If more is better when it comes to the number of blades, then there are only two electric shavers that really stand out from the rest: the Panasonic Arc 5 and the Xiaomi Mijia.
While the Arc 5 has been around for many years, Xiaomi’s 5 blade foil shaver is definitely a newcomer and one that is set to give the Arc 5 a run for its money — at least that’s what the specs would suggest.
It has a reasonable price, an impressive 15 000 CPM motor and 5 individual cutting elements, but how does this Xiaomi compare to the tried and tested Panasonic Arc 5, the uncrowned king of foil shavers?
Well, in this guide I’m going to answer precisely that question.
Having used both shavers extensively, I will be sharing everything you need to know about them, including shaving performance, pros and cons and when should you choose one over the other.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- A short overview of the Panasonic Arc 5 and Xiaomi shavers
- Build quality, ergonomics and features that actually matter
- Battery and charging
- Shaving performance
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Price and cost of ownership
- Panasonic Arc 5 vs Xiaomi: which one should you buy?
A short overview of the Panasonic Arc 5 and Xiaomi shavers
You’re probably aware that there are lots of Arc 5 models out there; in fact, there are three generations still available, each one with different models and revisions.
Fortunately, things are a lot simpler if we consider what’s really important.
Precisely, the shaving performance is pretty much the same among the different Panasonic Arc 5 generations and models.
This allows me to refer to the Panasonic Arc 5 line as a whole, and not necessarily to specific models in this range.
That said, I will mainly reference the models from the second generation (like the Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65 and ES-LV67) as they are widely available and quite reasonably priced compared to the newer generation 3 Arc 5.
All the Panasonic Arc 5 models feature 5 individual cutting elements (hence the name), a powerful 14 000 CPM (cycles per minute) linear drive motor and sharp, high-quality blades with a 30 degrees bevel.
These are really the only important specs and the ones that contribute the most to the excellent performance of these shavers.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65
Xiaomi is a manufacturer whose popularity exploded in recent years, mainly thanks to their mid-range smartphones that offer fantastic performance for the money.
While most of us think of smart gadgets when we hear Xiaomi, they actually have a very diverse portfolio which also includes electric razors.
Xiaomi’s strategy is very straightforward: they buy companies and simply rebrand their products as their own.
That’s the case with their Mijia brand as well which manufactures electric shavers (among lots of other things).
Xiaomi’s current lineup also includes rotary and travel razors.
But the most intriguing is by far their 5 blade foil shaver, mainly because it seems like a product intended to compete directly with the Panasonic Arc 5.
The actual model name is Mijia MSW501 and at least from the specs sheet, it seems like a very capable machine.
In fact, Xiaomi claims that its motor can reach a peak of 15 000 CPM, which would make it the fastest motor fitted to any electric shaver.
But will that also translate to actual better real-world performance?
That’s what we’re going to find out next.
Build quality, ergonomics and features that actually matter
The defining characteristic of the Arc 5 and of this particular Xiaomi is of course the shaving head with 5 individual cutting elements.
They are the only foil electric shavers that feature 5 active independent cutters (not including the cheap knock-offs).
This should at least in theory allow them to efficiently shave different types of facial hair (short, long, straight, flat-lying) and with fewer strokes.
While the implementation is slightly different for the Panasonic Arc 5 and the Xiaomi, both have perforated micro-foils that cut hairs at skin level and specially designed trimmers and foils for capturing hairs that grow in different directions or stay flat on the skin.
We will see later on how effective they really are.
Having 5 blades also means that the shaving heads will be large, particularly the one of the Panasonic Arc 5.
The Xiaomi has quite a compact head for a 5 blade shaver. The cutters are narrower and shorter, but the plastic frame surrounding them fans out a lot and during use it actually feels quite similar to the Panasonic.
All the 5 blades are incorporated into the Xiaomi cutting head, similar to Braun’s cassettes. Panasonic went for a different approach, with 3 integrated blades and 2 removable ones.
This should make the Panasonic easier to clean, at least in the long run as some debris and dirt could build up inside the head. But we’ll get to the cleaning part later on.
Xiaomi uses magnets to attach the shaving head to the shaver and I must say that it works brilliantly.
There are no release tabs on the sides of the foil frame since there’s no need for them.
