Panasonic is one of the three major players in the electric shavers industry alongside Braun and Philips Norelco.
Their high-end line is the Arc 5, currently at the third generation. They feature a massive 5 blade shaving unit that exhibits the characteristic arched profile of the foils (hence the Arc in the name).
This third incarnation of the Arc 5 family debuted in September 2015. The international models were the ES-LV6A-S (no cleaning station) and ES-LV9A-S (automatic cleaning station), while the ones for the American market were the ES-LV6N-S (no cleaning station) and ES-LV9-N (automatic cleaning station).
Just one year after the launch of this third generation, Panasonic rolled out a minor update, the revision B. To differentiate them from the original ones, the international models feature a B instead of an A in their names: ES-LV6B-S, ES-LV9B-S etc.
The updates introduced by the rev. B are:
- The use of a textured material instead of a smooth finish for the thumb rest
- An increase in the front-to-back tilt angle of the head (from 17 to 20 degrees)
- The introduction of a low battery alarm
These new shavers also use the same foils and blades as the previous ones and they look extremely similar overall. As a result, the actual shaving performance remained pretty much the same.
Note: Panasonic uses the term LAMDASH for the shavers sold on the Japanese domestic market. The name is derived from the Greek letter LAMBDA (Λ) which also happens to have the value 30 in the Greek numerals system — corresponding to the bevel angle of Panasonic’s nano-blades.
The new revision C Arc 5 / LAMDASH shavers
In the summer of 2017 Panasonic quietly rolled out yet another revamp of its Arc 5/LAMDASH shavers, the revision C.
At this moment they only appear to be available for the Japanese and European markets but can be ordered from sites like Amazon or ebay.
There’s also no official info regarding the availability of equivalent models specifically for the North American market so far.
Apart from a few presentation pages like the one on Panasonic.jp, the details of this update are pretty scarce.
You can tell the new shavers apart from the previous ones by the letter C in their model names — for example, ES-LV9C-S, ES-LV7C-A etc. These are now available in Asia and will likely become the international models.
The ones currently sold on the European markets follow a different name pattern: ES-LV9Q, ES-LV6Q, ES-CV51.
Here’s a table depicting all the different models in this latest update:
The compact variations are particularly interesting; performance-wise they are fully-fledged Arc 5 shavers, being fitted with the same motors and cutting elements. They’re lighter and the reduced dimensions make them more suitable for traveling.
Here’s a side by side comparison:
What are the differences compared to the previous Arc 5 models?
1. New design and colors
I think we can all agree that these new Arc 5 shavers look stunning. In my opinion, Panasonic absolutely nailed the design and construction of its third generation Arc 5 family and this C iteration is the best yet.
I can’t think of any shavers from the competition that can come close to the new Arc 5/LAMDASH design. They just ooze quality and hi-tech.
The new colors look classy and suit the overall aesthetics of the shavers perfectly. You can tell that a lot of thought was put into the color schemes and I particularly like the gold accents around the shaving heads and the pearly metallic finish.
The blue and brown variations look spectacular in my opinion.
The man behind this is Panasonic’s brilliant product designer, Tomoaki Ino.
He is also responsible for the design of the new Panasonic LT Arc 3 razors.
Here’s a side-by-side photo of an ES-LV9A Arc 5 (left) and the new ES-LV9CX (right):
It’s also worth mentioning that not all models in this lineup have a metal body (you can refer to the comparison table above to see which ones have it).
2. Advanced flexing of the shaving head
With this new update, I think Panasonic currently has the most advanced flexing shaving unit ever made.
The A and B revisions featured a shaving head that was able to move in 3 planes: left to right (20 degrees), back and forth (17 or 20 degrees tilt), up and down (2.5mm).
With the new C revision, the shaving head can also twist (10 degrees) and slide back and forward (1mm). Here are two pictures that illustrate this:
Panasonic calls this Multi-flex 5-D and it allows superior contact with the skin, especially when shaving under the chin and the neck area. While I will only be able to confirm this claims after I review one, it is nevertheless an impressive technical achievement.
The compact models, namely the ES-CV70-S and the ES-CV51 appear to have a fixed head. The 5 shaving elements can still move independently.
