The Arc 5 family of electric razors from Panasonic is certainly at the very top when it comes to performance and even value for money.
However, it’s also one of the most confusing lines of shavers out there: countless updates, revisions and model names that make no sense.
Choosing a Panasonic Arc 5 and understanding the differences between the various models is a real challenge for any potential buyer.
Are the new generations actually better than the older ones? Will the latest foils fit an older Arc 5? Why are some Arc 5’s so expensive and do they actually shave better?
These are all fair questions and anyone should be able to find an answer before spending a considerable amount of money on a shaver.
I’ve been using Panasonic Arc 5 razors for more than 10 years and I’ve also tried to document every release and update on this website, with an emphasis on the differences that actually matter.
That said, I decided to put everything together into a comprehensive, easy-to-read comparison guide that should provide the answers to the most important Arc 5 related questions.
We’ll check out the differences between the most popular models, including the newest Japan-exclusive releases, see which ones represent the best picks in terms of performance and price, and hopefully help you choose the best Arc 5 for your needs.
Let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents
- Panasonic Arc 5: 3 generations and multiple revisions
- Panasonic Arc 5 model comparison [2023 update]
- What are the differences that actually matter?
- Do some Arc 5 models shave better than others?
- Replacement foils compatibility. Upgrading your older Arc 5
- Bottom line: which Panasonic Arc 5 should you buy?
- Bonus tips: getting the most out of your Arc 5
- Final word
Panasonic Arc 5: 3 generations and multiple revisions
Important: the differences between the Panasonic Arc 5 models in a particular generation/revision are related to accessories, colors, LED displays and so on. The shaving performance is identical.
Important: The last letter in a model’s name only refers to the color of the shaver: -K (black), -S (silver), -A (blue), -T (brown), -R (red). This letter is often left out (for example, ES-LV65-S and ES-LV65 refer to the same shaver).
1. First Arc 5 generation
Popular models: ES-LV61-A, ES-LV81-K
In 2009, Panasonic introduced the Arc 5 as their flagship line of electric shavers.
What set them apart from other foil shavers of the time was the highest number of individual cutting elements (five) and the slightly arched profile of the foils — hence the ARC 5 name.
The shavers were also fitted with the fastest motor in the industry, capable of delivering up to 14 000 CPM (cycles per minute).
That simply means the blades oscillate 14 000 times per minute, which translates into a very effective cutting action and short shaving sessions.
It also makes the shaver less likely to pull and snag hairs if you move the shaver too fast over the skin.
The most popular models of this first-generation Arc 5 were the ES-LV61-A (no cleaning station) and ES-LV81-K (includes an automatic cleaning station).
Other country-specific models (in different colors) were released as well, but the shavers themselves were identical.
These models have been discontinued for years and you can’t buy them anymore unless you stumble upon a stray one on eBay for example.
As a result, the first-generation Arc 5 isn’t really a viable option in 2021. But some users still own and use these razors, so I will still include them in the comparison.
2. Second Arc 5 generation
Popular models: ES-LV65-S (ES-LV65), ES-LV95-S (ES-LV95), ES-LV67-K (ES-LV-67, ES-LV67-A), ES-LV97-K (ES-LV97)
The first update to the Arc 5 range happened in 2013 when Panasonic released the second generation.
With this iteration, the design of the shavers looks more modern and the shaving head is also less bulky.
Panasonic’s excellent linear-drive motor has been refined and made progressively smaller as this image shows:
With the second Arc 5 generation, the output is still 14 000 CPM, but it’s a more compact unit that is placed in the shaving head itself, allowing the engineers to make the head smaller and easier to maneuver.
Apart from this, another important change was actually related to the automatic cleaning station.
The first-generation station was very bulky and would sometimes leak.
Panasonic fixed these issues in this second release and the updated station would basically remain unchanged until present (despite having different part numbers).
With a smaller footprint and a modern design, the new Arc 5 station uses concentrated detergent packets that must be mixed with water in the station’s tray.
The older station required plastic cartridges that were usually more expensive.
The most popular shaver models in this second generation are by far the Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S (no cleaning station) and the Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV95-S (includes a cleaning station).
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S
Tip: As mentioned, you’ll sometimes find these models listed as ES-LV65 and ES-LV95, respectively. The -S in the model name only stands for silver and it’s sometimes left out, so just keep in mind that they are the exact same shavers.
These two shavers, particularly the ES-LV65-S that is usually cheaper since it doesn’t include a cleaning station, are the best-selling Arc 5 models of all time.
Further reading: You can also check out my in-depth review of the ES-LV65-S/ES-LV95-S.
Other shavers worth mentioning are the ES-LV67(no cleaning station) and ES-LV97 (includes a cleaning station).
While chronologically these would be third-generation Arc 5’s, I would rather consider them visually updated second-generation shavers (given their features and performance).
I will get into the actual differences later on.
Further reading: You can check out my in-depth review of the ES-LV67-K/ES-LV97-K here.
