Panasonic Arc 5 vs Braun Series 9 really is the battle of the Titans.
These two are arguably the most powerful, advanced and capable electric shavers you can buy today.
But which one is better? More precisely, which one would be a better fit for you?
In this article we’ll address all the facets of this debate and go over the most important aspects that should be considered when trying to decide between the Panasonic Arc 5 and the Braun Series 9.
An overview of the Panasonic Arc 5 and Braun Series 9 electric shavers
Both Panasonic and Braun are known to release updates to their lineups of electric shavers. The frequency of these update cycles can vary and the naming schemes are often inconsistent and confusing.
Moreover, it’s not always clear if an update is a major one, impacting the performance of the shaver, or is just a minor makeover.
These things only make choosing between a Panasonic Arc 5 and a Braun Series 9 even more difficult.
For this very reason, it’s important to clarify any confusion regarding the different models before getting to the actual differences between the Arc 5 and the Series 9 lines.
Panasonic Arc 5
The Arc 5 represents Panasonic’s high-end line of electric shavers. The Arc term designates the slightly arched profile of the shaving head, while the 5 stands for the number of individual cutting elements.
We’re going to group the Arc 5 shavers into 3 categories:
1. The first generation Arc 5 shavers (released in 2009).
These include shavers like the ES-LV61-A or the ES-LV81-K. You can also differentiate them from the newer Arc 5 razors by the bulkier cleaning stations that used the older detergent cartridges instead of detergent sachets (more on this later on).
2. The second generation Arc 5 (released in 2013).
In this group we’ll find the ES-LV-65-S (no cleaning station) and the ES-LV-95-S (includes an automatic cleaning station).
The cleaning stations received a major update and now use detergent sachets — a very economical solution. They’re also more compact and look a lot more modern.
3. The third generation Arc 5 (launched in September 2015).
This latest iteration includes shavers like the ES-LV-9A-S (international model, automatic cleaning station), ES-LV-6A-S (international model, no cleaning station).
They use the same automatic cleaning stations as the second generation Arc 5 — however they have different part numbers and the new shavers won’t fit in the older stations.
The models for the American market are named ES-LV-9N and ES-LV-6N, but they are identical to the international ones.
In September 2016 Panasonic released a minor update to this third generation Arc 5. You can differentiate them from the previous 2015 international models by the use of the letter B in their names instead of A (ES-LV9B-S, ES-LV-6B-S).
The improvements of this revision B consist in the use of a textured material for the thumb rest instead of a smooth finish, an increase in the front-to-back tilt angle of the head (from 17 to 20 degrees) and a low battery alarm. More details here.
I personally don’t consider these changes to affect the actual shaving performance in any significant way.
In this article we’ll mainly refer to the latest (third) generation of Arc 5 shavers when putting them against the Series 9. It’s only fair to compare Panasonic’s latest and greatest to the corresponding shaver from Braun.
However, I’ll still mention the older second generation Arc 5 in certain situations as they can still represent an excellent, cost-effective alternative.
Braun Series 9
The Series 9 is Braun’s current flagship shaver. The older Series 7 was beginning to show its age and Braun needed a new machine to maintain its top position in the foil shavers segment. And with the Series 9 it achieved precisely that.
At the moment of writing, there are basically two generations of Series 9 shavers:
1. The original Series 9.
The shavers for the American market are the 9095cc (automatic cleaning station, wet/dry use), 9090cc (automatic cleaning station, dry only use), 9093s (no cleaning station, wet/dry use).
Braun Series 9 9095cc
While choosing one variation over another comes down to your personal needs, the shaving performance is identical throughout the entire line.
2. The updated Series 9.
The updated models are now called 9295cc, 9290cc and 9293s. The update is minor and mainly consists of a titanium coated HyperLift&Cut Trimmer and a new silver color option. Also, all the new Series 9 are suitable for wet & dry use.
Braun Series 9 9290cc [updated]
You can identify the newer models by the distinct golden color of the trimmer (it used to be blue on the previous models).
As you probably guessed, this doesn’t improve the actual performance in a significant way, but it most likely solves a potential problem with the older shaving head that would sometimes break apart after just months of use.
Both Series 9 generations are currently available and their price can vary quite a bit, so I highly recommend doing a bit of online research before buying one.
If you would like to know more details, I wrote a comprehensive post outlining the differences between the various Series 9 models.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the most important part: the differences between the Panasonic Arc 5 and the Braun Series 9 and how the shavers stack up against each other for the things that matter the most.
Panasonic Arc 5 vs Braun Series 9: shaving performance
Shaving performance is likely the most important aspect to factor in when buying an electric razor.
And since we’re analyzing two of the most advanced shavers on the market, we’re going to divide the shaving performance into 4 distinct parts as there are lots of important bits to cover and both the Arc 5 and Series 9 have pros and cons.
