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 Norelco on the North American market; Norelco’s brand equity and the aggressive marketing of P&G — the parent company of Braun — have 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.
Panasonic’s current offerings can be grouped into 3 categories: the Arc 3, Arc 4 and Arc 5 lines of electric shavers.
Covering everything from entry-level shavers to high-end products, 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 post we’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 in your situation or you’ll be better off spending a little more on a more advanced shaver.
Let’s dive 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 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 get?
- When you shouldn’t buy a Panasonic shaver
An overview of Panasonic’s lines of electric shavers
The Arc term was introduced by Panasonic in 2008 when the first models that featured 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 numbers designate how many individual cutting elements a particular shaver has.
While more doesn’t always implies better, the Panasonic models with more blades usually have better performance, faster motors and nicer features. More on this later on.
1. Panasonic Arc 3
The Arc 3 is, as the name suggests, Panasonic’s line of electric shavers that feature a 3 blade shaving head and represent the company’s entry level shavers. Their direct competitor is Braun’s Series 3 line. You can check out a detailed comparison of the two here.
Since the Arc 3 was first introduced, the line has seen quite a few updates, some of them minor, other significant and almost all the various models are still widely available.
Panasonic ES8103S Arc 3
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 or 10 000 CPM motors, like the ES-SL41-S or the ES-ST25-S 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 in 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-LT41-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 even performance. However, these new Arc 3 models are currently quite expensive 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 is probably one of the reasons why the Arc 4 didn’t took off. For just a few buck more you could get the flagship Arc 5 models.
However, the price has dropped significantly since then and you can currently find some Arc 4 shavers at bargain 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 4 variations in the Arc 4 family, all of them offering similar performance. For an in-depth comparison make sure to check out this post I wrote a while back.
My personal pick would be the ES-LA63-S Arc 4 that features a more advanced shaving head, has a mighty 14 000 CPM motor and can be bought at a very reasonable price.
Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4
Unlike the Arc 3, the Arc 4 line hasn’t seen any updates since it was launched, which makes picking a shaver a lot easier.
3. Panasonic Arc 5
The Arc 5 is the expression of the more is better mantra. Featuring a whopping 5 individual cutting elements, the Arc 5 is in a league of its own as no other foil shaver, including Braun’s Series 9 flagship, can’t match this number.
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 generation still widely available for purchasing and again, their differences are pretty difficult to spot and to asses.
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, so my recommendation would be to to skip the first generation all together.
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 ES-LV65-S Arc 5
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).
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 and a redesigned shaving head that now features two comfort rollers, the latest Arc 5 shavers are probably the best performing foil shavers you can currently buy.
Panasonic ES-LV9B-S Arc 5
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.
In the summer of 2017 the revision C of the Arc 5 was launched and are currently available on the Asian and European markets. This time the differences are a bit more nuanced, so make sure to check out this post for all the details.
Now that we’ve cleared up some of the confusion 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 in each line that offer the best performance for the money.
Panasonic Arc 3 vs Arc 4 vs Arc 5: shaving performance
Choosing an Arc 3, 4 or 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 with every situation.
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 view 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 men 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 accepted that Panasonics are 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.
When it comes to closeness, Panasonic shavers 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 be referring to the 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 the 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. This setup is common to all Arc lines.
What differentiate Panasonic’s nanoblades from the competition is the aggressive 30 degrees bevel that ensures a very efficient cutting action.
A combination of high quality, sharp blades, arched foils that ensure optimal contact with the skin and powerful motors allows Panasonics to shave closer than pretty much any other electric shavers.
The Arc 3 with its 3 cutting elements is the closest shaving affordable electric razor. There’s no other way of putting it. The ES8103S Arc 3 for example is reasonably priced and one of the best-selling Panasonic shavers of all time.
Panasonic ES8103S Arc 3
Compared to similarly priced models from the competition, like the Braun Series 3 or Norelco 6100, the Arc 3 blows them out of the water when it comes to closeness.
