Oster Beehive Blender review: The Oster Beehive Blender gets stung by lackluster performance – CNET

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Sometimes, the classics should be left in peace. Case in point: the Oster Beehive blender, a 21st century version of the original 1940s Osterizer. The old version was built like a tank with a metal base and a rounded jar designed to cycle food toward the blades. This new one aims to mirror the original's retro simplicity and sleekness, but that illusion of a classic reborn fades quickly: The chrome-colored base is actually plastic, and the jar has been squared off so it no longer actually looks like a beehive.

The Good

The Oster Beehive has a classic look. It doesn't leak, and can do the basics if you give it a push.

The Bad

This was the worst performer of the blenders we've tested. The squared-off jar keeps it from cycling through foods on its own, meaning you'll need to stir frequently.

The Bottom Line

The Oster Beehive is a subpar blender, both lagging behind other budget models and falling short of its classic namesake.

I have no idea why they squared off the container. It doesn't make it easier to handle or more visually appealing than any rounded model we have in the office, and it hinders the blender's ability to cycle through foods while working. In fact, the Oster Beehive needs assistance completing even basic tasks like smoothies, and you can forget about any food-processing levels of multitasking. It failed all of our stress tests.

Even at $60, the Oster Beehive is less sturdy than its classic namesake, and less capable than any other modern blender we've tested. If you're looking for a budget blender, consider the $40 Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart Blender instead.

Mixing up a buzz with the Oster Beehive Blender (pictures)

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Design and features

Sixty dollars is an extremely reasonable price for a blender, given that the Vitamix 7500 costs $529 and even the midrange Ninja Ultima is $259. If you're in the market for a budget appliance to make simple smoothies for little, you can purchase the Oster Beehive in a variety of colors, such as metallic red, blue, or a classic-looking brushed stainless steel. You can also decide if you want a 5 cup or 6 cup jar. Both are made of dishwasher safe glass.

Amazon, Target, Walmart, and Bed Bath and Beyond all have the Beehive available for purchase, as does the Oster website. The price varies somewhat based on the model and retailer, but all versions can be found for less than $100. In the UK, the Beehive costs £270 from Amazon. It retails for about AU$97 but can be found online for less.

For a blender with a base price of $60, the Oster Beehive Blender looks good. I worked with the 5-cup version with the metallic silver finish for the review. The jar and base are lightweight and easy to maneuver. Cleverly, the sturdy handle can be turned in either direction when the container rests on the base, allowing you to easily grab it whether you're left- or right-handed. The glass jar is tempered, so supposedly you can clean it in the dishwasher, use it to blend hot soup, or put it in the freezer without cracking the casing.

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This simple switch lets you pulse or turn on the blender. Colin West McDonald/CNET

The switch on the base features the Osterizer name and lets you turn it on by flicking up, or pulse by pushing down. Assembly can be completed within minutes. You'll place the foam sealing ring on the bottom of the jar, followed by the blades that stick out of a metal lid. Then, you'll secure both pieces with a plastic cap that screws onto the bottom of the container. Place the jar onto the 600-watt base by quickly fitting it onto the protruding spindle. Plug it in and you're ready to go.

Just make sure you put on the lid and the small feeder cap for adding ingredients while blending. I forgot this cap the first time I turned on the machine and got a nice face full of sudsy water. After I thanked the Beehive for waking me up and finished cleaning up the mess, I got to blending. During the testing, I continued to appreciate the option to clean the Beehive by blending sudsy water. It worked well, and I never forgot the feeder cap again.

Of course, you can clean the lid and jar in the dishwasher. Only the motorized base shouldn't be submerged, but food won't often contact that unless you spill, and the sealing ring works well to prevent leaks. Thus, an occasional wipedown will do for the base. The turnaround from blending, to cleaning, then back to blending was always quick throughout my tests.

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Make sure you put the feeder cap in place. Colin West McDonald/CNET

I would have liked more speed options on the dial, though. The Beehive is simple, and that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is lacking the convenient presets offered by many other modern blenders such as puree or dice. Here, I understand the impulse to call back to the original Osterizer, and the dial mirrors it exactly. Turning it on and pulsing is enough for most blending needs, the functionality stays simple, and the price stays down. Plus, since the Oster Beehive blender is only working with 600 watts, going less than full speed might not have been productive at all.

