Finding the right electric razor should be easy and straightforward.
After all, getting a close and comfortable shave, preferably without spending a ton of money, sounds like a very reasonable expectation.
However, selecting a good electric shaver seems to be anything but simple.
This guide aims to change all that by redefining the way we approach this issue. Precisely, we’ll start with you — the user — and get to the actual razors from there.
In my opinion this is what’s fundamentally wrong with all the roundups of the so-called best shavers we see crop up all over the web: they only vaguely account for the user and his needs.
With that said, I am confident that by the time you finish reading this post you’ll have a clearer understanding of what makes a particular razor suitable in a given situation and ultimately decide which electric shaver is best for you.
Table of Contents
- Why is choosing an electric shaver so complicated?
- The problem with the common best shaver lists approach
- Finding the right shaver is a personal matter above all
- What are some of the best electric shavers (2018)?
- 1. Braun Series 9 9290cc
- 2. Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc 5
- 3. Braun Series 7 790cc
- 4. Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4
- 5. Panasonic ES-LF51-A Arc 4
- 6. Braun Series 5 5090cc/5190cc
- 7. Philips Norelco 8900 with SmartClean
- 8. Panasonic ES-LT41-K Arc 3
- 9. Braun Series 3 3040s ProSkin
- 10. Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 (S3310/81)
- Final word on choosing the right shaver
Why is choosing an electric shaver so complicated?
For starters, I would say that the sheer number of models and variations creates some sort of paradox of choice. There are just too many of them.
I’m sure you’ve been in the position of having to buy a certain product only to go back and forth repeatedly between several options.
And to add insult to the injury, selecting an electric shaver is plagued by yet another issue: a poor documentation of the differences between the various models.
Often times the model names make absolutely no sense, the manufacturer doesn’t make the slightest effort to showcase the differences between the razors in a particular line and many review sites are filled with conflicting or poor information.
We sometimes see product updates being rolled out with no indication on how significant they are or if the older shavers still represent a viable option.
There are cases where the new models are nothing more than a cosmetic makeover; but there are also times when a shaver is a completely new product, employing important changes that will have an impact on the actual performance.
The problem with the common best shaver lists approach
I am going to assume that you’ve tried searching for what would ideally be the best electric razor for you and stumbled upon a myriad of posts on this subject.
Unfortunately, there are a few major problems with most of these roundups.
First and foremost, that elusive best shaver doesn’t exist; the best you can hope for is to find a razor that checks most of the boxes in your particular case — I will go over this in detail right away.
Secondly, most review authors never actually tested the razors in question. They just come up with roundups of the most popular and over-hyped shavers, copying what others are saying and repeating some marketing terminology. You’ll rarely see on point criticism and genuine assessments.
I know this is a very serious claim, but unfortunately there are only a few reliable resources out there.
I think it’s pretty obvious why this is a flawed approach. Apart from the reliability of the information that is questionable at best, almost all articles never seem to consider the fact that men are different, their needs are different and their shaving habits are different.
Which leads us to the next part.
Finding the right shaver is a personal matter above all
It’s important to note that an electric shaver review is based on anecdotal findings and at least some parts will be affected by user bias.
A particular razor may be the best option for me, but it can also perform poorly when used by someone else.
And this is the result of us men being different and wanting different things from an electric shaver.
Accounting for these differences and use cases is key when recommending an electric shaver as it will exponentially increase the odds of you getting a suitable shaving machine.
So how does one go about this? What are the most important factors to consider when coming up with a list of the best electric shavers for men that should suit a plethora of different users and situations?
After using and testing electric razors for over 15 years I believe that it comes down to the following factors:
- Coarseness of the hair
- Sensitive skin
- Shaving habits and frequency
- Facial hair particularities
- Budget (initial investment, replacement foils/blades, cleaning cartridges)
I am confident that this “holistic” approach is the way to go when it comes to choosing an electric razor that will perform great in your case.
Today’s modern electric razors have come a very long way and you can currently find some fantastic products out there. But as I already said, a particular shaver won’t be ideal in every situation.
To address this, I will share some of the best shavers I’ve tested so far, centered around those 5 key aspects mentioned above, hopefully helping you pick the right one.
With every shaver on this list, I will also try to justify why I chose that particular model as opposed to another. In the majority of cases, this will be a matter of price, availability in 2018 and whether it offers genuinely useful features.
What are some of the best electric shavers (2018)?
1. Braun Series 9 9290cc
|Extremely comfortable||Not quite the closest shaving razor in this price range|
|Great for longer, wiry, flat-lying hairs||Overkill for light beards and/or everyday use|
|Suitable for very sensitive skin, ingrown hairs||Manual cleaning is fiddly|
|Excellent cleaning station|
|Fast and powerful, suitable for coarse beards|
Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room: the flashy, chrome covered Series 9 from Braun.
Arguably one of the most popular and highly-anticipated electric shavers in recent years, the Series 9 was the topic of many heated discussions in the community.
Launched back in 2015 to take over the Series 7 as Braun’s new range-topping shaver, the Series 9 had a couple of hiccups along the way: a shortage of replacement shaving heads and some reports of the cutters falling apart after only a few months of use.
Moreover, if you somehow managed to find the replacement parts, the price was prohibitive.
Braun eventually sorted out the problems by fitting the Series 9 with new shaving heads (press release).
The updated models start with 92: 9290cc, 9295cc, 9293s etc. and all of them are suitable for wet & dry use.
The cost of the replacement shaving heads — called cassettes — has also dropped significantly and are actually quite reasonably priced at the moment of writing this article.
For these reasons the Series 9 finally represents a viable option.
I used to be very reluctant to recommend the Series 9 and I would often advise the readers of this website to take the safe route and choose the tried and tested Series 7 instead.
