If you’re a smoothie enthusiast or just a fan of quality kitchen gear, you know that the Vitamix is a revered blender brand. You see Vitamixes in restaurant kitchens and piña colada bars all over the country for a good reason: They’re great blenders. But they’re also extremely expensive at $400 and up. So we set out to find the best alternative that’s cheaper.

The challenge was pretty simple. After all, the blender’s number one job is blending, so if any given Vitamix alternative didn’t come close in terms of doing a variety of blending jobs, we eliminated it from the challenge. We also considered each blender’s design, including how easy it was to maintain as well as the warranties offered. Price was also a huge consideration, which is why we narrowed down our list of Vitamix alternatives to blenders that were about half the price of the $450 Vitamix 5200, the company’s most popular model.

The Contenders

Along with the Vitamix 5200, the blenders we tested were the $180 Cleanblend Classic Blender, the $200 Dash Chef Series, the $230 Ninja Smart Screen Kitchen System, the $200 Oster Versa Pro Series Blender (with low profile jar), and for good measure the $520 Vitamix A3300 smart blender. They’re all great blenders, and each one has some quirks that might you might love or hate.

The Cleanblend Classic Blender looks a heck of a lot like a Vitamix with a boxy base, 1,400-watt motor, a sturdy 64-ounce jar that sits neatly on top, and simple controls. There’s just an on/off switch, a pulse switch, and a speed dial. It was effectively the most affordable blender we tested, too. Although the Cleanblend’s website shows a retail price of $500, the model has been on sale there for $250 since we started working on this project at the beginning of this year. And right now, you can buy it on Amazon for $180, and that includes a five-year full warranty.

The Dash Chef Series is a striking-looking appliance that comes in a range of colors. Standing nearly two-feet-tall, it’s also just big. The controls offer six presets for specific blending jobs, but also depend on digital buttons to control speed, time, pulse, and power. The whole setup is more complicated than the Vitamix 5200 and the Cleanblend. The Dash’s one-year limited warranty also doesn’t offer a lot of peace of mind.

The Ninja Smart Screen Kitchen System, however, was easily the most complicated blender we tested—and weaker with just a 1,000-watt motor. It’s built to do all kinds of things like food processing and vacuum blending and ice cream making, and maybe obviously, there’s a lot going on. As the name implies, the Smart Screen Kitchen System uses a touchscreen interface and lacks physical controls. It also comes with seven different components, including a FreshVac Pump, to suck the air out of the blender. Like the Dash, the Ninja has just a one-year limited warranty.

The Oster Versa Pro Series Blender manages to toe the line between simple features and handy presets. There’s a big knob that doubles as the on/off switch as well as a button for pulse, and three buttons for programmed blends. This makes it easy to start blending quickly and handle the whole job with one touch. The Oster Versa also has a 1,400-watt motor, a 64-ounce jar, and a seven-year limited warranty.

The Vitamix 5200 was the model to beat in this competition. Its streamlined controls include an on/off switch, a toggle between high speed and variable speed, as well as a speed control knob for when it’s in variable mode. The blender draws 1,380-watts of power from a two-horsepower motor. (Note: the nuances between wattage and horsepower of a blender are complicated, which is part of why we focused our tests on actual blending performance.) The Vitamix also has a 64-ounce jar. Notably, the Vitamix has a seven-year full warranty.

The Vitamix A3300 Smart Blender, finally, was the most expensive model we tested and certainly the most sophisticated. It’s slightly more powerful than the Vitamix 5200 with a 2.2-peak horsepower motor. The controls are also more advanced, since there’s a pulse button, speed control, as well as a built-in timer. As part of Vitamix’s Ascent smart blender series, the A3300 also features a Bluetooth connection that lets you connect the blender to an app on your phone that has all kinds of custom programs. The Vitamix A3300 comes with a 10-year full warranty, which was the best of the bunch.

Now obviously, we didn’t include the Vitamix A3300 in our tests to see if it’s better than a Vitamix since it is a Vitamix. We just wanted to include it to see if the ultra fancy features on the A3300 could account for the $100 price difference between this model and the popular Vitamix 5200. Now, on to the tests.

The Tests

We tested all of these contenders by blending as much as we could over the course of a week. By the end of the week, we narrowed the field down to three: the Vitamix 5200, the Cleanblend, and the Oster Versa. Then we staged a battle royale, in which we took three recipes from Simply Blending, the cookbook that Vitamix includes with its blenders, and compared the results from each. We wanted to see how the non-Vitamix blenders compared to the Vitamix blender using recipes designed for a Vitamix.