It snaps securely in place, I never had any issues during use with the head coming off and it’s effortless to remove and to put back on. It feels oddly satisfying as well.
In the case of the Arc 5, the cutting unit also feels robust and almost over-engineered, especially with the new generation Arc 5 foils that are fitted with two so-called comfort rollers.
They make the head glide very smoothly on the skin and prevent the user from applying excessive pressure.
All the different Panasonic Arc 5 models feature a flexing shaving head that can move up and down and from left to right (the only exception is the compact ES-CV51/ES-CV70 that comes with a fixed head).
The newer ones add even more flexibility, so the head can even be twisted or depressed.
All this is impressive in theory, but during real-world use, it just doesn’t seem to work that well.
The range of motion is quite short and the head just feels wobbly and doesn’t actually move when and how it should.
And it’s the exact same problem with Xiaomi — an even shorter range of motion and a wobbly head.
I think both manufacturers should completely rethink this and use a simple up and down swivel with a decent range of motion that actually improves the experience.
With the Arc 5 you can actually lock the head in place via the switch on the back, for example when shaving a tricky area like below the nose.
Xiaomi doesn’t have a similar feature and the head is always free to move.
But again, in practice none of the Panasonic and Xiaomi flexing heads really help, at least not in a significant manner.
Design-wise, the manufacturers went for completely different approaches.
The various Panasonic Arc 5 models have a more in-your-face design and there’s a lot going on from a visual standpoint.
Xiaomi on the other hand opted for a minimalist design, in stark contrast to Panasonic’s philosophy.
It is a breath of fresh air that really sets it apart from all current electric shavers.
However, this does come somewhat at the expense of ergonomics.
For example, the body of the Xiaomi features this matte, powdery finish that offers minimal grip.
Coupled with the larger girth (and weight) of the shaver, it can have an impact on the usability of the product.
I personally prefer the Arc 5 for its grippy rubber sleeve and the narrower handle that tapers down and it’s therefore easier to grip and more comfortable, especially during a longer shaving session.
Both shavers feature a travel lock which you can activate by pressing and holding the power button for 3 seconds. In the case of older Panasonic Arc 5 variations like the ES-LV65-S or the ES-LV95-S, you have a physical switch for that.
It’s basically a ring that surrounds the power button and has two positions: locked and unlocked.
I personally like this implementation better, it’s straightforward and more intuitive to use.
When it comes to displays that show you various information, there’s really no contest between the two: the Arc 5 wins by a mile.
Some models like the ES-LV65 or the newer ES-LV9Q will even show the duration of your shave and the battery percentage in 10% increments.
The LED display is bright, crisp and easy to read.
Xiaomi only has a battery icon that will change color depending on the charge level (white, orange, and red). That’s it.
On the back of the Arc 5’s shaving head, you’ll find what is in my opinion the best pop-up trimmer on any electric shaver.
It’s wide enough, sharp and effective and works great for trimming and shaping your sideburns. You can even pre-trim a longer beard, even though it won’t be ideal for that.
The Xiaomi Mijia MSW501 doesn’t have a hair trimmer.
Also on the back of certain Arc 5 models (ES-LV95, ES-LV97 etc.), there are the 3 contact pins that connect the shaver to the automatic cleaning and charging station.
The charging port is located on the very bottom of both shavers.
And here is where Xiaomi deserves props for using a USB Type-C connector. This means you’ll be able to charge the shaver using just a regular USB cable and your phone’s charger.
Panasonic still uses their proprietary connector and it’s about time they ditched it and just switch to USB.
All the Arc 5 models have solid build quality and feel robust and well put together. And from personal experience, I can confirm that they can take a beating.
Some even feature a metal body (like the ES-LV9Q), but even the plastic ones are very well-made and don’t feel cheap.
The Xiaomi is also impressive, especially at this price point. Even though the ergonomics aren’t quite the best, it feels very sturdy and oozes quality.
As for included accessories, you get the bare minimum in the case of the Xiaomi: a protective cap, a cleaning brush and a USB Type-C cable.
With Panasonic, the included goodies vary depending on the model; however, you’ll almost always get a protective cap, cleaning brush, charger, travel pouch and lubricant.
