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, choosing 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 barely 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 certain 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 most of the best shaver lists
- Finding the right shaver is a personal matter
- What are some of the best electric shavers (2020)?
- Rotary vs foil electric razors: which one is better for me?
- How to get the most out of your electric shaver
- Final word on choosing the right shaver
Why is choosing an electric shaver so complicated?
For starters, I’d say that the sheer number of models and variations creates some sort of paradox of choice. There are just too many of them.
You’ve probably been in the position of having to buy a certain product only to go back and forth repeatedly between several options, constantly wondering which one would be the best option.
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 actual differences between the razors in a particular line and many review sites are filled with conflicting or irrelevant information.
We sometimes see product updates being rolled out with no indication of how significant they are or if the older shavers still represent a viable option.
There are cases where the new shaver 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 impact the actual performance.
The problem with most of the best shaver lists
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 related articles.
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 an electric razor that checks most of the boxes for your particular needs and comes with the fewest shortcomings.
Secondly, most review authors out there have never actually tested the razors in question.
They just come up with lists of the most popular and over-hyped shavers, copying what others are saying and repeating some marketing terms taken straight out of the press release.
You’ll rarely see on-point criticism and genuine assessments.
I know this is a very serious claim, but unfortunately there are only a handful of reliable resources out there when it comes to electric shavers.
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 of these articles never seem to consider 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
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 shaver 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 expecting different things from an electric razor.
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:
- Shaver pros and cons (closeness, comfort, speed, ease of cleaning and maintenance, etc.);
- Facial hair particularities (coarseness, hairs with different grain, flat-lying hairs, rate of hair growth);
- Sensitive skin (predisposition to razor burn, rashes, ingrown hairs, etc.);
- Shaving habits (shaving more or less often, dry or wet, etc.);
- Budget (initial investment, replacement foils/blades, cleaning solution).
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 shavers have come a very long way and you can currently find some great products out there.
But as I already said, a particular razor won’t be ideal in every situation.
To address this, I will share some of the best electric 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 explain why I chose that particular model over another. Most of the time this will be a matter of price, availability in 2020 and whether the razor has genuinely useful features.
What are some of the best electric shavers (2020)?
1. Braun Series 9 9370cc
- Extremely comfortable
- Close shaves
- Great for longer, wiry, flat-lying hairs
- Suitable for very sensitive skin, ingrown hairs
- Practical and useful cleaning station
- Fast and powerful, suitable for coarse beards
- Not quite the closest shaving razor in this price range
- Overkill for light beards and/or everyday use
- Manual cleaning can be difficult in time
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 online 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 Series 9 models start with 92: 9290cc, 9291cc, 9297cc, 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 they are actually quite reasonably priced (at least for a high-end shaver).
For these reasons the Series 9 finally represents a viable option.
Last year, Braun released yet another incremental update to the Series 9, precisely the 93 models: 9370cc, 9385cc, 9390cc, 9340s, etc.
These newer models have been available in the USA as well since January 2020.
However, apart from a slightly larger battery, some minor visual changes, and a couple of new colors, the performance has remained identical (more details here).
So getting the latest Series 9 model isn’t mandatory in order to get the best results.
I actually went with the Braun 9370cc as my top pick simply because it’s usually priced lower than other similar variations.
But any of the Series 9 models starting with 92 or 93 are equally good options since the shaving performance is exactly the same.
In the past, 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, I think we can finally focus on the actual performance of the Series 9.
But as expected, the Series 9 won’t be 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 9370cc (and about the Series 9 in general) is the comfort.
I’ve used dozens of electric razors and this one is among the most comfortable, forgiving and gentle shavers you can currently buy.
When shaving with the Series 9 I could even get away with things that would normally inflict some razor burn and discomfort (like 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 prolonged use and remain perfectly comfortable.
The shaving head is comprised of 4 individual cutting elements: two finishing foils (called Optifoils) 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 found 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 2 to 3mm) and tend to miss hairs, requiring multiple strokes to get a clean shave.
Less capable foil shavers will also pull some of the hairs if they’re too long.
I haven’t experienced any of that with the Series 9, even when I deliberately tried to be sloppier with my technique.
If you tend to shave less often, like every two to three 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 Philips Norelco’s advanced rotary shavers, like the 9300/9700 and the latest Series 9000 Prestige, 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.
It’s also one of the best choices for men that shave their head.
I haven’t personally used it in this manner, but plenty of users have and I also know a few barbers that use them in their shops specifically for this and the Series 9 works great.
Let’s now talk about the closeness of the shave.
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 probably 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 Panasonic models 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, the Series 9 is still a rather expensive shaver.
The replacement shaving heads called cassettes (part number 92s/92b/92M) are pricey as well but on par with the other high-end shavers from the competition.
Braun’s cleaning refills are a bit more expensive compared to the ones from Panasonic or Philips Norelco, but you can find much cheaper third-party alternatives that work just as well.
And with the Series 9, you’ll probably want a variation that comes with a cleaning station.
As I mentioned in my reviews of the Series 9, manually cleaning the shaver can be 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 being 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 absolutely 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 excellent hygiene and you also won’t have to replace the cleaning cartridge as often (here are more tips on how to make the refills last longer).
As with all Braun shavers, the models ending in cc (like the 9290cc or 9370cc) include a cleaning base, while the ones ending in s (for example the 9293s) do not.
