Panasonic is alongside Braun and Philips Norelco the third major player on the electric shavers market.
However, Panasonic never achieved the same popularity as Braun and Philips (Norelco) on the North American continent; Norelco’s brand equity and the aggressive marketing of P&G — the parent company of Braun — definitely played an important part here.
And that’s really a shame as in my opinion the quality and performance of some Panasonic electric shavers are at least as good as the ones from the competition.
Most of Panasonic’s current offerings can be grouped into 3 categories: the Arc 3, Arc 4 and Arc 5 lines of electric shavers.
UPDATE: Panasonic released a Japan-exclusive Arc 6 line in 2021.
Covering everything from entry-level to high-end shavers, with both older and newer models available that bring significant or minor improvements over the previous iterations, it can get difficult to go through all the fluff and find a shaver that will suit your needs.
In this article, I’ll cover in great detail all the differences between the Arc 3, Arc 4 and Arc 5, see how they compare against each other and if the added features of the more expensive models are worth the extra money.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a clear picture of all the different models, variations and their performance.
Moreover, you’ll know if a certain model would be suitable for your needs or you’ll be better off spending a little more on a more advanced shaver.
Let’s dive right in and check out the things that really matter in this Panasonic Arc 3 vs Arc 4 vs Arc 5 comparison.
Table of Contents
- An overview of Panasonic’s ARC lines of electric shavers
- Panasonic Arc 3 vs Arc 4 vs Arc 5: shaving performance
- Build quality and ergonomics
- Automatic cleaning stations — should you get one?
- Price and value for money
- Arc 3 vs Arc 4 vs Arc 5: which one should you choose?
- When you shouldn’t buy a Panasonic shaver
An overview of Panasonic’s ARC lines of electric shavers
The Arc term was introduced by Panasonic in 2008 when the first models featuring an arched profile of the shaving head were launched.
This new design gradually replaced the older generation shavers that featured a classic, straight edge foil.
The 3, 4 and 5 designate the number of individual cutting elements that a particular shaver has.
While more doesn’t always imply better, the Panasonic models with more blades usually have better performance, faster motors and nicer features (more on this later on).
Let’s quickly go over each of the three Arc series.
1. Panasonic Arc 3
The Arc 3 is, as the name suggests, Panasonic’s line of electric shavers that have a 3 blade shaving head and represent the company’s entry-level range.
Since the Arc 3 was first introduced, the lineup has seen quite a few updates, some of them minor, other significant and almost all the various models are still widely available.
Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S
The differences are poorly documented and the model names don’t make any sense at all.
With that said, here’s what you need to know if you decide to buy an Arc 3.
- The motors fitted to the various models are different. Most of them feature very powerful 13 000 CPM (cycles per minute) units. However, there are a few variations that have 7600, 8500 or 10 000 CPM motors, like the ES-SL41-S, ES-SL83-S or the ES-RT17 respectively. Stay away from those as the performance drop is significant compared to the 13 000 CPM models.
- The updates rolled out by Panasonic between 2008 and 2014 are minor for the most part, consisting of visual makeovers or different materials used. The performance has remained pretty much consistent. As long as you opt for a shaver fitted with a 13 000 CPM motor like the ES8103S or ES-LL41-K/ES-LL21-K you’re all good.
- The first major update to the Arc 3 family occurred with the introduction of the LT Arc 3 shavers in 2016. This represents a rather big step forward in terms of build quality and design, but not that significant performance-wise. However, these new Arc 3 models can be a bit pricey for what is (at least in theory) Panasonic’s budget-oriented line of shavers. More on this in the performance section.
2. Panasonic Arc 4
Positioned right between the Arc 3 and Arc 5 in terms of price and performance, the Arc 4 represents Panasonic’s mid-range family of foil electric shavers.
At the time of their launch back in 2011, the Arc 4 had a premium price tag which was probably one of the reasons why it didn’t take off. For just a few bucks more you could get one of the flagship Arc 5 models.
However, the price has dropped significantly since then and you can currently find some Arc 4 shavers at very reasonable prices.
With 4 individual cutting elements, powerful 13 000 or 14 000 CPM motors and solid performance, the Panasonic Arc 4 shavers are a very compelling option.
There are a few variations in the Arc 4 family, all of them offering similar performance.
