Pros: heavy duty, good for bread dough, easy to clean
Cons: bad with small quantities, sometimes hard to snap bowl into place.
I inherited the KitchenAid K5SS 5-quart stand mixer when I got married two years ago. My husband had owned the mixer for approximately three years before we married, and he used it primarily to make pizza dough and cupcakes from a box.
I will admit I was not particularly thrilled to inherit it. I was used to hand-held mixers, and this thing was big and heavy. Further, my first recipes were all ruined because I was using the whisk attachment instead of the paddle to make cookies and cakes (I didn't bother to read the instruction manual until after I ruined several things).
This model comes with an instruction manual/recipe booklet, a metal mixing bowl, a paddle attachment, a dough hook, a wire whisk attachment, and a splatter guard. I do not own any of the optional attachments, of which there are many. The optional attachments range from grinder to juicer to pasta maker and everything in between.
The mixer has ten speeds, but they are numbered in even numbers. To be honest, I have trouble distinguishing between when I'm on speed 3 or speed 4. Odd speeds aren't labeled, and it can be difficult to tell whether the little lever is on speed 4 or a little bit off speed 4. Fortunately, this difference between two speeds is basically irrelevant.
Since I did eventually find and read the instruction manual, I can tell you it is relatively clear. The only part that really confused me is that the instruction manual is a shared manual for the K5SS and the K45SS. The 4.5-quart model has a head that lifts up. The 5-quart model does not have a head that lifts up. This is a key difference between the two models, and I won't tell you how long I spent trying to figure out how to lift the head of my 5-quart model (in my defense, no one told me I had the 5-quart model). The recipes included in the manual are a welcome bonus; I have sampled several of them with great success. There are more than 50 recipes spanning appetizers to quiche to desserts to doughs. Reading the recipe book really helped me get a grasp on all the capabilities of my mixer.
1) This is a very powerful mixer. I rediscovered the joy of fresh-baked bread when I realized that the mixer does all the work! It also makes handy work of pizza dough. With dough is where that extra .5 quarts comes in handy (K5SS vs. K45SS)-- K5SS can hold recipes with up to 10 cups of flour, vs. the 8 cups max for K45SS.
2) This mixer is very dependable. If you count the time my husband had it before me, we've had it for five years with no problems. In fact, sometimes I fear it will never die and I'll have it my whole life. I have made countless bread doughs, cookie doughs, and pizza doughs with this mixer.
3) This mixer is also easy to clean. The bowl, the paddle attachment, and the dough hook can go right in the dishwasher. The wire whisk attachment is not dishwasher safe. It says so in the manual, but I found this out the hard way when mine discolored.
1) This is a heavy-duty mixer. It is not so great with the small quantities. Think you want to whip a half-cup of cream? You're better off using a whisk.
2) It's heavy. I know I'm a 100-pound weakling, but I can't imagine people wanting to take this mixer out of the cabinet every time to use it. I tried this a couple of times, and I eventually decided to do exactly what my husband did before he met me-- give it a permanent home on the countertop.
3) The bowl doesn't always snap in just right. You have to really make sure the bowl is snapped in correctly, or the mixer will bang. This is not an issue of cheapness-- it does snap in well. I just don't always push it in just right, so I have to check it. My husband has no trouble snapping it in perfectly every time, so this might be just me.
4) This may sound obvious, but it isn't portable. I currently have a hand-mixer on my Christmas wish-list so I can start making frosting in a double boiler again. I expected this to replace my hand-held mixer completely, but it couldn't.
5) It is kind of a pain to scrape the sides of the bowl. Because the head doesn't lift up, if you want to scrape the sides of the bowl mid-cookie dough, you kind of have to scrape around whatever attachment you have in. I recommend investing in the KitchenAid spatula-- it is the only spatula I have that is heavy-duty enough for this onerous task in a bowl that is taller than the average mixing bowl.
In all, I love my mixer, flaws and all. It makes cookie dough a snap by freeing my hands to do something other than holding the mixing bowl. I expect many more years of fine service from this machine.