What we loved and hated about the 2013 smart home

The CNET Appliances team has tested a whole bunch of stuff for you this year, from the surprisingly capable SimpliSafe home security system to the extremely disappointing Infinuvo CleanMate QQ5 robot vacuum. Hopefully our reviews have come in handy. And while we're excited about CES 2014, we're also feeling a bit nostalgic about the products we reviewed in 2013. So, here's a brief look back at the year in home appliances -- what worked, what didn't, and everything in between.

"Smart" large appliances

Several manufacturers introduced new ways to incorporate "smart features" … Read more

From smoothies to pesto: Seven blenders reviewed

Blenders are fun, but buying the wrong one is anything but. With countless models available at a wide range of price points, it can be hard to tell the upgrades from the downgrades. Are more watts always better? How much does the shape of the jar matter? Could a top-of-the-line blender be the smartest upgrade you'll ever make? The dumbest?

If your head spins just thinking about it, don't worry -- our handy blender roundup will help you find the perfect machine for your needs, whether you're looking to spend $50 or $500.

Blendtec Designer Series WildSide Blender Read more

The Ninja Ultima blender makes blending easier

My knowledge of actual ninjas is limited to obscure pop-culture references, but I generally think of them as being two things: quiet and lethal. The Ninja Ultima BL810 blender is hardly quiet, but as far as the other goes, if "lethal" means "ridiculously effective" in blender-speak, the Ninja is aptly named. It was a consistent top performer and kept pace with its more expensive competitors like the Vitamix 7500 and Blendtec Designer Series WildSide Blender, for half the price.

I own the Ninja Kitchen System 1100, which retails for $159. The 1100 features different accessories than … Read more

We take the Vitamix 7500 for a test-drive

William Grover Barnard, the founder of Vita-Mix, released his company's first blender in 1937, but it wasn't until television came around that Vita-Mix was able to introduce blenders into the American vernacular. Buying 30 minutes of airtime on WEWS-TV in Cleveland, in 1949, Vita-Mix ran what the company says was the first-ever infomercial -- before long, blenders were flying off of the shelves, and Vita-Mix was rerunning the ad in markets across the country.

Today, the Vitamix craze continues, with a small army of brand loyalists who swear by the things, insisting that they're worth every penny. … Read more

This KitchenAid blender is a real gem

The KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender is a reasonably-priced blender, especially when you consider all of the things it's capable of. With a generous, 60-ounce pitcher and elegant, vintage-looking design, the $149 KitchenAid offers high-quality performance with a wallet-friendly sticker-price. For all of its modest pricing and design, the KitchenAid would be a welcome addition to any small appliance lineup.

We reviewed seven blenders in what I've been calling the CNET Blender Bonanza. Some models cost upwards of $400 and feature higher-powered motors. I'd be lying if I told you that I began testing this product with high … Read more

It's not a blender, it's a Blendtec

At first it felt a bit unfair to compare the $454 Blendtec Designer Series WildSide Blender to other models. I mean, have you ever seen Blendtec's "Will it Blend?" videos? If not, I'll give you the short of it -- they attempt and succeed at grinding up things like iPads and laser pointers in their powerful blenders. Not just chunks of plastic and metal, mind you. I'm talking about powdery stuff that you'd never guess was once a living, breathing gadget. If they can do that to a tablet, just imagine what they can … Read more

Stick to the basics with this budget blender

When you picture a blender, you probably imagine something that looks a lot like this:

That's the $39 Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender -- and it's an excellent option for all of your basic blending needs. More and more often, though, all kinds of fancy-pants blenders that boast ginormous capacities, powerful motors that sound like helicopters in flight, and special features like touch screens and single-serving attachments are popping up in stores.

So we tested this $39 model against the $149 KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender, the $199 Cuisinart PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender, the $199 Breville Hemisphere Control Blender, … Read more

The Breville Hemisphere Control makes for smooth blending

I have a Breville coffee grinder at home and in the CNET Appliance's Toaster Oven Extravaganza, the Breville Smart Oven was a top performer. As such, I had very high expectations for the $199 Breville Hemisphere Control Blender, expectations which were not ill-placed. It is a fantastic blender and went above and beyond in terms of performance.

We reviewed seven blenders in what I like to call the Great CNET Blender Bonanza. (Admit it. It's catchy.) Each model brought something to the table, some more than others. Even compared with the big guys like Ninja, Blendtec, and VitaMix, … Read more

Should you upgrade to Cuisinart's PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender?

There's a large middle ground between cheaply made budget blenders and all-powerful, all-expensive, heavy-duty ones, and this is where you'll find the Cuisinart PowerEdge 1000 Watt Blender. Priced at $199, it aims for the sweet spot: its high wattage and sturdy, die-cast construction qualify it as a worthy upgrade from basic countertop models, but its price leaves it affordable enough to make sense for the frugal shopper.

Cuisinart isn't alone in this approach. Shop around, and you'll find the $199 Breville Hemisphere Control, the $259 Ninja Ultima, and the $149 KitchenAid 5-Speed Diamond Blender, and that'… Read more

Frothy milkshakes with a wave (or spin) of a wand

There is something magical about going out to eat. Walk into a restaurant, sit down, and pick something to eat from a list that is presented to you. Not long after, your order arrives -- professionally made -- and when finished, the dishes disappear. How all this is able to happen not only involves a well-choreographed dance, but also skill and talent. But it's not all about the main course.

Just as with life in general, it's the little things that matter when going out to eat. Little things like dessert, milkshakes, and sometimes pie. The Waring Milk Shake & Drink Mixer ($169.95)Read more