What I don't understand is why they mirrored the old version on the dial, but deviated from the classic rounded shape that gave the Osterizer its Beehive name. The squared jar works against this modern machine in every way. Any thickness to the foods you're trying to blend will cause it to get stuck. Be prepared to stir or shake anything you want evenly mixed with this machine. It won't be able to reach the top layer otherwise. The squared shape simply doesn't let it create an effective cycle.

Because of that, even once you get the blender to process everything, you might still find chunks stuck to the sides or under the blades on the bottom. Without the ability to move food along on its own, small pieces would sometimes rest on a squared side, then act like a rock accumulating sediment in a slow-moving river. Especially after the pancake batter test, designed to check for just this sort of thing, I had to scrape off large amounts of untouched mix at the end of each round.

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Chunks of pancake batter accumulated on the sides and bottom. Brian Bennett/CNET

Plenty had accumulated on the bottom of the jar as well. Without a steady stream to keep the particles moving, chunks would find a way to come to rest beneath the spinning blades. They aren't angled well enough to reach the axle or the corners.

Though the Oster Beehive blender looks good, several flaws like the squared jar and inability of the blades to reach the bottom of the container betray its inherently cheap design. The first hint of this is that fake-metal base. Then, though the pieces are easy to assemble, the top doesn't create a firm seal on the jar, even with the feeder cap in place.

Additionally, the bottom rests easily on the base, but it doesn't snap securely in place. This allows you to turn the handle, but also results in some wobbles while blending. You'll also occasionally smell a metallic burning when running it, meaning that even though the power should max at 600 watts, some of that energy is being wasted without a tight fit from the jar to the base.

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The jar doesn't fit on the spindle as snugly as I'd like. Colin West McDonald/CNET

When it starts rotating slightly as it blends and wobbles, you know for sure you need to keep your eyes on it, and it certainly never gives you peace of mind while it works. Most of these fitting flaws are nitpicks, sure, but they add up to a loss of confidence in the capability of this machine, a loss of confidence that's only cemented as the squared sides and poorly positioned blades leave chunks of unblended foods behind.

Performance and usability

Despite its design flaws, the Oster does well enough with the basics, once you help it out with a stir, and again, it cleans and handles easily. Both of these aspects bring it a modicum of redemption. The Beehive is a functional and simple blender. If you want a budget model, and don't trust Hamilton Beach, you can get a good smoothie made, eventually. The setup and cleanup will even be quick.

For our testing purposes, we check basic functionality by making smoothies and crushing ice. Then we look to see if the blender can gracefully craft whipped cream that can hold a shape. We round out the basics by mixing pancake batter to see how much stuff gets stuck on the bottom and sides.

Lastly, we use stress tests deliberately designed to take a blender to the capacity of its power. We make pesto from tightly packed spinach, with some olive oil, garlic, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese. We task the blender with shredding an entire 8-ounce block of cheddar, and to top it off, we see if it can process 2 cups of almonds into almond flour, then take that amount flour and break it down into a smooth almond butter.

The basics

The Oster Beehive Blender completed all tests in the basics category. It even did most of them well after a while. The reason I'd argue for any of the budget Hamilton Beach models over this one is that even on these fundamental tasks, it needed lots of time and assistance to get the job done.

For smoothies, we keep it simple and mix frozen strawberries and orange juice. Most blenders ace this test. The powerful ones can give you a consistent smooth drink within a couple of seconds or pulses. Still, I was willing to give this budget model a little breathing room, but I was disappointed when, after 15 pulses, whole strawberries could be seen resting on the top of the mix, completely untouched. The cycling issues began.

It hadn't reached them even after 25 pulses. I gave the container a shake and left it on for a few seconds and finally, it got them. Once everything was mostly smooth, it even got a rhythm going to finish the job, moving the fluid up the outside to create a bit of a vortex in the middle. I had renewed hope that maybe my first test was an oddity. Hopefully additional testing would show me this vortex sooner and give me a smoothie with less effort on my part.