The latest LT Arc 3 takes this one notch higher and improves upon the older Arc 3 models; its performance is similar to the Arc 4 shavers despite having less cutting elements.
Panasonic ES-LT7N-S Arc 3
However, at least at the time of writing, the retail price of the LT models is pretty high in my opinion and the Arc 4 models offer better value for money and similar performance.
Speaking of which, the more advanced Arc 4 and Arc 5 with their 14 000 CPM motors and more shaving elements are even better than the original 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 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 latest 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 provides this while still being very 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.
The ES-LA63-S is my personal favorite; it has a 14 000 CPM motor, a more advanced flexing head, a second vibrating motor inside the head and can often be found at an excellent price.
Panasonic ES-LA63-S Arc 4
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 ES-LV65-S Arc 5
They don’t cost a whole lot more and are a definite improvement over the original models. They also have a superior automatic cleaning station (the ES-LV95-S variation).
The latest Arc 5, the ES-LV6N-S and the ES-LV9N-S are currently Panasonic’s best shavers.
If you don’t mind paying a premium price tag, they are probably the best performing electric shavers you can currently buy.
However, the price is ridiculous 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.
2. Comfort during and after the shave
Closeness aside, how comfortable and forgiving a particular shaver is should come high on your priority 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 a prolonged use.
There are various workarounds that can make Panasonic shavers more comfortable during use.
Since all of them are suitable for wet & dry use, you can try shaving with cream, soap or gel. I personally found 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, particularly the middle trimmers, 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 a slight advantage for the latest Arc 5, especially the latest LV 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 suffer from 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 9 would make 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 at least 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 (if you have a slower growth).
For anything more than that, I suggest going for an Arc 4 or Arc 5. Or better yet, A Braun Series 9 that has two cutting elements specifically engineered for capturing longer, wiry whiskers.
4. How fast it shaves
Cutting power and sharp blades are what it takes to complete a shave with ease. And Panasonic shavers have plenty of those.
The massive shaving heads of the Arc 5 are able to cover large areas fast, while the sharp blades mow through the coarsest beards.
Moreover, the shaving heads of the latest Arc 5 can even be depressed, thus 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.
Panasonic ES-LV9B-S Arc 5
The Arc 4 is no slouch either and again will be better than other similarly priced razors from the competition, like the Braun Series 5 and 7.
With only 3 cutting elements, the Arc 3 obviously falls behind the more expensive Arc 4 and 5, but again, its performance is more than adequate for the price, especially compared to a Braun Series 3 that feels under-powered and sluggish in comparison.
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 and years of use and abuse. While it can’t hold a decent charge anymore, it 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; with a completely new metal body and redesigned shaving head, they resemble a whole lot more the newest Arc 5 than previous Arc 3 shavers.
Panasonic ES-LT3N-K Arc 3
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 at all to start.
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 line Panasonic upped their game considerably and went for metal 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. For the price you’re paying, plastic with a 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.
With one or two additional blades on the Arc 4 and 5 respectively, the shaving heads are massive 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. That’s the only downside of the newer Arc 3 models (besides the price).
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 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 a want completely fuss-free shaving experience, an automatic cleaning station can help you achieve precisely that.
The Panasonic Arc 3, Arc 4 and Arc 5 shavers offer variations that include a cleaning station. These stations will clean, dry, lubricate and charge your shaver automatically after every use.
Panasonic currently offers two versions 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.
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-LV9N, ES-LV9A/B). They use detergent packets instead of cartridges that must be mixed with water in the station’s tray.
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 very reasonable.
Unlike alcohol, a detergent based solution won’t evaporate and Panasonic’s cleaning solutions last longer before needing to be replaced.
Another advantage of Panasonic’s cleaning stations compared to the ones from Braun is that you can use them without any restrictions when cleaning your shaver.
For example, if you use shaving cream or gel you’ll have to manually clean any traces of foam in the case of a Braun shaver before using the station, rendering it pretty much useless for wet shaving.
With Panasonic you can simply toss it into the station without any worries that the lather might clog it.
