Vitamix Ascent A3500i review: The fancy sports car of blenders
Quick verdict: All the bells and whistles, with a price tag almost as long as the feature list.
- It can do basically everything
- Easy to clean
- Easy to use
- Capacitive touch is terrible in a kitchen environment
- Very expensive
- Has the same motor as the less expensive 2500i
Vitamix is considered to be the luxury car brand of blenders. If that's the case, then the 3500i is a Lamborghini Sián, in that very few people will ever be able to take full advantage of something this expensive, it's not very comfortable to sit in, and the buttons are often inconvenient. I say this as someone who likes Lamborghinis.
At $1,599, the Vitamix A3500i is one of the most expensive consumer blenders on the Australian market – $300 more expensive than the second most expensive, the Vitamix A2500i, which I recently strongly recommended as the best premium blender. You can get more expensive, commercial-grade Blendtec blenders, but they're in a whole different category.
The 3500i has the same motor as the 2500i, but has more pre-set recipes, and a housing that's supposed to block out more noise. Whether a dedicated "spreads" button is worth it for you really depends on how much you're currently spending on nut butters, and whether you'd actually need one-touch nut butter access instead of spending a few minutes adjusting a dial for your nut butter needs.
Vitamix Ascent A3500i review: Design
If you love appliances that look like brutal, black monoliths while taking up a lot of bench space, this really must be a golden time for you. Personally, I like my kitchen appliances to take up as little bench space as possible and blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Because I live in a normal apartment, and not in the world of Tron, the Vitamix 3500i stands out like a sore thumb going through an emo cyberpunk phase. We've all been there.
It doesn't look bad, per se, but it's certainly more of a statement piece than anything. It's got the same jug as the 2500i, which I enjoyed for its large size. But I remain befuddled by the designers' choice to put a jug with a square base on a blender. Sure, it looks cool, but the blades go in a circle, and the corners leave places for chunks to hide. Like, it's fine, it's just occasionally a little more texture than I'm after if I'm making something sticky.
The base is where things are more of a mixed bag. The body is chunky and means business. It's mostly black premium plastic, save for a shiny branded metal moustache (or socks, or loin cloth, depending on how you perceive the blender's anatomy).
Where my irritation comes in is the use of capacitive touch buttons. Capacitive touch has no place in a kitchen where you're going to have wet, sticky, slimy hands. Sure, they're easier to clean in that kind of scenario, but they're hard to press if your hands are the wrong amount of moist or warm.
There is a physical dial for choosing blending intensity, if you're not using one of the pre-set recipes, but with a digital screen rather than numbered notches. I get that the screen is to make it seem more premium, but in these kinds of appliances I always prefer to have non-digital representations of intensity. A nice LCD screen with a timer is a nice touch, but you can still use the blender if that screen becomes unreadable due to misadventure, and I don't think that's the case here.
Once you have to rely too much on a screen to use an expensive appliance, it just becomes one more thing that can fail and shorten the machine's lifespan. That's a personal preference, and because I've only had the blender for 4 months I don't know how the screen will last long term. Maybe it'll outlive us all. But for appliances that are supposed to be simple, I don't like anything outside the core workings to be something that couldn't be easily repaired.
The 3500i's body is also designed to technically reduce the volume of the blending. While I will concede that it's quieter than the 2500i and some other cheaper blenders, it's quieter in that way that 999,999 is a smaller number than 1,000,000. It makes a difference, but not a very meaningful one.
Those issues aside, assuming your hands are the correct amount of moist, it's a very functional design that looks premium, with all the impracticalities that implies.
Vitamix Ascent A3500i review: Performance
While I have used the 3500i for 4 months on a variety of objects, there were 2 main tests I did to compare it to the other 4 blenders I was also reviewing: smoothie smoothing and ice crushing.
On the smoothie test, there was a distinct motor smell, but it wasn't quite as loud as the 2500i, which was a plus. But the jug didn't feel very well attached to the base. It doesn't click in but simply sits on 4 rubber feet. It feels relatively secure, but makes me nervous nonetheless. Still, it didn't give any indication of falling off, so that's good.
I also really liked the consistency of the smoothie. There was still a little texture from the frozen berries (it's a smoothie after all, not a blended juice, so you want a couple of smaller chunks). It wasn't quite as cold as the smoothie from the Tefal blender, because the 3500i motor got a little hot, which is a bonus in soup making, but negative in smoothies. Still, it was cold enough overall, and was my favourite smoothie texture of the others I tried. Although it has the same motor as the 2500i, the pre-sets are slightly different, and it was noticeable in a direct comparison, as the 2500i was the least smooth smoothie of the 5.
I crushed ice for a granita on the frozen dessert setting and it sounded like a plane about to take off. While some of the ice did melt a little, it was by far the best granita consistency of all the blenders. Truly, absolutely the perfect granita. If I was the kind of person that had twice daily granitas year round, rather than just during summer, this would be the blender I would buy. Amazing ice crushing.
Aside from the screen, control method and body of the base, the main difference between the 2500i and 3500i is that the 3500i has an extra 2 pre-sets: cleaning and spreads. Cleaning is kind of a silly one to add (a pre-set for it is unnecessary because you can just put the blender on 10 to get the same result), but the spreads has some merit. If you eat a lot of non-peanut nut butters, this is actually pretty great.
You can roast your own nuts and then make your nut butter with no added oil, and you can add your own spices, if that's your vibe. Now you can achieve the same result on the 2500i by starting at blending speed 1 and then ramping up to 10, but if you like the consistency of the pre-set, it means you can just press 1 button and get on with other stuff, knowing it'll be done without intervention. Maybe you need to make a lot of nut butters, I don't know your life. But nut butter is expensive, and raw nuts are somewhat less so, so this would be a good way to justify the upgrade if you needed to.
Soup is such a weird setting for a blender to have, and I am obsessed. If you want to have hot, frothy soup, pop in some cooked pumpkin and some stock, and press the soup button. I also really like the soup button for making hot chocolates with lumps of cacao, because it makes it nice and hot, and frothy. I'm not sure who actually likes their soup to be frothy, personally I would opt for a cheaper blender and use the savings to buy an immersion blender to just blend the vegetables in the pot for soup, but to each their own.
It's a very easy-to-use, own and set up blender, so long as the capacitive touch buttons work well for you, and you have plenty of bench space.
Should you buy it?
- Buy it if you use your blender to make a lot of spreads and nut butters.
- Don't buy it if nut butters aren't a huge priority for you and you like more tactile controls.
This is a great blender, but it's not peerless and is bloody expensive.
The only 2 extra features it has over the 2500i is really that it has buttons for cleaning and spreads, and both of these are just automatic programs rather than changing the speeds yourself.
You can get the same cleaning cycle on the 2500i by putting the speed up high and waiting for the jug to look clean. And nut butters can be made with plenty of directions easily found on the Internet to suit a variety of consistencies.
The 2500i also has the same motor, so you're not losing any power. These features alone do not justify the extra $300, and I'd argue that the "premium" screen and touch controls make it worse, rather than better. But each to their own.
While I love the power and function of this blender, the 2500i does the same thing for cheaper, and so I would recommend that all but the most hardy nut butter fans opt for the 3500i over the cheaper model.
Vitamix Ascent A3500i review: Pricing and availability
How we tested
I used the Vitamix 3500i for 4 months on a range of different foods. I was lent the blender by Vitamix’s PR company for the purpose of this review.