Although I obviously feel it is money well spent, an investment into a high-performance blender is not one that should be made casually. I advise all prospective buyers to research their options as thoroughly as possible. And most do if for no other reason than the price points of the higher-end units. Unfortunately, selecting the right one is not the simplest of shopping experiences. Sorting the numerous manufacturers and corresponding models of super-blenders is one big challenge to overcome. An even greater one, in my opinion, is the abundance of conflicting information from different sources on the very same models. An online search for “Vitamix 5200,” for instance, will yield countless sites offering the consumer everything from short general descriptions to lengthy, bullet-pointed feature, use, and specification lists. Visit more than a couple of them, though, and you’ll be left wondering whether it contains a 1 ½, 2, or 2 ½ horsepower motor. One site says it comes with a co-polyester jar. Another claims it’s polycarbonate. One reviewer will complain about having to use a tamper for all his recipes. Another will claim she never uses hers. A reconditioned Vitamix carries with it a five year warranty. Or is it seven?
When not demonstrating my blenders I spend most of my working hours answering email questions about them. One of the more common inquiries I receive is from those considering multiple models manufactured by Blendtec. Specifically, I’m asked about the differences between the Total Blender and the HP3A. With an abundance of misleading YouTube videos and erroneous reviews and product pages from some of the world’s leading online retailers, I wonder little why confusion abounds amongst those trying to educate themselves prior to buying. To be certain, both are great machines. But there are minor differences in user interface and, perhaps, not-so minor purchasing considerations of which prospective buyers will want to make themselves aware.
Also known as the Blendtec Home Blender, the HP3A is a revision of the popular K-TEC Champ HP3 model introduced commercially by Blendtec’s parent company in the mid-1990s. Originally designed for coffee and smoothie shops, it was the first high-performance blender on the market containing a microchip allowing for pre-programmed blending cycles. The transformation into the current HP3A model primarily involved a revision of this programming. The Total Blender was introduced in late 2004 as the company’s first model designed specifically for home use. Also utilizing Smart-Touch Tec-nology™, it is considered by Blendtec to be the more user-friendly of the two machines.
Both the Total Blender and HP3A are made in Blendtec’s Orem, Utah, manufacturing facility. Both contain the same 13 amp, 1560 watt motor and are available in identical motor base finishes in the FourSide, WildSide, and Combo container packages. Whereas the Total Blender is sold online directly through Blendtec and its authorized affiliates, the HP3A is available through dealers. When purchased through any of its authorized agents, both models carry a 7 year manufacturer’s warranty. Recipe books and user manuals are included with both units as well.
From a practical usage standpoint, the two machines separate themselves via distinctly different control panels and user interfaces. The panel on the Total Blender consists of nine buttons, six of which are labeled with the specific functions each performs. These are known as “blend cycle” buttons. In total there are thirteen functions labeled across the six blend cycles. Additionally, two buttons allow the user to manually select any of the blender’s ten speeds up and down, and the Pulse button will spin the blender’s blades at medium-high speed for only as long as it is held depressed.
Every recipe in the book Blendtec includes with the Total Blender can be achieved by loading the correct ingredients into the container, locating the corresponding blend cycle button on the panel, and pressing it a single time. The machine will run for the proper length of time, as well as change speeds as necessary, before stopping itself after having performed the particular operation selected. Should the user wish to stop the blender while it is running on any of its pre-programmed or manual cycles, any of the blend cycle buttons on the panel will do so when pressed. An even more in-depth look at the user interface can be found in this review of the Total Blender.
The interface on the HP3A involves a combination of the control panel, also containing nine buttons, and the blue LED screen just below it on the front of the blender. A Pulse button and Speed Up/Down buttons work just like those on the Total Blender. Twenty-five blend cycle settings are accessed by using the Select Cycle Menu button to choose one of five categories which appear digitally on the screen, then the Speed Up/Down buttons (which serve a dual purpose of navigating the cycle options), also appearing on the screen, within the category. Examples include “Ice Cream,” “Granita,” “Ice Cappuccino,” “FullStrength™”, and “Soup.” To prepare a soup, for instance, after loading the container with the proper ingredients, the user would press the Select Cycle Menu two times to reach the “Whole Foods” category. Next he or she would press the Speed Up button four times to reach the “Soup” cycle, then press the Start/Stop button once to commence blending. In this example, various buttons must be pressed a total of seven times to prepare soup compared to one button one time with the Total Blender. Once a cycle starts, the HP3A, like the Total Blender, is programmed to change speeds as necessary during the blending operation to achieve the desired results and stop once this has been performed. The four remaining buttons on the panel are pre-set buttons which may be programmed with the user’s choice of any of the aforementioned cycles.
The pre-programmed cycles on the HP3A are calculated specifically for those recipes that come in the book included with the machine. Following the recipe as called then navigating to and selecting the appropriate blend cycle will yield expected results. The further the user deviates from a recipe in terms of either ingredient ratios or the ingredients themselves, however, the more likely either experimentation with a different blend cycle or reliance on the manual controls will become necessary. It is for this reason that more experienced users of the machine will likely find themselves often bypassing the pre-programmed cycles, opting instead to manually control the machine via the Speed Up/Down buttons in order to achieve a desired result.
As mentioned earlier, online purchases of the Total Blender can be made only through Blendtec, itself, or one of its authorized affiliates. An order will always be finalized through the official checkout page at Blendtec.com, thus assuring customers of a genuine Blendtec unit carrying with it a complete manufacturer’s warranty. Pricing on the Total Blender does not vary from Blendtec to its affiliates. The HP3A is available only through dealers, and online orders are placed through the dealer’s individual site. Any HP3A sold from an authorized Blendtec dealer will also carry a complete manufacturer’s warranty. The warranty is voided, however, should a unit be purchased from a non-authorized seller. For this reason, verifying the authorization status of the dealer should be of primary importance to anyone considering the purchase of an HP3A.
Blendtec’s customer service team is available by phone or email to answer technical or operational questions about either the Total Blender or the HP3A. It also processes warranty-related issues for both models. Unit returns, however, are at the discretion of the dealer with the HP3A whereas Blendtec’s return policy applies to the Total Blender. Purchased either from Blendtec or one of its authorized agents, owners of either model should feel confident they are in possession of one of – if not the – finest quality high-performance blenders on the market today.