Smoothies can be a great way to energize for the day, tide us over between meals, refuel fast after a workout, or just sneak down a few servings of greens in drinkable form. But making your own smoothies has one vital requirement: owning a blender that can successfully crush ice, blend fruit, and chop greens into a beverage that you’ll find appetizing.
We’re spoiled in the Spright office with a Vitamix — but even we had our suspicions that a $500+ blender might be overkill for a smoothie. On the other hand, would cheaper and less powerful blenders be capable of creating smoothies we’d actually want to drink — without taking forever, being excessively noisy, or leaving us with a weird, chunky blend?
We decided to find out.
- Ninja Kitchen System 1200 ($160)
- Magic Bullet NutriBullet Pro 900 Series ($135)
- Vitamix 5200 Series ($550)
- Oster MyBlend 250 Watt Blender ($25)
Quite a price range, we know! So how did we pick these four? The Vitamix seems to be the gold standard of consumer blenders right now, with the price tag to match. The Ninja is often marketed as a worthy Vitamix alternative for those who can’t quite stomach the cost. The Magic Bullet is a classic for smoothie fans (thanks especially to some memorable infomercials). As for the Oster, we just had to know: Can something retailing for just $25 hold its own against a blender literally 20 times its price?
We made two smoothies in each blender, picking recipes with a few ingredients that would theoretically throw lesser blenders for a loop. The recipes: the Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie (hurdles: globby nut butter, chalky cacao powder, spinach), and the Piña Kale-Ada (hurdles: whole ice cubes, raw kale).
For each, we tracked the time it took to make a smoothie that looked blended, whether the smoothie actually was blended when we poured it out, ease of cleaning between smoothies, and other factors (noise, ease of use) that affected our experience.
Performance wise, the Vitamix and the Magic Bullet were largely neck-and-neck. Given its size and price, the Oster held up surprisingly well, but it has a few issues with its overall ease of use. The big loser was the Ninja, which didn’t come anywhere close to blending as well as the other three — which was especially obvious when it came to dealing with the ice and the kale.
THE BLENDER: Ninja Kitchen System 1200 ($160)
The bottom line: The Ninja technically gets the job done, but its smoothies are noticeably chunkier than the ones from other blenders in this test. As a result, drinks made with the Ninja don’t hide greens (or nut butter) well.
Pros: This particular Ninja model comes with two pitchers (72-ounce and 40-ounce) for making batches of different sizes. Others come with a portable cup attachment specifically for smoothies. The push-button system allows for hands-off operating — just load the ingredients, turn the Ninja on, and walk away. The clear pitcher makes it easy to see what you’re getting before you pour the smoothie out. While we only tested smoothies, the Ninja is a full-featured blender, so it can do things like make sauces and knead dough.
Cons: The Ninja was far worse than every other blender in this test at chopping fresh ingredients or crushing frozen ingredients. The results were particularly apparent when we poured the smoothies into glasses side-by-side: The Ninja smoothies had much larger pieces of spinach and kale, and the less-crushed ice resulted in a chunkier texture.
Worth the price: No
Spright editor Kimra says: This is the blender I currently have at home, and I’m honestly not at all surprised at how it performed in this test. It’s better at making smoothies than the very basic blender I had before — which mostly just whirred and whined without even attempting to crush ice — but compared with others in this test, that’s not saying much! The Ninja does pull its weight for some things beyond smoothies, but I think I’d be happier with a different blender.
THE BLENDER: Magic Bullet NutriBullet Pro 900 Series ($135)
The bottom line: The Magic Bullet may have a bit of an infomercial-stained history, but we were impressed by how well it did the thing it was designed to do: blend up smoothies fast.
Pros: The Magic Bullet absolutely obliterated both types of greens in this test, making them almost invisible in the final smoothies. The smoothie texture was second only to the Vitamix — creamy and mostly smooth, though not without flaws (see below). It was fast and simple to clean between tests, and it has the best balance of performance to kitchen space required.
Cons: When the Magic Bullet missed, it missed big. We found a few large chunks of ice in our otherwise perfectly smooth pineapple smoothie and some gobs of peanut butter in the chocolate-banana one. It was also noticeably louder when crushing ice. Its short cord somewhat limits kitchen placement, and while it theoretically can do other things, it’s really designed for smoothies.