- The closeness of the shave
- Dealing with longer, curly, flat-lying hairs
- Wet & dry use
Please note that shaving is a very personal matter and a lot of these considerations are based on anecdotal evidence and they should serve as general guidelines when trying to decide which one would suit you better.
1. The closeness of the shave
As I’ve said it several times before, I find foil shavers to provide the closest shaves. And among foil shavers, Panasonic is the best in my opinion when it comes strictly to the closeness of the shave.
The Arc 5 is Panasonic’s top of the line shaver and it absolutely shines when it comes to performance.
Don’t get me wrong, the Series 9 is an extremely capable razor and most men will be satisfied with the closeness it provides. But the Arc 5 definitely has the edge here.
Panasonic Arc5 ES-LV9N-S
So how does Panasonic manage to offer a close shave that’s comparable to what you’ll get from a razor blade? Well, there’s a combination of several factors that work together seamlessly.
Starting with the shaving head, the curvature (arch) of the foils allows optimal contact with the skin. Then we have Panasonic’s extremely sharp blades that have a very aggressive 30 degrees bevel and cut the hairs clean and efficiently.
Finally, there’s the very powerful 14 000 CPM motor and, as far as I know, it’s the fastest unit fitted to any shaver. In fact, Panasonic uses an almost as fast motor on even their lower end shavers, the Arc 3.
The result? The Arc 5 is arguably the closest shaving electric shaver you can buy today.
And this is also true in the case of older generation Arc 5, like the ES-LV65-S or ES-LV95-S, which are still fantastic performers when it comes to closeness, but can now be bought at great discounts.
The ES-LV65-S is particularly appealing as it offers fantastic value for money; performance-wise, it’s among the best shavers you can currently buy. You can also check out my full review where I cover every aspect in great detail.
While Panasonic is better when it comes strictly to closeness, Braun has set the benchmark in the comfort department with the Series 7. And with the Series 9, it has taken things one notch higher.
With a redesigned shaving head, a more powerful motor and an additional cutting element, the Series 9 is Braun’s best shaver to date. And it is supremely comfortable and gentle to the skin.
Braun Series 9 9290cc
Shaving with the Series 9 feels effortless and is a real treat. The foils remain cool during use and you’ll really have to struggle to make the Series 9 cause any noticeable discomfort.
However, with the Arc 5 there’s a small trade-off in comfort for that extreme closeness and the Arc 5 is not as forgiving as the Series 9.
Applying more pressure and going repeatedly over a sensitive area can cause rashes and irritation. The foils also tend to generate some heat during use, which is not ideal for sensitive skin.
The newest Arc 5 shavers (third generation) use comfort rollers to prevent excessive pressure and allow the shaving head to glide smoothly over the skin.
This definitely improves the comfort compared to the previous generations, but the Series 9 is still slightly on top.
To sum it up, the Braun Series 9 would definitely be the better choice for someone with very sensitive, blemish-prone skin.
3. Dealing with longer, curly, flat-lying hair
This is the Achilles’ heel of most electric shavers and the majority of them fall short in these situations. It is particularly the case with lower-end shavers that only perform decently when used for shaving short stubble.
The more advanced electric razors usually fare better in this regard and have specially designed cutting elements to tackle longer, flat-lying hairs. This is also the reason why an advanced razor is recommended if you’re not planning on shaving daily.
The Arc 5 uses a special trimmer called a Quick Comb Blade that catches longer hairs and cuts them to a more manageable size so they can be captured by the foils. This trimmer it flanked by two Lift-Tech Foils that supposedly lift and cut flat-lying hairs.
The Braun Series 9 uses a HyperLift & Cut trimmer (the golden cutter in the picture below) that was originally found on the Series 7 (and worked quite well) to tackle the hairs that lie flat on the skin.
The novelty of the Series 9 is the Direct & Cut trimmer that captures longer hairs that grow in different directions.
Braun’s implementation of these specially designed trimmers seems to be superior.
They work in a synergistic manner and allow the Series 9 to perform better than pretty much any other foil shaver when it comes to cutting longer, flat-lying hairs that tend to curl and grow in different directions.
Braun Series 9 9290cc
So if you plan on shaving every 2 to 3 days and have flat-lying hairs that grow in multiple directions, the Series 9 is the more sensible choice. The Arc 5 requires more strokes to get all the tricky hairs and this can also irritate the skin.
With shorter hairs the Panasonic Arc 5 and Braun Series 9 are equally impressive and will mow through even the coarsest beards with ease.
4. Wet & dry use
Wet shaving with an electric razor can improve the closeness and particularly the comfort. This can be a great option for men with very sensitive skin.
