The Arc 5, Panasonic’s premium line of electric shavers for men, is currently at its third generation, having undergone multiple revisions during the past few years.
Continuing that trend, Panasonic recently announced yet another iteration of the Arc 5 range, precisely the F revision.
These new shavers will be available in Japan starting in October 2020.
The only available information is on Panasonic.jp, so trying to make sense of the features, performance and differences between these 2020 Arc 5 F models and the older ones is difficult, to say the least.
In this article, I will try to present all these aspects in an easy to grasp manner, focusing on the parts that really matter.
So without further ado, let’s get right to it.
Table of Contents
An overview of the Arc 5 (LAMDASH) Revision F (2020)
Being the very latest update in Panasonic’s range-topping series, a new Arc 5 will always spark a lot of interest among potential buyers.
Newer shavers should normally come with improvements over the previous generations, so wanting to know more makes perfect sense.
Looking back at the previous revisions, we can easily conclude that most of the updates were incremental and didn’t really have an impact on the actual shaving performance.
Apart from the revision C, which was by far the most significant one, with a new design and features, the rest of them consisted of minor changes.
Let’s see how these things are with the latest F revision.
5 blade shaving head
As expected, the Arc 5 still rocks a massive shaving unit comprised of 5 individual cutting elements.
Just like all the previous ones, we also have the two comfort rollers that despite my initial skepticism, really do help and make the shaving experience more pleasant compared to the older Arc 5 models that didn’t have them.
The F revision models come with the exact same outer foil and inner blades as the E revision, which immediately suggests extremely similar (if not identical) performance.
Precisely, we have the following part numbers:
- Outer foil: ES9179
- Inner blades: WES9170 (WES9170P)
- Outer foil & inner blades set: ES9038
This is not surprising at all and we’ve seen it before; moreover, all these newer foils and blades are backward compatible with the older Arc 5 generations (like the ES-LV65-S/ES-LV95-S).
But getting back to the outer foil of the F (and E) revision, it is the latest and features an improved slit trimmer that’s supposedly better at catching flat-lying hairs, definitely the Achilles’ heel of all Panasonic shavers.
According to Panasonic, it is 10% more efficient compared to the one on the revision D outer foil.
In my opinion that improvement will not have a massive impact, but I will have to test one myself.
14 000 CPM motor
No changes here either, so the 2020 Arc 5 comes with the same snappy 14 000 CPM (cycles per minute) linear drive motor.
While it has shrunk in size throughout the years (currently at its 8th generation), the specs have remained unchanged and it’s still the fastest you’ll find on any electric shaver.
It’s a great unit, smooth, powerful and reliable.
Also, because it is located in the shaving head itself, there’s no need for a complex linkage between it and the blades, so there’s no power being wasted and fewer things to go wrong.
Fun fact: there is a Xiaomi electric shaver called Mijia 5 that claims to have a 15 000 CPM motor. I haven’t used one yet, so I cannot comment on its performance.
5D active suspension
The head unit of the Arc 5 is probably the most complex of any foil shaver out there.
Precisely, the flexing mechanism allows the whole head to move in 5 different planes: front to back, left to right, up and down, slide forward/backward and twist as well.
Impressive? Definitely. Overkill? Probably.
I was personally never a fan of it since in my experience a basic up and down movement, backed by a great range of motion works better in practice.
I just don’t find this 5D system that much useful and it can even get a bit annoying since the head is massive and feels a bit wobbly.
According to Panasonic, this technology should help put less strain on the skin and keep the foils in contact with the area that’s being shaved.
The same 5D active suspension system was also present on the C, D and E revisions, so no changes here either.
AI beard density sensor
Just like the previous Arc 5 revision E, the 2020 Arc 5 F also comes with the so-called AI Beard density sensor that reads the stubble density and adjusts the power accordingly (up to 220 times per second).
This should make the shaver more efficient and more comfortable when shaving areas with light hair.
I’ve used many shavers with similar technologies and again, the improvements seem to be small if any at all.
That pretty much sums up the main features of the 2020 Panasonic Arc 5 revision F.
As you can tell, the changes from the outgoing revision E are pretty much non-existent: same shaving unit, same foil & blades, same motor.
Let’s now check out the individual models and their differences as there are quite a few interesting details you should be aware of.
Panasonic Arc 5 revision F model comparison
Here’s a table with all the new 2020 Arc 5 Lamdash models and the main differences between them.
All Panasonic Arc 5 revision F models are fully waterproof and can be rinsed with water.