3. Third Arc 5 generation
This is where things start to become exponentially more complicated.
While everything is relatively straightforward and simple with the first two generations, the third one is an absolute nightmare to document.
And that’s because this third-generation includes 8 different revisions as of 2023.
And more are likely to come, but I will keep this post updated and include any new Arc 5’s in the comparison.
I will briefly go over these seven revisions, but I’ll include the links to the posts where I cover everything in great detail if you’re interested in knowing more about a certain revision.
1. Revision A (2015)
Popular models: ES-LV6A-S (ES-LV6N), ES-LV9A-S (ES-LV9N)
The third generation of the Panasonic Arc 5 family debuted in 2015 with revision A.
It was a major shift in design and materials compared to the previous second-generation Arc 5 models.
And while the Arc 5 has always been class-leading in that regard, the third-gen Arc 5 is even better: we get a sleek, modern design and some models even have a brushed aluminum body instead of plastic.
But the biggest change brought by the third Arc 5 generation is a new outer foil.
It now features two so-called comfort rollers (the gold bars in the image below) that allow the shaving head to glider easier on the skin and prevent the user from applying excessive pressure (which can cause razor burn).
And this update to the foil does work and I will discuss it later on when I’ll compare the performance of the various Arc 5 models.
Interestingly, while the outer foil is new, the two removable inner blades (part number WES9170) are the same ones used by the older shavers in generations 1 and 2.
In fact, those inner blades are the same for all Arc 5 generations and revisions ever released, which has major implications for the different replacement foils compatibility (more details later on).
Nowadays, the razors in this revision A family are getting pretty difficult to find as they were phased out and replaced by the newer iterations.
2. Revision B (2016)
Popular models: ES-LV6B-S, ES-LV9B-S
Only one year later, Panasonic introduced the first update of the original generation 3 Arc 5, the revision B.
Tip: the revision B shavers use B instead of A for the model names: for example, ES-LV9B vs ES-LV9A. This naming scheme will continue with future revisions, but it won’t always be consistent.
The B revision was an incremental update and the differences between the B shavers and the previous ones are subtle:
- The B Arc 5’s use a textured material for the thumb rest instead of a smooth one;
- The front-to-back tilt angle of the head is increased from 17 to 20 degrees;
- The B revision has a low battery alarm.
Unsurprisingly, these changes don’t really have any noticeable effect on the shaving performance — we still have the same motor and foil/blades.
The B variations are also pretty much extinct at this moment, so unless you can find one on eBay, you probably won’t be able to buy one anymore.
3. Revision C (2017)
Popular models: ES-LV9Q, ES-LV6Q, ES-LV9CX-S, ES-LV9C, ES-LV7C, ES-LV5C, ES-CV51, ES-CV70
Further reading: Panasonic Arc 5 revision C/D in-depth guide
This time around, the changes were more significant.
Compared to the previous B iteration, the Panasonic Arc 5 revision C comes with a new design, a new outer foil and some new features.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV9Q
The premium models models (like the ES-LV9Q and ES-LV9CX) also feature a brushed aluminum body and a new smart lock function (that automatically unlocks the power button when you hold the shaver in your hand).
The shaving head now also features some impressive flexing capabilities, while the outer foil comes with a new cutting element called Power Quick Lift.
This Power Quick Lift trimmer should handle better those longer and flat-lying hairs, something Panasonic razors have always struggled with.
In practice though, the improvement was only marginal compared to the previous Arc 5 foil (revisions A and B).
Panasonic never officially released these C Arc 5’s to the USA (but you can still get them on sites like Amazon).
On the other hand, they were released in Europe and even today these models continue to be some of the most popular Arc 5 models.
And that’s because they usually cost less than the newer Panasonic Arc 5 revisions and are very similar performance-wise.
The ES-LV9Q (cleaning station) and ES-LV6Q (no cleaning station) are the best-selling models in this revision.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV6Q
With the C revision, two compact Arc 5 variations were introduced as well: ES-CV70 (dry-only use) and ES-CV51 (wet/dry use).
The compact models are equipped with the same foils/blades and motors, so the performance is top-notch.
A single compromise was made: the flexing mechanism of the head is gone, so these compact Arc 5’s only have a fixed head.
However, I found them to be just as good as the full-fledged Arc 5 models, so these are fantastic options when traveling (although quite pricey).
Further reading: I reviewed the compact ES-CV51 a while back if you want to know more details about its performance.
4. Revision D (2018)
Popular models: ES-LV9DX (ES-CLV9DX), ES-LV9D (ES-CLV9D), ES-LV7D (ES-CLV7D), ES-LV5D (ES-CLV5D)
One year later, Panasonic launched yet another revision.
The D models were however released only in Japan and a few other Asian countries.
That said, the actual changes were minor.
Precisely, the D models have an improved beard density sensor that is 1.8 times faster compared to the one on the Arc 5 revision C.