For an in-depth comparison of the most popular Arc 4 models, make sure to check out this post I wrote a while back.
Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63
Unlike the Arc 3, the Arc 4 line hasn’t really seen any updates since it was launched, which makes picking a shaver a lot easier.
The only newer model is the Panasonic ES8243AA that comes with a slightly less powerful 13 000 CPM motor, but it’s still a really good performer and it usually has the lowest price of all Arc 4 versions.
As of 2021, the blue ES-LA63-AA is probably the one to get as the other ones are getting more difficult to find.
3. Panasonic Arc 5
The Arc 5 is the expression of Panasonic’s more is better mantra.
Featuring a whopping 5 individual cutting elements, the Arc 5 is pretty much in a league of its own.
The Panasonic Arc 5 electric razors were first introduced in 2009 and have seen two major updates until the present day.
As a result, there are 3 generations still widely available for purchasing and again, their differences can be pretty difficult to spot and analyze.
Further reading: Here’s my Arc 5 guide if you want all the details between all the Arc 5 variations ever released.
Here’s a short summary.
The first (original) generation Arc 5.
The first shavers were launched in 2009 and were represented by the ES-LV61-A or the ES-LV81-K models.
The two are identical, except for the color scheme and the fact that the second one includes an automatic cleaning station.
The cleaning station is the older Vortex Hydra model that uses detergent cartridges and was later replaced by a new one with the introduction of the second generation Arc 5.
While you can sometimes find these models at excellent prices, they’re usually more expensive than the newer Arc 5 shavers and are getting more difficult to find, so my recommendation would be to skip the first generation altogether.
As of 2021, they’re pretty much extinct.
The second generation Arc 5.
Released in 2013, the second update of the Arc 5 line brought a new modern design, better build quality, and a completely redesigned cleaning station.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S
In this second generation, we have shavers like the ES-LV-65-S (no cleaning station) and the ES-LV-95-S (automatic cleaning station).
In 2019, Panasonic gave them a mid-life facelift with the introduction of the Arc 5 ES-LV67-K and ES-LV97-K respectively.
However, the update is mostly visual and apart from a new design, the performance has remained pretty much unchanged. The new shavers even use the exact same foil and blades.
The third generation Arc 5.
The latest iteration of Panasonic’s range-topping shavers was launched in September 2015 and represents a complete departure from the older shavers in terms of design and build quality.
With a premium metal body (on the more expensive models) and a redesigned shaving head that now features two comfort rollers, the latest Arc 5 shavers are some of the best performing foil shavers you can currently buy.
The third generation Arc 5 shavers available on the American market are the ES-LV6N-S (no cleaning station) and ES-LV9N-S (cleaning station), but they are identical to the international models (ES-LV6A-S, ES-LV9A-S respectively).
One year after the launch of these shavers Panasonic rolled out another minor update. The revised models use a B instead of A in their names (for example, ES-LV-9B-S) and address a few aspects of the 2015 A variations:
- They use a textured material for the thumb rest instead of a smooth finish.
- The front-to-back tilt angle of the head is increased from 17 to 20 degrees.
- There’s now a low battery alarm.
I personally wouldn’t worry too much about the improvements of the B revision models as the actual shaving performance won’t be improved in a significant manner. The price should be the only decisive factor in this case.
Update: The revision A and B Arc 5 models have been discontinued, so they don’t really represent a viable option anymore.
In 2017 and 2018 respectively, the revisions C and D of the Arc 5 were launched and some of these are also available on the Asian and European markets.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV9Q (rev C)
This time the differences are a bit more nuanced, but again the actual shaving performance isn’t too different from the previous iteration. More details in this post.
The real novelty of the revision C is a compact Arc 5 model, namely the ES-CV51 (ES-CV70). It’s a high-performance electric shaver that comes in a very compact form factor.
In 2019 Panasonic released another minor update, the revision E. It’s again only an incremental update (slightly revised outer foil and beard density sensor) and these models are currently only available on the Japanese market.
In 2020 we got the revision F, which is again an insignificant update of the previous E revision, as all the things that matter (foils and blades, motor) have remained unchanged.
Finally, the latest Arc 5 is the revision G that comes with a redesigned outer foil. Compared to the previous ones, it deals slightly better with longer, flat-lying hairs. Everything else is pretty much the same.
For more details, you can check out my review of the revision G Arc5.
