The Braun Series 7 and Panasonic Arc 4 are two of the most compelling electric shavers you can currently buy: they’re reasonably priced and offer excellent performance.
Because high-end shavers like the Series 9 and Arc 5 come with a premium price tag and only offer diminishing returns, the older Series 7 and Arc 4 seem to be the more sensible choice for most men.
Having been on the market for quite a while, you can often find them at bargain prices, which further sweetens the deal.
While both the Braun Series 7 and the Panasonic Arc 4 are two excellent products, there are definitely cases where one would be more suitable than the other.
In this post we’ll cover all the differences between the Series 7 and the Arc 4, highlighting their pros and cons and hopefully helping you decide which one is better for you.
A brief overview of the Series 7 and Arc 4
Braun Series 7
The Series 7 was introduced in 2010 and quickly became a massive hit. It’s probably Braun’s all-time best-seller, being highly acclaimed for its supreme comfort during use, excellent cleaning station and overall great performance.
The Series 7 was constantly updated throughout the years, but the improvements were minor for the most part and didn’t really do anything significant to the actual shaving performance.
There are currently quite a few variations still in production, suitable for dry only or wet/dry operation. You also have the option of choosing a Series 7 that comes with or without an automatic cleaning station.
All the different product names can seem overwhelming and confusing, but the important thing to take away is that performance is pretty much the same throughout the entire Series 7 line. If you want to read more details about all the different models and their differences, here’s an in-depth post I wrote that addresses precisely that.
Braun Series 7 790cc
For most men, the best bet would be the popular Series 7 790cc for dry shaving or the 797cc for wet/dry use. Both of them come with an automatic cleaning station.
Braun Series 7 797cc wet & dry
Panasonic Arc 4
The Panasonic Arc 4 is in my opinion the most underrated line of electric shavers that is still widely available.
Launched in 2011, it didn’t manage to become as popular as the Series 7, even though it’s not by any means inferior. On the contrary, I would argue that it is at least as good as the Series 7.
While at the time of launch the price was very high and probably one of the reasons the Arc 4 wasn’t that popular, in recent years the prices have dropped significantly and you can now find some fantastic deals for the Arc 4.
In my opinion, the main advantage of the Panasonic Arc 4 shavers is their sheer power, being fitted with probably the fastest motors in the industry. This, coupled with the excellent and extremely sharp blades make the Arc 4 one of the closest shaving electric shavers.
As far as variations go, there are 4 Arc 4 shavers you can choose from, all of them suitable for wet/dry operation. There are a few differences between them as outlined in this post.
Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4
Personally I think that the ES-LA63-S and the ES-LF51-A represent the best options in terms of price and performance as I will explain later into this article.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the most important part of our Braun Series 7 vs Panasonic Arc 4 comparison, the differences.
Braun Series 7 vs Panasonic Arc 4: shaving performance
You’re probably most interested in how good these two razors shave, so we’ll start off with that.
I tend to divide shaving performance into two parts, closeness and comfort.
Closeness of the shave
In the electric shaving community there is a general consensus that Panasonic shavers have the edge over Braun when it comes exclusively to the closeness of the shave.
And after using quite a few shavers I must say that I fully agree and it’s the case with the Series 7 and the Arc 4 as well.
The Panasonic Arc 4 has a more powerful motor, capable of 14 000 CPM (cycles per minute). You can really feel and also hear the difference in power as the Panasonic produces a very high pitched sound during use.
The blades used by the Arc 4 are Panasonic’s 30 degrees nanoblades. Despite the gimmicky marketing name, they do perform as advertised and are responsible for a clean and extremely close shave. The arched foils also help maintain optimal contact with the skin.
As a result, the Arc 4 is extremely efficient even when used on a very coarse beard, allowing you to shave very close and also very fast. The shaver also benefits from a fourth cutting element compared to only three in the case of the Series 7.
While the difference in closeness between the Arc 4 and Series 7 is not huge, if you’re mainly interested in the closeness of the shave you should probably go for the Arc 4.
Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4
My pick would be the ES-LA63-S as it has the more powerful 14 000 CPM motor, has the more advanced shaving head and it’s also very reasonably priced for the performance it offers.
