The Ascent Series is Vitamix’s latest line of blenders, which they are calling the Smart System. Vitamix sent me the A2300 and A3500 to review. The other models have different combinations of the same features, so this is a comprehensive review of all four models. [Disclosure: If you make a purchase after following a link from this site, Joy of Blending may receive a referral commission (at no cost to you), and I am grateful for your support.] The Ascent models blend just as well as previous Vitamix models. The most notable new feature is wireless connectivity, though there are a range of other changes.
Note that you can lower your upfront cost of Vitamix purchases by paying over time with Vitamix’s generous payment plans.
- 1 Differences between Ascent Models
- 2 Which Ascent model is best for you?
- 3 Wireless Connectivity
- 4 Other New Features
- 5 Subtle Differences
- 6 What is the future of older models?
- 7 Container Compatibility
- 8 Color Options
- 9 A3500 Premium Metal Finish Options
- 10 Is the Ascent Series for you?
- 11 Vitamix Ascent vs. Legacy models
- 12 Summary
Differences between Ascent Models
The difference between Ascent models is their control interface and color/finish options. The A3300 and A3500 use a knob and touchscreen, while the A2300 and A2500 use a knob and physical switches. The A2500 and A3500 have program modes plus manual control, while the A2300 and A3300 have manual control only.
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Which Ascent model is best for you?
If you want an Ascent model, there are essentially two decisions to make:
- Do you want to pay more for touchscreen control and a premium digital knob? (The touchscreen also lets you set a countdown timer.)
Yes ⇨ A3300 or A3500. No ⇨ A2300 or A2500.
- Do you want to pay more for preset program modes? (I have a discussion of presets on my Which Vitamix page.)
Yes ⇨ A2500 or A3500. No ⇨ A2300 or A3300.
Beyond the options of touchscreen or switches, preset program modes, and finish options, the Ascent models are identical, and offer the same blending performance. (Actually, one minor difference between them is that the touchscreen models have the settable countdown timer.)
Compared to previous Vitamix models, the major new development is wireless connectivity technology. The Ascent bases use near-field communication (NFC) to identify which container is being used. (There is an NFC tag embedded in the bottom of the container.) This allows Ascent models to use both full-size containers and small personal-size containers. In addition to the 64-oz container that comes with Ascent models, there are optional 20-oz and 8-oz containers.
The container detection allows the programs to adjust their times based on which container you are using.
The Ascent models only run when they recognize a container. This means that previous Vitamix containers that don’t have NFC tags will not work with the new models.
The Ascent models also have Bluetooth, which allows you to use the free Perfect Blend App to send programs to the blender. This includes the A2300 and A3300, which do not have built-in programs. Vitamix has also suggested that they will continue to roll out new features that use the Bluetooth connection.
Other New Features
All Ascent models feature a digital timer that counts up and displays the seconds and minutes of manual blends. The motor automatically stops after 6½ minutes when using the large 64-oz container, 7½ minutes for 48-oz, and 1¼ minutes for the 8-oz and 20-oz containers. (The 8-oz and 20-oz containers are unvented, so extended blending could build up too much pressure.) These automatic cutoffs mean that even the Ascent models without programs (A2300 and A3300) effectively have a soup program. Just ramp up the speed to high, then the motor will turn itself off after 6½ minutes. (The soup program on the A2500 and A3500 runs for 5¾ minutes.)
The A2500 and A3500 have program modes, and when running a program, the timer counts down the time remaining. The A3300 and A3500 have the option of manually setting a specific amount of time, which the timer counts down from and then automatically stops the motor.
Here is a video tour of the touchscreen features of the A3500 (the A3300 is identical except it does not have the program buttons):
The Ascent lid is clear, instead of the previous black lids. I never thought about the black lids blocking the view before, but after using the clear lid, I find myself appreciating the better view. The Ascent lid also has snap fasteners that make a satisfying click when they are locked on. (It reminds me of the Glasslock food containers, which I like.) In this video you can see Vitamix’s head chef demonstrating the A3500, and you can hear the lid click on:
The Ascent lid also forms a better seal. The seals on the old lids are usually fine, but if you blend a large amount of thin liquid, they can leak a bit. The Ascent lids stay sealed in situations where the old lids could leak.