Please note that an s (standing for Solo) model will not work with a cleaning station, despite the fact that they look identical to the cc variations and even have the two metal studs on the back that charge the shaver when placed in the station.
The s models lack a dedicated chip (or use a different one) needed 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’ve read that a Solo Series 9 could theoretically work with a cleaning station after a firmware update, but it can only be performed by Braun in their service centers and I don’t know if they’re willing to do it or how much it would cost.
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.
Again, the Series 9 9370cc and 9290cc/9291cc are two such models.
Both sport the newer silver color option that has a matte finish and should handle better any scratches and smudges compared to the glossy/chrome Series 9 models.
Braun Series 9 9290cc/9291cc
Given that the shavers themselves are identical performance-wise, the price (and availability in your country) should be the decisive factor when choosing between any similar Series 9 models.
And on that matter, considering the purchase price and the costs of the cassettes, 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 light to medium beard and also 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 Arc 5 ES-LV65-S
- Extremely close shaves
- Adequately comfortable for most users
- Very fast and powerful, suitable for coarse facial hair
- High quality, sharp blades
- Excellent wet shaving performance
- Very easy to clean manually
- Great value for money
- Not quite as comfortable as a Series 9 or 7
- Replacement foils & blades are pricey
- Overkill for light beards
- Bulky shaving head needs some getting used to
- Not as good as a Series 9 or 7 for flat-lying, wiry hairs
Panasonic is Braun’s only real competitor in the foil shavers market segment.
Even though Panasonic never managed to gain the same popularity as Braun in the USA for example, the quality and performance of their shavers are usually 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 mentioned 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 (plus five different revisions of the third one), almost all of them still available for purchasing.
However, the purpose of this article was to make it easier for you to find the right shaver. And that also means eliminating the clutter created by the excessive number 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 arguably the best when it comes to closeness.
And this isn’t the case with just the Series 9 and the Arc 5; 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 when it comes to closeness.
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 excellent 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 (actually, there is a Xiaomi 5-blade shaver out there that supposedly has a 15 000 CPM motor, but I am yet to test one).
For the sake of comparison, the Braun Series 9 has a 10 000 CPM motor.
Speed isn’t everything of course, but this difference between the Arc 5 and the Series 9 is hard to ignore.
The result of all these features is one of the fastest, closest shaving electric shavers you can buy.
As expected, the Arc 5 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 option also works excellent.
Since Panasonic razors aren’t quite as comfortable as the ones from Braun, adding a quality shaving cream will improve the comfort and this way you can still get that close shave without any major 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 comfort with minimal costs and basically 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.
This model is also one of the top-rated electric shavers out there and with the current price drops, it makes a really strong case for itself.
You can get an Arc 5 with a cleaning station as well in the form of the Panasonic ES-LV95-S.
That one comes with the updated and more compact cleaning station, 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 for example).
However, I would 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 fares 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 with the ES-LV65-S definitely helps with this.
The foils and blades are a bit pricey (part number WES9032P), but similar to other premium replacement parts like the 92s/92b/92M needed for the Series 9.
Here’s another bonus tip for current ES-LV65-S users (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.
The part numbers for those are WES9034P (found on the third generation Arc 5 revision A and B) and WES9036 (found on the latest revision C and D Arc 5 models).
While the closeness offered by the new parts is pretty much identical, they are a bit more comfortable than the older ones that come with the ES-LV65-S.
So this would be a quick, easy and relatively inexpensive way to upgrade your ES-LV65-S when it’s time to replace the foil 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 packs are quite reasonably priced and will last longer than Braun’s alcohol-based cleaning solution.
Let’s now 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 this case, 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 focused 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 will simply work 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 of an issue 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 saving some money and going for a Panasonic Arc 4 or even Arc 3 — I’ll get to them later on.
3. Braun Series 7 7865cc
- Very comfortable
- Suitable for very sensitive skin
- Adequately close shaves
- Reasonably priced compared to a Series 9
- Works surprisingly well with longer, flat-lying hairs
- Suitable for coarse beards
- Useful and effective cleaning station
- Not the closest shaving razor in this price range
- A Series 5 is cheaper and similar performance-wise
- Poorly implemented head locking mechanism
- Manual cleaning can be fiddly
The Series 7 from Braun is probably the best-selling electric shaver of the past few years. It was first introduced 13 years ago and quickly gained an iconic status.
With that out of the way, there are definitely a lot of good things about the classic/previous Series 7 generation, but there are 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. Again, we are not taking into account the models from 2020 (which are in fact worse).
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
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 7865cc over other variations is that in 2020 this model still seems to be the most reasonably priced cc model and it’s also widely available.
Another model you should check out — for the same reasons — is the best-selling Braun Series 7 790cc.
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, manual cleaning may not be enough.
Moreover, the original station included with the older Series 7 variations was 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 was very 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.
In my opinon, the lack of an active drying system is not a deal-breaker, but it is disappointing that Braun decided to eliminate it in an effort to cut the manufacturing costs.
As usual, the cc models come with a cleaning station, while the s shavers do not.
But unlike some of the Series 9, all the Series 7 s models will actually work with a compatible 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 constant 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, 7898cc (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 electric shavers is again the comfort.
Until the launch of the Series 9, the Series 7 was the shaver to beat in terms of comfort.