Interestingly, all these revision D razors are only suitable for dry only use (washable), so they will work both cordless and corded. A revision usually includes both wet/dry and dry only models, but not this one.
That’s really it, everything else (including motor and foils/blades) remained unchanged.
5. Revision E (2019)
Popular models: ES-LV9EX, ES-LV9E, ES-LV7E, ES-LV5E
Further reading: Panasonic Arc 5 revision E in-depth guide
Continuing this trend of releasing Arc 5 updates only to the Japanese domestic market, Panasonic introduced the revision E in 2019.
The new models look pretty much the same as the C and D Arc 5’s (except for some new colors).
However, there’s also a new outer foil that features a supposedly improved cutting element.
Precisely, the Power Quick Lift of the C and D revisions has been replaced by a Slim comb slit blade (approximate translation from Japanese).
The improvements are again minor in my opinion when it comes to shaving longer, flat-lying hairs.
There’s also a new (and improved) AI beard density sensor. I will get back to these sensors later on, but having used lots of Arc 5 models, I never felt that they make any noticeable difference.
So I wouldn’t pay too much emphasis on them when trying to decide between two shavers.
Just like the previous revision D, all these revision E razors are only suitable for dry only use (washable), so they will work cordless and corded.
As usual, Panasonic never released the E Arc 5 in the USA or Europe, so if for some reason you absolutely must have one, your only option would be to import it from Japan.
I will share later on how I purchase my Arc 5’s from Japan.
6. Revision F (2020)
Popular models: ES-LV9FX, ES-LV9F, ES-LV7F, ES-LV5F, ES-LV5T
Further reading: Panasonic Arc 5 revision F in-depth guide
This is probably the most incremental update to this third generation of Arc 5 shavers.
So what are the differences compared to the previous Panasonic Arc 5 revision E?
Well, there aren’t any.
The model names now have an F instead of an E, but I personally couldn’t find any real differences: the motors, foil/blades, head flexing mechanism and beard density sensor are all exactly the same.
As you’ve probably guessed by now, these razors were only released in Japan.
7. Revision G (2021)
Popular models: ES-LV9U, ES-LV7U, ES-LV7G, ES-LV5U, ES-LV5G
Further reading: Panasonic Arc 5 revision G in-depth guide
Also a Japan-only release, the revision G models come with a rather significant update, but also with a few cost-cutting features.
Precisely, we have a new outer foil that has a new central cutter that again is supposed to capture longer hairs more effectively.
The cutter is called an Under chin trimmer blade (approximate translation from Japanese) and now has a distinctive gold color.
In practice, it is a bit better than the previous ones, but still nowhere near a Braun Series 9 that is really good with longer hairs; on the other hand, the Series 9 can’t really match the Arc 5 in terms of closeness.
Further reading: for more details on the performance of the 2021 Arc 5, you can check out my full review.
The two comfort rollers are now silver, so you can easily tell this new foil apart from the previous ones.
As for the cost-cutting features, the smart lock function is completely gone on the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 (revision G).
The LED displays are pretty basic (5 or 3 battery levels) and none of them will show the duration of the shave.
Also, only the range-topping ES-LV9U comes with a leather travel case; the rest of them only include a cheap textile pouch.
The metal construction is gone as well and all the shavers come with the standard plastic body.
UPDATE: The revision G Arc 5 models were officially released outside of Japan in 2022.
These can be now bought in Europe, Australia, etc for a reasonable price and represent a good alternative to the generation 2 Arc 5. They are not however available in the USA or Canada.
Interestingly, Panasonic markets them under a different name. Instead of Arc 5 or Lamdash, this line is called Series 900. It is however identical to the Japanese series.
The two models from the revision G that are available globally under the Series 900 name are the ES-LV9U and ES-LV6U. The former includes a cleaning station, while the latter does not.
Both are wet/dry models and will only operate cordlessly.
8. Revision H / Arc 5 PRO (2022)
Popular models: ES-LV9V, ES-LV7V, ES-LV7H, ES-LV5V, ES-LV5H.
Further reading: Panasonic Arc 5 PRO (revision H) in-depth guide
Finally, we have the 2022 revision H, aka the Arc 5 / Lamdash 5 PRO, so this is currently the newest Arc 5 generation.
While the PRO in this latest update might suggest a significant update from the 2021 Arc 5 revision G, that’s not the case at all.
In fact, it’s pretty much a rebranding of the revision G above.
The Arc 5 PRO 2022 models come with the same outer foil and basically everything about them is the same compared to the previous rev G.
There’s only a single new feature called bubble making mode — a special setting available on the wet/dry models that allows the user to lather soap/lotion when shaving wet.
Its usefulness is questionable, to say the least.
Just like the revision G, the 2022 revision H feels like a step down: the shavers come with the less capable 5 or 3 stage battery indicators, there’s no metal build, no smart lock and apart from the ES-LV9V, all the shavers come with a cloth pouch instead of a hard or semi-hard case.
The revision H Arc 5 will likely be limited to the Japanese market and will be available for purchase from June 1st 2022.
