Smart function is impressive
Can blend and cook
Requires compatible containers
App instructions not included with documentation
We purchased the Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender so our reviewer could put it to the test in her kitchen. Keep reading for our full product review.
When it comes to the best blenders on the market, Vitamix is a trusted name. So we were eager to try out one of the brand’s newest smart-series offerings: the Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender. Before it arrived, we made sure we had a good supply of blend-worthy foods, but we ended up running out of ingredients for things we wanted to try. From fruit-forward and decadent to hot and cold, we blended it all. Read on for all the juicy details.
Setup Process: So simple
The instructions suggest filling the blender jar halfway with water, adding a drop of dish soap, and then running the cleaning cycle. It’s a great way to familiarize the user with the machine and clean the container at the same time. Then it’s ready for the first use.
Design: Digital interface
Vitamix blenders aren’t particularly sleek, thanks to the large base that houses the powerful motor, but this one has an interface that looks modern compared to those with rocker switches. It still has a central dial for adjusting the speed, but mode selection, on/off, and pulse are on a touch screen, along with programs for smoothies, frozen desserts, hot soups, dips and spreads, and self-cleaning. When the machine is on low-power mode, a Vitamix logo, resembling a spinning gear, bounces slowly across the display. A touch of one of the controls, and the logo disappears, and the display becomes more informative.
If the blender senses an inappropriate container, an icon will appear on the display, preventing the blender from powering up. This feature is what sets this series apart from its predecessors. The containers communicate with the blender, letting it know which container is in place. While the included container can use any of the machine’s programs, smaller containers, available for separate purchase, can’t handle long blending times that would heat the ingredients. The risk with overheating is that the sealed containers could break or even explode. This machine won’t let that happen.
While no blender is silent, this one is surprisingly less noisy than we’d expect, given its power.
One downside of this Vitamix blender’s jar design, which has the blades permanently installed in the bottom, is that it can be difficult to get the last bits of food out of the container. There isn't a lot of waste, but there’s no easy way to scrape the bottom of the jar.
While no blender is silent, this one is surprisingly less noisy than we’d expect, given its power.
Performance: Powerful, for silky blends
The Vitamix has a reputation for being the gold standard in blenders. It can handle basic kitchen tasks, so we weren’t surprised when our chocolate-banana smoothie was perfectly blended. We also weren’t surprised at the perfectly emulsified mayonnaise. We loved that we could add ice to blended drinks and end up with something that didn’t have shards of chunky ice and instead had a perfect slushie texture.
That was just the beginning. Like other Vitamix blenders, the blades of the A3500 spin so fast that they can heat the food until it steams and cooks when the blender runs long enough. We tossed ingredients for tomato soup into the blender jar, and in under seven minutes, we were able to pour it, steaming hot, into a bowl. We also experimented with the heating capability when we made chocolate pudding that cooked and thickened in less time than it would have taken on the stove—and it was smooth and lump-free.
When we used the blender to mix a cheesecake batter that we usually make in a food processor, we got a slightly airier texture, but it was still delicious when baked. That airiness was just what we wanted when we made a small batch of whipped cream. We also liked adding flavors to cream cheese, whipping it to create a fluffier, spreadable version that was easy to smear on bagels and crackers.
Although it seems like an odd use of a blender, this beast of a machine has the power to knead dough.
The pulse button came in handy for potato pancakes. First, we blended the egg, flour, onion, and some potato until it was almost smooth. Then, we added the rest of the potato and pulsed to get the texture of shredded potatoes without the work.
Although it seems like an odd use of a blender, this beast of a machine has the power to knead dough. Our dough came together in record time and emerged from the appliance, slightly warm and ready to rise.
Features: Must-have app
One of the features we loved most was the Vitamix Perfect Blend app. The app wasn’t mentioned in the manual or cookbook that came with the blender, but we knew it existed from seeing it mentioned online. We found it easily, installed it on our phone (it’s free), and connected it to our blender. The app can pair with a wireless scale (sold separately) that makes it easy to measure ingredients right into the blender jar, but the recipes can be made without the scale as well.
