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Kitchen Aid vs. Sunbeam
on September 29, 2011
I have a Kitchen Aid already. I got this because we had one when I was a kid and this was kind of nostalgic. There has been no significant change in the design of the Sunbeam since I was a kid, at least as far as I can remember. I don't remember the head locking either up or down, but maybe it did, I don't know. More on that later... I think you are already familiar with the mechanics of how the Kitchen Aid mixes things (the planetary motion) vs how the Sunbeam mixes things (a hand mixer on a stand) so I won't go into detail on that, other than to express my preferences between the two.
Round 1: overall mixing ability
Today I was trying to make banana bread. First I have to cream some butter with eggs and sugar. After this was complete, I threw in some bananas and had the mixer mash them up. It appears that when you have semi-solid things (like butter or bananas) that you are trying to incorporate into a batter, the free-spinning bowl tends to spin the item right up to the beater, but then at first it doesn't want to go any further. After doing a little convincing, the beaters just buzz right through it and the bowl spins around until it reaches the obstacle again. This time there is less resistance and better mixing. On the 3rd go around, it's even better, and so on. I've made this same recipe dozens of times on the Kitchen Aid and this process goes a little faster and with less intervention. Don't get me wrong--the Sunbeam does just fine with this sort of task, it's just that the Kitchen Aid does it better. I'm going to say that Kitchen Aid is the clear winner here.
WINNER: Kitchen Aid.
Round 2: bowl scraping
Both mixers are very good at getting right up next to the edge of the bowl so that minimal bowl scraping is required, however neither is perfect and both will need a scrape or two during your food prep (NOTE: for either model, the paddles should not actually touch the bowl. If they are, you need to make an adjustment). You cannot scrape the Kitchen Aid bowel while it is running (well, at least not without a very high risk of damaging your mixer, the spoon and/or your hand). The Sunbeam, however, allows you to not only easily scrape the bowl while it is on, but it will even spin the bowl for you so you can just stick a rubber spatula in and hold it in place and the mixer will (sometimes) do the rest for you. I was even able to hold the spatula up to the beaters and thus wipe the spatula clean while it was on. NOTE: the very center of the bowl may sometimes appear to need a good scraping during mixing, but if you just adjust the bowl position using the bowl size lever, it will take care of it for you. It's manual, but easy. This is only sometimes necessary and I suspect if I ignored the problem, the mixer would eventually get everything in the middle, anyway.
Round 3: power
I'm afraid I haven't exercised to its full ability yet, but trying to run bread dough through 2 hooks feels a little awkward. I have made bread in this (and it came out great) but it sure sounded like it was struggling. On the other hand, the Kitchen Aid boasts a lot of power... HOWEVER, it has an intentionally engineered weak point--a gear that will break if it sees too much of a load. I've had to replace this gear twice on my Kitchen Aid. It costs about $100 to have a pro replace the gear for you, or if you are not too timid to open up the device and get grease all over, you can do it yourself for about $10-$20. Let's just say I'm not terribly impressed with the whole "power" aspect of Kitchen Aid's offering.
Round 4: ease of use
* Both are very easy to use, although if you have ever tried to add ingredients to a Kitchen Aid while it is on, you know that you need some sort of device to assist, or you will make quite a mess. That isn't a problem with the Sunbeam--there's plenty of room on one side of the bowl to add whatever you need.
* On the other hand, the head-locking mechanism on the Sunbeam is a little awkward. One of my Kitchen Aids is a tilt head (like the Sunbeam) and the other is a bowl lift mechanism. The tilting Kitchen Aid's head is much easier to deal with than the Sunbeam because it locks down with a simple lever and then there is no need to lock at the top. The Sunbeam, by contrast, has a button you have to press to lift and then press again to lower and it's awkward to press in either case. I much prefer the Kitchen Aid's approach here.
* The Kitchen Aid has a handle on the bowl that makes it MUCH easier to hold while scraping. The Sunbeam cannot have a handle since the bowl spins.
* Some of the Kitchen Aid models come with implements that are not dishwasher safe (My Artisan series implements are all dishwasher safe, but my pro-series model made it very clear that I should not be putting it in the dishwasher--if I wanted to wash in the dishwasher, I should buy the coated version. That was a turn off!). All of the Sunbeam's implements ARE dishwasher safe (no extra purchases required).
I think that adding ingredients during mixing and easy clean up are of greater importance than holding the bowl or putting it in place, so I'll say the Sunbeam wins, but only by a little.
Round 5: versatility
The Kitchen Aid has the ability to use dozens of attachments. The Sunbeam just mixes. I only use my Kitchen Aid for mixing, so it's a draw for me, but if I wanted to do more, I could, but only with the Kitchen Aid
WINNER: Kitchen Aid
Round 6: aesthetics, overall impression
This has a lot more to do with personal preference than the other categories, but here's what I'm considering...
a) Volume/loudness. Neither mixer is terribly loud. The Sunbeam may be slightly quieter... maybe?
b) Size/Weight. The Sunbeam is lighter than it looks. My wife hates hefting the Kitchen Aid around, so for her, this is a win for the Sunbeam. For others, the weight gives an impression of quality, so it's a win for the Kitchen Aid. Once again, this is preference. Both take up comparable amounts of space.
So that's 2 wins for Kitchen Aid, 2 wins for Sunbeam, and 2 draws. To me, the most important category is "Round 1: overall mixing ability" and Kitchen Aid wins that one, so if I had to choose between a Kitchen Aid and a Sunbeam and all other factors (such as price) were the same, I'd go with the Kitchen Aid every time. HOWEVER, the fact of the matter is that the Kitchen Aid is roughly 2x-3x the price of the Sunbeam and if I had to live the rest of my life with just the Sunbeam, I could be perfectly happy. If cost is an issue for you, and if you don't want to use any fancy attachments, I'd recommend the Sunbeam. If you have money to throw around, the Kitchen Aid may be a better appliance. Either one will serve you well.