Certain more expensive models can also come with a cleaning station and a detergent pack (for example, the ES-LV95/ES-LV97 or the ES-LV9Q), but as you’ll see later on, the station is not really a must-have, even though it’s one of the best in the industry.
The Xiaomi Mijia and all Panasonic Arc 5 models are waterproof and can be safely cleaned with water.
Overall, I think the Panasonic wins this round — better ergonomics, pop-up trimmer, excellent LED display — but the Xiaomi does have a couple of very useful and nice features, like the magnetic head and the USB Type-C port.
Battery and charging
All Panasonic Arc 5 variations, both old and new, are fitted with rechargeable Li-ion batteries and most of them can only be operated cordless.
There are a few that will also work with the cord plugged in, like the ones from the latest revision F (ES-LV9F, ES-LV7F, ES-LV5F). However, those models were only officially released in Japan and are difficult (and expensive) to get.
So in most cases, we will basically be dealing with cordless-only Arc 5 shavers.
The batteries fitted to the Panasonic Arc 5 will provide around 45 minutes of use and can be charged from 0 to 100% in a little less than one hour.
The numbers are practically in line with the industry standard, so nothing out of the ordinary.
Xiaomi on the other hand has raised the bar significantly with its 5 blade foil shaver.
Precisely, they fitted a large 2000 mAh battery that will provide 90 minutes of cordless use, double than what the Arc 5 offers.
And the cherry on top is that USB Type-C port that allows you to charge the razor with your phone charger for example.
This would make the Xiaomi an excellent travel shaver, even though it’s obviously not one, at least not in terms of size.
Charging the Xiaomi MSW501 takes approximately 2 hours, but considering the size of the battery and the fact that you can use any USB charger, that’s perfectly fine.
Both the Arc 5 and the Xiaomi have a quick charge function that allows you to plug them in for 5 or 3 minutes respectively and get just enough charge to complete one shave.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Panasonic can come with a USA, European or UK charger depending on where you buy it from. But regardless of that, you will still be able to use it abroad with a simple and cheap plug adapter.
The voltage won’t be an issue since the charger can take between 100 and 240 volts.
Xiaomi only includes a USB cable in the package and that’s perfectly fine.
The bottom line is that the Xiaomi Mijia is clearly on top with regards to battery life and how easy and practical it is to charge (thanks to its USB port).
Let’s now get on with what is arguably the most important part of this Panasonic Arc 5 vs Xiaomi comparison, the performance.
1. Closeness of the shave
The main advantage of the Panasonic Arc5 over most other electric shavers has to be the closeness.
It’s one of the best razors out there in that regard, if not the best.
While Braun is usually the default choice for users with very sensitive skin, if you want a close shave your best bet would be a Panasonic foil shaver. And the Arc 5 is Panasonic’s best razor.
The arched thin foils, along with the sharp blades and the fast 14 000 CPM motor meant the Arc 5 was pretty much in a class of its own.
Then Xiaomi came along with its 5 blade shaver and an even more powerful motor that can reach 15 000 cycles per minute.
As a result, many users were wondering if the new Xiaomi can actually beat the Arc 5 at its own game and provide an even closer shave for significantly less money.
So can it?
In short, no.
The Panasonic Arc 5 is still the reference when it comes to the closeness of the shave.
That said, the performance of the Xiaomi was quite remarkable at this price point where we find shavers like the Braun Series 3 or the Philips Norelco Series 3000.
Compared to those, it is better.
But it’s not better than the Arc 5.
I even shaved half my face with the Xiaomi and the other half with the Arc 5 and the results were constantly better in the case of the latter.
The skin felt perfectly smooth to the touch, while I could still detect some slightly rough patches on the Xiaomi half, especially on the neck.
The Panasonic Arc 5 also felt faster compared to the Xiaomi despite having a slower motor and required fewer strokes in order to get a smooth, close shave.
These results were consistent regardless of the length of my beard and whether I shaved wet or dry.
In conclusion, when it comes to the closeness of the shave, the Xiaomi 5 blade shaver isn’t better than the Panasonic Arc 5, but it’s still a decent performer, especially considering the price difference between the two.
However, it goes to show that specs only tell half the story, at least in this case.
This is the part where the Xiaomi really impressed me as it proved to be a surprisingly comfortable shaver. During my tests it was just as good as the Arc 5 models.