However, since every potential issue has been addressed we can finally focus on the actual performance of the Series 9.
After thoroughly testing the 9290cc from the updated Series 9 generation, I can confidently say that it is a great razor. But as expected, it’s not the best in every situation and I’ll get to that right away.
But I’ll first go over the good parts and when it would be a great choice.
The best part about the 9290cc (and about the Series 9 in general) is the comfort. I’ve used dozens of electric razors and this one is by far the most comfortable, forgiving and gentle shaver you can currently buy.
I could even get away with things that would normally inflict some razor burn and serious discomfort (pressing too hard or doing unnecessary passes over sensitive areas).
If you have sensitive skin, suffer from razor burn, rashes or ingrown hairs, the Series 9 is arguably the best electric razor you can buy right now. The foils never get hot even after a prolonged use and remain perfectly comfortable.
The shaving head is comprised of 4 individual cutting elements: two outer finishing foils and two cutters specially designed to tackle longer, flat-lying hairs that grow in different directions.
Braun’s implementation of these specialized cutters on the Series 9 works better than anything used on any other foil shaver. They manage to capture and cut stray, wiry and flat lying hairs impressively well.
Most other electric razors, particularly the foil ones, only manage to perform average at best when used on a longer beard (hair length is more than 3mm) and tend to miss hairs, requiring multiple strokes to get a clean shave.
If you tend to shave less often, like every two days or even more and have problem areas where the hairs grow parallel to the skin and have different grains, the Series 9 will again be a very suitable option.
The only razors that can match it in these situations are Norelco’s advanced rotary shavers, like the 8900 and 9300/9700, but those aren’t as comfortable nor do they shave as close — at least that was my experience with them.
The Series 9 has plenty of cutting power and will be more than suitable for dense, coarse beards. It never felt underpowered during my tests and allowed me to finish my shave very quickly.
Let’s now talk about the closeness. While for me it was definitely adequate, it wasn’t the best I ever got from an electric shaver. A Panasonic Arc 5 or even an Arc 4 will likely give you a slightly closer shave, even though they’re not quite as comfortable as the Series 9.
So if you’re particularly interested in getting the closest possible shave and your skin is not overly sensitive, the above mentioned Panasonics are probably the ones to get.
Otherwise, the Series 9 represents an excellent compromise of comfort and closeness, but again, it is not the closest shaving electric razor you can get.
Another issue with the Series 9 is the price. While it has dropped significantly since the launch, it is still an expensive shaver. The replacement shaving heads called cassettes (part number 92s/92b) are pricey as well, but on par with the other high-end shavers from the competition.
The cleaning cartridges from Braun are a bit more expensive compared to the ones from Panasonic or Philips Norelco. And with the Series 9 you’ll probably want a variation that comes with a cleaning station.
As I said in my review of the 9290cc, a manual cleaning is fiddly as you can’t really get all the hair clippings and dirt out.
This is caused by the design of the shaving head, with the foils and blades merged into a single piece that offers limited access for a thorough cleaning. In time this can lead to dirt, dead skin and hair buildups inside the shaving head.
Luckily the cleaning station takes care of everything for you. You don’t have to use it after every shave — for me once a week is more than enough and I simply clean the shaver with liquid soap and warm tap water for the rest of the time.
This ensures an excellent hygiene for the shaver and you also won’t have to replace the cleaning cartridge as often (here are more tips on how to make the cleaning refills last longer).
As with all Braun shavers, the models ending in cc (like the 9290cc) include a cleaning base, while the ones ending in s (for example 9293s) do not. Please note that an s model will not work with a cleaning station, despite the fact that they look identical to the cc variations.
The s (solo) models lack a dedicated chip used to communicate with the station, so the only option would be to invest a bit more in a cc Series 9 if you plan on ever using an automatic cleaning station.
I don’t usually recommend cleaning stations if they’re not needed, but in the case of the Series 9 I think they really contribute to the experience and they’re genuinely useful. Besides, the price difference between an s and a cc model is not that steep.
Considering the purchase price and the costs of the cassettes and cleaning cartridges, the Series 9 doesn’t quite offer the best value for money.
If your budget is tight, consider getting the Series 7 or even the Series 5 instead. They are cheaper to buy and the replacement shaving heads also cost less.
If you have a medium beard and shave often, the Series 9 with its 4 blades is probably overkill and again in this case the cheaper Series 7 or 5 will easily be good enough.
2. Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc 5
|Extremely close shaves||Not quite as comfortable as a Series 9 or 7|
|Adequately comfortable for sensitive skin||Replacement foils & blades are pricey|
|Very fast and powerful, suitable for coarse facial hair||Overkill for light beards and/or everyday use|
|High quality, sharp blades||Bulky shaving head needs some getting used to|
|Excellent wet shaving performance||Not as good as a Series 9 or 7 for flat-lying, wiry hairs|
|Easy to clean manually|
|Good value for money|
Panasonic is Braun’s only real competitor in the foil shavers segment. While Panasonic never managed to gain the same popularity as Braun in the USA, the quality and performance of their shavers are outstanding.
The Arc 5 line represents Panasonic’s take on what should be the ultimate electric razor: 5 individual cutting elements, the fastest linear-drive motor in the industry and extremely sharp blades.
Remember what I previously said about the sheer number of options and the lack of proper documentation regarding the differences between them?
Well, there are 3 different generations of Arc 5 shavers (+ three relatively minor revisions of the third one), all of them still available for purchasing.
However, the goal of this post was to make it easy for you to find the right shaver. And that also means eliminating the clutter created by the plethora of model names that make no sense.