This pretty much sums up all the different Arc 5 models from the moment the series was introduced in 2009 until the present day.
Panasonic Arc 5 model comparison [2023 update]
This next part should only serve as a reference in case you’re struggling to decide between a few Arc 5 variations in a specific generation/revision.
As mentioned earlier, these differences mainly come down to the included accessories, colors, LED displays, wet&dry or dry only use.
Since the foil, blades and motors are the same throughout a generation/revision, the actual shaving performance will be identical.
First Arc 5 generation comparison table
|Arc 5 model||Cleaning station||LED display|
|ES-LV61-A [blue], wet/dry (cordless only)||No||5 levels battery indicator, elapsed time|
|ES-LV81-K [black], wet/dry (cordless only)||Yes (Vortex Hydra)||5 levels battery indicator, elapsed time|
Second Arc 5 generation comparison table
Third Arc 5 generation rev A comparison table
|Arc 5 model||Cleaning station||LED display|
|ES-LV9A-S [silver], ES-LV9N [silver], wet/dry (cordless only)||Yes||10 levels battery indicator, elapsed time|
|ES-LV6A-S [silver], ES-LV6N [silver], wet/dry (cordless only)||No||10 levels battery indicator, elapsed time|
Third Arc 5 generation rev B comparison table
|Arc 5 model||Cleaning station||LED display|
|ES-LV9B-S [silver], wet/dry (cordless only)||Yes||10 levels battery indicator, elapsed time|
|ES-LV6B-S [silver], wet/dry (cordless only)||No||10 levels battery indicator, elapsed time|
Third Arc 5 generation rev C comparison table
Third Arc 5 generation rev D comparison table
Third Arc 5 generation rev E comparison table
Third Arc 5 generation rev F comparison table
Third Arc 5 generation rev G comparison table
Third Arc 5 generation rev H (Arc 5 PRO) comparison table
What are the differences that actually matter?
The tables above can be helpful if you’ve already settled on a particular Arc 5 generation/revision and only have to decide on things like color, the type of travel case, LED display and so on.
As mentioned previously, the shaving performance throughout a generation/revision is identical.
But the most important and difficult part is to figure out which Arc 5 generation/revision makes the most sense for you.
Fortunately, there are only a few things you should factor in, so let’s check them out.
When we say design, we tend to only think about the visual part: colors, textures, shapes and so on.
And the three Arc 5 generations can differ dramatically in that regard.
However, design is more than just looks and it will impact the way you use a particular shaver.
In my opinion, there are three important things here in terms of Arc 5 design:
- The shaving head
- The LED display
- The build quality
The shaving head
Being a 5-blade foil shaver, the Panasonic Arc 5 has a large shaving head.
That can make it a bit awkward to use, particularly for someone just getting started with electric shaving.
And while the surface of the 5 cutting elements is the same for all Arc 5 models, that can’t be said about the shaving head itself.
The very first Arc 5 generation (ES-LV61, ES-LV81) was fitted with an earlier iteration of the 14 000 CPM motor that was larger than the more recent ones.
As such, in order to accommodate it, the engineers had to make the whole shaving head larger.
And that really makes a difference during the actual shave — a first-generation Arc 5 will feel bulkier and more difficult to use when shaving below the nose or the jawline.
Fortunately, with the introduction of the more compact motors of the second generation, the shaving heads were also reduced in size.
All Arc 5 variations from the second generation and up feature this smaller shaving head.
The third Arc 5 generation also introduced some impressive flexing capabilities of the shaving unit (revision C and up).
However, I wouldn’t consider that a must-have feature when trying to decide between a second or third-generation Arc 5 for example.
In practice, that highly flexible head doesn’t seem to make a big difference. The range of motion is limited and it’s just not as effective as other shavers that use a simpler system (like the Braun Series 9).
All Arc 5 models come with a locking switch that allows you to lock the head when more precision is needed.
Also, the pop-up hair trimmer is identical for all Panasonic Arc 5 variations and it’s an excellent trimmer — the best in business in my opinion.
The LED display
The LED display is another feature that can vary a lot among the different Arc 5 models.
It may not seem like an important aspect, but some of them show a couple of really nifty information: the battery level in 10% increments and the duration of the shave.
Tip: you can refer to the tables above to see the exact models that come with this feature-rich display that can also show the elapsed time.
In contrast, other Arc 5 models, including the latest 2021 revision G, only offer a 5 or even a 3-stage LED display — something you would normally find on an entry-level Arc 3 for example.
It’s not a deal-breaker, but when you pay a premium price on an electric razor, you also expect to get all the extra features.
Some of the popular (and widely available) models that come with the more advanced displays are the ES-LV65-S, ES-LV95-S, ES-LV9Q and ES-LV6Q.
The build quality
As for build quality, the Arc 5 series (and Panasonic shavers in general) has always been at the very top.
In fact, I think they currently have the best build quality out of all shaver brands.