This makes it a perfectly suitable option for men with very sensitive skin that don’t feel like spending a premium price for a Series 9.
The difference in closeness is negligible in my experience. However, the Series 9 is 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.
One advantage of the Series 7 over the 9 is its compact shaving head. Because it has 3 cutters instead of 4, it feels very nimble and it’s very easy to maneuver in tricky areas.
Shaving right below the nose and below the jawline for example is definitely easier with the Series 7 thanks to its smaller head.
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 on shorter facial hair, 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 a Series 9 will shave a bit 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 cc options, while the 7893s is the best solo model.
The solo variations are of course a bit cheaper and again the performance will be the same. But as mentioned earlier, I think the station is quite useful.
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 slightly closer, faster and they also cost less (sometimes a lot less) provided that your facial hair is reasonably short.
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.
The second major issue with the Series 7 is actually Braun’s very own Series 5. As I said in my detailed comparison of the two, the Series 5 costs less and shaves pretty much the same.
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?
Absolutely not, especially if you can get a great deal on it. It’s one of the most enjoyable and versatile electric razors out there and my default recommendations for someone looking to buy a capable Braun shaver.
However, depending on your priorities (comfort or closeness) and budget, the above-mentioned alternatives may represent better options.
4. Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63-S
- Very close shaves
- Adequately comfortable
- Very fast and powerful, great for coarse facial hair
- High quality, sharp blades
- Excellent wet shaving performance
- Very easy to clean manually
- Great value for money
- Not as comfortable as a Series 7 or 5
- Replacement foils & blades are pricey
- Overkill for light beards
- Bulky shaving head needs some getting used to
- Not great for longer, wiry, flat-lying hairs
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 2020 and I still consider them to be very compelling as they offer fantastic performance for usually 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 an electric shaver that I recommend quite often.
Compared to other models in the Arc 4 line, the ES-LA63-S has a few advantages, at least on paper: 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 offered by 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 as long as you can find it at a great price.
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 line.
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 only a few situations where an Arc 4 shaver wouldn’t be a suitable choice.
But let’s start with the good parts first.
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 solo Series 7, Series 5 or the Philips Norelco 8900.
For the budget-conscious buyer that needs an electric razor capable of very close shaves, 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 hairs 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, but the Arc 5 is however a bit more refined and more comfortable.
To sum it up, the ES-LA63-S packs a lot of punch, is reasonably priced, easy to clean and will satisfy pretty much anyone who’s looking to get a very close shave without paying a premium price.
It will also work great when used as a head shaver.
Now, there’s no electric razor that does everything right and shines in every possible situation.
The replacement foils and blades set (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 excellent closeness.
Using them dry can leave me with a rash and some razor burn on my neck 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 ES8243AA however managed to be a bit more comfortable than the other two during a dry shave — mainly because the foils don’t get too hot.
If you’re careful not to press too hard, the ES-LA63-S can be adequately comfortable as well.
I wanted to make this side note so you can decide for yourself if an Arc 4 would 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 stems from Panasonic’s focus on closeness: it can miss those long, flat-lying hairs, especially on the neck or jawline.
Again, shaving more often can eliminate this shortcoming almost completely.
Despite having a vibrating motor inside the head that should help with catching longer hairs, it just doesn’t seem to work any better than the other Arc 4 models that lack this feature.
If your lifestyle doesn’t allow you to shave regularly, then a Braun Series 7/5 will probably be more suitable.
Also, if you shave daily and your beard isn’t particularly dense or rough, an Arc 3 like the ES8103S will probably be good enough. It costs less and the replacement foils and blades are cheaper as well.
5. Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LF51-A
- Very close shaves
- Slim shaving head for a 4 blade shaver
- Very fast and powerful, great for coarse facial hair
- High quality, sharp blades
- Excellent wet shaving performance
- Very easy to clean manually
- Good value for money
- Not as comfortable as a Series 5 or 7
- Replacement foils & blades are pricey
- Overkill for light beards
- Not great for longer, wiry, flat-lying hairs
While the Panasonic ES-LA63-S above 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 shortcoming, I would still recommend it over other Arc 4 models, mainly because its price was often lower.
But as of 2020 other models in the Arc 4 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 pushed down 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 in that regard.
The shaving head may not look that much different in pictures, but it is a lot more manageable during use.
Most users will appreciate the more compact and nimble shaving head of the ES-LF51-A, especially when shaving right below the 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 tap water and liquid soap.
The sonic cleaning mode (present on almost all Panasonic shavers) also helps by making the blades oscillate extremely fast and prevents water splashes as well.
You can literally get it perfectly clean in under one minute.
Regarding the cons of the ES-LF51-A, they’re pretty much the same ones that affect all the other Arc 4 models.
It’s not the most comfortable electric razor 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 after using it.
Adding a shaving cream makes the ES-LF51-A a lot more forgiving and gentle, but I know 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 revision C/D.
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 a short beard most of the time, I highly recommend checking out the Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LF51-A.
6. Braun Series 5 5195cc
- Very comfortable
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Similar to the Series 7 performance-wise
- Very good value for money
- Useful cleaning station
- Suitable for medium to coarse beards
- Doesn’t shave as close as a Panasonic Arc 4
- Noisy during use
- Not as refined and enjoyable as a Series 7
- Manual cleaning can be fiddly in time
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.