All Panasonic Arc 5 shavers are suitable for wet & dry use, while the first generation Series 9 offers both wet & dry (9095cc, 9093s) and dry only shavers (9090cc).
The latest iterations of the Series 9 are all suitable for wet/dry use (9290cc, 9295cc, 9293s).
But there’s a catch.
Usually, wet & dry means that you can use the shaver with a shaving cream. With the Panasonic Arc 5, there are no restrictions to that. You can use it with shaving creams or gels, in the shower, then toss it into the cleaning station and you’re all set.
Panasonic ES-LV95-S Arc 5
However, that’s not the case with the Series 9. Braun oddly decided to make the wet & dry models that come with a cleaning station, only suitable for shaving in the shower, and NOT to be used with a shaving cream as it can damage and clog the cleaning station.
So if you want to use a Series 9 with shaving cream you’ll be stuck with choosing a variation that doesn’t include a cleaning station, like the 9093s/9293s.
The other option is to clean all the foam manually and dry your shaver before using the cleaning base. And that’s a bit of hassle with the Series 9 and takes away all the benefits of having an automatic cleaning station.
Braun even put a sticker on the Series 9 cleaning station that clearly depicts this:
For these reasons, and also due to the fact that the Panasonic Arc 5 performs better when used with a shaving cream, my advice is this:
- Choose the Series 9 if you’re mainly going to use it for dry shaving. I would personally choose a variation that includes a cleaning station, like the 9290cc.
- Choose the Panasonic Arc 5 if you’re going to shave with cream or gel. There are no restrictions to this, you can use the cleaning station or clean the razor manually with ease; moreover, the comfort of the shave will be improved.
Build quality and ergonomics
A pioneer in industrial design, Braun was often praised for the simple, but ingenious design solutions used in their manufacturing process. The high-quality materials and flawless finishing were also a highlight of their products.
And this was the norm for many years. However, things have changed with the introduction of the two lines of shavers discussed here.
So how does the Panasonic Arc 5 fare against the Series 9 when it comes to build quality?
Very good, actually.
Braun’s flagship is made entirely out of plastic, with either a chrome/silver finish or a high gloss black. As it was expected, this treatment will probably not stand the test of time very well, at least aesthetically.
The new Silver option found on the 9290cc uses a matte, frosted treatment and it’s better compared to the glossy ones.
The chrome or glossy black finish is a fingerprint magnet and will begin to tarnish in time. The use of plastic also makes the razor feel less premium.
Panasonic has upped their game with the latest iteration of the Arc 5 line which now features an all-metal body. This is a clear departure from the older generation, which had a plastic body and a more in your face design.
The metal body of the new Arc 5 has a brushed/matte finish that looks and feels outstanding and the whole design just oozes quality. The intricate and massive shaving head, with its distinct golden comfort rollers, is something to behold.
Panasonic Arc 5 ES-LV9N-S
So the tides have turned and the new Panasonic Arc 5 takes the lead in the aesthetics and build quality department.
The second generation Arc 5 is made out of plastic, but to me it just feels subjectively sturdier compared to the Series 9.
As far as ergonomics go, both the Arc 5 and the Series 9 score very well. The Series 9 is lighter and has a slimmer shaving head as it “only” has 4 cutting elements and this makes it somewhat more nimble.
The Panasonic Arc 5 has a massive shaving head and may seem awkward at first, but you quickly get used to its proportions.
It feels well balanced in the hand and the textured rubber materials on the sides and back ensure a very secure grip.
Also, the latest Arc 5 has probably the most adaptable shaving head of any foil razor, as it can also be depressed. This can be useful when shaving difficult areas that are problematic for foil shavers, like right beneath the jawline.
None of the two however is ideal for finesse work (shaving around a goatee or around the sideburns) due to the large shaving heads. Both feature a head locking mechanism that comes in handy in these situations.
The long hair trimmers found on the Panasonic Arc 5 and the Braun Series 9 are different in the way they are designed, but both are suitable for light grooming and touch-ups.
The Arc 5 uses the same design as all Panasonic shavers, with the trimmer placed behind and perpendicular to the shaving head.
The Series 9 has a trimmer that slides forward, but doesn’t extend beyond the shaving head.
In both cases the trimmer is obscured by the massive heads, but you can sort of get around this problem by removing the shaving head and blades before using the trimmer.
I personally like the trimmer on the Arc 5 better; it just seems to be sharper and to cut the hairs clean with fewer strokes.
Automatic and manual cleaning
When deciding whether the Panasonic Arc 5 or the Braun Series 9 would be a better fit for you, the automatic cleaning stations deserve a separate topic. And that’s because there are quite a few things to be considered here.
Traditionally, Braun’s cleaning stations were superior when compared to those of the competition. They use alcohol, do an excellent job of cleaning and sanitizing the shaver, they are quiet, fast and efficient.