That said, some Arc 5’s take it one notch higher.
With the third generation, a few select models come with a metal body. To be more precise, the main panels are made of brushed aluminum instead of plastic.
These models are usually more expensive and include a cleaning station as well (the exception being the two compact models, ES-CV51 and ES-CV70).
The rest of the Arc 5 shavers that come with a metal body are the ES-LV9A (ES-LV9B), ES-LV9Q, ES-LV9CX (ES-CLV9CX), ES-LV9DX (ES-CLV9DX), ES-LV9EX and ES-LV9FX.
The ES-LV9Q is usually the easiest to get, particularly in Europe as it’s part of the revision C that was officially released there. It also costs less than other Japan-exclusive models with a metal body.
I own both plastic and metal Arc 5’s and while the metal feels oddly nice and cold in the hand, there’s nothing really wrong with the plastic ones either.
It’s a high-quality plastic that doesn’t tarnish in time nor does it creak when you hold it firmly. The panel gaps are small and even and I never had any issues with mine.
3. Outer foil
Arguably the most important component that varies across the different Arc5 generations and revisions is the outer foil.
This is a key element because it’s the part that comes in direct contact with the skin and will have the greatest impact on the comfort, closeness and how well the shaver catches facial hair.
The Panasonic Arc 5 has 5 cutting elements: 4 micro-foils and one central cutter.
That central cutter, along with the two outermost foils has built-in blades, while the blades that oscillate behind the foils that flank the central cutter are removable.
Therefore, a replacement set for the Arc 5 will include the outer foil and the two removable blades.
You can usually purchase them separately as well (the foil, inner blades and the set will have different part numbers).
Important: the two removable blades have been the exact same ones (part number WES9170) since the introduction of the first generation Arc 5 in 2009 and until the very latest 2022 revision H.
So the only part that can be different with different Arc 5 models is the outer foil.
The first and second-generation Arc 5 shavers come with the same foil/set, while for the third Arc 5 generation we have 4 different foils (depending on the revision).
However, all four of them have a distinct feature compared to the first two generations: the comfort rollers.
These rollers are basically two metal bars that spin freely when you move the shaving head over the skin.
This helps it glide easier and also prevents the user from applying excessive pressure.
Some users find it annoying for precisely that reason; I personally haven’t had any issues with it and the closeness has been just as good.
In fact, that’s the main pro of all the newer (generation three) foils: all of them are slightly more comfortable than the previous one (no rollers).
In terms of closeness, I haven’t noticed any improvements, so it’s still excellent, arguably the best out there.
According to Panasonic, the main improvement of the newer, tweaked foils is in the way they handle longer, flat-lying hairs.
That central trimmer has been constantly refined, particularly in the case of the latest revision G (2021) and revision H (2022) which share the same foil.
And while these changes did improve the performance of the third-gen Arc 5 with longer facial hair, it’s not as good as a Braun Series 7 or 9.
It will still require multiple strokes and changes of direction in order to get those difficult hairs.
I find all the four different foils of the third Arc 5 generation very similar performance-wise, with a slight advantage in the case of the 2021 revision G foil that does seem to be better with longer, flat-lying hairs.
So this is how I would sum up the performance of the different Panasonic Arc 5 foils.
Later on, I will also address the foils compatibility and the possibility of upgrading your Arc 5.
3. Wet/Dry vs Dry only use
All Panasonic Arc 5’s are fully waterproof and can be washed with water for easy and effective cleaning.
And while most models are specifically marked as suitable for wet/dry use (ie with shaving cream or in the shower), there are some that are only washable (as in you can clean them with water), but can only be used dry.
The most important consequence is that a wet/dry Arc 5 will only work cordless, while a washable model will also work while charging (corded).
The latter seems to be very important to some users, but unfortunately, those models are usually only sold in Japan.
You can also check out the comparison tables above to see exactly which are the wet/dry (cordless only) and dry only (cordless and corded) models.
The ones that are widely available in the USA and Europe, like the ES-LV65, ES-LV95, ES-LV67, ES-LV97, ES-LV6Q and ES-LV9Q are wet/dry, so cordless only.
I personally never use electric shavers with the cord plugged in and since the Arc 5 performs amazingly with shaving cream, I am fine with the cordless-only variations.
Besides, the other ones are a lot more expensive to buy from Japan (the shipping and customs fees are high).
4. Cleaning station: yey or nay?
The fourth important aspect you should keep in mind when buying a Panasonic Arc 5 is the cleaning station.
Should you get a variation that comes with or without one?
Well, it depends as both options have pros and cons.
The single shaver models (ES-LV65, ES-LV67, ES-LV6Q etc.) are cheaper and since the Arc 5 is also very easy to clean manually, these are probably the better pick for most users.
Important: You won’t be able to use it with a compatible station purchased later on as the shaver lacks the contact pins on the back.
Now, the Panasonic Arc 5 cleaning station (from the second generation and up) is actually very good.