The three tests were relatively simple. We made peanut butter to see how the blenders handled nut butters. We used made kale-strawberry-pineapple smoothies to test how well the blenders could pulverize the strawberry seeds and liquify the fiber in the pineapple. And we also made whole fruit margaritas to see how the blenders handled ice, fruit, and booze.

It wasn’t a huge surprise when the Vitamix 5200 emerged as the best of the bunch, but it was remarkable how close the Cleanblend comes to matching the performance of the Vitamix.

The Winner

As such, the Cleanblend Classic Blender is the best blender you can buy that’s not a Vitamix. Part of what makes the Cleanblend such a pleasure to use is how simple it is. Simplicity is part of what makes the Vitamix 5200 so popular, too. With both the Cleanblend and the Vitamix 5200, you flip a switch, and it blends. You turn a knob, and it blends faster. It’s great for a chef of any skill level.

What makes the Cleanblend really special is how its performance rivals that of the Vitamix 5200. Perhaps the most interesting test we put these blenders through was making peanut butter, and this was where we immediately saw the Cleanblend’s appeal. According to Vitamix’s recipe, you just add two cups of peanuts to the blender for one minute, and then you’ve got creamy peanut butter. The Vitamix 5200 handles this recipe well, but some of our loser blenders just made chopped nuts. The Cleanblend, however, managed to create an almost perfect creamy peanut butter after about two-and-a-half minutes of blending. The Oster Versa also made peanut butter eventually, but it was a much chunkier mess.

Smoothies were a different sort of challenge. The Vitamix 5200 did the best job, yielding a remarkable silky smoothie in less than a minute. But the Cleanblend’s results were pretty darn close to what the Vitamix could do. The Cleanblend smoothie had some unsmashed strawberry seeds in it and wasn’t quite as smooth as the one from the Vitamix. The difference was very slight, however. As with the peanut butter, the Oster Versa came in third with more seeds and chunks.

What was an especially remarkable test for the Cleanblend was one for whole fruit margaritas—and not just because tequila was involved. In this test, we dumped peeled lemons, limes, and oranges into the blenders, along with their seeds. Only the Vitamix 5200 and the Cleanblend managed to produce perfectly slushy margaritas. The extent to which both blenders produced similar results goes to show that, for some tasks, you don’t need a Vitamix for a great blend.

The Losers

The Oster Versa emerged as the real standout in the group of losing blenders. Although it came in third place, it did make it to the battle royale and hold its own against the very best blenders. We liked how it incorporates just three presets, which proved handy without overwhelming us with buttons or touch screens. The fact that it can make peanut butter in about three minutes also goes to show that it’s a super powerful machine. And at $200, the Oster Versa is more affordable than a Vitamix 5200. We’d recommend it as a Vitamix alternative, if the Cleanblend isn’t for you.

We can’t recommend the rest of the losers. The Dash is so big and bulky that we managed to knock it off the kitchen counter while blending, which is not ideal with an appliance that has spinning blades inside. Meanwhile, the Ninja is so complicated that it’s almost in a different category than dead-simple, do-everything blenders like the Vitamix and the Cleanblend. It’s also the weakest blender we tested.

Then there’s the posh $550 Vitamix A3300. It’s the most powerful blender we tested but also one of the bulkiest with a base that weighs 12 pounds. The controls also felt very un-Vitamix because, with the exception of the speed knob, everything is touch sensitive. This seems like it could get annoying in a messy kitchen situation. It might even be more annoying to whip out your smartphone and use an app to blend, which is part of what makes the Vitamix Ascent Series special. Seriously, who wants to blend stuff with their smartphone?

The Best Vitamix Alternative

It’s the Cleanblend, but there’s a caveat. In the time we were researching, the Cleanblend Classic Blender was widely available for less than $200. You can buy it directly from Cleanblend for $250 right now. That said, the appliance has a list price of $500, which is too much. For $500, you might as well buy a Vitamix 5200 and then spend the extra $50 on smoothie supplies.

So if you’re looking for value, look for the Cleanblend on sale. If it’s not your style, the Oster Versa is another excellent option, especially since it has some handy preset buttons. Just don’t feel like you need to buy a Vitamix to get a fantastic blender. It’s just not true.

About the author

Adam Clark Estes

Senior editor at Gizmodo.

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