Switching to electric shavers can be extremely beneficial for many men, especially in terms of practicality, comfort and even costs.
Since you’re reading this article, you’ve probably already decided that a rotary shaver would be a better fit for you.
While this ultimately has to do with personal preference and shaving habits, let’s quickly see what they have to offer and how to find the best rotary shaver for you.
Table of Contents
- Advantages of rotary shavers — when should you use one?
- Rotary shavers work better with longer hairs that grow in different directions.
- If you shave less often, a rotary razor is probably better suited for you.
- You can get away with a sloppier technique when using a rotary shaver.
- A rotary shaver can cover large areas with ease and are also suitable for shaving the head.
- Rotary shavers are extremely quiet during operation.
- What are some of the best rotary shavers out there (2020)?
- Final word
Advantages of rotary shavers — when should you use one?
Without the intent of transforming this article into a sterile rotary vs foil debate, here are some scenarios where a rotary razor would be, at least in theory, better suited for the job.
Rotary shavers work better with longer hairs that grow in different directions.
One of the situations where almost all electric razors struggle is when dealing with long, flat-lying hairs.
Things are even worse if the hairs also grow in different directions.
Since a foil razor requires shaving against the direction of growth, a rotary shaver used with circular, overlapping motions makes it easier for the hairs to poke through the slits in the heads.
If you shave less often, a rotary razor is probably better suited for you.
As stated previously, due to the design and operation of a rotary razor, they usually work better with longer facial hair than their foil counterparts. So if you don’t shave daily, you should consider a rotary shaver.
Some advanced foil shavers like the Braun Series 9 work remarkably well when shaving longer beards, but that’s generally not the case with most foil shavers. Even basic rotary shavers usually manage to perform better than similarly priced foil-based razors.
You can get away with a sloppier technique when using a rotary shaver.
While a foil shaver offers more precision and control (and some might say even a closer shave), you have to be more thorough and patient when using one: short, controlled strokes, always against the grain.
Using a rotary razor with circular motions requires less effort and allows you to be less aware of the particularities of the surface being shaved, like the jawline or your chin.
Shaving these tricky areas with a foil razor would require multiple changes of direction and angle in order to get a clean shave.
A rotary shaver can cover large areas with ease and are also suitable for shaving the head.
Again, due to the way they are intended to be used, rotary razors can be a great option for men that need an electric razor for shaving their head as well.
Because the individual shaving heads can flex inward, a rotary razor can easily adapt to the spherical shape of the head, which can lead to a more efficient and enjoyable shave.
Rotary shavers are extremely quiet during operation.
This is probably the only statement in this list that can be objectively verified.
Foil shavers have fast motors that oscillate at a very high speed, producing a loud, high pitched whine, while rotary shavers only emit a low hum.
There are certain situations where a quiet operation of your shaver can be important — like not wanting to wake up your significant other, your children or roommate.
What are some of the best rotary shavers out there (2020)?
First introduced in 1939, Norelco has continuously refined and improved the design of its rotary razors and became the undisputed market leader in this segment.
In finding the best rotary shaver for you, the most important aspects to consider are:
- cost/performance ratio
- availability and cost of replacement blades
- ease of cleaning and maintenance
- how suitable is a given shaver for your particular needs
Without further ado, here are some of the best rotary shavers you can currently buy.
1. Philips Norelco S9000 Prestige SP9820
The Series 9000 Prestige is the latest and greatest from Philips Norelco. Pricing aside, it is currently the best electric rotary shaver you can currently buy.
Based on their previous flagship series, the 9000, the Prestige line represents a significant improvement, especially in terms of comfort and build quality.
Available in several variations (the differences mainly consisting in included accessories), the S9000 Prestige SP9820 model is probably the pick of the range due to its availability and lower price compared to the other Prestige versions.
In my opinion, the highlight of the Series 9000 Prestige is the new shaving head.
Precisely, the razor comes with new cutters called SH98 that were specifically designed for this series.
The design of the blades and the combs ensure excellent comfort, the S9000 Prestige being by far the smoothest and most forgiving rotary shaver I’ve ever used.
The closeness is also more than adequate and I think the majority of users will be pleased with it.
Most other rotary razors out there are a bit too rough for my skin and will often yank some hairs and cause a constant pinching and stinging sensation.
However, that’s not the case with the SP9820.
This shaver is also very impressive at how it can capture and cut longer, flat-lying hairs, even after 3 days of growth or even more.
So if you don’t shave often this is the rotary razor you’ve been looking for.
All the Prestige models feature a brushed aluminum body that looks and feels great and it is a massive step-up in build quality from other Norelco shavers.
As for the downsides, the Prestige models and quite pricey and don’t include a cleaning station, which is a bit of a bummer.
For all the details about this shaver, you can check out my review of the Philips S9000 Prestige.
2. Philips Norelco Series 9000 9300
The Series 9000 used to be Philips Norelco’s high-end line of rotary shavers, with the 9300 often being the pick of the range.