For this reason, I strongly recommend sticking to the previous Series 5 generation that is still widely available (and will continue to be).
That Series 5 generation — with shavers like the 5090cc, 5190cc, 5195cc or 5140s — 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 (a known issue with the Series 7).
Upon taking a quick look at the actual 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 quite similar.
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 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. The Series 5 also vibrates a lot when cutting the hairs and produces more noise.
But the final result, both in terms of closeness and comfort, is 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 and 5190cc/5195cc seem to be the best options at this moment as they cost less than other Series 5 models that come 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 older 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 5195cc does the same excellent job of cleaning and lubricating the shaver.
Because the shaving performance of the Series 5 is 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 even a coarse beard.
It works great when used on shorter facial hair, so if you shave daily or every other day you should get excellent results.
I actually managed to get really good results 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 razor for example.
That middle trimmer manages to catch stray hairs efficiently and with fewer strokes.
The 5190cc (5195cc) is suitable for wet & dry use, but to be perfectly honest, shaving cream doesn’t do much for the Series 5 or 7 in terms of improving the results.
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 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, you will notice a difference.
Regarding the price, the Series 5 5195cc 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 save even more money, you could opt for a solo variation of the Series 5 like the 5040s or 5145s for example, but in my opinion, the cleaning station is worth spending a bit more.
To sum it up, the Series 5 is a more affordable Series 7 that really delivers on the expectations.
7. Philips Norelco S9000 Prestige SP9820
- Great for long, flat-lying hairs
- Close and comfortable shaves
- Suitable for coarse beards
- Can be used as a head shaver
- Excellent build quality
- A Panasonic Arc 4 or 5 will shave closer
- The Braun Series 7 and 9 are still more comfortable
- No integrated hair trimmer
- No cleaning station
Let’s now shift our attention to the first rotary razor in this list, the Philips Norelco Series 9000 Prestige.
While in the past I used to recommend the Philips 8900 due to its decent performance and excellent value for money, that model has been discontinued and it’s getting difficult to find nowadays.
So when it comes to great performing rotary shavers, we’re really only left with two options: the Series 9000 and the new Series 9000 Prestige.
And while the former is still a really good option, especially considering the price point, I ultimately chose the Prestige as my rotary shaver of choice for 2020.
The Philips S9000 Prestige is arguably the best performing rotary shaver you can currently buy, so if you want the crop de la crème and money is not really an issue, this is the one to have.
There are some caveats of course and I will get to them as well, but first let’s see the pros of this shaver as they’re quite a few.
Being a rotary razor, the S9000 Prestige 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 has three individual cutting heads that can flex inward and effortlessly adapt to the contours of the face.
The cutting heads of the Prestige models feature both holes and wide slots that capture those long and flat hairs with ease, even if they grow in different directions.
By using a combination of rotary and straight strokes, the hairs can be captured very efficiently.
Being able to shave even a 5 days beard without significantly compromising the experience is probably the most impressive thing about this razor.
Not only did it manage to cut the hairs, but it did so without any of them getting yanked, which can often happen when trying to shave a long beard.
Philips claims that it can handle a week’s worth of beard growth; I haven’t tried it myself, but I actually think it would be possible.
An advanced rotary shaver that handles long hairs is not really something out of the ordinary though.
In fact, even the older and less expensive models like the Philips 9300/9700 or 8900 performed really well in these situations.
What sets the Prestige apart though is the comfort. In this regard, it is a massive improvement over pretty much any other rotary razor on the market.
It is the only one that I would actually recommend to users with sensitive skin.
As I already mentioned, I always had to deal with irritation and razor burn and most rotary shavers would inflict some of that, no matter how careful and thorough I was.
My neck is particularly susceptible to this, so I was pleasantly surprised at how gentle and smooth the Prestige is.
The key is of course to use slow, circular motions and, most importantly, not applying any pressure at all.
I tried to see how forgiving the shaver is and it turns out it’s not too forgiving — at least when compared to a Series 7 or 9.
Applying too much pressure or moving the shaver too fast will cause some stinging and even tiny nicks on my neck.
So while it is a comfortable and smooth shaver, it will fight back if you’re sloppy.
Just let the shaver do the work, take your time, and again, do not apply excessive pressure.
The closeness was again among the best I ever got from a rotary shaver.
Because the Prestige is very comfortable, I was able to be more thorough and really get a smooth shave without any stinging and rashes.
On the cheeks it was actually extremely good, but could have been better on the neck and chin.
Overall I was pretty happy with the closeness, but the Prestige is definitely not the best in this regard.
A quality foil shaver will yield better results in most cases, with Panasonic being the best in my opinion.
Another aspect worth mentioning about the Series 9000 Prestige is the build quality.
It’s made out of aluminum and just oozes quality.
Compared to other Norelco shavers, it’s just in a different class.
Even the blade retaining rings are reinforced with metal and everything feels premium and very sturdy.
The battery life is fantastic as well.
Let’s now check out some of the cons and see when you should and shouldn’t get this shaver.
And I’ll start with the price as there’s really no other way to put this: the Prestige is an expensive shaver.
It’s probably the most expensive on this list and it doesn’t even come with a cleaning station.
Regardless of how useful it would be, I think they should have included one with such a premium-priced product.
