Made-to-order margaritas at the beach? A smoothie for one after the gym? We’re all ears.
How We Tested
A good blender can tackle everything from smoothies to waffle batter to béarnaise sauce. And while we’ve reviewed high-end, midpriced, inexpensive, and personal blenders, we recently learned about a new type of blender: the portable, rechargeable kind.
These handheld, single-serving blenders are charged by USB cable, so you can take them with you to the gym, to the beach, on a hike, or to work. They’re also becoming extremely popular; BlendJet, one of the first brands on the market, reportedly sells 50,000 units a month.
The possibility of being able to make smoothies and margaritas anywhere, anytime is certainly appealing, so we set out to see if any of these portable blenders live up to the hype. We selected four models, including the BlendJet, priced from about $32 to about $40. We used each to make kale, frozen pineapple, and orange juice smoothies; protein shakes; Frozen Strawberry Margaritas; and green goddess dressing.
Getting to Know Portable Blenders
There was a learning curve with all the portable blenders. They were similarly shaped, consisting of tall cups that screwed onto bases that housed the electronics; each took 3 to 5 hours to fully charge. Their cups were much smaller than those of standard-size blender jars, holding 10.75 to 14 ounces, with narrow mouths that measured from 1.4 to 2.3 inches wide. The size of their openings made them difficult to fill with ingredients. As we were loading smoothie ingredients into the cups, pieces of pineapple and kale spilled out. We had to add protein powder, mayonnaise, and sour cream to the cups carefully and by the spoonful. To circumvent this, one of the blenders came with a small silicone funnel. The cup of another model unscrewed from the base so we could fill it upside down, which provided a wider opening to add ingredients. We found both of these features helpful, but we still had to add ingredients in small quantities to prevent spills.
We also learned that portable blenders worked best when we turned them upside down, started the motor, and then flipped them upright so the ingredients in the cups hit the blades when they were already running at full speed (a technique most of the manufacturers recommended). Otherwise, the blades jammed, whether they were mixing frozen fruit for a smoothie or fresh garlic and herbs for the dressing. We also had to be mindful not to fill the blender cups to more than two-thirds of their capacity, especially when making smoothies and frozen margaritas. When we did, the blades jammed.
None of the blenders offered variable speeds or settings; all had a single button programmed with preset blending times that ranged from 20 to 45 seconds. We discovered that we had to run each blender through at least two blending cycles for the contents to be fully combined, regardless of what we were making. Because of this, while most blenders advertised that they lasted for 22 to 25 blending cycles per charge, this actually equated to about eight to 12 recipes. This means that these little blenders need to be charged roughly weekly to make a smoothie with frozen fruit every day.
Blending Ability Varied Greatly
While all these small blenders are designed to make single servings of drinks, one struggled with anything other than protein powder and water. It took more than 5 minutes to blend one serving of a frozen fruit smoothie, and it could not sufficiently blend a frozen margarita. It also struggled to incorporate herbs into the dressing.
The other three blenders, however, performed fairly well. Smoothies and frozen margaritas were on par with the ones made in our favorite inexpensive blender, the Black + Decker Performance FusionBlade Blender. They also turned out smooth, vibrantly green versions of green goddess dressing, blending together mayonnaise, sour cream, parsley, anchovies, and garlic with ease.
Not All the Models Were Easy to Use
While blending ability was a determining factor, two of the blenders were also difficult to operate, requiring us to double-click the power button to start them. This often resulted in us having to hit the power button multiple times until the blenders randomly started. Initially this was confusing, and as we continued to use the blenders it became frustrating. We preferred to press the blenders’ power buttons just once in order to start them. Some good news: All the blenders were easy to clean. We simply added water and a couple of drops of soap to the cups and ran them before rinsing them under running water in the sink.
Portable Blenders Should Be Portable
To make sure that the portable blenders were easy to take on the go, we loaded them into backpacks for a bumpy walk and also went for a run while carrying each blender by hand. All the blenders were slightly awkward to run with but fit nicely into the backpack’s water bottle compartment. We also tested them in cars, placing each into the cup holder. One of the blenders slid in perfectly (its base was the smallest, at 2.85 inches wide), but the other three had wider bases measuring from 3.2 to 3.5 inches across that didn’t sit securely in the cup holder. All the models would be easy to travel with given their lightness—they all weighed about 1 pound—whether carried by hand or stashed in a backpack or duffel bag.
To test durability, we put each blender into a duffel bag, which we dropped five times onto concrete from a height of about 1 foot. Afterward, we ran the blenders to make sure they were still functioning and checked for any leakage. All withstood the drops, didn’t leak, and continued to blend normally.
To see if our top two contenders could survive extended use, we aimed to make 50 smoothies in them—25 with frozen fruit and 25 with milk and protein powder. One blender overheated at the 11th drink, and the other began to leak milk out of its bottom at the 45th. While we were disappointed, we didn’t think the leaking was a deal breaker. So many smoothies with tough, fibrous ingredients in such a short period of time is an exceptionally taxing test for these inexpensive little blenders, and it’s not reflective of how they’d realistically be used— likely once a day or for a short period of time with long rests in between.
Do You Need a Portable Blender?
If you want to make smoothies on the go or need a small blender for camping or traveling, a portable blender is a great option. Keep in mind that they will need to be recharged and their capacity is best for one person, unless you don’t mind making multiple batches of recipes. We still think a full-size blender is more useful due to its versatility, larger capacity, better durability, and lack of charging, but once we accepted the limitations of a personal blender we learned to appreciate its handy ability to blend while on the go.
The Best Portable Blender: PopBabies Personal Portable Blender
The PopBabies Personal Portable Blender, which costs about $37, was the top performer of the models we tested, handily out-blending the most popular brand on the market, the BlendJet. It easily blended smoothies and frozen margaritas, crushing frozen fruit and ice just as thoroughly as our favorite inexpensive blender. It made dressing that was smooth, creamy, and a vibrant green color, a sign that the parsley was thoroughly incorporated. It did leak slightly during the durability test. This wasn’t ideal, but it was an aggressive test and we think this model will hold up fine under less challenging conditions.
We purchased four portable, rechargeable blenders, priced from about $32 to about $40, and used them to make smoothies, margaritas, and salad dressing, comparing the results to the same recipes prepared in our winning inexpensive blender. We took each portable blender on a walk in a backpack and carried each by hand on a run; we also checked to see how they fit in a standard-size car cup holder. We also placed them in a duffel bag and dropped them onto concrete to test their durability. We washed the blenders after each use and frequently checked for signs of wear. We purchased all the blenders online, and the prices listed are what we paid. Test results were averaged, and models appear below in order of preference.
Blending Ability: We wanted a blender that could make smooth, well-blended smoothies, margaritas, and salad dressing effortlessly in less than 1½ minutes.
Ease of Use: A blender received top marks if it was easy to fill, attach, and operate. We also gave top scores to blenders with cups that screwed on easily and spouts that were easy to pour from.
Durability: Highly rated blenders exhibited no damage after being placed in a duffel bag and dropped onto concrete five times.
Cleanup: Top marks were awarded if the blender cup was easy to clean, with no small nooks or crannies that required extra attention.