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Reaching the ingredients on top was tough for the Beehive. Brian Bennett/CNET

Unfortunately, the more I tested, the more my disappointment grew. Two more smoothie runs gave me the same hiccups with whole strawberries unable to budge without assistance. The ice test confirmed my suspicion -- this blender can't cycle chunks without help. It does fine finishing the job once it works through everything once, but you'll need to play an integral part in getting it over that first hurdle. That said, the 600-watt motor was powerful enough to easily crush the ice and strawberries the blades actually reached.

Pancake batter clarified just how poorly the Beehive creates a flow. As I noted above, the design really holds it back. With whipped cream, though, I finally found the perfect food to make with this blender.

For this final basic test, we use a cup of heavy cream with a spoonful of sugar and a touch of vanilla. The goal is to make a firm whipped cream that can hold a shape. The Oster Beehive blender still took a while. Many of our other test subjects completed the task within 20 pulses; the Beehive wasn't close. It needed approximately 90 pulses, actually, but it managed to give a great shapeable dessert topping through and through. It even withstood the flip test and didn't drop out when I turned the jar upside down.

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The whipped cream flip test. Colin West McDonald/CNET

I had trouble getting the whipped cream out at all, actually, revealing a minor usability issue. If you create a food like whipped cream that doesn't flow on its own, reaching into the somewhat narrow container and scraping everything out with a rubber spatula will be a pain. I wish there was an easier way to access the remainders on the bottom without taking the jar apart, but many blenders struggle with this, so again, I'd call it a minor inconvenience.

All in all, the whipped cream turned out great because once some of it started to solidify, the remaining liquid naturally flowed to the bottom. This showed me that when flow takes care of itself, the blades are indeed powerful enough to do most of the things you'd ask of a blender, even with only 600 watts.

Stress tests

Flow or not, the blades were not powerful enough to handle the stress tests; if you want a blender that can multitask and potentially even border on the ability of a food processor, you'll need to look elsewhere. Many of the high-end machines we put to these challenges came through with flying colors, but again, even those pesky Hamilton Beach models outperformed this Oster.

The pesto test generally does a good job of elevating the truly good machines above the rest. Given that this Oster had hiccups getting smoothies to flow, I didn't have high hopes. Alas, it still performed lower than my expectations. Not only did it not budge the mixture at all, it barely blended the stuff it could reach. After 15 pulses, the jar looked exactly the same as when I started.

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Before and after. Colin West McDonald/CNET

At least with the cheese and the almonds, it did some blending, though both of these also eventually failed. It shredded the lower third of the cheese before spinning and spinning fruitlessly at the rest. Even after I nudged the remaining block lower to help it out, it couldn't bring itself to do more. Apparently, it had already given up.

The initial round with almonds was more impressive. It turned 2 cups of whole almonds into almond flour fairly effectively. It was the only test where I saw it create that vortex for the sake of cycling the food while there were still solids present. The almond butter part was a different story. We let the blender run for 10 minutes, stirring as frequently as needed, to see if the blades could spin with enough force to break down the flour into a creamy butter without any additives.

It's an extreme test, sure, but high-end blenders can do it easily. After 10 minutes with the Oster Beehive, none of the almond butter had even started to turn. The Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart blender that I've brought up so often in this review couldn't complete this test either. However, it did get some almond butter to form at the bottom, cementing it as the better budget option through and through.

Conclusion

I'm not necessarily opposed to modernizing the classics. Oster had an opportunity with this machine to take its iconic design from the past and add some technological tweaks to allow it to keep up with current machines. Many of the blenders we've tested can practically double as food processors, and since the old Osterizers were known for lasting decades, a formidable machine that could multitask up to current standards would have been awesome. Instead, the design changes the Oster design team made to this product hinder its usefulness, cheapen its feel, and waste its already lackluster power. It's "modernized" in ways that hurt it while leaving the potential for increased potency behind.

Suffice it to say, given the general disappointing performance of the Beehive, we can't recommend it -- especially given the fact that competitors do a much better job. For about the same price, you can get a Nutri Ninja that will pulverize your smoothies for you before you can blink. Alternatively, to bring this up one last time, the Hamilton Beach Smoothie Smart costs less, and is more effective at the basics and the stress tests than the Oster Beehive.

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