Not only does the app have a huge range of recipes, but it also allows the user to create and save recipes or adjust existing recipes. When we made salad dressing, we liked that we could add more garlic and less dill and save our new version to the app. Additionally, the app can be used to control the blender, but we don’t think we’ll need to do that often since we’ll be close enough to turn the blender on after we’ve added the ingredients. Still, it’s amusing to stand back and turn the blender on.
One option on the app that we liked was the warning when our recipe wouldn’t fit in the container. When we modified a recipe, telling it that we would be using the 8-ounce cup, the app warned us that the ingredients wouldn’t fit until we reduced the quantities.
Cleaning: Almost automatic
The cleaning function on this blender does a great job of making sure the blades and parts of the container are clean, but it’s not a cleaning miracle. The spout, the upper part of the container, and the lid will need a little hands-on attention or at least a good rinse. Still, we loved the self-cleaning mode when we used the blender for thick, sticky, or goopy foods, like peanut butter or bread dough.
We tossed ingredients for tomato soup into the blender jar, and in under seven minutes, we poured it, steaming hot, into a bowl.
Included Items: Just what you need
This machine comes with a 64-ounce, low-profile blending jar that brings the total height to about 17 inches. That’s short enough to slide under standard-height upper cabinets for countertop storage, and, of course, it can be stored with the jar removed for limited spaces. In use, the machine will need to be in front of the cabinets to allow space to remove the lid and add ingredients. The blender also includes a custom tamper that fits through the hole in the center of the lid. This allowed us to push food into the blades without worrying about the tamper hitting the blades.
A small (less than 100-page) hardcover cookbook is included with recipes designed for this blender. We tried a few of the recipes and used a few others for inspiration. While the mayonnaise from the cookbook was a success, we thought it was a bit too eggy—but that’s easy to fix the next time. Of course, other recipes are perfect for this blender.
Besides following recipes, we also had fun making smoothies and shakes using what we had on hand. The important thing, according to the manual, is the order in which you add ingredients. Liquids should be on the bottom, soft foods and dry ingredients in the middle, and frozen foods, ice, and hard ingredients on top. This method ensures proper blending, no matter what the flavors are.
Optional Accessories: You need some of these
While the included blender jar was all we needed, the accessory jars are appealing. We particularly liked the new 8-ounce cup for single servings of dip or chopping herbs for recipes. A 20-ounce container would be appropriate for to-go drinks and large amounts of salad dressing. The Aer Disc Container has a unique blade for whipping, emulsifying, and muddling, while the Dry Grains Container is for grinding grains into flour.
Unfortunately, old-style containers (without the embedded wireless capabilities) can’t be used with this machine. However, all of the new, wireless-embedded containers designed for this machine will work on older blenders.
The wireless scale that pairs with the Vitamix app isn’t necessary, but it’s good to have. The scale can be used without the blender for everyday kitchen tasks, and two additional apps, Apple Health and Google Fit, can integrate with the scale.
With a list price of around $700 (you can find it on sale for under $600), there’s no doubt about it: This is one of the most expensive home blenders you’ll find. It’s even expensive compared to other Vitamix models.
Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender vs. Vitamix E310 Explorian Blender
For someone who longs for the powerful blending of a Vitamix but can’t afford the A3500, the Vitamix E310 Explorian Blender (view at Amazon) has the ability, but not the glitz. It’s about half the price (and can be even less expensive if it’s a refurbished model). The Explorian has toggles for on/off and pulse functions and a dial for speed control, but it doesn’t have any programs for automatic blending. While the A3500 would win our vote for its digital interface and app, the Explorian is more affordable and still has the blending power that Vitamix users love.
After being enthralled by the digital controls and the app and also wowed by the performance, we couldn’t help but fall in love with the Vitamix A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender.
- Product Name A3500 Ascent Series Smart Blender
- Product Brand Vitamix
- MPN A3500
- Price $649.95
- Weight 14.92 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 11 x 8 x 17 in.
- Color Brushed stainless metal finish, black stainless metal finish, copper metal finish, candy apple red, graphite metal finish, white
- Material Metal body, BPA-free Tritan container and tamper
- What’s Included 64-ounce container, tamper, cookbook
- Warranty 10 years