You could spend a few hundred bucks on a new blender only to wind up with watery margaritas and smoothies that might better be called chunkies. Worse yet, your high-priced device could conk out after a few months of service. That's clear from Consumer Reports' latest blender tests, which include several pricey models from the fast-growing premium blender category. The good news: some of these über blenders meet, or even exceed, expectations, whipping up superb smoothies and shakes, plus tasty juices and even hot soup. We also found a handful of inexpensive models that are sure to satisfy. Here are the details:

Blenders have become big business. The industry grew 11 percent in 2012 to $673 million dollars, in large part because of consumers' continued taste for smoothies. That has more manufacturers introducing high-performance blenders meant to compete with the likes of Vitamix, which is perhaps the biggest name in premium blenders—and with good reason. The $450 Vitamix 5200 has long been our top-scoring blender. Besides acing our frozen drinks, puree, and ice crush tests, it's one of the few models that makes hot soup and blitzes whole fruits and vegetables into smooth, creamy juice, as this video from our labs demonstrates.

Our recommended list also includes high-performance blenders from Breville, Hamilton Beach, L'Equip, and Waring. Check the complete Ratings to parse through the differences. For example, if you prefer a glass jar to one made of plastic, the $450 Breville Juice & Blend BJB840XL is your best bet. Looking for maximum capacity? The Waring Xtreme MX1000R is the way to go.

If value is your top concern, then the choice comes down to a single brand: Ninja. We've tested three separate blenders from the Newton, Massachusetts-based manufacturer and they all made our winner's podium. The Ninja Master Prep Professional QB1004 actually shares the top spot with Vitamix despite costing just $60. It's a different type of blender, with a unique top-mounted motor that you press down to operate. And it comes with smaller chopping and processing containers, in addition to the 48-ounce blending jar. While it doesn't claim to make hot soups and juices, like the Vitamix, it excelled at all the main blending tasks.

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And what about the high-priced duds? The $300 DeLonghi 3-in-1 DFP-950 turned out frozen drinks with chunks of ice while the $200 Waring Pro MegaMix HPB300 flubbed our durability test, which consists of crushing ice 45 times. See our complete blender Ratings for other models to consider or avoid.

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