As a result, I will only come up with a single option: the Panasonic ES-LV65-S from the second generation.
This shaver currently represents the best Arc 5 variation with regards to costs and performance (if you want the whole meaty details of the different Panasonic razors, make sure to check out this post).
While the Series 9 (and Braun shavers in general) excel in comfort, Panasonic is the best when it comes to closeness.
And this isn’t the case with just the Arc 5 and Series 9, it’s the same situation in the lower-end spectrum as well, where models like the Panasonic Arc 4 and Arc 3 out-perform Braun’s Series 7/5 and 3 respectively. This inevitably comes with a small trade-off in comfort for Panasonic.
The ES-LV65-S Arc 5 is the razor to have if your priority is getting a very close shave. It’s probably the closest an electric shaver can get to a traditional razor blade with the current technology.
Panasonic manages to deliver this outstanding performance by using extremely thin foils machined with great precision and high quality, sharp blades that feature an aggressive 30 degrees bevel for effective cutting.
The motor powering the ES-LV65-S is a 14 000 CPM unit, the fastest yet to my knowledge. For the sake of comparison, the Series 9 has a 10 000 CPM motor. Speed isn’t everything of course, but this difference is hard to ignore.
The result of all these features is one of the fastest, closest shaving electric shavers you can buy. As expected, it will have no problem shaving a very coarse beard with ease.
Being a wet/dry model, you have the option to use it with your favorite shaving cream and further improve the closeness and the comfort of the shave. And for me this setup works the best.
Since Panasonic razors aren’t quite as comfortable as the ones from Braun, adding a quality shaving cream improves the comfort and this way you can still get that close shave without any trade-offs in comfort.
If getting back to using creams and gels doesn’t sound too appealing, you can throw in a pre-shave lotion and enjoy a quick dry shave. It’s the next best thing if you want to improve your dry shave with minimal extra costs and no extra work.
To sum it up, the ES-LV65-S is one of the best electric razors you can get for very close shaves, coarse facial hair and fast shaving sessions.
You can get it with a cleaning station as well in the form of the Panasonic ES-LV95-S.
That one comes with the updated, more compact cleaning base, the detergent-based cleaning fluid lasts a long time and you also have the option to just dry your shaver (you can’t do that with a Braun station).
However, I actually recommend you to skip the station because unlike the Series 9, the ES-LV65-S is dead easy to clean manually and it costs less than the model that includes the cleaning base.
Regarding the costs associated with the ES-LV65-S, it actually does very well for a high-end shaver. The purchase price is very reasonable considering the performance and it undercuts a Series 9 for example by quite a lot.
Not including a cleaning station definitely contributes to this.
The foils and blades are a bit pricey (part number WES9032P), but comparable to other premium replacement parts like the 92s/92b needed for the Series 9.
Here’s another quick tip for current ES-LV65-S users and Panasonic probably won’t appreciate me sharing it. You can actually use the new foils and blades used by the latest (third) generation Arc 5 shavers. They will fit the ES-LV65-S perfectly.
While the closeness offered by the new part is pretty much identical, they are significantly more comfortable than the older ones that come with the ES-LV65-S.
So this would be a quick, easy and inexpensive way to upgrade your ES-LV65-S when it comes the time to replace the foils and blades.
Still related to costs, you won’t be spending any money on cleaning detergent, but if you opt for the ES-LV95-S variation, the detergent sachets are reasonably priced and will last longer than Braun’s alcohol-based cleaning solution.
Now let’s see when you shouldn’t get the ES-LV65-S and what other razors would be better.
If you have very sensitive skin or suffer from ingrown hairs, you should opt for a Braun Series 9 or 7 — depending on your budget. The ES-LV65-S can be a bit aggressive in a situation like this, even though it doesn’t get hot like some Arc 4 or Arc 3 models do.
Again, if you don’t have very sensitive skin you’ll probably be perfectly fine using an Arc 5.
Another scenario that can cause some problems is when shaving longer hairs, particularly if they grow parallel to the skin and/or in different directions.
The problem isn’t cutting the hairs, but rather capturing them.
If we take a close look at the shaving head of the ES-LV65-S, we can clearly see that Panasonic’s focus was on closeness and not on enhanced capabilities of catching flat lying hairs, despite the use of a specially designed slit foil.
A Braun Series 9 simply works better in this case. If you’re still sold on getting the Panny, one workaround would be to shave more often. The problem of wiry, flat-lying hairs is less serious if you shave daily or every other day for example.
And finally, if you have a light beard or you’re just getting started with electric shavers, an ES-LV65-S with a whopping 5 blades and a massive shaving head is probably too much.
In that case I would suggest to save some money and go for a Panasonic Arc 4 or even Arc 3 — I’ll get to them later on.
3. Braun Series 7 790cc
|Very comfortable||Not the closest shaving razor in this price range|
|Suitable for very sensitive skin||A Series 5 is cheaper and very similar performance-wise|
|Adequately close shaves||Poorly implemented head locking mechanism|
|Reasonably priced compared to a Series 9||Manual cleaning is fiddly|
|Works surprisingly well with longer, flat-lying hairs|
|Suitable for coarse beards|
The Series 7 from Braun is probably the best-selling electric shaver of the past few years. It was first introduced in 2010 and quickly gained an iconic status.
And there are definitely a lot of good things about the Series 7, but some shortcomings as well.
First and foremost, let’s address the most common question regarding the Series 7: which one should I buy?
To answer that, it’s important to set a few things straight.
Since its launch, the Series 7 had received several updates. They mostly consisted of minor cosmetic changes and the introduction of certain gimmicky features, like 5 personalization modes instead of 3.
As a result, the outcome is pretty easy to guess: the actual shaving performance wasn’t improved in a significant manner.