Now that we’ve cleared up some of the clutter regarding the various models in the Arc 3, Arc 4 and Arc 5 families, let’s see how they stack up against each other in certain key areas and which are the particular models that offer the best performance for the money.
Panasonic Arc 3 vs Arc 4 vs Arc 5: shaving performance
Choosing an Arc 3, Arc 4 or Arc 5 should depend on your particular needs and goals, shaving habits, and budget.
So there’s no definitive answer as the shaver that represents the best option will be different for every user.
Shaving performance is what matters the most to someone looking to buy an electric shaver, so we’ll kick off this comparison with that.
In my opinion, when assessing the shaving performance of an electric shaver there are a few aspects that should be considered:
- The closeness of the shave
- The comfort during (and after) the shave
- How the shaver deals with longer, flat-lying hairs
- How long it takes to complete a shave
Let’s see how the different Panasonic shavers fare in each category.
1. Closeness of the shave
Most users would agree that foil shavers generally offer a closer shave compared to rotary razors.
Furthermore, when it comes to the closeness provided by various foil shavers, it’s also commonly agreed that Panasonic is the best in this regard, even though not by a huge margin.
Having used quite a few Panasonic shavers myself, I can safely say that I find this to be true as well.
When it comes to closeness, Panasonic shavers really deliver. This is one of the main advantages of Panasonic shavers over the competition (if not the most important one).
And this is consistent throughout all the Arc models, even with the budget-friendly Arc 3 shavers.
I will only be referring to the Arc 3 models that are fitted with the 13 000 CPM motors as they outperform the ones with the less powerful units by a large margin.
Panasonic uses throughout their entire lineup their so-called 30 degrees nanoblades. These are the blades that oscillate behind the thin perforated foils and do the actual cutting.
As you can see, there are only two removable inner blades, the rest of them being integrated into the foil assembly itself. This setup is common throughout all the Arc models (except for the Arc 6).
What differentiates Panasonic’s nanoblades from the competition is the aggressive 30 degrees bevel that ensures a very efficient and clean cutting action.
A combination of high-quality sharp blades, arched thin foils that ensure optimal contact with the skin, and powerful motors allows Panasonic Arc models to shave closer than pretty much any other electric shavers currently on the market.
The Arc 3 with its 3 cutting elements is arguably the closest shaving affordable electric razor.
The ES8103S Arc 3 for example is reasonably priced and one of the best-selling Panasonic shavers of all time.
Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S
Compared to similarly priced models from the competition, like the Braun Series 3 or Norelco Series 3000/5000, the Arc 3 is clearly better when it comes to closeness.
The latest LT Arc 3 models feature a nicer design and can even come with the updated cleaning station (like the ES-LT7N-S).
In terms of closeness, I haven’t found them to be better than the older models like the ES8103S or ES-LL41-K.
The price of the LT Arc 3 models has dropped significantly since their launch; however, I can only recommend them over the older ones due to the nicer design.
The quality of the shave is pretty much the same. Moreover, the foil frame of these new Arc 3 models is noticeably larger compared to the old ones, which makes using them a bit more cumbersome.
Another Arc 3 you should really consider is the so-called hybrid ES-LL41-K or ES-LL21-K (that’s the model available in Europe).
Panasonic Arc 3 ES-LL41-K
They shave exactly like the best-selling ES8103S, but come with two adjustable click-on combs for maintaining and trimming beards.
Moreover, the design is more modern and they feature a travel lock as well.
The more advanced Arc 4 and Arc 5 with their 14 000 CPM motors and more shaving elements are even better than the Arc 3 for closeness, but not by a huge margin.
This difference will be more obvious if you have a very coarse beard.
The Arc 4 has an additional shaving element compared to the Arc 3 models — a finishing foil — that cuts hairs very close to the skin.
The Arc 5 takes this to the extreme with an extra foil for a total of 5 active cutting elements.
Overkill? Maybe, but the advantage of a massive shaving head is that it takes less time to complete a shave, even though the end result won’t be that much different.
As it was expected, when it comes to closeness, you will see slight improvements as you go from the Arc 3 towards the more advanced Arc 5 models.
In the case of very coarse, dense facial hair, the improvements will be more obvious.
The Arc 3 is perfectly suitable for shaving daily and an excellent budget-friendly option. If you have light to medium, even coarser hair, the Arc 3 would be a very good option.