Previously, Vitamix said that only the S-Series containers were dishwasher safe. Now this full-size container is dishwasher safe. For normal use, most people will be better off just running it with soapy water, but for the occasional thick and sticky blend, being able to run it through the dishwasher will be nice.
Previous Vitamix models came with either 5 or 7-year warranties. Vitamix warranties are great because if your machine needs service, they cover shipping both ways. They also often offer first-time courtesy replacement for items damaged by user error/negligence
The Ascent models have more curves, and a clean bevel. They are designed to look good from all sides, including the back. They moved the label from the back to the bottom, so if you use it on a kitchen island, the back of the machine looks more polished.
Digital Knob (A3300 and A3500 only)
The A3300 and A3500 have a digital knob. It is still a physical knob, but it does not have absolute position. Every time you turn the machine on, or after a blend is stopped, the speed setting resets to one. This is nice because it prevents the potential to accidentally leave the speed on high and make a mess by unexpectedly starting at max speed. The knob has a nice feel, and it gently clicks between speed settings. (It moves from 1 to 10 in half-step increments.)
The 20-oz container container is the same size and shape as the to-go cup on the S-Series, but the screw-on blade assembly is different. (The S-Series 20-oz and the Ascent 20-oz are not interchangeable because they have different magnets for container detection.) The 8-oz container uses the same blade assembly as the 20-oz, but the container is much shorter. It’s great for blending small amounts of things like sauces and salad dressing.
The 8-oz and 20-oz containers are completely sealed during blending, so you cant use a tamper, which means you can’t use them for blending thick blends like spreads or frozen desserts.
The 48-oz container is great for blending blending smaller batches of things that need the tamper. It has 3” blades instead of the wide 64-oz container’s 4” blades, and a narrower bottom that allows it to blend smaller volumes more easily. (The difference in minimum volume to blend thick recipes easily is ~36 vs. ~24 oz.)
The overall dimensions are similar to G-Series Vitamix models. The Ascent base is about ¼” shorter. The Ascent base plus container and lid is also about 1/4” shorter than G-Series models, which puts it at 17¼”. The base footprint is 8×10¾”
The power cord length is 4 ft instead of 6 ft on C and G-Series models. Like previous models, Ascent models allow you to stow excess cord by wrapping it around the bottom, and it secures out of sight.
The maximum speed is the same as the G-Series models (~23,000 RPM).
The minimum speed is slightly slower than G-Series models, but the difference is barely noticeable (1,400 RPM vs 1,600 RPM).
More noticeably, as you turn up the speed knob, the speed first increases more gradually, then more quickly. (The G-Series models increase evenly across the full range.) It’s easier to understand with a plot:
Also, the Ascent models have a similar microprocessor speed control to the G-Series, which maintains speed regardless of load, up to the maximum output of the motor. (See my speed measurement page for more details.)
Also similar to G-Series models, there is a soft start. If you start the motor at high speed on a Classic Vitamix, the motor immediately goes at full throttle, but G-Series models automatically ramp up the speed. The soft start on A-Series is not quite as soft as on G-Series (~1.8 sec vs. 2.4 sec to get to maximum speed). This could make high-speed pulsing slightly more effective.
The Ascent 64-oz container is very similar to the G-Series Container. It weighs ~4% more (1240g vs 1190g). With the lid, the container is same the same height. Without the lid, the Ascent container is ~1/4” taller, because the Ascent lid is shorter. The pour spout is slightly different, but so far I haven’t noticed a big difference.
For people who prefer physical switches over touchscreens, the A2300 and A2500 deliver. The A2300 and A2500 have pulse and start-stop paddle switches, which work nicely. The variable speed knob is bigger and the numbers are more visible than on previous Vitamix models. The speed knob also adds an off position, which makes turning the machine off more convenient (and can help prevent accidentally starting it).
Ascent models have an on-off switch towards the rear bottom of the right side. This is the same position as G-Series models. The Ascent base shell has a little lip over the switch to protect it from spills, which the G-Series does not have.