You can choose to only charge, dry or do a complete cleaning and drying cycle. The detergent-based solution also doesn’t evaporate as fast as other alcohol-based fluids.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV95-S
The solution has lubricating properties as well, so you won’t have to oil the blades yourself.
That said, the Panasonic station is not as practical as the ones from Braun for example.
And that’s mainly because you have to mix the concentrated detergent with water in the station’s tray and then you’re pretty much stuck with it.
Braun stations use plastic cartridges that you can take out and put the cap back on and store them in a safe place until further use.
Also, you have a lot more options for cheap third-party solutions for Braun stations. With Panasonic, you’re stuck with their detergent packs.
And as mentioned earlier, the Arc5’s that come with a station cost more than the ones that don’t.
If those things aren’t deal-breakers, then by all means you should get one with a cleaning station (like the ES-LV95/ES-LV97 or ES-LV9Q).
Personally, I always buy Panasonic shavers that don’t include a cleaning station. I just don’t find it necessary and cleaning these shavers manually is a breeze.
5. Price and availability
Last but certainly not least, there’s the price.
In my opinion, value for money should be a decisive factor when deciding which Arc 5 to buy.
And the prices of these razors vary tremendously and don’t always make sense.
For example, you’ll sometimes find there’s a significant price difference between the ES-LV65 and ES-LV67 models.
And since the performance of those is pretty much identical, you should definitely buy the cheaper one — whichever that may be.
The newer, Japan-exclusive Arc 5’s, particularly the top-of-the-line models ending in -X (ES-LV9DX, ES-LV9EX, ES-LV9FX etc.) are usually the most expensive.
They come with cleaning stations, metal bodies, the smart lock feature and a nicer hard leather travel case.
So you’re not really paying more for extra performance — as mentioned, that stays the same throughout a generation/revision.
In terms of bang for the buck, the older, second-generation Arc 5’s (no cleaning station) will generally be the best. They’re also widely available.
Also, some of the third-generation revision C models can be found at reasonable prices and are available in Europe and the USA.
This way you won’t have to spend extra money on shipping and customs fees.
The takeaway is that in the case of the Panasonic Arc 5, the price doesn’t always tell the whole story and you shouldn’t necessarily pay more for a newer version.
I will also be sharing the Arc 5 models that I think are worth buying given their performance and price.
Do some Arc 5 models shave better than others?
Simply put, the aforementioned differences also lead to a difference in performance.
So the answer is yes, some Arc 5 models do shave slightly better than others or are better in certain specific areas, but the differences are marginal.
Here’s a short summary:
- The second generation Arc 5 shaves the same as the first one, but the smaller head and the better, redesigned cleaning station makes them a better pick. Also, the first generation has been long discontinued.
- The third-generation revisions A and B have a nicer design compared to the second one and the comfort of the shave is slightly better thanks to the comfort rollers. The redesigned central trimmer is also slightly better at catching longer hairs, but nothing significant.
- The revisions C through H come with an updated design and more flexing capabilities of the shaving head (that doesn’t make any difference in practice). The foils are again slightly better with longer hairs compared to the A and B, the latest revision G & H foil being the most capable in that regard.
As you can see, when it comes to performance, the difference is made by the outer foil.
However, there’s an important catch, which leads us to the next section.
Replacement foils compatibility. Upgrading your older Arc 5
One of the key elements that make a strong case for buying an older and cheaper Arc 5 model is the possibility of upgrading the outer foil later on.
I’m referring mainly to the second-generation shavers like ES-LV65/ES-LV95 and ES-LV67/ES-LV97 as those can still be bought pretty much anywhere in the world.
However, if you still own a first-generation shaver and is still in good shape, this next part still applies.
As we saw earlier, there are 4 different outer foils available with the various revisions of the third generation.
The differences between these foils are minor and each of them was slightly tweaked and improved compared to the previous one.
So which foil is compatible with which Arc 5?
The answer is actually really simple:
Any Arc 5 foil is compatible with any Arc 5 shaver, regardless of the generation/revision. The two inner blades are the same for all Arc 5 models ever released.
This is hugely beneficial for the end-user.
It means you can buy a reasonably priced second-generation Arc 5 for example and later on, when it’s time to replace the foil/blades, you can upgrade it to the latest set and reap most of the benefits of the newer razors.
Of course, that could mean spending more money on a set or even importing it from Japan.
But it’s really nice to have that possibility.
You won’t find this cross-generation compatibility documented anywhere officially, but I’ve tested many Arc 5 foils and shavers combinations and they work just fine.
Here’s a table with the replacement sets that each Arc 5 generation and revision originally comes with. However, they are backward-compatible. The two inner blades (WES9170) are always the same.
|Arc 5 generation/revision||Foil and blades set|
|First generation||WES9032P (ES9032, WES9032Y)|
|Second generation||WES9032P (ES9032, WES9032Y)|
|Third generation (rev A and B)||WES9034P (ES9034)|
|Third generation (rev C and D)||WES9036 (WES9036Y, ES9036)|
|Third generation (rev E and F)||ES9038|
|Third generation (rev G and H)||ES9040|
Further reading: For all the details regarding the exact foils/blades/sets part numbers and where to buy them from, make sure to check out my Arc 5 replacement foils guide.