The cleaning cycles are relatively short (10 minutes), while the drying cycles take just over one hour.
The result is a perfectly clean, dried, lubricated and fully charged razor, ready for the next shave.
So far everything points in favor of getting a cleaning station as well.
And if you don’t mind paying more for one than 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 Panasonics 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 rinsing under 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 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-S or ES-LF51-S usually cost a lot 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-LV9N-S/ES-LV9A-S) 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 definitely go for it.
Price and value for money
Some may disagree with me, but I consider value for money to be just as important as the performance when it comes to buying an electric shaver. Getting more performance for less money 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 or ES-LT41-K are generally the least expensive of them all.
However, some Arc 4 models like the ES8243A or the ES-LA63-S can be found for just a few bucks more. For this you get an extra blade, more power on some models (14 000 CPM vs 13 000 CPM) and a more advanced shaving head.
Panasonic ES8243A Arc 4
In my opinion the Arc 4 models currently offer the best value for money as their price has dropped significantly since their introduction.
The same can be said about the first generation Arc 5 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.
The original Arc 5 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. A definite improvement over the first generation for usually a similar or lower price, so definitely do some research before making your purchase.
Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc 5
The most recent shavers from the Arc 3 line (like the ES-LT7N-S) are pretty expensive, even though the improvements in performance and particularly build quality are significant compared to the older shavers.
The same goes for the ES-LV6N and ES-LV9N from the Arc 5 line that have (at least at the moment of writing this post) an obscene price.
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-LT41-K etc. are very reasonably priced (part number is WES9013PC). The parts used by the newer LT models like the ES-LT7N-S are 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 cost almost twice as much as the ones for the original Arc 3.
The first and second generation Arc 5 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 parts (WES9034P) and they are mighty expensive. As I am writing this post the MSRP on Panasonic’s website for this combo is more than a brand new Arc 4 ES-LA63-S. That’s a lot of money.
You can easily see that as we move from the original Arc 3 towards the latest Arc 5 the price of the replacement parts goes up significantly. 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.
As it was the case with the Arc 4, the prices of newly released models from the Arc 3 and 5 lines will eventually drop; same goes for the replacement parts. But at this moment they’re not worth buying as the price difference compared to the previous models is simply too high.
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 station use detergent powder that comes in small sachets and must be mixed with water in the station’s tray.
The price of the detergent, particularly for the cartridges, is very 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 twice a week for example would be a very good compromise that’ll minimize your costs.
This results in a low price per cleaning 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 and won’t increase the costs of ownership by a whole lot. However, 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 get?
The whole purpose of this comparison was to make it easy 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 correspond to your requirements.
Things like price, running costs, performance, 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 towards one of the three families of Panasonic shavers discussed here.
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) are probably the best option.
- You shave daily. Less advanced electric shavers work best when used on short hair. If you have a light to medium growth 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 fast.
- You want the closest shaving entry-level electric shaver. And with its Arc 3, Panasonic is definitely the best in this category. Its closest competitor, the Series 3 from Braun, falls behind in terms of closeness and power.
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.
- You want very fast shaving times. The 4 cutting elements + a powerful 14 000 CPM motor found on most models (the ES8243A uses a 13 000 CPM unit) will ensure a very fast and efficient shave. The ES-LA63-S would be my personal pick.
- You have 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 shaver 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 as it offers the best value for money.
- You have sensitive skin. The second and particularly the third generation Arc 5 represent an improvement over the previous versions in terms of comfort. However, the third generation Arc 5 shavers are still very expensive. If you have very sensitive skin the Braun Series 9 would probably be a better option.
When you shouldn’t buy a Panasonic shaver
I’ve said it 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 Panasonics can be adequately comfortable, especially if you implement the recommendations in this post, 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 or 9 can be a better alternative.
- You have wiry, flat lying hairs that grow in different directions. This is particularly troublesome if you don’t shave daily 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 our overview of Panasonic shavers. I will update this post as new models are being released to keep it relevant. If you have any other questions, make sure to pop them in the comments below.