For coarser beards and even for shaving every other day, the Arc 4 is a better option and you will appreciate the extra cutting power.
The Arc 4 offers this while still being reasonably priced and for these reasons, I actually think the Arc 4 would be the best option for most men that are mainly concerned with getting a very close shave.
Again, that is if you can get one in your country and for a reasonable price.
The ES-LF51-A used to be my personal favorite; it has a 14 000 CPM motor and a slimmer shaving head compared to other Arc 4 models, making it easier to maneuver around tight spaces.
However, being the oldest Arc 4 model, it’s getting very difficult to find as of 2021.
Finally, the 5 blade Arc 5 is the ultimate shaving machine if closeness is all you want. While it will offer diminishing returns compared to an Arc 4, it is a superior shaver.
So which Arc 5 should you choose?
I would suggest going for a second generation Arc 5 like the ES-LV65-S that I reviewed in great detail here.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S
They don’t cost a whole lot more than an Arc 4 and are a definite improvement over the original models. They also have a superior automatic cleaning station (the ES-LV95-S variation).
The ES-LV67-K (ES-LV67-A) is a perfectly fine alternative if you can get it for less money:
The latest (third generation) Arc 5 like the ES-LV9Q (cleaning station) or ES-LV6Q (no station) are particularly compelling for users based in Europe.
While in my experience the closeness of the shave is the same as in the case of older gen Arc 5, they do have a nicer design and the new foils are slightly more comfortable.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV6Q
If you don’t mind paying more, they are some of the best-performing electric shavers you can currently buy.
However, the price is too high in my opinion and the improvements over the second generation are mostly in the build quality and comfort departments.
So if closeness is your priority, you can safely opt for a second-generation Arc 5 like the ES-LV65-S.
2. Comfort during (and after) the shave
Closeness aside, how comfortable and forgiving a particular shaver is should also come high on your priorities list.
For the most part, Panasonic shavers are adequately comfortable and can even be an option for men with sensitive skin with some minor adjustments.
However, there is a trade-off for that extreme closeness; they can be a bit aggressive if you press harder and the foils can get hot after prolonged use.
There are various workarounds that can make Panasonic shavers more comfortable.
Since almost all of them are suitable for wet & dry use, you can try shaving with cream, soap or gel.
I personally find this to be an excellent compromise as I am able to get a very close shave with no irritation or razor burn.
The shaving head of Panasonic shavers can get quite hot and cause discomfort. I’ve experienced this with several Arc 3 and Arc 4 models.
One way to reduce the heat would be to always lubricate the cutting parts before your shave. This should be done with any electric shaver actually.
Using an automatic cleaning station takes care of this, but if your Panasonic doesn’t include one, then you should lubricate the blades regularly.
So how do the Arc 3, 4 and 5 fare with regards to comfort? Which one is better?
I would say that they are all pretty similar, with an advantage for the Arc 5, especially the newer models that feature comfort rollers.
While it may seem like a gimmick, they reduce the friction and prevent you from pressing the shaver too hard into the skin which can cause razor burn.
If you don’t have very sensitive skin, you should be fine with either of the Arc 3, 4 or 5 provided that they meet your other requirements (closeness, features, and price).
A quality shaving cream or pre-shave lotion can also help.
If however you have blemish-prone skin and constantly get razor burn then you might want to consider a Braun shaver as they are a better option in this case. A Series 7 or Series 9 would be very good choices.
3. Dealing with longer, flat-lying hairs
When choosing an electric shaver you must also consider your shaving habits. Precisely, how often you shave.
If you always shave daily, then you can get away with a more basic shaver, like the Arc 3. As I said previously, it is a perfectly suitable shaver for everyday use.
Longer, flat-lying hairs are something most shavers struggle with. And this seems to be worse with foil shavers.
Usually, the more advanced shavers that have specially designed elements to capture and cut longer, flat-lying hairs, fare a lot better.
If you shave every other day or every two days then you should consider an Arc 4 or 5.
Getting a smooth shave when you have longer, flat-lying hairs that grow in different directions will be more difficult and time-consuming.
The extra cutting elements of the Arc 4 and Arc 5 will improve your results and the overall shaving experience, but only up to a point. Panasonic shavers are not the best for longer, wiry hairs.