While Panasonic is the winner when it comes to sheer closeness, Braun is in a league of its own for the comfort during and after the shave.
The Braun Series 7 set a high standard for comfort that was extremely hard to achieve by the other manufacturers. Even today the Series 9 is probably the only electric shaver that manages to outperform it in this regard.
The shaving head of the Series 7 remains perfectly cool during use, while the micro-pulsations feel oddly nice to the face. It is extremely gentle to the skin and very forgiving even if your technique is not on point.
Braun Series 7 790cc
Speaking of which, the Arc 4 tends to get warm during use, particularly the middle trimmer. It’s also more aggressive if you press harder and go over an area repeatedly. This is a downside of the extreme closeness of the Arc 4. You can get reduce the discomfort by always lubricating the blades and by using a shaving cream, but out of the box the Series 7 is the winner.
Automatic and manual cleaning
Cleaning is a very important part of owning an electric shaver as you’ll be doing it quite often. A proper, thorough cleaning will have a positive impact on the performance and life span of your shaver.
With the Braun Series 7 and the Panasonic Arc 4 you have the option of fuss-free cleaning by choosing a model that includes a cleaning station. There’s also the option of manual cleaning if you don’t mind doing it.
However, the Series 7 and Arc 4 differ tremendously when it comes to cleaning as you’re about to see.
Braun Series 7 is available in several variations that include a cleaning station. In fact, most of them come with one and there are just a few models that don’t have the station and those generally cost less.
You can easily tell them apart by looking at their names: the ones ending in cc (standing for clean & charge) like the 790cc, 797cc etc. come with a cleaning station, while the ones ending in s don’t (for example, the 720s, 740s etc.).
So how good is Braun’s cleaning station?
Very good, actually.
It uses an alcohol based solution that cleans and sanitizes the shaver and leaves it perfectly dry and lubricated for your next shave.
The cleaning cycles are reasonably short compared to other stations and induction heat is being used for drying the shaver. The drying process is completely silent and faster compared to stations that use a fan (like the one that comes with the Arc 4).
The cleaning cartridges are widely available and won’t increase the cost of ownership by a whole lot.
The cleaning station of the Braun Series 7 is well worth the extra costs in my opinion and I would definitely opt for a model that has one like the 790cc below.
Braun Series 7 790cc
There is only one drawback that you must aware of with the cleaning stations of the Series 7.
With the wet & dry models, you must manually clean the shaver of any foam or lather before tossing them into the station. The lather residues will eventually clog the station if you fail to do so. This is very inconvenient as manually cleaning the Series 7 is fiddly, so definitely keep this in mind if you plan on using your Series 7 with shaving cream. This isn’t an issue if you shave dry.
Let’s now see how the Panasonic fares in this regard.
The Arc 4 comes in 4 variants and only one of them includes a cleaning station, the ES-LA93-K.
It does the job of cleaning well, but I am personally not a big fan of this station: it is very bulky, noisy and the cleaning cycles are long. On the plus side, there are no restrictions to how you use it if you shave with cream or gel and the cleaning cartridges are cheap.
I would personally save some money and just buy an Arc 4 that doesn’t include one, like the ES-LA63-S or the ES-LF51-A because they’re very easy to clean manually as you’ll see next. The ES-LA63-S is actually identical to the ES-LA93-K that includes the station except that it comes in a different color scheme.
To sum it up, if the Series 7 looks like a better fit for you, I highly recommend choosing one that includes the cleaning station, especially if you shave dry. If you wet shave with the Series 7 you’ll practically be forced to perform a manual clean as well.
That, plus the fact that the Arc 4 works great with shaving cream makes it a better choice for wet shaving. Whether you buy the Arc 4 with or without the cleaning station is entirely up to you.
If you skip the cleaning station you’ll have to perform a manual cleaning after every use.
The Braun Series 7 uses the 70s/70b shaving heads called cassettes. Because they have the foils and blades merged into one piece, they are notoriously hard to clean manually. This is also the case with other Braun models, like the Series 5 or Series 9.