Because of this, choosing a Series 7 should come down to three things:
- Whether you need a cleaning station or not
- Whether you need a shaver that can be used both wet and dry
Allow me to address this further with a practical example. Let’s say that you need a dry only shaver that includes an automatic cleaning station and you found several Series 7 models that satisfy these requirements. Which one should you get?
The answer is very simple: just buy the cheapest one. The actual performance will be the same. For reference, here is a complete breakdown of all the different Series 7 models that I wrote a while back.
The reason why I chose the Series 7 790cc over other variations is that in 2018 this model seems to be the most reasonably priced and it’s also widely available. Another model you should check out — for the same reasons — is the newer Series 7 7865cc.
Just like with the Series 9, my choice would be a Series 7 that comes with an automatic cleaning station. The reasoning is the same — in time, a manual cleaning won’t be enough.
Moreover, the original station included with the Series 7 790cc (and other older variations) is in my opinion the best that Braun has ever made. It is the only one that uses induction heating instead of a fan for drying the razor.
As a result, the drying phase of the cleaning cycle is extremely short compared to other cleaning stations.
Another side benefit of induction heating is the complete lack of any noise since there’s no fan spinning.
As usual, the cc models come with a cleaning station, while the s ones do not. But unlike the Series 9, the Series 7 s models will actually work with a cleaning station if you decide to buy one later on.
Braun officially recommends against doing so as the solo models lack the special coat of paint used on the cc variations that should withstand the exposure to the alcohol-based fluid. However, this didn’t prevent a lot of Series 7 owners to successfully use their solo models with a station.
The Series 7 7865cc, 797cc (wet & dry) and 790cc (dry only) seem to be the best options since they cost less than other similar variations.
Let’s now see if the Braun Series 7 would be a good fit for you.
The best thing about this line of shavers is again comfort. Until the launch of the Series 9, the Series 7 was the shaver to beat in terms of comfort.
This quality makes it a perfectly suitable option for men with sensitive skin that don’t feel like spending a premium price for a Series 9.
The difference in closeness in negligible in my experience. However, the Series 9 is more enjoyable to use, a bit more refined and it will shave faster.
The differences will be even less noticeable if you shave more often; as I said previously, one of the strong points of the Series 9 is shaving longer, flat-lying hairs.
If you’re not particularly concerned with getting the closest possible shave and just want a shaver that is a great all-rounder and very gentle to the skin, the Series 7 would be a prime candidate.
In my experience it works best when used daily or every other day, but you can get excellent results on a two or three days beard as well. It works surprisingly well for a foil shaver and seems to be very efficient at capturing those annoying flat-lying hairs.
The Series 7 will have no problem with thick beards, but an Arc 5 or a Series 9 will shave faster and with fewer strokes.
The price of the Series 7 tends to vary a lot, so make sure to do some research beforehand. Again, the 790cc and the 7865cc are usually the best options.
The replacement shaving heads (part no. 70s/70b) are widely available and the cost is pretty reasonable, especially compared to a Series 9 or an Arc 4 shaving head.
Now, the Series 7 has two major problems in my opinion. The first one is that a Panasonic ES-LV65-S or even an Arc 4 like the ES-LA63-S will shave closer, faster and they also cost less.
Granted, they aren’t as comfortable, but if you don’t have very sensitive skin you’ll probably have no problem using them.
This is something to keep in mind if closeness is what you’re after.
Moreover, the replacement shaving heads are cheaper and the Series 5 also addresses several potential problems of the Series 7, like the head locking mechanism that was prone to breaking.
So what do all of these mean? Should you stay away from the Series 7?
Definitely not, especially if you can get a great deal on it. However, depending on your priorities (comfort or closeness) and budget, the above-mentioned shavers may represent a better option.
4. Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4
|Very close shaves||Not as comfortable as a Series 7 or 5|
|Can be suitable for sensitive skin||Replacement foils & blades are pricey|
|Very fast and powerful, great for coarse facial hair||Overkill for light beards|
|High quality, sharp blades||Bulky shaving head needs some getting used to|
|Excellent wet shaving performance||Not the best for longer, wiry, flat-lying hairs|
|Easy to clean manually|
|Very good value for money|
In a previous post regarding Panasonic’s Arc 4 family of electric shavers, I mentioned that they are probably the most underrated shavers that you can (still) buy today.
My stance on this hasn’t changed in 2018 and I still consider them to be very compelling as they offer fantastic performance for a fraction of the price of other high-end electric shavers.
That wasn’t always the case as they used to cost a lot in the past. Luckily the price has dropped significantly and the Arc 4 shavers now offer excellent value for money.
The ES-LA63-S Arc 4 is probably the razor I recommend the most on this website.
Compared to other models in the Arc 4 line, the ES-LA63-S has a few advantages: a more advanced flexing shaving head with a second vibrating motor, a 14 000 CPM motor and (usually) a very reasonable price.
While the real-world advantages of a more flexible head and that second motor are questionable, the performance and excellent value for money of the ES-LA63-S are undeniable.
The Panasonic ES-LA93-K is an identical shaver, only that it comes in black and includes an automatic cleaning station. That one is a viable option as well, particularly since lately it can be found at bargain prices.
But as I said previously, Panasonic razors are extremely easy to clean manually, so the station isn’t a must-have.
As the name implies, the Arc 4 models have 4 individual, slightly curved (ARChed) cutting elements, so that’s one less compared to the premium Arc 5 family.
Even so, 4 blades are still plenty enough and together with that zippy 14 000 CPM motor (the same as the one in the Arc 5), the ES-LA63-S offers top-notch performance.
As a result, there are very few situations where an Arc 4 shaver wouldn’t be a suitable choice.