With the launch of the Prestige line, these older models (9300, 9700, 9800) can sometimes be found at a more reasonable price and they still represent an excellent choice.
If you opt for more expensive models like the 9700 or 9800 you’ll only be paying for features that won’t improve the actual shaving performance at all.
Speaking of which, the Philips Norelco 9300 absolutely shines whether you use it wet or dry.
It deals impressively well with difficult hair, especially on the neck or right below the jawline.
The shaver needs little to no pressure at all for a smooth and close shave. The highly flexible shaving heads ensure optimal contact with the skin at all times.
While the comfort isn’t quite as good as in the case of the newer S9000 Prestige above, it would still be adequate for someone that doesn’t have particularly sensitive skin.
The Norelco 9300 comes with the SmartClean station that cleans, dries and lubricates the shaver. There’s also a beard trimmer attachment included in the package, very useful for light grooming and touch-ups.
While the 9300 offers what is arguably one of the best shaves of any rotary razor, there are still other capable rotary shavers that cost even less.
3. Philips Norelco 8900 with SmartClean
Usually (but not always), the more you pay for a product, the better it is.
And that is also the case with electric razors.
However, there are times when the extra features of premium products are simply not worth the extra money.
With that said, in terms of cost and performance, it’s hard to find a capable rotary razor that will be significantly better than the Norelco 8900 from the Series 8000 line.
I definitely recommend checking out the 8900 first before spending more than twice that money on something like a Norelco 9700 or other models from the Series 9000. Allow me to explain why.
First of all, the Philips Norelco Shaver 8900 uses the same cutters (SH90 replacement heads) as the more expensive Series 9000 models.
Secondly, the 8900 can be bought in a variation that includes the SmartClean automatic cleaning system and still costs significantly less than a razor from the Series 9000.
Objectively speaking, the only extra features of the more expensive Series 9000 are a personalization mode with three different speeds and a more complex LED display.
The 9700 also has a progress indicator for the cleaning cycle that is displayed on the cleaning station. Again, nothing that will significantly improve your experience with that shaver.
The 8900 is a very capable razor that should provide a close and adequately comfortable shave for most men who prefer rotary shavers.
The three cutting heads can independently flex in 8 directions and maintain constant contact with the skin, which translates into an efficient and fast shave and minimizes the number of necessary passes.
With its wet & dry operation, the shaver can also be successfully used with shaving cream or gel, further improving the comfort and closeness.
Alongside a high-quality travel case, you’ll also find a click-on beard trimmer inside the package.
While changing accessories can be fiddly, the trimmer attachment for this particular shaver goes one step further than the typical pop-out trimmer you’ll find on most electric shavers that are merely good enough for trimming your sideburns.
This is almost a full-fledged beard trimmer with 5 length settings and can even be used for trimming an entire beard. This can be extremely useful when you haven’t shaved in a few days and you need to trim your beard down to a more manageable length before shaving.
With the introduction of the new SH90 cutters, the blades can now be individually cleaned and replaced.
The transition from the old RQ12 shaving heads to the new RQ12+ or RQ12/62 (that now use the individual SH90 cutters) was met with mixed reactions, especially from long-time Norelco users. Time will tell if it was the right move as both the Series 8000 and 9000 now use them.
Considering all the above aspects, I highly recommend checking out the Norelco 8900 as a more cost-effective alternative to the Series 9000. For more details, make sure to read my detailed review of the 8900.
I definitely consider the 9700 and 9300 to be at least as good in terms of performance, but I just don’t think they have enough compelling extra features to justify the higher price.
4. Philips Norelco 4100 (AT810/46)
The older and highly popular Philips Norelco Shaver 4100 is still a perfectly viable option in 2020.
It has an affordable price, offers cordless, wet & dry operation and its shaving performance will be good enough for most men.
The shaver works best when used more often, be it dry or with shaving cream or gel.
While it will likely be better and catching longer hairs than similarly priced foil razor, it cannot match the performance of the more advanced rotary shavers presented above.
Anyone looking for an inexpensive, robust and versatile rotary razor should check it out.
Being fully waterproof, easy to clean and very simple in design and function, the 4100 also represents an excellent choice for first-time users.
For more details you can check out our in-depth review of the 4100.
5. Philips Norelco Shaver 3100
Finally, there’s the Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 (S3310/81) that offers the best bang for your buck.
While it lacks the wet & dry operation of the 4100 above, it costs significantly less and most men will shave dry anyway.
The Shaver 3100 is a basic, no-frills rotary razor that will get the job done smoothly. As it’s the case with all entry-level razors, the 3100 works best when used more often, even though during my tests it managed to cope remarkably well with longer, flat-lying hairs.
The closeness and comfort are adequate, but again can’t really match the performance of the high-end rotary razors like the Norelco Series 9000.
To get all the details, make sure to check out my complete review of the Shaver 3100.
This pretty much wraps up my top 5 recommendations and will hopefully cater to everyone’s needs for a rotary shaver.
There are of course other excellent or similar razors out there, so definitely check out our reviews section as well for in-depth, real-world reviews of the most popular electric shavers.