Getting all the hair clippings and debris is very fiddly and time consuming, so if you can, definitely go for one of the cc models that come with the automatic cleaning station.
On the other hand, Panasonic shavers are very easy to clean. The shaving head can be taken apart and cleaned thoroughly.
You can apply a bit of liquid soap on the foils, let it run for a bit, then just rinse it under warm tap water and you’re all set.
The Arc 4 also features a sonic cleaning mode, activated by pressing and holding the ON/OFF switch. This makes the blades vibrate extremely fast for around 20 seconds, dislodging any stubborn debris.
To sum it up, if you skip the cleaning station or you prefer to shave with cream or gel, then the Panasonic Arc 4 is the better pick.
Wet & Dry use
Both the Series 7 and the Arc 4 can be used for shaving in the shower or with shaving cream. However, while all Arc 4 models are fully waterproof and suitable for wet/dry use, the Series 7 still has dry only and wet/dry models available.
The latest iterations of the Series 7, like the 7865cc followed the same path as Panasonic and all the newer models can be used wet or dry.
If you prefer to wet shave with your electric razor, I would say that the Arc 4 is probably the one to have.
There are two reasons for this. Firstly, using the Series 7 with shaving cream or gel doesn’t do much in terms of improving the comfort or the closeness. Shaving dry or wet yields pretty much the same results.
I think this largely has to do with the fact that I can apply a bit more pressure without any of the irritation or discomfort I would sometimes get when shaving dry with the Arc 4.
Panasonic shavers in general work amazing with shaving cream and this one is no exception. It totally transforms the razor and makes it very comfortable to use.
So if you want the Arc 4 for the closeness it provides, but you are worried about it being a bit too aggressive for sensitive skin, a solution is to use it with shaving cream.
The second reason to seriously consider the Arc 4 for wet shaving is cleaning. While both the Series 7 and Arc 4 can be bought with an automatic cleaning station, the Series 7 must be completely dry and free of any foam residues before tossing it into the cleaning station.
Failing to do so will damage the cleaning station. This means that you’ll have to manually clean it beforehand. And that’s a big bummer as you bought the cleaning station to avoid doing precisely that.
For the Arc 4, particularly the ES-LA93-K, this is a non-issue and there are no restrictions to how you use the station.
Also, in the case of manually cleaning the razors, the Arc 4 is definitely easier to clean compared to the Series 7 as we saw in the previous section.
Build quality and ergonomics
Braun is one of those companies that have a strong heritage, with iconic products and world famous designers like Dieter Rams.
The Series 7 has an understated design compared to the flashy Series 9 for example, but it is still aesthetically pleasing. The shaving head is made out of metal and feels very sturdy and durable.
The shaver has substantial girth, but it is well balanced and comfortable to hold.
There are only two issues with the Series 7 that are pretty well known in the electric shaving community. The first one is the head locking mechanism that is prone to breaking if excessive force is applied when the head is locked, so keep this in mind.
The second one is caused by the alcohol found in the cleaning solution that comes into contact with the shaver and over time the paint right below the shaving head can start to flake and chip. The damage is only visual though, with no effect on the shaver’s performance.
The Panasonic Arc 4 fares very well in the build quality department. I’ve been very impressed with the build quality of most Panasonic shavers, regardless of the price category.
The Arc 4 shavers are made entirely out of plastic, but it’s a very high quality and durable plastic that also copes very well with tarnishing and daily abuse.
The body of the shaver tapers nicely and fits great in the hand. The Arc 4 is a bit more adventurous than the Series 7 in terms of aesthetics, even though it’s starting to look somewhat dated next to Panasonic’s latest shavers.
I particularly like the ES-LA63-S with its gunmetal finish and the contrasting blue text on the LCD screen.
As a conclusion, I would say that both the Braun Series 7 and the Panasonic Arc 4 score very well in this category.
Price and cost of ownership
The Series 7 vs Arc 4 comparison wouldn’t be complete without a look at the costs of buying and owning the shavers.
As I said in the beginning of this post, these two are arguably the best foil shavers in the mid-range category.
It’s important to note that I only consider them mid-range shavers with regards to the price; in terms of performance, they manage to get quite close to high-end offerings like the Arc 5 or Series 9.