To be perfectly honest, I was expecting to get some irritation, at least during a dry shave as my neck is particularly sensitive.
But I didn’t have any major issues with it.
The foils remained cool throughout the entire shaving session which again was a pleasant surprise.
The newer Arc 5 models that feature the comfort rollers (ES-LV9Q) are more comfortable than the Xiaomi during a dry shave, but again, they are also a bit more comfortable than the Arc 5 models that don’t have the rollers (like the ES-LV65 or ES-LV67).
I wouldn’t say that the Panasonic Arc 5 and Xiaomi are ideal for users with very sensitive skin, but for most, I think they’ll definitely be suitable.
So when it comes to comfort, I think they’re extremely similar, with a slight advantage for the newer (and more expensive) Arc 5 variations.
3. Shaving flat-lying hairs
Capturing flat-lying hairs that grow in different directions is often the weak point of many electric shavers.
And that’s the case here as well.
However, while the Panasonic Arc 5 never excelled at this, the Xiaomi performed even worse.
Despite the use of a special middle cutter and two foil elements with wide slots (the outermost ones) that should capture those difficult flat hairs, it just performed very poorly.
It wasn’t so bad when the hair was short, but shaving a 3 days beard involved a lot of work in order to get a clean shave.
The flat-lying hairs on my neck were constantly left behind and I had to go over the same area multiple times and even then there would still be some stray hairs left untouched.
The situation was even worse in areas where the hairs grow in different directions. Unless the stroke was perfectly perpendicular to the direction of the grain, the shaver just wouldn’t cut the hairs.
Switching to the Panasonic resulted in far less effort to get a clean shave, even though Panasonic shavers are not particularly well suited for cutting hairs that stay flat on the skin (again, despite what the specs might suggest).
Here’s a breakdown of the Arc 5 cutting elements:
But compared to Xiaomi, the Arc 5 is certainly better.
As a side note, I highly recommend using both shavers together with a good pre-shave lotion when shaving dry. In most cases, this will be beneficial and will improve your results and the whole shaving experience.
4. Wet&dry use
I know most users prefer to shave dry so this part won’t be of much interest, but if you have the time and you’re not totally against it, I think you should at least give wet shaving a try.
Most Panasonic Arc 5 models are suitable for wet&dry use and so is the Xiaomi Mijia MSW501.
I personally enjoy the occasional wet shave, usually with an Arc 5 and some Jack Black Beard Lube.
The Beard Lube is a transparent shaving balm that works amazingly well with electric shavers and will reward you with one of the closest and most comfortable shaves, provided you’re also using the right shaver.
And the Arc 5 certainly is one. In fact, I’d go as far as saying that it’s the best razor you can use for wet shaving.
It takes its already stellar performance one notch higher and makes the shaver extremely forgiving and even better with those flat-lying hairs. Needless to say, the closeness is phenomenal.
Things aren’t so good in the case of Xiaomi though. In fact, the shaver is just plain bad when used with shaving cream or balm.
And that’s surprising to say the least since most electric shavers will actually perform better with shaving cream.
While the comfort remained really good, everything else was worse.
If fared even worse with the flat hairs on the neck, leaving lots of them behind and failing to contain the hair clippings inside the head.
As a result, it just made a mess and smeared lots of hair and hair dust over the areas being shaved, making it difficult to see the remaining uncut hairs.
In contrast, the Panasonic Arc 5 would easily cut everything and leave behind a smooth and clean area.
So the conclusion is pretty clear: there’s really no contest between the Arc 5 and Xiaomi when it comes to wet shaving. The Panasonic is exponentially better.
I think most users should stick to shaving dry with the Xiaomi as the addition of shaving cream/gel won’t yield any benefits — on the contrary.
The Arc 5 on the other hand is just superb.
Noise level during use can be a big issue in certain particular situations and thus an important aspect to factor in.
Unfortunately, pretty much all foil shavers are loud because of the high speed motors and the vibrations induced by the oscillation of the cutters.
The Panasonic Arc 5 was among the louder ones with its whiny, high pitched sound. The vibrations were minimal though.
But with the introduction of the Xiaomi, I think we have a new champ — this thing is LOUD.