Cleaning is pretty straightforward for most of the time (involving rinsing the shaver with tap water and optionally some liquid soap), but it can be time-consuming and fiddly when performing a so-called thorough cleaning.
That involves taking apart each cutting head, cleaning the rotary blade and comb, and putting them back together.
The combs and blades are matching pairs, so you’ll have to take extra care not to mix them as the performance of your Prestige will take a hit.
So it’s a shame that Philips didn’t include a station, but if you want the very best rotary shaver, you’ll have to shell out and overlook this.
And the thing is that the Prestige is better by quite a lot, which is why I ultimately decided to choose it over the regular Series 9000 line.
I went with the SP9820 model which is widely available and doesn’t come with the gimmicky wireless charging pad (that model also costs more and can only be charged wirelessly).
If you shave less often and you have a lot of flat-lying hairs, this can be one of the best options for you.
Some men prefer to shave once or twice a week, which can be a problem for most electric shavers out there, regardless of the price point.
The Philips Prestige can be a solution in this case.
Rotary razors are often considered to be better for coarse facial hair compared to foil shavers.
While I don’t agree with this as a general rule, the Prestige is indeed adequate for shaving thick, wiry hairs.
But if you’re interested in getting a very close shave, you should probably look elsewhere.
Again, while the closeness is excellent for a rotary razor, most quality foil shavers will outperform the Prestige in this regard.
Panasonic shavers are still on top and depending on your budget, an Arc 4 or Arc 5 will be a better pick.
Keep in mind though that they’re nowhere near as good with long and flat-lying hairs.
Finally, a Braun Series 7 or 9 is more comfortable, more forgiving and still a better choice for users with very sensitive skin.
The Prestige can work decently in this case, but you’ll have to be a lot more careful to avoid discomfort and irritation.
Unless you’ve used a rotary shaver before with excellent results, I think you should probably consider a Panasonic or Braun (depending on your needs). You’ll likely be saving some money as well.
To sum it up: a high-quality rotary razor like the Philips Norelco S9000 Prestige can be an excellent choice for men that don’t shave often and have wiry, thick hairs that grow in different directions.
However, it may not be ideal if you have very sensitive skin or you want a very close shave. In that case, a Braun Series 7/9 or a Panasonic Arc 4/5 respectively will be more suitable.
8. Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S
- Very close shaves
- One of the best all-around budget razors
- Fast and powerful, suitable for coarser facial hair
- High quality, sharp blades
- Excellent wet shaving performance
- Very easy to clean manually
- Not as comfortable as a Braun Series 3
- Replacement foils & blades are pricey
- Works best for shaving daily or every other day
- Not suitable for very sensitive skin
- No travel lock
Stepping into the segment of more affordable electric shavers, we have the Arc 3 family 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.
There are of course 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 older ES8103S 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.
Despite looking a bit dated — it was launched almost 13 years ago — its performance is very similar to the newer Arc 3 models and they even use the same inner 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 (model names starting with LT) used to be very expensive at launch, but can now be bought for even less than the older models.
Even though they represent a major update in terms of aesthetics and build quality, I still wouldn’t recommend them over the older models.
Performance-wise they’re not really an improvement over the ES8103S 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 pretty much useless.
Getting back to the ES8103S, I think it’s one of the best affordable foil shavers out there.
With a punchy motor (only slightly less powerful than the ones 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 providing close shaves, particularly when compared to similarly priced foil razors from Braun.
This trait trickles down to the entry-level offerings as well, the ES8103S (and other 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 offer similar performance.
So with regards to closeness, the ES8103S fares excellent, 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 ES8103S can cause some irritation if you have sensitive skin.
I find it to be just a bit harsher than the Arc 4 or Arc 5 models and the foils can get a bit too hot which may cause some discomfort.
These shortcomings can be reduced 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 good shaving cream.
Again, I know most men will prefer to shave dry, but Panasonic electric razors perform the best out of all the brands during a wet shave, so at least give it a go if you’re not entirely satisfied with the results.
To get the most out of the ES8103S or any other less advanced electric razor, shaving more often would be a very effective solution (daily or every other day will yield the best results).
The ES8103S can usually be found at a reasonable price and you’ll often stumble upon great deals.
The replacement foil and blades sets (model number WES9013PC) cost less than the 4 or 5 blade Panasonic parts and they’re widely available.
However, a Series 3 replacement cassette is cheaper and in my experience will last longer as well.
The Arc 3 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.
One downside of the Panasonic ES8103S is that unlike newer Arc 3 models, it doesn’t have a travel lock. But I don’t think that’s by any means a deal-breaker and since it’s usually cheaper, I still consider it to be the pick of the range.
If you have very sensitive skin you’ll be better off with a Braun Series 3 that you can buy for even less money and it’s more comfortable and forgiving.
9. Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s
- Suitable for sensitive skin
- Inexpensive replacement shaving head
- Very good value for money
- Wet & dry use
- Excellent for beginners
- Better than an Arc 3 for longer, flat-lying hairs
- Doesn’t shave as close as a Panasonic Arc 3
- A bit underpowered for very coarse facial hair
- Works best when used on shorter facial hair
- Not as easy to clean compared to an Arc 3
The Series 3 is Braun’s entry-level family of electric shavers and a direct competitor to Panasonic’s Arc 3 line.
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 quite as good, the Series 3 is more comfortable and gentler to the skin compared to an Arc 3.
