Friday, April 3, 2009

Product Review: Blender Showdown, Part 1 of 2 - The Moderately-Priced Oster Beehive vs. Braun PowerMax

As a longtime smoothie drinker, I have searched liquefy and stir (that’s “high” and “low” in blender-talk) for the perfect blender.

I began this search by reading what others had professionally researched, and they – Consumer Reports and America’s Test Kitchen – each decided on a “Best Buy” - a wonderful blender, they said, for a fraction of the cost of the high end blenders. 

That consensus pick was the Braun PowerMax. – a 525-watt blender with a glass jar that is uniquely triangular in shape down to its base. As I recall it was $50 - $60.

Immediately upon using it I was totally underwhelmed. It simply wouldn’t blend ice well enough. How can you possibly make a smoothie with frozen ingredients (as I always do) if it won’t chop the ice thoroughly?

Although it was very quiet, another drawback was its plastic gear drive. Plastic gears wear out far too easily, so I moved on after a few frustrating months. I gave the Braun to my sister who didn’t have a blender at all.

I can only assume that Consumer Reports and America’s Test Kitchen must have only been testing for the easiest blender tasks.

BRAUN POWERMAX RATING – 2/10 due to poor motor design and insufficient blending capability despite the excellent sound design.

The Oster Beehive was about $50 – $60, had a metal gear drive and some good reviews behind it as well. One cool thing I learned about Oster is that it can take a regular mason jar on its base if you want to blend right into a drinking vessel.

Be forewarned, though, that regular mason jars are not approved for that type of use. Still, I tried it with simple tasks and it worked.

The Oster also was unique in that it only had two speeds. I came to realize that, as long as the high speed was sufficient, two speeds was probably enough!

The Oster featured a square glass blending jar atop the metal-driven, 500-watt motor.

The Oster was a bit of an improvement over the Braun regarding frozen ingredients as long as you had enough liquid included and stirred things up a bit while it was running, but it still had some major problems.

Problem #1 – NOISE!!!!!

The Oster company does not do a very good job of sound insulation on this model. I literally had to wear ear protection when using this blender.

I’m not kidding. I kept foam earplugs in the drawer underneath the bar counter where the blender sat to put in my ears before I turned the machine on.

Problem #2 – The blending jar has a rubber gasket between the glass and the plastic base. The base has to be unscrewed after each use or else grimy things start growing. The jar, base, and gasket have to be separately rinsed and cleaned, then put back together every time you use it.

This was a major pain.

Problem #3 – The rubber gasket has to be seated perfectly and not overtightened when the base is screwed back on the jar or else it will get drawn up into the contents and blended causing a ruined smoothie and a broken seal which causes leakage.

After the third time I had to order a three-pack of gaskets, I was ready to move on to a new blender. The Oster went to my sister-in-law who didn’t have a blender yet.

(How can these people not have blenders? Oh yeah – because they, unlike you, my brilliant readers, have yet to discover smoothie greatness.)

OSTER BEEHIVE RATING - 4/10 due to poor noise and blender jar design despite a little better blending ability.

These were supposed to be the Best Buys, the darlings of the professional reviewers, the "just as good as the pricy ones." Having tried the best of these supposedly top-rated, moderately-priced blenders and been completely  disappointed I knew I had to throw in the towel, spend some major cash, and get a high-end blender.

It would come down to two models that I would also come to personally own and test - the Blendtec/Ktec Total Blender/HP3 and the VitaMix 5200 - the subjects of the finale of this series.


  1. I have had my Vita-Mix since the '80's. Wouldn't have anything else. I LOVE it!

  2. I totally agree on the Oster review... I might have even given it a 3 due to the noise. They must have changed something about it, I had one from 2002 and it wasn't loud at all. That one broke, however and I replaced it a year ago. I keep a set of banded earplugs around the base and can't use the d@mn thing without them!