3. New smart lock function
This is another novelty feature that is likely to wow you. Available only with the ES-LV9CX and ES-LV9C/ES-LV9Q variations, this function automatically detects when you’re grasping the shaver in your hand and unlocks it, allowing you to turn it on and shave.
The mechanism also locks the shaver 60 seconds after you have released it to prevent erroneous operation. This is basically a smart travel lock. Not entirely necessary, but quite the feat of engineering.
The rest of the shavers have a classic travel lock that is activated by pressing and holding the ON/OFF button.
4. New outer foils
The C revision LAMDASH / Arc 5 shavers use a new outer foil with the part number WES9177 (ES9177). It replaces the older WES9175 (ES9175) foil used by the previous A and B Arc 5 models.
It looks extremely similar to the older one (5 shaving elements, 2 comfort rollers) and at this point I cannot say with certainty what are the actual differences and improvements. The motor is the same punchy 14 000 CPM linear-drive unit.
The novelty seems to be the Power Quick Lift middle trimmer that captures longer hairs, by far the Achilles’ heel of all Panasonic shavers.
This trimmer is supposedly an improved version of the one found on the previous A and B Arc 5 models (called a Quick Lift Foil on those models). Right now I cannot tell if that’s really the case or is just a marketing gimmick.
The two inner blades however are the same used by all the other Arc 5 shavers, including the very first generation (part no WES9170).
As usual, a foil & inner blades combo is also available and has the part no WES9036 (ES9036).
In my opinion the improvements in shaving performance over the A and B revisions will be minimal, so if you can get those at a better price that’s probably the right decision.
5. New travel cases
The ES-LV9CX-S and ES-CV51/ES-CV70-S come with new hard storage cases. These look great and also offer excellent protection in the case of mechanical shocks.
Unfortunately the rest of the models only include Panasonic’s usual soft pouch.
The hard cases are also available separately (part no ES-2L13).
6. New LCD displays
The newest Arc 5 models are available with three different LCD displays.
The range-topping versions — ES-LV9CX, ES-LV9C, ES-LV9Q, ES-LV6Q — feature a 10 stage multifunction display, while the ES-LV5C comes with a 5 stage display that shows the remaining battery in increments of 20%.
The rest of the shavers in the lineup feature a 3 stage indicator that only shows a High, Mid or Low charge status.
7. Automatic cleaning stations
Available only with the ES-LV9CX-S, ES-LV9C-S, ES-LV9Q, ES-LV7C-T and ES-LV7C-A, the cleaning stations seem to be the same ones included with the A and B Arc 5 revisions.
While I don’t think you absolutely need one, Panasonic’s cleaning stations are arguably the best in business.
- You have the option to use just the dry function of the station without a cleaning cycle
- The detergent-based solution lasts more in comparison to Braun’s alcohol-based fluid
- The price of the detergent sachets is reasonable
- The stations are compact and look very slick
As expected, the models that include the cleaning station are more expensive than the ones that don’t.
Update July 2018: Arc 5 LAMDASH Revision D has been launched
The only changes come in the form of an improved beard density sensor that can detect variations up to 1.8 times faster compared to the C generation and a matte finish instead of glossy on the ES-LV7D and ES-LV5D versions.
The 2018 D models use the same foils and blades. Apart from the differences mentioned above, everything else remains unchanged.
Final word on the new Arc 5/LAMDASH shavers
I am going to be perfectly honest and upfront and tell you that I am very intrigued by these new models and I am looking forward to reviewing one.
I’ve always appreciated the quality, performance and what is basically Panasonic’s take on electric shavers. And this C revision of the Arc 5 family looks very impressive.
I am skeptical about their availability and success on the American and European markets, especially since the previous A and B models didn’t do too well either. The price was (and still is) too high in my opinion and older generation Arc 5 shavers like the ES-LV65-S still offer great performance at bargain prices.
However, this shouldn’t stop you from getting one if you really want too. But keep in mind that at least at this moment you would have to pay a premium price for one and the replacement foils and blades are also very expensive.
It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth getting what looks (at least on paper) to be the most advanced electric shaver out there right now.