If you will constantly be in this situation you may want to consider other options like the Braun Series 9 which is in my opinion the best performing foil shaver when dealing with longer hairs.
To sum it up, The Arc 3 is suitable for shaving daily or every other day at most (maybe more if you have a slow beard growth).
For anything more than that, I suggest going for an Arc 4 or Arc 5.
The latest Arc 5 revision G is the most capable at this with its redesigned trimming blade.
However, it’s still behind Braun’s top-of-the-line shavers for capturing longer, flat-lying hairs and it’s only available in Japan.
4. How fast it shaves
Cutting power and sharp blades are what it takes to complete a shave with ease. And Panasonic shavers definitely have them.
The massive shaving heads of the Arc 5 are able to cover large areas fast, while the sharp blades mow through a coarse beard with little effort (provided that the hair length is reasonable).
Moreover, the shaving heads of the latest Arc 5 can even be depressed, supposedly helping to maintain constant contact with the skin even if you have very prominent facial features.
I would go as far as saying that the Panasonic Arc 5 will be able to complete a shave faster than any other electric shaver (if your facial hair is not very long).
The Arc 4 is no slouch either and it will also be faster than other similarly priced razors from the competition, like the Braun Series 5 and 7. Again, assuming your beard is reasonably short.
With only 3 cutting elements, the Arc 3 obviously falls behind the more expensive Arc 4 and 5, but its performance is more than adequate for the price.
There’s no surprise here, if you want the fastest shave the Panasonic Arc 5 is the right choice.
Again, I would recommend a second-generation model, like the ES-LV65-S or ES-LV95-S that comes with an automatic cleaning station since their price has dropped significantly.
Build quality and ergonomics
Braun always had the spotlight for build quality and industrial design innovation, especially when considering the shavers from the Dieter Rams era.
But Panasonic is right up there in my opinion; in fact, the durability and build quality of their shavers, particularly the more recent ones, are top-notch.
My old Panasonic ES7036, the straight foil grandfather of the Arc 3 shavers still runs like a champ after years of use and abuse. While the battery can’t hold a decent charge anymore, the razor works flawlessly.
In my opinion, durability is one of the strongest assets of a Panasonic shaver, regardless if it’s an Arc 3, 4 or 5.
The materials used are of high quality and everything looks and feels extremely solid.
For an entry-level shaver, the build quality of the Arc 3 shavers is excellent. In my opinion it’s even better compared to Braun’s Series 3, their direct competitor in this segment.
As for the latest LT models, they are in a different league; some even feature a metal body and they resemble a whole lot more the newest Arc 5 than previous Arc 3 shavers.
The Arc 4 shavers can look a bit dated today as Panasonic never released any updates to this line.
Despite this, the quality is still there and they feel extremely sturdy. My own ES-LF51-A has minimal signs of tarnishing after years of use:
The Arc 5 shavers have seen improvements in the build quality with every new update.
The first generation was very similar to the Arc 4 in terms of build quality and design — not a bad thing to start with at all.
The second generation Arc 5 was more adventurous with the design, while the materials looked and felt more premium.
For the third update of the Arc 5, Panasonic upped their game considerably and went for metal on several models instead of plastic for the shaver’s body.
The result is impressive, these models being the new benchmark in terms of design and build quality.
Braun should really take some notes about how a high-end shaver should look and feel. For the price you’re paying, plastic with a high gloss chrome finish simply won’t cut it.
Let’s now see how the Arc models fare in the ergonomics department.
Unsurprisingly, the Arc 3 feels the most nimble out of all due to the compact size of the shaving head.
This makes them perfectly suitable for beginners.
With one or two additional blades on the Arc 4 and 5 respectively, the shaving heads are large and harder to maneuver when shaving tricky areas, like below the nose or around your sideburns.
One thing worth noting is that the shaving head of the latest generation Arc 3 LT models is noticeably larger compared to the older ones.
And this is without adding other cutting elements — it’s still a 3 blade shaver. Here it is compared to a 4 blade ES-LA63 Arc 4:
As mentioned previously, it’s one of the main reasons I still recommend older Arc 3 models like the ES8103S or ES-LL41-K over the LT (like ES-LT67).
The implementation of the pop-up trimmer is consistent throughout all the Arc shavers. The cutter is located on the back and sits perpendicularly to the shaver when deployed.