Just like the Arc 5, the Arc 4 razors excel at two things: closeness and speed.
I can confidently say that an Arc 4 is the closest shaving electric razor in this price range — I’m talking about the mid-range segment with shavers like the Series 7, Series 5 or the Philips Norelco 8900.
For the budget conscious buyer who needs an electric razor that can shave really close, the ES-LA63-S (or any other Arc 4 variation) is probably the best option out there.
It’s just as impressive as the Arc 5 at cutting very coarse stubble and the massive shaving head allows you to shave very fast.
If you’re a complete beginner, the bulky head may seem cumbersome to use, particularly in tight spots, but you’ll eventually get used to it.
The shaving experience with the ES-LA63-S is quite similar to the ES-LV65-S from the Arc 5 line. A fifth blade only offers diminishing returns. The Arc 5 is however a tad more refined and comfortable.
To sum it up, the ES-LA63-S packs a lot of punch, is reasonably priced, easy to clean manually and will satisfy pretty much anyone who’s looking to get a very close shave without paying a premium price.
Now, there’s no electric shaver that does everything right and shines in every possible scenario.
The replacement foils and blades combo (part number WES9025PC) is priced pretty high compared to the competition.
Just like the Arc 5 and pretty much any other Panasonic, the Arc 4 is not quite as comfortable as a Braun Series 7 or 5. This slightly aggressive profile is a side effect of that extreme closeness.
I currently have two Arc 4 shavers, an ES-LA63-S and an ES-LF51-A and I use them quite often in my rotation. To put things into perspective, I have sensitive skin and medium to coarse facial hair.
Using the ES-LF51-A dry can leave me with a rash and some razor burn if I’m not careful; adding a pre-shave to the mix does improve the comfort, but it’s still not ideal. The only way I can get an irritation free and very close shave with most Panasonic razors is by adding a shaving cream.
The ES-LA63-S however managed to be more comfortable during a dry shave mainly because the foils don’t get too hot during use. If you’re careful not to press too hard, the ES-LA63-S can be adequately comfortable.
I wanted to make this side note so you can decide for yourself if the ES-LA63-S can work well for you. Again, if don’t have particularly sensitive skin, you should be fine using it wet or dry.
Another potential problem with the Arc 4 is inherited from the Arc 5 and Panasonic’s focus on closeness: it can miss long, flat-lying hairs, especially on the neck or jawline. Again, shaving more often can eliminate this shortcoming completely.
Despite having that vibrating motor inside the head that supposedly helps with catching longer hairs, it just doesn’t seem to work.
If your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to shave regularly, then a Braun Series 7/5 or a Philips Norelco 8900 will probably be more suitable. However, keep in mind that rotary shavers don’t usually shave as close as foil shavers.
Also, if you shave daily and your beard isn’t particularly dense, an Arc 3 like the ES-LT41-K will probably be good enough. It costs less and the replacement foils and blades are cheaper as well. More details on that one later on.
5. Panasonic ES-LF51-A Arc 4
|Very close shaves||Not as comfortable as a Series 5 or 7|
|Slim shaving head for a 4 blade shaver||Replacement foils & blades are pricey|
|Very fast and powerful, great for coarse facial hair||Overkill for light beards|
|High quality, sharp blades||Not the best for longer, wiry, flat-lying hairs|
|Excellent wet shaving performance|
|Easy to clean manually|
|Very good value for money|
While the Panasonic ES-LA63-S is a really good shaver, the bulky shaving head could be an issue for some users, especially for someone getting an electric razor for the first time.
Despite this potential shortcoming I still continued to recommend it quite often, mainly because its price was usually lower compared to other Arc 4 models. At least that was the situation in the past.
But as of 2018 other models in this lineup have started to follow this trend and they now represent viable, cost-effective alternatives as well.
One such shaver is the Panasonic ES-LF51-A and I think it could even be better than the best-selling ES-LA63-S in some cases.
It’s still a 4 blade foil shaver with a very similar setup (they even use the exact same inner blades), it’s equipped with the same powerful 14 000 CPM motor and its overall performance is almost identical.
As for the differences, the ES-LF51-A lacks the vibrating motor and its shaving head can be depressed instead of the up and down pivoting of the ES-LA63-S.
However, the shaving performance is excellent, in particular the closeness of the shave. In fact, I would say that the ES-LF51-A is slightly better.
The size of the shaving head may not look that much different in pictures, but it is a lot more manageable during use. You will really appreciate the more compact and nimble shaving head of the ES-LF51-A, especially when shaving right below your nose for example.
I think this is one of the reasons why I tend to get a slightly closer shave with the ES-LF51-A — it allows me to control the shaver with greater precision.
It also seems subjectively faster despite using an identical motor; since it lacks the vibrating feature, the sound it emits is very clean and crisp, while the ES-LA63-S sounds muddier.
The ES-LF51-A is certainly powerful enough for dense facial hair and you will appreciate it if you want a very close shave.
Cleaning this shaver manually is a breeze. It doesn’t require anything fancy, just some warm water and liquid soap.
The sonic cleaning mode also helps and you can literally get it perfectly clean in 30 seconds.
Regarding the cons of the ES-LF51-A, they’re pretty much the same ones that plague any other Arc 4 shaver.
It’s not the most comfortable shaver out there, at least not during a dry shave. For sensitive skin it may come across as too harsh.
The foils also tend to get quite a bit hot during use, even more than the ones on the ES-LA63-S. I found that a spray lubricant like the Remington Shaver Saver works wonders for this razor and I saw a significant improvement in comfort and overall performance.
