The Ascent Series is Vitamix’s latest line of blenders. Vitamix sent me the A2300 and A3500 to review. The other models have a different combination 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.] I’ve had them for a short time, and will update this page as I use them more. As far as I can tell, the Ascent models blend just as well as previous Vitamix models. The most notable new feature is wireless connectivity, which allows them to use “personal size” containers on a full-size Vitamix. There are also a range of other incremental changes.
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.
Vitamix tells me that the Ascent Series will be available in Canada starting in February.
Compared to previous Vitamix models, the major 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. The smaller containers aren’t available for purchase yet, but Vitamix plans to offer a 20-oz container and a new mini 8-oz container for the Ascent series in Spring 2017.
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. Vitamix has not said what they plan on doing with it, but when you turn on any of the Ascent models on, you can search for available Bluetooth connections on your phone, and “Vitamix_1.1” shows up. I don’t know when they will roll out Bluetooth features, but since the Bluetooth connection is there ready to go, we will most likely be able to use the future features on models bought now.
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. (Smaller containers will have shorter maximum blend times because they are not vented, and extended blending could build up too much pressure.) The 6½ minute automatic cutoff means 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.)
Vitamix says that the 20-oz and 8-oz containers will be available in the Spring. The 20-oz 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 8-oz container uses the same blade assembly as the 20-oz, but the container is much shorter. I think it will come in handy for blending small amounts of things like salad dressing.
The one significant downside I see to the Ascent models also has to do with containers. I like being able to use my 32-oz container with my 7500. 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 7500 and Ascent models come with a wide 64-oz container.) The Ascent 8- and 20-oz containers will be good for small volumes, but you can’t use the tamper with them. The small Ascent containers will be good for liquidy blends like sauces and smoothies, but not for thick spreads or frozen desserts that require the tamper.
I believe Vitamix will release a tamper-able narrow container for the Ascent Series because the Ascent cookbook refers to a 48-oz container, but I don’t know when—hopefully later this year. Until then, the Ascent models can only make larger batches of thick spreads and frozen desserts. (The difference in minimum volume to blend thick recipes easily is ~36 vs. ~24 oz.) However, I know many people who happily use the wide 64-oz container only, so this is a non-issue for plenty of people.
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 6ft 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 (1240 g 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 its 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 it is inverted.
What is the future of older models?
Vitamix has started referring to non-Ascent models as Legacy 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 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.
A2300: White, black, slate, and red
A2500: White, black, slate, and red
A3300: Pearl Gray and Black Diamond
A3500: Brushed Stainless (the shell is solid metal instead of plastic on other models)
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 5 years, and I haven’t heard of any problems with the microprocessors failing.
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 first additions will be the 8- and 20-oz containers in the Spring, then there will be more coming later. It will be interesting to see what the Bluetooth features will be. Other standout features on all Ascent models are: timer display, 10-year warranty, clear snapping lid, and fully dishwasher safe containers. Here’s a link to all Ascent models at Vitamix.com.