Here is a video showing the differences between the Vitamix 5200 and the A3500. Helpful if you’re trying to figure out which Vitamix to get.
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Recon 5200 (Certified Reconditioned Standard)
Alright, I see you’re dealing with some A3500, 5200 indigestion. Here are the ten things you ought to consider to make sure you don’t mess this up.
First of all, height. The 5200 next to the A3500 is about four inches taller. And that may not seem like a big difference, but it’s enough to keep it from fitting under your cabinets on your counter, fully assembled. Now, if you work in a commercial kitchen or you don’t mind having it live on your counter disassembled, or if you’re fine moving it up and down to your workspace, it might make sense.
Why would you want that taller container? Well, you have to value the advantages over its disadvantages, and I’ll show you all of those in one second.
But first, you need to see the safety differences.
And to keep it positive, we’re going to focus on the A3500, which feels like it was designed to live in a home with a family. The A3500 has a secondary on/off switch on the side. So without it on, you can’t turn the machine… on.
Once you do turn it on, it always starts at variable speed one. This is because the variable speed controlsare kind of like a dial on the radio in your car where it spins infinitely. It’s electronically controlled versus mechanically controlled. You can turn the dial to infinity, and it would always come back to one. [click] [click]
And finally, if you knock off the container on the A3500, the motor stops. It recognizes that the container is off and it stops spinning.
So that’s triple extra safety where the 5200 has none of that. Assuming it’s plugged in, you flip it on and it’s turning on. And it’s starting where you left it off. So if you left on a Variable Speed 10, it’s firing up at Variable Speed 10. And if you knock the container off the base, there’s nothing stopping the motor.
But top chefs are professionals without children roaming around or cats or — They don’t have to worry about that stuff.
But what’s surprising is how each delivers a unique user experience without very much overlap at all.
The A3500 has five programs and a programable timer, both giving you that walk away blending. You want to make start-to-finish tomato soup and an A3500 you press one button, start walk away and it stops when it’s done. You want to blend your family’s secret green juice recipe that’s available to everyone in the world. Press the timer. 60 seconds, Start, walk away. Counts down when it’s done and stops. It’s exactly how you run a microwave. There’s a popcorn button you can walk away from and there’s a timer that you can set.
With the 5200, you can walk away, but if you get tied up, there’s no stopping the machine from stopping. And your tomato soup may reduce to the point of tomato paste.
Sticking with the controls, the A3500 has a dedicated pulse button which gets you quick bursts at your desired speed. Great for things like salsa, where you want precise control of how long you’re blending and at what speed. And while the 5200 doesn’t have a pulse button, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. You can kind of get that effect by just using the on/off switch. Set it to the speed you want. Flip it on, flip it off. That’s a pulse.
Now, if you’ve done any research on Vitamix at all, you probably know that the Vitamix runs most effectively and most efficiently at high speed. It’s when the fans kick on and keep it from overheating. On the A3500, you get there automatically– to high speed–when you go to 10. But on the 5200, you need to flip the switch, which kicks it into high gear.
Now, if it feels like the A3500 is crushing the 5200 from a user experience perspective, we’re going to balance the scale a little bit and talk about the containers. And I’m not talking the shape — wide versus narrow. We’ll get to that in a second. Look at the A3500’s handle. It’s just an extension of the container. Whereas the 5200 has this lovely rubber grip. But that’s not the only rubber versus not difference. Look at the tops. The 5200’s top is a rubber, sort of, squishy top with a plastic plug. The A3500’s top is made of the same material as the container that Triton clear plastic. One is clearly easier to clean than the other. But, the A3500’s top is the only one that clicks [click] when it’s secured in place. And this all but eliminates the chance of you turning on your machine with a container full of ingredients, and having a smoothie volcano eruption. Click, click. [click]
But you remember how the 5200 is what top chefs use? They don’t care about this final point about the 5200’s container and that it’s not dishwasher safe. The A3500 container is, on the other hand, dishwasher safe. You can just throw it in, run it like all your other dishes. And this is great for home cooks whose dishwasher is an appliance versus an hourly employee
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Let’s look at the design. Top chefs choose the 5200 because of its industrial design. It’s black on black. But the A3500s are made to be a complement to your kitchen’s design. Have stainless steel appliances? You can’t go wrong with a Brushed Stainless Finish. Got that Restoration Hardware look? Look, there’s a Copper for you. Want gunmetal? Check out Black Stainless. Are you an MKBHD fan? We have matte black for your matte black everything kitchen. That one’s called Graphite. Got those gold knobs and pulls? Choose a Gold Label. There’s an all white. A gold on gold. Matte Navy. Sage.
But there’s a reason the A3500 is designed to live in your counter, and that’s because of its compatibility.The A3500 can become basically two machines in one when you add a food processor attachment. So not only are you doing the standard Vitamix things: Smoothies, hot soups and ice cream…nut butters; but you can also get into the handful of things that standard Vitamix containers cannot do: Slicing. So making those fancy salads, falafel balls, hash browns, all those raw food recipes you might have seen in addition to the FPA, the Food Processor Attachment, the A3500 is uniquely compatible with the 8-ounce and the 20-ounce containers. Not to mention the A3500 will be compatible with any future attachments that require a machine that has Self-Detect technology. So that leaves the 5200 kind of standing on its own. It does have a Personal Cup Adapter. So that’s the 20-ounce with that big collar on it, which is an acceptable solution for making those small-batch items.