I’ve been using electric razors for almost 20 years and I’m pretty accustomed to the noise, in the sense that it doesn’t bother me.
However, this Xiaomi 5 blade shaver was the first one in a long time that got a bit annoying towards the end of my shave.
It’s not anything major for me, but if you’re particularly sensitive to having a constant buzz close to your ears, you probably should think of an alternative.
So none of the two is particularly quiet, but the Arc 5 is definitely more subdued.
In conclusion, the Panasonic Arc 5 is the clear winner when it comes to shaving performance. While the Xiaomi is a decent shaver, it’s certainly not better.
We were all hoping for Arc 5 performance for less than half the price, but unfortunately, it’s not the case. For all the details you can check out my in-depth review of the Xiaomi as well.
Cleaning and maintenance
The Panasonic Arc 5 is available in different variations that can also include an automatic cleaning and charging system.
It uses concentrated detergent packs and automatically charges, cleans, lubricates and dries the shaver.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV95-S
The station itself is very compact and in my opinion it looks and feels a lot better than the ones from the competition (Philips and Braun).
The cost of ownership is also quite reasonable considering the price of the detergent packs and that the fluid lasts more than the alcohol-based solutions.
However, I personally don’t think that it’s absolutely necessary as all the Arc 5 shavers are very easy to clean manually.
The models that don’t include the cleaning station also cost less (sometimes a lot less).
All Panasonic Arc 5 razors are waterproof and can be rinsed with water, which makes cleaning a lot easier and effective.
And that’s the case with the Xiaomi Mijia razor as well.
Both are equally easy to clean, involving just a rinse under warm tap water and optionally (but highly recommended) some liquid hand soap.
If I were however to pick a winner, I’d say that the Panasonic Arc 5 edges ahead.
There are basically two reasons for that.
Firstly, they have a special cleaning setting (called sonic mode) that makes the blades move extremely fast and dislodge any hardened dirt and grime.
Another benefit is that even though the blades oscillate at a higher rate, it prevents water from splashing when rinsing the head under the tap.
In contrast, rinsing the Xiaomi with the shaver turned on (for more effective cleaning) will make a bit of a mess.
The Panasonic sonic mode can be activated by pressing and holding the power button when the shaver is switched on.
The second reason why the Arc 5 can be considered easier to clean manually is related to the foil unit. Precisely, the two removable inner blades offer better access for a thorough cleaning.
As you can see in the image below, the foil head of the Xiaomi looks very intricate and it would be difficult to remove dirt buildups.
That’s why is particularly important to clean your shaver after every use, just to avoid that from happening in time.
As for maintenance, regular lubrication is highly recommended, especially if you clean the shaver with soap.
Panasonic sometimes includes a small bottle of lubricant with certain Arc 5 models, but that’s not always the case.
Fortunately, you can use any highly refined mineral oil like clipper oil or even a spray lubricant for electric shavers.
In conclusion, both the Arc 5 and the Xiaomi are easy and straightforward to clean, but the Panny is slightly ahead thanks to its cleaning mode, the design of the foil head and the option of buying it with a cleaning station (although for significantly more money).
Price and cost of ownership
So far the Panasonic Arc 5 has been just as good or better than Xiaomi’s 5 blade razor.
But when it comes to value for money and costs, Xiaomi is unbeatable.
Starting with the purchase price, it’s easy to see why.
Costing roughly the same as a Braun Series 3 ProSkin, the Xiaomi undercuts the Panasonic Arc 5 by a lot.
Even if we consider the cheapest Arc 5 variations (usually the ES-LV65-S and the ES-LV67), you can buy two Xiaomi shavers for the price of one Arc 5.
If we consider the newer versions that include a cleaning station (like the ES-LV9Q), the comparison is just ridiculous.
So if your budget is limited, the Xiaomi razor is clearly the better option.
And things are the same when it comes to the costs of ownership.
The Xiaomi replacement foil head is also significantly cheaper than the Arc 5 foil + blades sets, costing less than half the price.
Also worth mentioning is that the various Arc 5 models come with either the older foils (without the rollers) or with the newer ones (like the ES-LV9Q).
However, all the older and newer foil models are actually compatible with all the current Arc 5 shavers. For more details, you can check out my guide on choosing Arc 5 replacement parts.