Rubber centering pad
The Ascent centering pad that the container sits on has more curves. It’s a bit more stylish, but the top of it is also not perfectly flat like the old ones. This means that the container can rock slightly, but it’s not a big deal. I guess the advantage is that it slopes away from the hole in the middle, which means that if you spill a lot of liquid on the top of the pad, it will drain off the sides, instead of into the motor in the middle. I’ve never seen it be a problem with the old design though.
Vitamix replaced molded styrofoam in the box with a clever cardboard design, which is a nice benefit for the environment. The cardboard holds everything securely, even if the box is inverted.
What is the future of older models?
My Vitamix source says the C-Series is likely being discontinued. I don’t know when they will go out of stock for good. My source also says that they plan to continue making the S-Series, plus the Pro 750 and 780, at least through 2017.
Legacy containers cannot be used on the Ascent series, because they do not have NFC tags. Interestingly, the Ascent series drive shaft is the same as the C- and G-Series drive shaft, so you can use the Ascent full-size container on C- and G-Series bases. (Vitamix says the wide container shouldn’t be used on C-Series bases, but I don’t think it is a big problem—just be a bit more careful about not overheating the motor.) However, the inside of the 4 centering posts are different on the Ascent series, which will prevent you from using the Ascent 20-oz and 8-oz containers on legacy models.
It’s too bad that Legacy containers can’t be used on Ascent models. My understanding is that this is primarily a safety concern. Vitamix needed a container detect system to be able to use the screw-on blades, so that the blender wouldn’t run with the blades exposed. Vitamix engineers came up with a clever solution: the screw-on blade assembly has an NFC chip with a magnetic reed switch, so that the NFC chip only activates when the container is properly screwed on. The advantage of this setup is that it doesn’t require any cumbersome locking devices.
A3500 Premium Metal Finish Options
At the top of the line, the A3500 comes with premium finish options. The Brushed Stainless, Black Stainless, and Graphite all use a solid metal shell on the base, instead of the plastic used on other Vitamix machines. I don’t think it makes a difference in durability, because the plastic they use is plenty tough, but the metal adds a touch of elegance. The Brushed Stainless and the Black Stainless both have a subtle brushed texture, and the Graphite has a finely speckled finish. Here are some photos, which you can click to expand (left to right, Brushed Stainless, Black Stainless, and Graphite):
Is the Ascent Series for you?
If you will only be using the smaller container, the S-Series bases are more compact, so they could be a good choice for a tight kitchen space. If you don’t like the look of the digital timer, you might want a Legacy model.
I am sure some people will raise concerns about the new, more advanced, models having more things that could go wrong and be harder to fix. My first response is that the new models come with the 10-year warranty, so at the minimum you will be covered for that long. I’m guessing that the microprocessors should last for a very long time, but we won’t know for sure what the lifespan of these new models will be until they start aging. Vitamix has been selling models with microprocessor speed control (6300/Pro 500 and G-Series) for about 6 years, and I haven’t heard of any problems with the microprocessors failing.
Vitamix Ascent vs. Legacy models
Here’s an overview of how Ascent models differ from the current non-Ascent Vitamix models (aka Legacy models):
- Warranty: 10 years for Ascent vs. 5 or 7 years for Legacy
- Containers: Ascent models require Ascent containers (with Self-Detect chip).
The following are new features on Ascent models:
- Timer display counts up minutes and seconds (all Ascent models) and counts down to automatic shutoff on A3300 and A3500
- Clear lid with better locking mechanism
- Fully dishwasher-safe containers
- Sleeker styling
- Container detect allows use of small 8-oz and 20-oz containers without bulky adapter, and programs adjust automatically based on container.
- Bluetooth connectivity: send programs to blender from Perfect Blend app.
All for about the same price as Legacy models!
There is some talk of Ascent models being quieter, but I’ve found them to be about the same as the G-Series (which is a bit quieter than the C-Series).
The Ascent series offers a range of improvements over previous models. Vitamix plans to release more containers and wireless features for Ascent models, so getting an Ascent is buying into the future of Vitamix. The distinguishing features on all Ascent models are: timer display, app connectivity, 10-year warranty, clear snapping lid, and fully dishwasher safe containers. Here are links to Ascent models at Vitamix.com.