On older models, the trimmer is positioned lower on the shaving head. And that is unfortunate as you can’t really see what you’re doing and the bulky head gets in the way.
One way to get around this problem is to remove the foils and the blades before using the trimmer.
Things are better with the second and third-generation Arc 5 models. Despite the 5 blades, the shaving head is not that tall and the trimmer is positioned pretty close towards the top.
Moreover, if you remove the foil frame and the two inner blades you end up with the perfect setup:
While you can’t use the trimmer for anything else besides touch-ups and light grooming, it works really well.
The trimmers on Panasonic shavers are very sharp and cut hairs efficiently. For trimming your entire beard you should definitely use a regular hair trimmer.
To sum it up: the Panasonic Arc 3, Arc 4 and Arc 5 shavers have excellent build quality, especially when considering the price category for each one.
The latest Arc 3 and Arc 5 models are a definite improvement in the selection of materials, but they also come at a higher price.
Automatic cleaning stations — should you get one?
If you want a completely fuss-free shaving experience, an automatic cleaning station can help you achieve that.
The Panasonic Arc 3, Arc 4 and Arc 5 shavers offer variations that include a cleaning base.
These stations will clean, dry, lubricate and charge your shaver automatically.
Panasonic currently offers two generations of automatic cleaning stations:
1. The older Vortex Hydra Systems.
These stations are available with the first generation Arc 3 shavers like the ES-LT71-S, the first generation Arc 5 shavers (ES-LV81-K) and the Arc 4 shavers (ES-LA93-K).
They use the older WES035P detergent cartridges.
The older cleaning stations are quite large and take up a lot of space on your countertop. Moreover, they are a bit noisy and can sometimes leak.
The design is also starting to show its age.
However, these models aren’t really available nowadays, which should make choosing one easier.
2. The newer premium cleaning stations.
These updated models are available with the latest generation Arc 3 LT models (ES-LT7N-S), second-generation Arc 5 (ES-LV95-S) and third-generation Arc 5 (ES-LV9Q, ES-LV9E etc).
They use concentrated detergent packets instead of cartridges that must be mixed with water in the station’s tray.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV95-S
These updated models are more compact, quieter and the leaking problem was addressed entirely.
Panasonic stations use detergent for cleaning the shaver, unlike Braun which uses an alcohol-based solution.
The use of detergent is very economical and the costs associated with using the stations are reasonable.
Unlike alcohol, a detergent-based solution won’t evaporate as quickly and Panasonic’s cleaning solutions last longer before needing to be replaced.
The cleaning cycles are relatively short (10 minutes), while the drying cycles take just over one hour.
The result is a perfectly clean, dry, lubricated and fully charged razor, ready for the next shave.
You can also just dry the shaver without going through a complete cleaning cycle, which is something you cannot do with Braun or Philips stations.
So far everything points in favor of getting a cleaning station as well.
And if you don’t mind paying more for one then you should by all means get it.
However, as I said in my comparison of the best cleaning stations, you don’t really need one with a Panasonic shaver.
Foil shavers are generally easy to clean manually and Panasonic models are the best in this regard as the blades and foils can be taken apart.
Thoroughly cleaning your Panasonic shaver manually is a breeze and it literally takes less than a minute.
A bit of liquid soap and a thorough rinse with warm tap water is all it takes. Moreover, Panasonic includes a so-called sonic cleaning mode with all the Arc shavers, even the entry-level Arc 3.
When activated by a long press of the ON/OFF button, the blades will oscillate extremely fast for around 20 seconds, dislodging any stubborn debris.
So my take on Panasonic cleaning stations is this:
- For the Arc 3, you should probably skip it completely. The models that come with one cost significantly more than the ones that don’t and they’re dead easy to clean manually. Not to mention that the Arc 3 is an entry-level line and paying a premium price doesn’t really make sense.
- For the Arc 4, you should skip it completely. The older Vortex Hydra system is the only one available with the ES-LA93-K and as we saw it has some downsides. Moreover, the Arc 4 shavers that don’t include it, like the ES-LA63 or ES8243AA usually cost less.
- For the first generation Arc 5 models, you should probably skip it. The reasons are the same as in the case of the Arc 4 above. For the second and third generations Arc 5 (ES-LV95-S, ES-LV9Q) that have the updated station, you can get it if it fits within your budget.