Using a shaving cream makes it a lot more forgiving and gentle, but it’s a fact that most men will prefer a quick dry shave. However, if you’re not totally against using shaving cream with electric razors, the ES-LF51-A will perform great.
Finally, there’s the issue of flat hairs where no particular Panasonic shines, not even the crazy advanced Arc 5 rev C.
With or without that second vibrating motor, a Panasonic Arc 4 will just perform poorly in this situation. If you won’t be using the ES-LF51-A on short stubble, you’ll be a lot happier with a Braun Series 5 or 7.
In conclusion, if you want a very close shave, you don’t have very sensitive skin and you’ll be shaving daily for the majority of time, I highly recommend you to check out the Panasonic ES-LF51-A.
6. Braun Series 5 5090cc/5190cc
|Very comfortable||Doesn’t shave as close as a Panasonic Arc 4|
|Suitable for sensitive skin||Noisy during use|
|Similar to a Series 7 performance-wise||Manual cleaning is fiddly|
|Very good value for money|
|Excellent design and build quality|
|Suitable for coarse beards|
Just like the Panasonic Arc 4 is a more budget-friendly Arc 5, the Series 5 represents a more cost-effective alternative to Braun’s Series 7 models.
The current Series 5 generation — with shavers like the 5090cc/5190cc — takes a lot of design cues from the high-end Series 9.
The two shavers are extremely similar in terms of proportions, construction and weight. The Series 5 with its mostly black color scheme is however more subdued and strictly from an aesthetic point of view, I think it’s one of the better-looking shavers out there.
The long hair trimmer, as well as the head locking mechanism of the Series 5 are again the same as the ones on the Series 9. This also means that there won’t be any potential problems with breaking the locking mechanism.
Upon taking a look at the shaving head of the Series 5 you’ll notice a striking similarity with another Braun shaver, the Series 7.
The Series 5 uses an identical setup, with three individual cutting elements: two finishing foils and one middle trimmer that captures longer hairs.
It’s therefore not a big surprise that performance-wise, the Series 5 and 7 are pretty much identical.
While it’s not that obvious from the side by side shot above, the shaving head of the Series 7 is a bit more compact as the frame surrounding the cassette it is not as wide. As a result, the Series 7 feels slightly more nimble during use.
The Series 7 is more refined, a bit more comfortable and slightly faster during use. The Series 5 vibrates a lot when cutting the hairs and produces more noise.
But the final result, both in terms of closeness and comfort, is very similar. So if you found the Series 7 to be a good match for your needs, but the price was more than what you were willing to pay, the Series 5 represents a perfectly good alternative.
There are quite a few variations of the Series 5 available and you can read my complete guide on that topic here.
In my opinion, the 5090cc seems to be the best option at this moment as it costs less than other Series 5 models and as the cc in its name suggests, it comes with an automatic cleaning station.
Regarding the station I must mention that it lacks any system for actively drying the shaver once the cleaning phase is completed.
As we saw previously, with some of the Series 7 we get induction heating and the Series 9 stations are fitted with a fan that blow-dries the shaving head.
In order to keep the price low, the cleaning stations included with the Series 5 don’t have any of these. Instead, the alcohol-based fluid will naturally evaporate within a few hours.
In my opinion this isn’t a big deal as you probably don’t need to use the razor again just hours after completing a shave.
Other than that, the station of the 5090cc does the same excellent job of cleaning and lubricating the shaver.
Because the shaving performance of the Series 5 is so similar to the Series 7, it represents one of the best choices for men with sensitive skin that are primarily interested in shaving comfort as opposed to getting a very close shave.
I personally find the closeness of the Series 5 and 7 to be good enough, but again, something like a Panasonic Arc 4 will provide a closer shave in most cases.
The Series 5 seems to be fitted with a similar motor to the one in the Series 7, so it will have plenty of power to shave a coarse beard.
It works great when used on shorter facial hair, so if you shave daily or every other day you should get very good results.
I actually managed to get a really good shave even when I used it on a two or three days beard, so in my opinion the Series 5 works a lot better in these situations than any other similarly priced Panasonic for example. That middle trimmer manages to catch stray hairs efficiently and with fewer strokes.
The 5090cc is suitable for dry only use, but to be perfectly honest, a shaving cream or gel doesn’t do much for the Series 5 or 7 in terms of improving the results. The newer 5190cc is also suitable for wet & dry operation.
Braun shavers in general are very comfortable during a dry shave and the closeness won’t be improved to a significant degree with the addition of a shaving cream or gel.
A pre-electric shave lotion would be a better option as it’s very easy to apply and in most cases it will make a difference.
Regarding the price, the Series 5 5090cc/5190cc does very well actually. It costs less than a Series 7 with similar specs and the replacement shaving head (52s/52b) is also cheaper.
To sum it up, the Series 5 is a more affordable Series 7 that really delivers on the expectations.
7. Philips Norelco 8900 with SmartClean
|Great for longer, flat-lying hairs||A Panasonic Arc 4 or 5 will shave closer|
|Adequately close shaves, comfortable||Manual cleaning can be tedious|
|Costs less than other premium Philips shavers||A rotary razor may not be the best choice for very sensitive skin|
|Very good cleaning station|
|Excellent price/performance ratio|
|Suitable for coarse beards|
Let’s now shift our attention to what is likely one of the best rotary razors when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck.
The 8900 from Philips Norelco, available with or without a cleaning station, offers similar performance to the much more expensive Series 9000 razors (9300, 9700, 9800) for significantly less money.
By leaving out some gimmicky features like speed settings, fancy displays and by using a simpler design, the 8900 can usually be bought at an excellent price. The actual shaving performance still remains top notch.
For example, the Norelco 8900 uses the same cutting heads (part no. SH90) as the more expensive 9300 and 9700 models.