There are several Series 3 models available, ranging from dry only models that include a cleaning station like the 3050cc to wet/dry models like the 3040s.
My default recommendation for a Series 3 model is the Braun ProSkin 3040s as it represents a great balance between cost and features.
Alternatively, the cheaper 3010s that I reviewed here is also worth considering, but keep in mind that it doesn’t include a slide-out hair trimmer.
It’s basically a 3040s but without the hair trimmer. That’s the biggest (potential) deal-breaker in the case of the 3010s.
The prices and availability of these models tend to change a lot, so make sure to check out both before buying.
For example, if you can grab the 3040s for roughly the same money, definitely go for it.
The 3010s and 3040s can be used wet or dry and the simpler shaving head is easier to clean manually compared to the Series 5, 7 or 9. So a cleaning station is not a must-have in this case.
Moreover, models like the Series 3 3050cc that come with a cleaning base cost quite a lot more.
Whichever Series 3 you end up choosing, the shaving performance will be the same, so selecting the best one for you should come down to the features that you’ll be needing (cleaning station, wet/dry capabilities, hair trimmer, etc.) and, of course, the price.
As with most electric shavers, the dry only Series 3 models can also be operated when they’re plugged in, while the wet/dry ones cannot due to safety concerns.
If this is a must-have feature, you may want to check out the Braun Series 3 3000s which is basically a dry only 3010s.
All Series 3 razors will work best when used daily or every other day. Longer hairs will cause problems to most basic foil shavers, including the Series 3.
It is however noticeably better than the Panasonic Arc 3 in this regard.
Because it’s very comfortable, with the foils remaining cool during the shave, the Series 3 is a suitable option for users with sensitive skin.
If you’re mainly interested in getting a very close shave, then a Panasonic Arc 3 will perform better in most cases.
Finally, 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 either.
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)
- Fairly comfortable for a basic rotary shaver
- Very good value for money
- Works surprisingly well on longer facial hair
- Excellent rotary shaver for beginners
- Corded and cordless operation
- Doesn’t shave as close as an entry-level foil razor
- A thorough cleaning can be fiddly
- Not ideal for sensitive skin
- Can feel underpowered when shaving a 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 basic foil shaver would likely leave behind.
The Norelco Shaver 3100 is not the most comfortable during the shave, so it can be a viable choice if you don’t have sensitive skin. If you do, a Braun Series 3 will be a much better option.
Even though it performs very well at this price point, don’t expect anything spectacular. The 3100 is still a no-frills, inexpensive rotary shaver.
If you want something faster and more powerful you’ll have to spend (a lot) more.
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 about 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 try to shave more often.
Rotary vs foil electric razors: which one is better for me?
You may have noticed by now that there are a lot of foil shavers in this list and only a couple of rotary razors.
And while both can represent viable options in various situations, I think for most users a foil shaver will usually be the safer choice.
They exhibit fewer specific shortcomings and most of them are easier to get around.
In my opinion the foil vs rotary razors is a futile debate if we don’t take the context into account as well.
Just like we did previously for individual shavers, we can do that for foil and rotary shavers in general.
The Pros of rotary shavers
Most rotary shavers have two clear advantages over the foil type:
- they are better at cutting longer hairs
- they are significantly quieter
I don’t know how important the second aspect is, but it’s the one thing we can objectively determine with a smartphone app for example.
But the ability to capture and cut longer hairs is in my opinion something that rotary razors generally do better, regardless of the price point.
As we saw previously, some foil shavers are actually surprisingly good in this regard (for example, the Braun Series 7 and particularly the Series 9), but the rest of them will only perform well on shorter facial hair.
This is especially obvious with entry-level foil shavers, but sometimes even very advanced and expensive razors like the latest Panasonic Arc 5 are still nowhere near as good as similarly priced rotary shavers from Philips.
So if your budget is limited and you need a shaver that can handle a 3-day beard (or even more), you may want to consider a rotary razor.
As for which one to get, that really depends on your budget, so you can opt for an entry-level model like the Philips 3100, to a mid-ranger like the 8900 or a high-end shaver like the Series 9000 Prestige.
I’ve read numerous comparisons of rotary and foil shavers and one aspect that constantly pops up is that rotary shavers are better for coarse hair.
In my experience this is not true.
Both can be just as good for coarse hair, but as expected, the very basic models will lack the power of the premium razors.
This will of course cause your shaving sessions to take longer and won’t be as enjoyable, regardless if you’re using a foil or a rotary shaver.
Let’s now take a closer look at the main advantages of foil shavers.
The Pros of foil shavers
In most cases, these pros would be the comfort and the closeness of the shave.
You’ll probably agree that those are some pretty significant aspects.
I think most users, including those just getting started with electric shavers, will have a better chance of getting a satisfactory shave using a foil razor.
The very thin foil screens allow a closer shave and because the blades oscillate at a much higher speed compared to a rotary shaver, there are fewer chances of pinching or pulling the hairs, which usually results in a smoother, gentler shave.
Another advantage that stems from this is that foil razors are more forgiving when you’re not too careful with your technique; for example, when pressing a bit too hard or when moving the shaver too fast.
There are of course foil shavers that are plain bad, but in the case of similarly priced, decent shavers, a foil razor will usually get you a closer and more comfortable shave.