Finally, if you can find a great deal for any Arc shaver and the price difference compared to the corresponding model that doesn’t include the station is minimal, then you should probably go for it.
Price and value for money
Some may disagree, but I consider this to be just as important as the performance when it comes to buying an electric shaver. Getting the same performance for less money just seems very appealing to me.
There are three things we’re interested in:
1. The price of the shaver itself
The first-generation Arc 3 shavers like the ES8103S are generally the least expensive of them all.
The ES-LL41-K and ES-LL21-K are also very reasonably priced.
However, some Arc 4 models like the ES8243AA or the ES-LA63 can be found for just a few bucks more.
For this, you get an extra blade, more power (on some models) and a more advanced shaving head.
Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63
The same can be said about the second generation Arc 5 (ES-LV65, ES-LV67) which are in my opinion just Arc 4 shavers with an extra blade.
The performance is similar, with a slight edge for the Arc 5 as the larger shaving head means faster shaving times and they’re also a bit more comfortable.
The original Arc 5 models like the ES-LV61-A can sometimes be found at excellent discounts and when that’s the case they can still be a perfectly good option despite their age.
Like I said in the previous section, I would personally skip the cleaning station (included with the ES-LV81-K).
However, the ES-LV65-S and ES-LV95-S from the second generation Arc 5 are a better choice if we consider their price, performance and build quality.
They’re a clear improvement over the first generation for usually a lower price and they’re widely available.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV65-S
As mentioned above, the ES-LV67 is basically the same shaver, but with a more modern design.
If you can get it for a similar price (or even less), it’s a perfectly viable alternative as well.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV67
The latest generation Arc 5 shavers like the ES-LV9Q are more expensive and in my opinion getting one of the models above makes a lot more sense.
The performance is similar even though you won’t be getting that metal body or the newer foils with the comfort rollers. These foils are however backward compatible with the older Arc 5 models.
2. The price of replacement foils and blades
Apart from the initial investment, you will need to replace the foils and blades of your Panasonic shaver.
How often largely depends on your shaving habits, the coarseness of your beard, and how well you take care of your razor.
Usually the more complex a shaving head, the pricier the replacement parts will be.
And this is pretty much the case with the Arc 3, 4 and 5.
The replacement foils and blades combos for the first generation Arc 3 like the ES8103S, ES-LL41-K, etc. are pretty reasonably priced (part number is WES9013PC).
The set used by the newer LT models like the ES-LT67 is different and more expensive (WES9015P).
Moving on to the Arc 4 shavers we also see a bump in the price of the foils and blades (WES9025PC) that can cost almost twice as much than the ones for the original Arc 3.
The first and second generation Arc 5 models use the same foils and blades (WES9032P), thus the similar shaving performance.
Regarding the price, it is higher than the ones for the Arc 4 line, but not by a whole lot.
The third generation Arc 5 uses different sets (WES9034P, WES9036, ES9038, ES9040) and they are usually expensive.
You can easily see that as we move from the original Arc 3 toward the latest Arc 5, the price of the replacement parts goes up as well.
The Arc 3 and Arc 4 currently have the lowest costs of ownership.
From this analysis, I wanted to emphasize the importance of researching the price of the replacement parts as they can increase your running costs significantly.
The initial purchase price is just one side of the problem.
The prices of newly released models from the Arc 3 and 5 lines will eventually drop; the same goes for the replacement parts.
3. The price of detergent cartridges/sachets (optional)
Finally, we have the detergent cartridges or sachets needed for the automatic cleaning stations.
As mentioned previously, the older Vortex Hydra stations use cartridges containing a detergent-based solution, while the newer stations use concentrated detergent gel that comes in small packets and must be mixed with water in the station’s tray.
The price of the detergent, particularly for the cartridges, is actually reasonable when compared to the offerings of other manufacturers like Braun.
Panasonic WES4L03 detergent
Depending on how often you’ll be using the station, you can get away with replacing the detergent every two to three months.
Using the station once or twice a week for example would be a very good compromise that’ll minimize your costs.
This results in a low cost of ownership if you decide to opt for a model that comes with a cleaning station.
All the stations use the same cartridges or detergent packs, so there’s no difference in the costs regardless if you have a Panasonic Arc 3, Arc 4 or Arc 5.