And if you’re thinking, “well, can’t I just jam those attachments onto the 5200?” You physically can’t get the 5200 to drive the Food Processor Attachment, the 8-ounce– But you know what? That’s by design. Commercial kitchens where top chefs work have the space. They don’t need a do-everything full-kitchen system like these A3500s.
Smoothies and sauces
The 5200 only needs to be good at a few things and those few things it’s very good at. Let me show you. Smoothies and sauces. The 5200 is the household name for the machine that you’ll see at most commercial kitchens and smoothie shops. The narrow-bodied 64-ounce container is ideal for making smoothies. It’s a thing of beauty watching it make smoothies. Like it’s just a clean, efficient –Look, it takes a sec to pull everything down, but once it does, there’s no splash. It just kind of stays contained. Chefs also use a 5200 as a finishing tool when they’re making their sauces, their purees, and their soups, to give it that light, velvety, sort of, creamy mouthfeel that you can’t get with a food processor or a Vitamix alternative. And with those two tasks, smoothies and sauces, you can make batches as small as two cups — two or three cups. Now the A3500’s container can make smoothies and sauces and soups equally well equally velvety.
I want to point out that when testing smoothies side-by-side, A3500 and 5200, you can see that the flow of ingredients is different. The one in the A3500 is more chaotic. But for whatever reason, the color that came out of it was a little brighter, a little less brown. A lot of factors here: Could be the cutting board that was to the side. I kind of switched the cups to see if the cup was reflecting the brown wood cutting board. Could have been that the 5200 had one weird piece of greens in there that was turning everything brown. I’m not sure. I can’t think of a scientific explanation for why that would be. Certainly the shapes of the containers are different. And the size of the blades are different. The A3500’s blade is four inches versus three inches on the 5200. The main difference between these two containers is that with the A3500, you just need to make a little more. And I’ll show you a few more examples of this in a second.
In the A3500’s defense, in defense of the low-profile 64-ounce container, we’ve made Frappuccinos as small as 12 ounces without the need for a tamper, smoothies be. But it would have a tough time making one cup of pesto. For that you would need a second container. The 48-ounce which is narrow-bodied, just like the one that comes with the 5200.
Ice cream and nut butter
A top chef in a fancy restaurant is probably going to have an ice cream maker. but you can make ice cream in a 5200 just like you can in A3500. The difference is that the 5200 requires at least three cups of those hard ingredients, whereas the A3500 needs four cups.
So this feels like a lot of functional benefits to having the 5200. You don’t need another container. You don’t have to make as much.
But let me show you why we like the low- profile 64.
Chopping, batters and soups
Every week we make a coarsely chopped detox salad. It’s cabbage, carrots, kale, and cauliflower, topped with either an avocado lime dressing or a simple balsamic vinegar. It’s our well known salad that fills you up without making you feel full. In the A3500’s low-profile 64 it’s way easier and more efficient to do this coarse chopping because of the container’s wider shape and bigger blade. It’s the difference between pulse and dump versus pulse and dump and, kind of, dig and scrape, three times.
Don’t care about making detox salad? I get it. I don’t think I would have been when I was 26 either.
But you might be into making pancakes. The A3500’s container is better for batters like pancakes where you’re digging out scoops
And finally, hot soups, and how we make our queso, so 5 minutes of blending to heat the ingredients through friction alone, it’s quicker in the low-profile 64.
Loudness and noise
Now, if you have anyone else living in your home or have close neighbors, noise output matters. More than a measurement, they just sound different.
And despite how all this might stack up for you, the ergonomics, the safety, the design, the user experience, which type of person gets which, it all might come down to price. And if you’re a numbers guy like me, you might find this interesting. A3500’s with their ten-year warranty are about $65 per year, you could basically put a pause on your cable bill for one week per year, cover the cost of your Vitamix. That’s a conversation for what your Vitamix is worth. I made a video about that. It’s great. If you’re sick of this conversation, you can jump over to that one. A3500’s are about 65 bucks a year, 5200s with their seven-year warranty are about $68 per year. This is about the same. And it’s a pretty compelling case to go with the one that better fits your lifestyle.
But I’m going to leave you with two more numbers and you can check my math with the links that are in our description.
The Certified Reconditioned A3500 with its five-year warranty is $100 per year. Compare that with the Certified Reconditioned 5200, which is labeled on the Vitamix website as Certified Reconditioned Standard with its five year warranty is $60 per year. So if it were me and I never had any intention of going beyond smoothies and purees and knowing what I know about Certified Reconditioned Vitamix blenders, I’d probably go with that.
But with the way the Vitamix fits into our lifestyle and our home, I would be hard-pressed to agree to switching out the A3500 on our counter with something else.