The automatic cleaning station called SmartClean is optional, but I highly recommend you to get it as it works excellent and the price difference between the two variants is not that high.
The SmartClean stations are reasonably fast and quiet and they are also very economical — the cleaning solution lasts longer compared to Panasonic and Braun.
Moreover, the station included with the Norelco 8900 S8950/90 even feature an inductive heating system that dries the shaver, something you won’t be seeing at this price point from the competition.
Being a rotary razor, the 8900 has some specific advantages over most foil shavers. In my opinion the most important one is the way rotary razors are able to capture and cut difficult facial hair. I’m talking of course about long, wiry, flat-lying hairs.
The shaving unit with the three individual cutting heads can flex and adapt to the contours of your face; by using a combination of rotary and straight strokes the hairs can be captured very efficiently.
If you shave less often and you have a lot of flat-lying hairs, a rotary shaver like the Philips Norelco 8900 can be one of the best options for you.
It’s also one of the most comfortable rotary razors out there and it won’t pinch the skin or pull the hairs as other entry-level shavers tend to do. To be perfectly honest, I don’t find as smooth and gentle as a foil-based shaver from Braun for example, but if you’ve ever used a rotary razor before without any issues you’ll definitely enjoy shaving with this one as well.
Rotary razors are generally considered to be more suitable for coarse facial hair than foil shavers. While I think this is mostly true in the case of very basic shavers, the 8900 is indeed adequate for shaving thick beards.
The closeness is very good for a rotary shaver. I’ll be perfectly honest and tell you that at least in my case, foil shavers are still on top in this regard; the closeness that I get is constantly better and I feel more in control using one.
However, since this whole article is based on the fact that we’re different, there are a lot of men that get better results with rotary shavers and that’s perfectly normal.
The price of the Philips Norelco 8900 sits somewhere between a Braun Series 5 and 7, so it’s definitely a mid-range shaver in this regard. The SH90 replacement shaving heads are a bit pricier but similar to the ones needed for a Panasonic Arc 4.
To sum it up: a high-quality rotary razor like the Philips Norelco 8900 can be an excellent choice for men that don’t shave often and have wiry, thick whiskers that grow in different directions.
However, it may not be ideal if you have sensitive skin or your hairs have a tendency to become ingrown. In this case a Braun Series 5 or 7 would be more suitable.
8. Panasonic ES-LT41-K Arc 3
|Very close shaves||Not as comfortable as a Braun Series 3|
|One of the best all-round budget razors||Replacement foils & blades are pricey compared to the competition|
|Fast and powerful, suitable for coarser facial hair||Works best for shaving daily or every other day|
|High quality, sharp blades||Not suitable for very sensitive skin|
|Excellent wet shaving performance|
|Easy to clean manually|
Stepping into the segment of more affordable electric shavers we have the Arc 3 line from Panasonic.
As the name suggests, the Arc 3 electric razors have a three-blade shaving system showcasing the same arched profile of the foils.
This is common throughout all the different Arc 3 variations. What isn’t common though is the output of the motors that the razors are equipped with, ranging from 7 600 to 13 000 CPM (Cycles Per Minute).
It comes as no surprise that the ones fitted with the more powerful units perform exponentially better. As a result, I highly suggest you to only consider those particular Arc 3 variants, like for example the Panasonic ES-LT41-K or the ES8103S.
There are other Arc 3 models besides those that will perform identical, so as long as you see in the specs sheet that they use the 13 000 CPM motors, you’re all good.
My personal pick from the Arc 3 line would be the ES-LT41-K as it’s usually the most reasonably priced of them all. Since we’re talking about an entry-level shaver, the cost should be a decisive factor when making your pick.
Another equally good option would be the older ES8103S. Despite looking a bit dated — it was launched all the way back in 2008 — its performance is very similar to the ES-LT41-K and they even use the same foils and blades.
As a result, you should simply go for the one you can find at a better price.
And speaking of prices, the latest generation Arc 3 shavers (with model names starting with LT) are very expensive, at least at the moment of writing.
Even though they represent a major update in terms of aesthetics and build quality, I still cannot recommend them as the price difference compared to the previous versions is way too high.
Performance-wise they’re not a massive improvement over the ES-LT41-K for example and I suggest skipping these newer models, at least for now. As I said in the review of the ES-LT3N-K, they don’t actually shave better, the shaving head is unnecessarily bulky and the new sensor technology is useless.
Getting back to the ES-LT41-K, I think it’s one of the best affordable foil shavers out there. With a punchy motor (only slightly less powerful than the ones used on the Arc 5 models), sharp blades and solid construction, it offers great performance and good value for money.
I previously mentioned that the Panasonic Arc 4 and 5 excel at closeness, particularly when compared to similarly priced foil shavers from Braun.
This trend continues with the entry-level shavers as well, the ES-LT41-K and other similar Arc 3 models being likely the closest shaving electric razors at this price point.
Again, as long as they’re not fitted with less powerful motors (like the ES-SL-41-S Arc 3 that I reviewed a while back), all Arc 3 variations will provide similar performance.
So with regards to closeness the ES-LT41-K fares excellent, noticeably better than a Braun Series 3 for example or a similarly priced Philips Norelco.
The powerful 13 000 cycles per minute motor and the high-quality blades make it suitable for a coarser beard as well. Shaving light or medium facial hair is a non-issue for the Arc 3.
When it comes to comfort, the ES-LT41-K can cause some irritation if you have sensitive skin. I find it to be just a bit harsher than the Arc 4 or 5 models and the foils can get a bit too hot which may cause some discomfort.
These shortcomings can be minimized by lubricating the blades on a regular basis and by using a pre-shave lotion. But the most effective method is in my opinion the addition of a quality shaving cream.