The automatic cleaning station is excellent, but as I already said, it is not really necessary and it’s up to you to decide if you should get it or not.
Arc 3 vs Arc 4 vs Arc 5: which one should you choose?
The whole purpose of this comparison was to make it easier for you to choose a Panasonic shaver that would suit you the best.
Everyone’s needs are different and what may be the right shaver for someone won’t necessarily fit your requirements.
Things like price, cost of ownership, performance, the coarseness of your beard and so on can tip the scales in favor of a different shaver.
By this point you should hopefully have a preference for one of the three Panasonic Arc series.
Here is a quick actionable summary of our Panasonic Arc 3 vs Arc 4 vs Arc 5 comparison.
Buy the Panasonic Arc 3 if
- You have a limited budget and want the best bang for your buck. The first generation Arc 3 shavers (for example, the ES8103S or ES-LL41-K) are probably the best option.
- You shave daily or every other day. Less advanced electric shavers work best when used on short hair. If you have a light to medium beard you can get away with shaving less often. For coarse facial hair, the Arc 3 is still suitable if you shave daily.
- You are a beginner and this is your first electric shaver. The Arc 3 is the most simple and easy to use due to the compact shaving head, so at least in theory, you should get used to it pretty quickly.
- You want the closest shaving entry-level electric shaver. And with the Arc 3, Panasonic is arguably the best in this category. Its main competitor, the Series 3 from Braun, falls a bit behind in terms of closeness.
Buy the Panasonic Arc 4 if
- You’re mostly interested in getting a very close shave without paying the premium price of (some) Arc 5 models.
- You have coarse facial hair.
- You shave daily or every other day. Depending on how fast your hair grows, you can get perfectly good results when shaving every two days or more.
- You want very fast shaving sessions. The 4 cutting elements + a powerful 14 000 CPM motor found on most models (the ES8243AA uses a 13 000 CPM unit) will ensure a very fast and efficient shave. The ES-LA63-AA/ES8243AA would be my personal picks.
- You have somewhat sensitive skin. I find Arc 4 shavers to be a bit gentler to the skin compared to the Arc 3. Shaving cream, pre-shave lotion and lubricating the cutting parts on a regular basis will also improve the comfort and can make them suitable for irritation prone skin. If you have very sensitive skin then you’ll probably be better off with a Braun Series 5 or Series 7.
Buy the Panasonic Arc 5 if
- You want what is likely the closest shaving electric razor you can currently buy. I’m referring particularly to the second and third generation Arc 5 shavers.
- You have very coarse facial hair and want the fastest possible shave. The massive shaving head + the powerful motor will give you precisely that.
- You don’t mind paying more for the shaver and replacement parts to get slightly better performance compared to the Arc 4 models.
- You want an automatic cleaning station with your Panasonic shaver. The station included with the second and third generation Arc 5 is better than the previous one that’s available with the Arc 4 ES-LA93-K. My personal pick would be the ES-LV95-S/ES-LV97-K as it offers the best value for money.
- You have somewhat sensitive skin. The second and particularly the third generation Arc 5 shavers represent an improvement over the previous versions in terms of comfort. However, the third generation Arc 5 shavers are still pretty expensive. If you have very sensitive skin, the Braun Series 9 will probably be a better option.
When you shouldn’t buy a Panasonic shaver
I’ve said on many occasions that I consider Panasonic shavers to be some of the best you can currently buy.
And as we’ve seen in this post, there are a lot of situations where they would make perfectly good choices.
However, here are a few cases where other shavers would probably be better.
- You have very sensitive skin. While Panasonic razors can be adequately comfortable, especially if you implement the recommendations above, Braun shavers are superior out of the box when it comes to comfort. Depending on your budget and how often you shave, a Braun Series 3, 5, 7, 8 or 9 can be a better option. You can find detailed guide on all of them on this website.
- You have wiry, flat-lying hairs that grow in different directions. This is particularly troublesome if you don’t shave often and most foil shavers will struggle to catch all the hairs efficiently. If this sounds like you, then a Braun Series 9 or even a rotary shaver should be considered.
This pretty much wraps up my overview of Panasonic’s Arc 3 through 5 shavers. I will update this guide as new models are being released to keep it relevant.
If you have any other questions, make sure to post them in the comments below.