Worth the price: Yes
Spright co-founder Molly says: This is my Magic Bullet, and we got it for one reason: to make smoothies. We were actually given two blenders for our wedding and literally never used either of them since even getting them out seemed like such a chore. When we got the Magic Bullet, our house was a magic smoothie zone for a solid month. It took up so much less counter space so it was able to sit out without being annoying. It’s also very easy to clean, and making a smoothie straight into a cup to take to work is really convenient if you’re into that sort of thing.
THE BLENDER: Vitamix 5200 Series ($550)
The bottom line: If you’re looking for a blender that can do all the things, the Vitamix may justify its price — but it’s a lot to manage for a simple smoothie.
Pros: The Vitamix made the best-blended smoothies in the shortest amount of time. (It didn’t even need the full 30 seconds we allocated for the icier smoothie.) Its smoothies generally had the best texture and the smallest flakes of greens — and they were consistent throughout, with no surprise globs or chunks.
Cons: The pitcher is large and the base is heavy, so hauling it out just for a smoothie can feel like a chore. The Vitamix likes to say it “cleans itself” but if you do need to wash it by hand, it’s not the easiest to wrangle.
Worth the price: Not for smoothies alone; if it’s also your main blender, perhaps.
Spright CEO Carnet says: I love my Vitamix, and I use it for everything. It’s so powerful, easy to use, and easy to clean. I’m not at all surprised it had the best results of all the blenders in this test. It can do anything!
THE BLENDER: Oster MyBlend 250 Watt Blender ($25)
The bottom line: If your main goal is making a daily smoothie for yourself, this little blender outperforms its price.
Pros: We were skeptical, but the Oster MyBlend made a totally decent smoothie in the same amount of time as the more powerful blenders in this test. It was even smoother than the Ninja’s attempt (though it had more visible spinach and kale than the Vitamix and Magic Bullet versions). It’s small and easy to store, and it comes with a travel cap so you can unscrew the blender bottle and go.
Cons: The narrow blender cup isn’t the easiest to fill (we made a mess with some of our ingredients) and it’s also not the easiest to clean with a sponge because of the small opening. There’s also a cap on the amount of ingredients you can use: We had to leave some of the ice cubes out of the pineapple smoothie because they just wouldn’t fit.
Worth the price: Yes
The Spright staff says: After months of using a Vitamix, we couldn’t believe that a $25 blender could possibly be up to the task, but the Oster’s performance made us reconsider single-serving blenders. Who’s it best for? Probably someone with a small kitchen, a regular smoothie habit, and no other mouths to feed.
IN CONCLUSION …
Before picking a blender for smoothie-making, we recommend considering a few factors:
- Primary use. What’s most important to you in terms of different potential uses? We focused on smoothies, but some blenders can do much more — from chopping vegetables to making pesto to — in the case of the Vitamix — whipping up hot soup. On the other hand, using a heavy-duty blender just to make a smoothie can feel like an ordeal when compared to using a tool made more specifically for blending beverages. It’s important to consider if you want one appliance for all your kitchen needs, or if you’d rather optimize for a specific task like smoothie making.
- Size and storage. Do you have a big kitchen or a tiny nook? How many accessories (extra bowls, blades, etc.) will you need to store? Know your kitchen well enough to assess how much space you have for your blender.
- Accessories. Are you often taking your smoothies on the go? If so, being able to blend right into a travel cup might be handy. If that’s not you, or you already have a preferred vehicle for your smoothies, that could matter less.
- Noise. How sensitive are you — or those you live with! — to the noises of blending and ice crushing? If you’re trying to blend in the early mornings with a snoozing spouse or roommate, a quieter blender may have its virtues.
Ultimately, the Magic Bullet NutriBullet Pro 900 Series turned out to be our happy medium: small enough to store and clean efficiently in an average-sized kitchen, yet powerful enough to make a smooth blend. If you’re looking for a blender that can do everything, then yes, the Vitamix may be worth the money — though we’re hoping to compare it to other higher-end blenders before making a final recommendation. All in all, if your main focus is whipping up smoothies on the regular, the Magic Bullet can do the job for about a quarter of the price.
If you’re a single apartment-dweller or just want to see if you like the smoothie lifestyle without spending a ton, the Oster MyBlend is worth a shot, considering it only costs as much as a week of Jamba Juices. Skip the Ninja unless there’s a particular feature you need that only it has.