into edible shreds in 10 pulses. I did have to shake the blending jar once, however, to dislodge the cheese block when it became trapped out of reach of the blade.

This curry-carrot soup made in the Ascent turned out very well.

Tyler Lizenby/CNET

The clean-up

Using a blender is messy by nature, but thankfully the Vitamix Ascent 3500 is a snap to keep clean. The automated cleaning mode effectively removes larger bits of debris from the jar and blade array.

Still, to get the pitcher fully spotless in a jiffy, there's still no substitute for scrubbing by hand. Thankfully this is relatively painless since the pitcher mouth is wide and its insides are within easy reach. Keep in mind the container is also dishwasher safe.

Conclusion

Let me be clear: the $620 Vitamix Ascent 3500 is a quality blender and under most circumstances will successfully meet the blending challenges you throw its way. It also has intuitive controls and numerous automatic blending programs, and it's easy to rid of food grime and gunk. Of course, the same is true of its predecessor, the $529 Vitamix 7500. The 7500 may not come with a jar and base that converse over NFC wireless, but it's also $100 less and performs better.      

Likewise, the more-affordable $260 Ninja Ultima and $454 BlendTec Wildside didn't stumble on our nut butter trial either. That's why I advise buying one of these models instead, even if you have extra money to burn.    

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