Yes, a basic, inexpensive foil shaver will have trouble with longer, flat-lying hairs, but you can get around that by shaving more often. A pre-shave lotion or shaving cream can help as well.
And finally, if your budget allows it, some foil-based razors are really good at this as well. Braun is clearly on top here, with models like the Series 9, 7 or even the Series 5.
Most foil shavers are also easier to use and to clean in my opinion.
The shaving unit of most foil razors is comprised of 3 to 5 shaving elements.
These are narrow, straight foils or trimmers that allow greater precision and control, especially above the upper lip or around your sideburns.
Even the Arc 5 with its behemoth shaving head takes less effort to shave those areas compared to any 3 blade rotary razors.
The use of short, straight strokes against the grain makes foil shavers suitable for beginners as well.
Finally, with foil shavers, you have a lot more options (Braun, Panasonic, Remington, Wahl), while you’re basically stuck with Philips if you want a decent rotary shaver.
Remington also has a few rotary models, but I’ve tried several and I honestly cannot recommend them.
The Cons of rotary shavers
Since the main advantages of foil shavers are the closeness and comfort of the shave, we can easily guess the main disadvantages of rotary razors.
Because of the very way they work, rotary shavers generally cannot shave as close or as comfortable as foil shavers.
The rotary cutters sit behind metal combs that are pretty thick compared to the perforated metal screens on foil shavers.
This creates a larger physical barrier between the blades and the skin. Philips tried to compensate for this by using a double blade design for most of their shavers.
In theory, the first blade would lift the hair and the second would do the actual cutting.
In reality, this doesn’t seem to work very well, even with high-end shavers.
Entry-level foil razors like the Panasonic Arc 3 or the Braun Series 3 will usually shave closer and gentler than most rotary shavers (provided that your beard is reasonably short).
When using a rotary shaver that features this Lift & Cut technology, the first blade just yanks the hairs and I can definitely feel it, especially when shaving my neck.
It’s very unpleasant and it can cause small cuts in the skin as well if tiny bits of skin tissue (surrounding the hair shaft) poke through the slots in the combs.
It’s one of the reasons why applying a bit more pressure generally leads to more discomfort when using a rotary shaver.
This is made worse by the very low speed at which the blades rotate (less than 1000 RPM compared to 10 000 – 14 000 CPM in the case of most foil shavers), increasing the chances of hairs getting pulled, so you must really take your time and don’t rush through a stroke.
Some users don’t seem to experience this type of discomfort and that’s great. Again, there are men that get fantastic results with rotary shavers.
But for someone with sensitive skin (and for the majority of users in general), a foil shaver is again the safer choice.
With the latest Series 9000 Prestige, Philips actually ditched the lift and cut technology and only used a single blade design.
The result is a massive improvement in comfort, but the price of the Prestige models is very high and in my opinion a Braun Series 7 for example is still more comfortable, it costs a lot less, it shaves closer and also comes with a cleaning station.
I still decided to include the S9000 Prestige in this list of the best men’s electric razors because it is the most capable rotary shaver you can buy right now.
The comfort of rotary shavers can be improved with a few adjustments (pre-shave lotion, shaving cream, proper technique), but still not to the extent of representing a better option for someone with sensitive skin.
The same goes for closeness — most users will have a better chance at getting a close shave with a decent foil shaver.
The Cons of foil shavers
Finally, foil shavers aren’t perfect either.
For starters, they just don’t work very well on long facial hair (usually this means a 3-day beard or more).
As mentioned previously, you can get around this issue by shaving more often or by getting a more capable shaver.
Another problem is the heat generated during use.
Because the blades oscillate at a very high rate and they actually rub against the foils, some of them can get pretty hot.
Braun shavers fare very well in this regard, usually remaining very comfortable and cool to the touch. Panasonic and Remington foil razors tend to get hotter.
Lubricating can help with this, so you can use either a light oil or a special cleaning spray.
Finally, foil shavers vibrate more and they are generally much louder.
This can be a real issue in several situations (for example, I get a lot of emails from parents of teenagers with autism that need a really quiet electric shaver).
There’s not much to do about it except getting a rotary shaver; that’s simply the best option in this case.
When should you pick one over the other?
I think we can conclude that overall, foil shavers have less serious drawbacks and most of them can be reduced to a minimum.
But again, your choice of a rotary or foil shaver should come down to your personal needs and what would work best for you, so we cannot simply postulate that foil shavers are better than rotary.
If I were to summarize this rotary vs foil dilemma, it would be something like this:
Buy a rotary shaver if you:
- Shave less often (every 3 days or more) and your budget is rather limited; An inexpensive rotary shaver will likely perform better than an inexpensive foil razor in this case;
- Don’t have sensitive skin;
- Need a really quiet electric shaver.
Buy a foil shaver if you:
- Want the best chance of getting a close and comfortable shave;
- Shave more often. Most entry-level foil shavers don’t perform very well on longer, flat-lying hairs; if shaving more often is not an option, spending more money on a Braun Series 7 or 9 is well worth it;
- Have sensitive skin;
- Have never used an electric shaver before. I think foil shavers are easier to use, clean, and to care for, making the transition from razor blades a lot smoother.
How to get the most out of your electric shaver
Now that you’ve hopefully settled on a shaver that seems suitable for your needs, it’s time to put it to good use.
