The Vitamix has long been the kitchen appliance that serious home cooks have yearned for. It's what professional chefs have in their arsenal to quickly smooth out soups, make sauces, and juice produce. Sadly, not many of us can play with a Vitamix because of the steep price tag -- they normally run anywhere between $450-$750. And any other blender is pretty much a joke when compared with the power of the Vitamix. (Hamilton Beach doesn't stand a chance here, guys.)
The Ninja, which came out in September of 2013, was advertised as the home cook's answer to the wonders of the Vitamix at a fraction of the price. This blender, starting at $199, depending on the model, claims to perform as well -- if not better -- than the Vitamix. We had our reservations and felt that it was time to put this claim to the test. We compared the Ninja Ultima and the Vitamix 5200.
Since juicing is huge these days, and one of the more difficult tasks for a blender to accomplish, we started out with a green juice recipe to get straight to these blenders' true capabilities. We didn't make the task easy. The juice had ginger (not grated), kale (which we know is almost impossible to juice), apples, cucumber and celery. The results were impressive: see for yourself. (We had a bit of a slow start with the Ninja, but that was our bad.)
The Vitamix has an easy trigger, but the Ninja wants you to push the ON switch like you really mean it.
Both blenders are tearing apart those ingredients. (Remember, the Vitamix got a head start.)
The Ninja's claim to fame is its dual stage blending, which is essentially a second, detachable blade at a higher height in the blender. It helps to powerfully blend ingredients where other blenders get stuck. While it clearly does its job, this piece also makes it a bit of a challenge to add ingredients to the pitcher because it blocks ingredients from finding their way to the bottom. It can also cause ingredients to momentarily get stuck in the top part of the pitcher as it blends (see above).
And in fewer than 60 seconds, we got juice.
What we found was that both blenders were able to completely juice some serious produce. While there was a good deal of pulp in the juice (which is to be expected), all ingredients were perfectly blended. The Vitamix produced a much thinner juice than the Ninja -- even after they were both strained -- but that isn't something that a little water couldn't remedy.
We're not going to lie, we were impressed. But you can't know the true worth of a blender until you know how well it makes a milkshake. So after we drank an entire glass of kale, we got to making milkshakes. And not just any milkshake, but a Klondike Kandy Bar Chocolate Ice Cream Milk Shake. We added two Karamel and Peanuts Klondike Kandy bars, a pint of Ciao Bella's Caramel Bourbon Chocolate Ice Cream and milk. As soon as we turned the blenders on, we had milkshakes. Seriously. It was almost a joke. See for yourself.
While both blenders turned the ingredients into milkshake instantaneously, there was a difference in the texture of the milkshakes. The Vitamix produced a light and airy milkshake while the milkshake made by the Ninja was thick, rich and intense (but equally delicious). The Ninja and its dual stage blending seem to really pulverize the ingredients while the Vitamix creates a suction that cycles the ingredients to the core, which in turn aerates the milkshake. If you're really into milkshakes, this is an important distinction.
With those two essential blender tasks complete, we came to our final assessment of the two brands. There were a few key differences:
- The Vitamix is substantially quieter than the Ninja -- though that does not mean it is quiet by any means.
- The Vitamix is easier to disassemble. The lid of the Ninja is definitely childproof and sometimes feels like it is adult proof.
- The Ninja's dual stage blade part makes pouring the contents of the pitcher a little precarious.
- The Vitamix is bit faster in blending, but we're talking about mere seconds here.
Our conclusion: If you are a stickler for noise and ease (and have the bank roll), the Vitamix is better suited for you. If not, the Ninja will make you sufficiently happy.