I know most men prefer to shave dry, but Panasonics perform amazing during a wet shave.
To get the most out of the ES-LT41-K or any other less advanced electric razor, shaving more often would be a very effective solution (shaving daily or every other day will likely yield the best results).
The ES-LT41-K can usually be found at a very competitive price and you’ll often stumble upon great deals. The replacement foil and blades combos (model number WES9013PC) cost less than the 4 or 5 blade Panasonic parts and they’re widely available.
The ES-LT41-K is an excellent choice for beginners because it’s dead easy to clean and to operate, it’s fully waterproof, the shaving head is quite slim and nimble and the shavers themselves can really take a beating.
If you have a very sensitive skin you’ll be better off with a Braun Series 3 that can be bought for pretty much the same money and it’s more comfortable during use.
9. Braun Series 3 3040s ProSkin
|Very comfortable||Doesn’t shave as close as a Panasonic Arc 3|
|Suitable for sensitive skin||A bit underpowered for coarse facial hair|
|Inexpensive replacement shaving heads||Works best only when used daily or every other day|
|Very good value for money|
|Wet & dry use|
|Excellent for beginners|
The Series 3 is Braun’s entry-level family of electric shavers and a direct competitor to Panasonic’s Arc 3 razors.
The highlights of the Series 3 shavers are the affordable price and the comfort during the shave.
Both the shavers and the replacement shaving heads (called cassettes, part number 32B/32S) usually cost less than the corresponding Arc 3 parts from Panasonic.
While the closeness is not as good, the Series 3 is more comfortable and gentler to the skin compared to an Arc 3.
I tend to prefer the 3040s as it costs a lot less, can be used wet or dry and the basic shaving head is easier to clean manually compared to the Series 5, 7 or 9, so the station is not a must-have in this case.
Other cheaper Series 3 models (e.g. 3010s) lack features like a long hair trimmer, so I wouldn’t consider those as I find the hair trimmer to be very useful.
Whichever Series 3 you end up choosing, the shaving performance will be identical, so selecting the best one for you should come down to price and several features that you’ll be needing (cleaning station, wet/dry capabilities, hair trimmer etc.).
As with most electric shavers, the dry only models can also be operated when they’re plugged in, while the wet/dry ones cannot due to safety concerns.
The 3040s and all Series 3 razors work best when used daily or every other day at most. Longer hairs will cause problems to most basic foil shavers, including the Series 3.
Because it is very comfortable, with the foils remaining cool during your shave, the Series 3 is a suitable option if you have sensitive skin.
If you’re mainly interested in getting a very close shave, a Panasonic Arc 3 will perform better in most cases.
If you have very coarse facial hair, the Series 3 will eventually get the job done, but it’ll probably take you longer to shave and it won’t be that enjoyable. If that’s the case, investing in a more powerful shaver like the Series 5 or a Panasonic Arc 4 would be a good idea.
10. Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 (S3310/81)
|Comfortable||Doesn’t shave as close as other entry-level razors|
|Very good value for money||A thorough cleaning can be fiddly|
|Works surprisingly well on longer whiskers||Not ideal for sensitive skin|
|Excellent for beginners||Can feel underpowered when shaving a very coarse beard|
A best-seller in its category, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 is a basic, inexpensive rotary shaver suitable for dry only use.
While the Braun Series 3 and the Panasonic Arc 3 are the go-to options for an affordable foil shaver, the 3100 is a worthy contender from the rotary camp.
In fact, it may actually be a better pick in certain situations.
Despite the fact that I would choose a foil shaver over a rotary one, during my time with the Philips Norelco 3100 I was impressed by how efficient it was at capturing and cutting longer, flat-lying hairs, particularly on my neck.
Usually the more advanced a shaver is, the better it will cope with difficult facial hair. But a rotary razor, even a basic one like the 3100, can perform surprisingly well in a situation like this one.
While the closeness won’t be as good compared to what you’ll get from a Panasonic Arc 3, the 3100 will make it easier for you to get all those stray hairs that a foil shaver will likely leave behind.
The Norelco Shaver 3100 is also pretty comfortable during the shave, so it can be a viable choice if you don’t have overly sensitive skin.
Even though it performs very well at this price point, don’t expect anything spectacular. The 3100 is still a very basic shaver. If you want something faster and more powerful you will have to spend more on something like the Philips Norelco 8900.
The inclusion of a pop-up trimmer is definitely welcome; with other more expensive razors from Philips like the 6100 you have to pay extra for a separate click-on trimmer.
The SH30/52 replacement shaving heads cost pretty much the same as the foils and blades of other entry-level shavers like the Series 3 and Arc 3.
To sum it up, if you’re looking for a very affordable electric shaver, you tend to shave less often and have wiry, flat-lying facial hairs, the Philips Norelco 3100 can be a good starting point.
If closeness is also important, I would suggest you to simply get a Panasonic Arc 3 and shave more often.
Final word on choosing the right shaver
This pretty much concludes my take on the difficult task of recommending an electric razor.
I tried my best to stick to the models that provide great value, not just hype. After all, if several electric shavers offer almost identical performance, it makes perfect sense to get the one that costs less.
That was the reasoning behind selecting these particular shavers; however, if you can get a great deal on a different one that also meets your requirements and performs similarly, then by all means you should get that one instead.
Some of these shavers will be discontinued or updated at some point. And as we saw, an update can be anything from a minor visual overhaul to a completely new shaver.
I will update this list on a regular basis to keep it relevant to the ever-changing market of electric shavers.
I truly hope that this approach to selecting your best electric razor will streamline the process and make it less of a chore to decide what would work best for you.
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