While this won’t be a comprehensive how-to guide, I’ll try to outline the most important aspects of using an electric shaver and getting the best possible results.
This often comes down to making slight adjustments to your shaving routine in order to compensate for certain shortcomings of the shaver.
As we saw, almost every electric razor has its pros and cons and we just have to pick the one the checks most of the boxes for our needs.
In no particular order, here’s how to use your shaver the right way.
Get the basics right.
Apart from choosing a suitable shaver, these will likely have the biggest impact on the quality of your shave.
- Always shave dry before washing your face or taking a shower.
- Always shave against the grain.
- Do not apply excessive pressure and use controlled, slow strokes to avoid hairs getting yanked and pinching.
Make sure your facial hair has a reasonable length.
I’ve seen quite a few user reviews accompanied by photos of nicks and bloody faces, stating that a particular shaver is absolutely horrible and it will just shred your face to pieces.
But almost all of these reviews had something in common: the users were trying to shave a half-inch beard. With an electric shaver.
I cannot stress this enough, electric shavers are NOT hair trimmers and are only intended to work on short facial hair.
Apart from a couple of models like the Philips Norelco S9000 Prestige and even the Braun Series 9 that can handle longer hairs (4 to 5-day beards), most electric shavers will only perform optimally on short facial hair.
So if you haven’t shaved in a long time, definitely use a beard trimmer beforehand.
Shave more often if your shaver struggles with flat-lying hairs.
As mentioned throughout this post, some electric razors, especially the less advanced models, can sometimes miss hairs that lie flat on the skin.
The problem becomes worse as the length of the hair increases, so shaving more often could result in better performance.
Braun and Philips shavers are quite good at cutting difficult hairs, so this mainly concerns Panasonic and Remington foil razors.
Use a pre-shave lotion to improve the comfort and the closeness of your shave.
Generally, an electric razor that’s able to shave extremely close won’t be that great for comfort — and vice-versa.
In order to address this without adding too much overhead to your dry shaving routine, a high-quality pre-shave lotion is the way to go in my opinion.
They’re fairly inexpensive and take literally seconds to apply.
You should notice an improvement especially if you use a less powerful electric shaver like the Braun Series 3 or Panasonic Arc 3.
It can also help with flat-lying hairs.
My current picks for pre-shave lotions are the ones from Speick and Tabac.
After testing pretty much all the popular pre-shave brands out there, these proved to be the best in terms of effectiveness, quality, fragrance and even cost.
Allow your skin a few days to heal if you suffer from severe post-shave irritation.
Subjecting your skin to another shave while it’s still tender will just make things worse.
Instead, you should wait at least a couple of days between shaving sessions.
A gentle shaver that can handle longer hairs would make the most sense here. Depending on your budget, you should consider a Braun Series 5, 7 or 9.
Avoid switching back and forth between an electric shaver and a razor blade.
Some men prefer to use razor blades for that really close shave, but also grab an electric shaver when they’re in a rush and just need a quick dry shave.
This is not ideal and should be avoided.
A razor blade will scrape off a thin layer of skin cells which triggers the body to produce scar tissue.
It takes a few weeks to get rid of it and during that time you won’t get the best results with an electric shaver.
This is why all electric shaver manufacturers state that you should allow your skin a few weeks to get used to the new way of shaving.
So it’s best to simply pick one method and stick to it.
Clean your shaver after every use and lubricate the cutters regularly.
While you don’t have to be extra thorough every time, make sure to clean your shaver after every use.
Most shavers are waterproof and can be simply rinsed with water.
Lubrication is also vital to the shaver’s performance and longevity. Here’s a detailed guide on how to do it.
If you use a cleaning station regularly, there’s no need for additional lubrication.
Get a spray cleaner & lubricant.
They’re fairly cheap and can work wonders in several cases. Apart from cleaning and lubricating the blades, a spray cleaner will also remove mineral deposits and stubborn dirt.
This will reduce the friction between the blades and the foils/combs, thus generating less heat during use and will increase the lifespan of the cutters.
You can use the spray in addition to your usual cleaning and lubricating routine.
As for which spray cleaner to choose, the Remington Shaver Saver and the Braun Shaver Cleaner are two great options (widely available and inexpensive).
Make sure the battery has enough charge.
With some shavers, you will experience a performance drop once the battery charge goes below a certain threshold.
This is generally the case with older or entry-level electric shavers.
You’ll want to have at least 30-40% battery charge in this case, otherwise you will likely experience some hair pulling and the closeness of the shave will suffer as well.
Modern batteries aren’t affected by the memory effect like the old NiMh/NiCd batteries, so you can charge your shaver as often as you need.
Cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize.
A great shave starts with a healthy skin.
And men skincare is actually extremely simple. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Cleanse your face daily with a mild face wash.
- Exfoliate twice a week. Dead skin cells will clog the hair follicles and cause breakouts, so you must get rid of them. Since electric shavers don’t exfoliate your skin, it is mandatory to do it in order to preserve a healthy skin.
- Use a hydrating, moisturizing balm after every shave. Yes, you still have to do it. You can check out a list of my current picks here.
If you have any serious skin conditions, make sure to check with your dermatologist before making any significant changes to your routine.
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 recommend 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 model that also meets your requirements and you know it 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 method of determining what’s the best electric razor for your needs will streamline the process and make it less of a chore to decide what would really work best in your case.
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