Bottom line: which Panasonic Arc 5 should you buy?
Hopefully, by this point, things are beginning to be pretty clear.
In my opinion, the best Panasonic Arc 5 is one that is reasonably priced, easy to get and ticks the boxes for most of the user’s personal needs.
Those are things like the cleaning station, the LED display, the type of travel case and so on.
Obviously, these won’t affect the shaving performance, but some of them are nice to have, especially if you can get a particular feature-rich model at a discounted price.
That said, I think the second generation’s best-sellers, the ES-LV65 and ES-LV95, would be the best pick for most users even in 2023.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65
They usually cost the least, can be upgraded with the latest foils and you can buy them in the USA, Canada, Europe, etc.
The performance is top-notch and as mentioned earlier, their only downside compared to the third-generation Arc 5 is the old foil that isn’t quite as comfortable and a less flexible shaving head (not a big deal in practice).
Alternatively, the newer ES-LV67 and ES-LV97 come with an updated design, but use the exact same foils, and can be a great option if for some reason you can’t buy the ES-LV65/ES-LV95 in your country.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV67
Compared to the ES-LV65 and ES-LV95, these two have a more basic LED display that won’t show the elapsed time. The shaving sensor is also always on, while in the case of the ES-LV65 and ES-LV95 you had the possibility to turn it off.
Again, this is a minor shortcoming that shouldn’t steer you away from them, particularly if the price is lower.
Side note: in Europe, the blue ES-LV67-A variation is sold instead of the black ES-LV67-K. The color is the only difference between them.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV67-A
As you can tell, these models do not come with a cleaning station, but you can of course opt for the ES-LV95 or ES-LV97 variations if you need the station.
Again, with Panasonic shavers, this decision should be made from the get-go because a model bought without a station will not work with one.
As for the third generation, considering that the A and B revisions have been discontinued and the D through G updates are only available in Japan, the revision C is in my opinion the one to get.
Precisely, the ES-LV6Q (plastic body, no station) and ES-LV9Q (metal body, cleaning station) are available in Europe and even in the USA.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV9Q
Compared to the ones above from the second generation, the ES-LV6Q and ES-LV9Q come with a nicer design, an updated (and more comfortable) foil and a more flexible shaving head.
If they don’t cost a lot more, I think you can get them instead.
Otherwise, the older ones are still fantastic performers and you can always upgrade the foil.
Now, if you don’t mind spending a premium just to have the very latest Arc 5, even though you won’t really be getting much more in terms of performance, you can import one from Japan.
Also, as mentioned previously, the 2021 revision G Arc 5 is now available in specific countries for a rather reasonable price (but not in the USA, at least not officially) under the Series 900 name (ES-LV9U, ES-LV6U).
Panasonic Series 900 ES-LV6U
These are now viable options, especially if we consider the price and that they come with the latest foil.
I would strongly consider the ES-LV6U model (no cleaning station) if you can get a good deal on it.
Or maybe you want an Arc 5 that you can use both cordless and corded.
I’m mainly referring to the D, E, F,G and H revisions that were only released in Japan.
The ones ending in -X are particularly impressive with their all-metal build, regardless if it’s a D, E or F revision (the latest G and H shavers only come with the standard plastic bodies).
Since most stores won’t ship to Europe or the USA, you can use a proxy service to have it shipped to your location.
I personally use a service called forward2me.com and it works great. Upon sign up, you’ll basically receive a Japan-based address where you can have the shaver shipped and then they’ll ship it to your address for a rather reasonable fee.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with or endorsed by forward2me.com and I do not receive any compensation for recommending them. It’s just a service that I’ve used and found to be very reliable.
Bonus tips: getting the most out of your Arc 5
Now that we’ve hopefully covered all the important differences, let’s see how you can put your Arc 5 to good use.
Even if some Arc 5 variations offer excellent value for money and represent a great investment, the upfront cost is still significant.
The price of the replacement foils and blades is also quite high, so you’ll want to keep your shaver in top shape for as long as possible while also getting a great shave.
Luckily, there are a few simple, but very effective things you can do in that regard.
These generally apply to any electric shaver, but some are particularly important in the case of the Arc 5 as you’ll see next.
1. Clean and lubricate your Arc 5 regularly
This will probably make the biggest difference to the quality of the shave and the lifespan of the foil and blades.
Ideally, you’ll want to clean the shaver thoroughly after every use.
You could do that using a brush (usually included in the box) or some compressed air, but the best way to do it is with water and (optionally) some liquid soap.
Side note: if your Arc 5 has a cleaning station and you use it regularly, you don’t have to clean or lubricate your shaver manually.
I personally always clean my Arc 5’s with warm tap water and a bit of liquid soap after every shave.