However, most of them (the ones marketed as washable) are officially suitable for dry only use, so you won’t be able to shave in the shower for example.
The reason is related to safety since all these washable models will also work while plugged in.
There are only two models explicitly presented as wet/dry models that will only work cordless, namely the T variations: ES-LV7T and ES-LV5T.
The first one also comes with an automatic cleaning and charging station. Both of them will only operate cordlessly and are suitable for wet shaving.
For example, only the flagship ES-LV9FX has a metal body, the rest of them featuring a standard plastic build.
From previous experience, I know that it is however a high-quality plastic and it looks and feels premium as well.
Also, only the ES-LV9FX and ES-LV9F have a 10-level battery level indicator and the display will also show the duration of the shave.
The rest of the models only come with either a 5 or 3-level battery indicator and will not show the duration of the shave.
Also, the so-called smart lock feature is only limited to the top ES-LV9FX and ES-LV9F models.
Basically, the travel lock system is active at all times and automatically unlocks the shaver when you hold it in your hand.
The other ones come with the standard travel lock (activated by pressing and holding the power button when the shaver is running).
In my opinion the only differences that really matter are related to the inclusion of the cleaning station and the ability to use the shaver while it is plugged in.
But regarding the latter aspect, there’s a rather odd limitation.
Take a look at the screenshot below taken from a Panasonic user instruction manual.
That basically means you won’t be able to use a dry only/washable Arc 5 with the cord plugged in if the battery is completely worn out.
And that totally renders this feature useless. The whole point of having a cordless/corded shaver is to be able to keep using it even when the battery can’t hold a charge anymore.
At least that’s how the rest of these cordless/cored shavers work.
So there’s really no reason to go after a cordless/corded Arc 5 model in this case.
Also, there is now a 3-minute quick charge function (an improvement from the previous 5 minute).
Availability and price
While there’s no official information yet, the revision F shavers will probably only be available in Japan and they will cost a lot.
That was the case with the previous D and E models, while the C revision was eventually released in Europe and other regions as well (but not in the USA).
So Panasonic continues this trend of not making the latest top of the line shavers available outside of Japan.
If you’re planning on getting one, your only option would be to buy it from a Japanese vendor that is willing to ship overseas.
That obviously means spending even more money with shipping and customs fees.
If you do manage to grab one, it will work anywhere in the world thanks to the automatic voltage switch (100 to 240v). You may however need a basic plug adapter.
Are they worth the trouble?
Well, that really depends.
In my opinion, if you already own a revision C Arc 5 (and up), the upgrade to an F model is really not worth it.
The shaving performance is basically the same and apart from a few minor changes, you’re not really getting anything significantly better.
If you’re planning on getting your first Arc 5 and your budget allows it, then you can go ahead and buy one. It’s definitely a great shaver that will satisfy pretty much anyone.
As for the owners of older Arc 5 models like the ES-LV65-S or ES-LV95-S, if your shaver is still in good condition, remember that you also can upgrade it to the latest foil and blades used by the revisions F and E.
I wrote a detailed guide on that topic here.
Since the motor has the same specs and most of the changes are related to design and some fancy features (like the smart lock function, AI density sensor and so on), older Arc 5 models that are widely available still make a lot of sense, especially since the price is lower.
Which leads us to the next section.
Alternatives you can buy right now
In my opinion, the closest alternative (performance and design-wise) that is still relatively easy to get and reasonably priced is the revision C.
These models (like the ES-LV9Q and ES-LV6Q) are widely available, particularly in Europe, they now cost less money and are very similar to the latest 2020 revision F.
And while Panasonic didn’t officially release them in the USA, you can often get them on sites like Amazon.com as well.
I would definitely consider one of those instead of getting through hoops and paying a premium for a revision F model.
The only real novelty of the 2020 F revision is that AI beard density sensor which is supposedly improved and the revised outer foil.
However, as mentioned earlier, you can actually upgrade the foil to the latest one as it is backward compatible.
Finally, the older second-generation Arc 5 shavers like the ES-LV65-S offer great value for money and are still top performers.
And yes, you’ll also be able to upgrade to any of the newer foils which are in my experience a bit more comfortable and glide really smoothly on the skin.
Other budget-friendly alternatives are the ES-LV67-K and ES-LV97-K, basically a generation 2 Arc 5 with a new design.
That pretty much sums up my initial impressions of the 2020 Panasonic Arc 5 revision F. I will be getting one for a detailed review once they become available.
If you have any questions, make sure to post them in the comments below.
Images credit: Panasonic.jp