I originally had a KitchenAid pro 500 series with a 325 watt "heavy duty" motor with metal gears and a solid transmission design which I purchased over 20 years ago from Williams-Sonoma in "Williams-Sonoma Green." I moved, changed to an all black and white kitchen and with hardly any counter space, it was relegated to a hall closet. At 30lbs it was unwieldy at best, so the little baking I did became even littler. I finally sold it.
However, I do like to cook and I felt vulnerable w/o a mixer. I figured my Cuisinart food processor would fill the gap, but it didn't quite hit that same sweet spot, and a hand mixer, well, it was just so -- hand mixer.
When KitchenAid announced it was coming out with the Artisan-mini it sounded like the perfect solution--a stand mixer that conserved counter-space. I figured I would wait until some reviews were in and now that they are, I'm glad I didn't buy it. It sounds like it's a dog of a machine and at $335 (now it's a bit lower), it seemed comparatively expensive. Also, it's only 250 watts, which is just 25 watts above KitchenAid's hand mixer. It all came down to a big "why bother?"
I turned elsewhere. The tilt head machines (Artisan, Classic Plus, Artisan Design) seemed to be plagued by mechanical issues arising from a combination of price-saving plastic and metal parts. Buyers complained about a clanking noise, a grinding sound and metal shavings flaking into food. There were problems with the hinge mechanism-- over time the head would loosen, rock from side to side or break altogether. Models with coated attachments had problems with surface peeling with the result that plastic coating, sometimes in combination with metal shavings and grease, fell into the food.
I wanted this as a mainstay in my kitchen, something that would provide years of use, not built-in obsolescence. My philosophy is to buy the right thing once, even if I have to pay more. I was becoming sorry I sold my old model, despite the fact it was green.
I then discovered this model which has been discontinued by KitchenAid. It doesn't say it's "solid state" but comments indicate it's all metal parts, and I confirmed with the company it has the Direct-Drive Transmission and All-Metal Construction. It doesn't have the tilt-head mechanism, but instead the more reliable bowl lift design which is a characteristic of the larger models, which is what my old one had. Yes, it's big and heavy, but 5 quarts is still smaller than 6 or 7 and it's powerful, not the puny 250 watts of the Artisan-mini or KitchenAid Classic. According to reviewers this was made in 425 and 525 watt versions. I'm pleased that Amazon intuited my preference and sent me the more powerful 525 watt version.
As far as differences are concerned, the paddle, dough hook and bowl seem lighter and thinner than than the ones that came with my old KitchenAid. Items such as bowl cover, pouring guard and quilted cover that were included with my KitchenAid are now sold as "extras," but at least they're available.
As far as power is concerned, it comfortably handled cookie dough, but that's not much of a test so we'll see. Are the attachments tough enough? we'll see. on that too. I'll update this as necessary.
I did not put the bowl or paddle in the dishwasher. I noticed that a greasy residue remained on the bowl and paddle even after cleaning. I washed it again and again then tried 409 but they still don't feel clean. The bowl also seems to have become stained -- by cookie dough? For an all stainless bowl, I think this is weird.
Yes, it's big and heavy but I've made room for this so it can remain on the counter. In terms of price, I got a lot more for less. This was at least $100 less than the Artisan-mini, it's compatible with all KitchenAid's many accessories whereas the Artisan-mini isn't, and I won't need to think twice about what I use it for--it's large enough to handle all my needs and at 525 watts it's a much more powerful and hopefully better made machine than the tilt-head versions.
All in all, this seems to be one of the most reliable models available--now if I could only clean that bowl to my satisfaction