It literally takes less than a minute and it’s very effective.
Tip: if you shave with cream or gel, you should definitely clean your Arc 5 with water and soap after every use.
The Arc 5 is fitted with a so-called Sonic cleaning mode that you can activate by pressing and holding the power button for a few seconds.
With the Sonic mode turned on, the blades oscillate at a much higher rate for 20 seconds, dislodging any stubborn dirt and preventing water from splashing when rinsing the shaving head.
Your user manual will have detailed instructions on how to clean your Arc 5 manually or you can check out the cleaning section of my Arc 5 reviews.
Lubrication is equally important.
The Arc 5 is one of the closest shaving razors out there and one of the reasons for it is that the cutters and foils are machined with very tight tolerances.
Precisely, the gap between the outer foil and the blades is extremely small.
In fact, during use, the blades will rub against the foils. And metal on metal at 14 000 cycles per minute with no lubrication is bad.
This is why lubrication is particularly important here.
It will minimize the friction between the blades and foil, reducing the wear and the heat.
It also means that most of the power will be used for actually cutting the hairs, with minimal loss in the form of heat.
You’ll get a closer and more comfortable shave and you won’t need to replace the foil and blades for a longer period.
It’s a major benefit for such a simple and trivial task.
Lubricating an Arc 5 is dead easy: a single drop of lubricant on the outside of each of the 5 cutters will suffice.
You then turn the shaver on for a few seconds and spread the lubricant evenly with your finger.
Panasonic sometimes includes a small bottle of oil with the Arc 5, but that’s not always the case.
Luckily, you can use clipper oil (it’s basically the same stuff, ie highly refined mineral oil). Clipper oil is cheap and widely available.
Wahl Clipper Oil
If you only clean your Arc 5 with water, applying the oil once or twice a week will be enough.
If you also use liquid soap, then you should lubricate the blades after every cleaning — just remember that the blades must be dry before applying the lubricant.
Further reading: How to properly lubricate an electric shaver
Alternatively, you can use a spray lubricant for electric shavers.
In my opinion this works even better since it also cleans the blades. Besides, if the water is hard, it will remove any mineral deposits as well.
My favorite is the Remington Shaver Saver. Unfortunately, you can’t really find it in Europe anymore (it’s still available in the USA though).
The one I’m currently using is the Andis Cool Care Plus. It’s effective, cheap and comes in a huge can that lasts forever.
Further reading: Using a Spray Cleaner And Lubricant
2. Make sure the shaver has enough charge before you shave
Even though Panasonic claims the Arc 5 will maintain peak power even when the battery charge drops, that’s not really the case.
I personally can feel a significant performance difference when shaving with 20% battery vs 50% or more.
If you want the best results in terms of closeness, comfort, and speed, charge your shaver.
Side note: charging the shaver more often will not harm modern Li-ion batteries.
3. Use a pre-shave lotion
For most men, the addition of a quality pre-electric shave lotion will be beneficial for getting a closer and smoother shave.
Even though the Arc 5 is already an excellent performer, a pre-shave can make it gentler and also improve the closeness, especially during a dry shave or if you have very coarse, flat-lying hair.
Pre-shave lotions are cheap, easy to apply and won’t clog the shaver.
My favorites are the ones from Speick and Tabac and you can read all about them in my pre-shave lotions guide.
4. Use shaving cream
I know this tip won’t be too popular as most of us prefer a quick dry shave, however, you shouldn’t dismiss wet shaving altogether.
The Panasonic Arc 5 performs phenomenally with shaving cream or gel.
If you want the absolute closest shave with an electric shaver, this is the way to get it.
There are however a few tweaks you can make in order to get the best results, so make sure to check out my wet shaving tips as well.
5. Shave more often
Although Panasonic made incremental progress with the newer foils, they’re still nowhere near as good as Braun for example when it comes to shaving longer, flat-lying hairs.
Things are even more difficult if they grow in different directions.
To minimize this shortcoming, you should strive to shave more often. Even if your hairs grow parallel to the skin or have different grains, things are usually a lot easier if the hair is shorter.
6. Don’t press too hard and take your time
Finally, the Arc 5 is a beast of a shaver and it will let you know if you press too hard.
You will get some razor burn even if you don’t have very sensitive skin.
The best approach is to only use light pressure and let the shaver do the work.
Use straight, controlled strokes, always against the grain.
Do not rush through the process and try to enjoy it.
Out of all the different series of electric shavers out there, the Panasonic Arc 5 is probably the most difficult to document.
The sheer number of models, generations and revisions makes this task really challenging.
With this comparison and buying guide, I tried my best to showcase the differences between the models, but also to reduce the buying decision to only a handful of important factors.
Hopefully, this will make choosing an Arc 5 easier. With all these models available and the appeal of a newer and possibly better shaver, it can easily get overwhelming.
Over to you now — if you have any other questions regarding this topic or you’d like to share your experience of owning and using an Arc 5, make sure to leave a comment below.