Now, there’s the issue of reliability and durability as well.
While the Panasonic Arc 5 has been around for years and their foils and blades are of high quality, I haven’t owned the Xiaomi long enough in order to have a definitive opinion.
The cutting head does appear to be solid and hopefully should last for at least 6 months of constant use.
I will update the post to include any important findings as I continue using it.
Panasonic Arc 5 vs Xiaomi: which one should you buy?
I’ve received quite a few inquiries regarding Xiaomi’s intriguing 5 blade shaver and how it compares to the Panasonic Arc5.
I think many potential buyers were hoping to get Arc 5 level of performance for half the price or less and I had to admit that I was rooting for the underdog as well.
But after owning and using them both, and trying to remain as objective as possible in my assessment, I think it’s safe to say that the Panasonic Arc 5 is the better shaver.
It shaves closer, faster, with fewer strokes, it’s more effective at getting flat-lying hairs, it’s quieter and comes with some extra useful features, like a pop-up trimmer and an excellent LED display.
The ergonomics are also better, mainly thanks to the improved grip, lower weight and slimmer body.
But it’s not all sunshine. The Panasonic Arc 5 costs significantly more than the Xiaomi shaver, with some models that include a cleaning station and metal body being ridiculously expensive.
The replacement foil and blades have been traditionally expensive with Panasonic shavers and the ones needed for the Arc 5 are usually the most expensive.
You do have quite a few options since the new parts are backward compatible with the older Arc 5 shavers.
The Xiaomi Mijia MSW501, while it didn’t quite manage to beat the Panasonic Arc 5, does have some very compelling features.
The most impressive ones are its reasonable price, excellent build quality and the ability to charge it via USB.
Xiaomi’s 5 blade foil razor also offers fantastic battery life and it’s IPX7 waterproof.
The magnetic foil unit is a great addition, especially at this price point. And since we’re on the subject of money, the replacement head is also very reasonably priced.
Performance-wise, the Xiaomi is very comfortable and shaves adequately close, although not as close (nor as fast) as the Panasonic Arc 5.
Its weak point is by far the ability to capture longer, flat-lying hairs, especially if they grow in different directions.
Shaving more often will improve its performance to a certain degree.
There’s no integrated hair trimmer, head locking switch and only a basic battery level indicator.
But again, I can’t really complain considering the price of the shaver.
So which one should you buy?
Hopefully, by now you’ll have a clear understanding of the pros and cons of each shaver so you can decide which one would make more sense in your case.
The Panasonic Arc 5 is the better shaver in my opinion and if you want uncompromising performance and you have the budget for it, I think you’ll be very happy with the Arc 5.
It’s especially effective if you have coarse hair, shave more often and want a close shave.
Since there are quite a few Arc 5 variations available, I recommend going for one that doesn’t include a cleaning system.
They’re cheaper and very easy to clean manually.
My picks would be the ES-LV65 or the ES-LV67, whichever you can find at a better price.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65
If the price is similar, I personally would go with the former as it has a better display and you can disable the shaving sensor as well and shave in full power mode at all times.
If your budget is limited, the Xiaomi 5 blade shaver can be a good option. It fares very well against other razors from the competition in the entry-level segment and even outperforms them in several key areas (power, battery and charging, comfort).
It would be ideal for someone that shaves often, ideally every day since its performance on longer facial hair isn’t the best.
I know it may sound a bit out there, but I think it can be a fantastic travel razor. For a 5 blade foil shaver it is quite compact, the battery life is fantastic and you can of course just use your phone charger.
The main problem with the Xiaomi MSW501 is that it’s difficult to get outside of China. Ideally, you would want to buy it directly from China in order to get it at a reasonable price, but shipping will take a long time.
Mine took over a month to arrive since placing the order, so that’s something to keep in mind.
I personally like it and I think Xiaomi’s approach is great — low price, fast motor, 5 blades, USB charging — again things that you can’t find at this price point with other brands.
But since I have both, if I were to pick just one as my everyday shaver, I would definitely go with the Arc 5.
That pretty much concludes our Xiaomi vs Panasonic Arc 5 comparison.
I hope this guide will help anyone who was on the fence about these two excellent foil razors. If you have any other questions, make sure to post them in the comments below.