Let’s not forget that at the time of their launch the Series 7 and Arc 4 were the flagship shavers from Braun and Panasonic respectively.
Since then, their price has seen significant drops and they currently offer fantastic value for money, especially if you take some time to do some research prior to buying.
Regarding the initial investment, buying the shaver itself, the Arc 4 usually costs less, even in the LA93-K variation that includes the automatic cleaning station.
If you’re looking for the best bang for the buck, the Arc 4 ES8243A can usually be found for a very low price and you get a lot of shaver for that money. The full review can be found here.
Panasonic ES8243A Arc 4
If your budget allows it, I recommend spending a few extra dollars on the ES-LA63-S as it uses a slightly more powerful motor (14000 CPM vs 13000 CPM), has a more advanced flexing head and features a second motor inside the shaving head that vibrates to capture hairs more efficiently.
Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4
The ES-LF51-A is another great option if you can find it at a discount. It doesn’t have the extra features of the ES-LA63-S, but it’s still a great performer and has the same 14 000 CPM motor. You can read my full review here.
Again, with the Arc 4 I actually recommend skipping the cleaning station for the reasons outlined in the cleaning section.
The Series 7 is more expensive to buy compared to the Panasonic Arc 4, but not by much and it does include the excellent cleaning station.
Braun Series 7 790cc
My personal picks would be the Series 7 790cc for dry shaving or the 797cc for wet/dry use. Their performance is identical to the newer iterations of the Series 7, but they can be bought for less money.
The costs of owning an electric shaver are directly related to replacement foils and blades and the optional cleaning cartridges.
At the moment of writing, Braun’s replacement shaving head for the Series 7, called a cassette, costs pretty much the same as the foil + blades combo for the Arc 4.
So there aren’t any significant differences between the Series 7 and the Arc 4 when it comes to buying new shaving heads.
A good rule of thumb for how often you should replace them is one year, even though Braun recommends buying a new cassette every 18 months.
Regarding the cleaning cartridges, the price per cartridge has dropped significantly for the Panasonic and are now a lot cheaper than to the ones needed for the Series 7.
This could be a very compelling reason to buy the Arc 4 with a cleaning station, despite the fact that it’s not absolutely necessary as the shaver is very easy to clean manually.
The cartridges last pretty much the same, so the price per one cleaning cycle is lower in the case of the Arc 4.
It’s worth noting that Braun uses alcohol for the cleaning solution, so it will evaporate pretty fast. Therefore, it’s a very good idea to remove the cartridge from the base and put the cap back on if you won’t be using it for a long time. Panasonic uses detergent, so you don’t have to worry about this with the Arc 4.
Overall the Panasonic Arc 4 is cheaper to buy and to own, so if you are on a tight budget the Arc 4 seems like the better option.
Which one should you choose?
If you’ve come this far into this comparison you should now have at least a preference towards the Series 7 or the Arc 4.
While there are both very capable shavers, they also excel at different things, so depending on your personal needs one would probably be more suitable than the other.
So here are a few guidelines to help you choose between the Braun Series 7 vs the Panasonic Arc 4.
Buy the Series 7 if
- You have sensitive skin that is prone to irritation, razor burn and rashes
- You prefer dry shaving for the majority of time
- A comfortable shave is more important than a slightly closer shave
- You want one of the best automatic cleaning stations in the industry
Buy the Arc 4 if
- You want one of the closest and fastest shaving electric shavers on the market that doesn’t cost a lot
- You will also use it with shaving cream or gel
- You want an electric shaver that’s easy to clean manually
- You are on a tighter budget
This concludes our comparison of the Braun Series 7 and Panasonic Arc 4. I still consider these particular razors to be the optimal choice for most men, even though there are other shavers from the same manufacturers that perform slightly better, but do so for significantly more money.
Both the Series 7 and the Arc 4 have been around for quite a while and I must say that I am very excited to see if Panasonic and Braun will decide to update them. And by that I mean new products from scratch, like Panasonic did with the new Arc 5 and Arc 3.
But until then the end users are the ones that will benefit the most from these great shavers and the fantastic value for money they offer.