So if we were to compare the first generation Arc 5 shavers and the Series 9, I would simply tell you to skip the station for the Panasonics and go for it if you were to choose the Braun.
But things are different now.
With the second generation Arc 5, Panasonic also updated the cleaning stations. They now use concentrated detergent gel instead of cleaning cartridges that must be mixed with water in the station’s tray. The cleaning bases are also more compact in size compared to the previous ones.
The switch to the detergent sachets is also economical. They are cheap to buy and also last a lot longer than Braun’s cleaning cartridges. This means that the cost associated with the cleaning stations will be lower in the case of the Arc 5 shavers.
With Panasonic you also have the option to just dry the shaver; however, you can’t do that with Braun’s cleaning stations as you’ll always have to perform a complete cleaning cycle.
For these reasons I can safely state that the automatic cleaning stations that come with the newer Arc 5 shavers (second and third generations) are at least as good as Braun’s.
My recommendation would be to go for a model that includes one if you’re buying a second or third generation Arc 5 and skip it if you’re going for a razor from the first generation.
Those stations were very bulky and would sometimes leak and these two problems were addressed with the second and third generation Arc 5.
Or you can skip it regardless and save some money as Panasonics are dead easy to clean manually.
Regarding the Series 9, definitely go for a model that comes with the Clean & Renew station, like 9290cc.
Braun shavers are notoriously difficult to clean manually due to the fact that the blades and foils are integrated into one piece, called a cassette. In time hairs and dirt can remain lodged inside.
This is when the station can be very useful. You don’t have to use it after every shave; in fact I recommend you not to. Only perform a cleaning once a week or so and in the meantime remove the cartridge and put the plastic cap back on to avoid the evaporation of the cleaning fluid.
On the other hand, Panasonic shavers are dead easy to clean, so if you decide to skip the station and save some money it won’t be such a big deal.
The blades and foils of the Arc 5 can be separated, making it easier to clean all the hair clippings and dirt from the shaving head.
As for the Series 9, take a look at the picture below and you’ll easily see why a manual cleaning is such a hassle.
Panasonic also has a special cleaning mode, called sonic mode, activated by turning the shaver on, then pressing and holding the ON/OFF switch for 2 seconds.
This makes the blades to vibrate really fast, dislodging any debris and dirt.
To sum it up:
- If the Series 9 is a better fit for you, go for one that includes a cleaning station — it’s a necessary evil.
- If the Panasonic Arc 5 is your pick, skip the cleaning station for the first generation; for the second and third it’s up to you to decide if the added convenience of automatic cleaning is worth the extra money. Again, they are not really necessary.
Price and value for money
When assessing the costs of the Panasonic Arc 5 vs the Braun Series 9, we must consider three components:
- Purchase price
- Replacement foils & blades
- Cleaning cartridges/detergent
Also, please note that the availability and price of these parts can vary tremendously and I’ll do my best to keep this post updated and relevant.
Newly launched products are usually expensive and that was (and still is to some extent) the case with the Braun Series 9 and the latest Panasonic Arc 5.
So here’s an overview of the situation at the moment of writing.
Braun Series 9
Due to the recent (and minor) update mentioned at the beginning of this article, (the titanium coated trimmer), previous Series 9 shavers like the 9095cc, 9090cc or 9093s can sometimes be found at great prices, especially the dry only models.
But that’s not always the case, so definitely check the other options as well. Currently the best option seems to be the wet/dry Braun 9290cc from the updated Series 9 as it’s priced even lower than the original Series 9 cc models.
Braun Series 9 9290cc
The new replacement shaving heads for the Series 9 are now pretty reasonably priced as well; they were difficult to find at first, but are now widely available.
Braun Series 9 92s/92b shaving head
Regarding the price of the cleaning cartridges, your costs should be at around $2 – 3 per month. This depends on the price of the cartridges (which can vary) and how often you shave. Also, buying them in bulk (a pack of 4 for example) will usually mean a lower price per cartridge.
Braun Clean and Renew Cartridges
Please do keep in mind that being alcohol based, the fluid tends to evaporate fast and the cartridges will need to be replaced more often.
To avoid this, make sure to remove the cartridge from the base and put the cap back if you’re not using the cleaning station daily. For more details on how to make a cleaning cartridge last longer, check out this guide.
To sum it up: apart from the replacement cassettes that are still pricey, the Series 9 is looking decent in terms of overall costs, at least for a high-end electric shaver.
Panasonic Arc 5
As said previously, there are three generations of Arc 5 shavers and all of them are still available.
Unsurprisingly, the older ones can be found at a great price, especially the models that don’t come with a cleaning station.
And since they can be easily cleaned manually, they represent a fantastic option for someone on a tighter budget.
The Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc 5 below would be my personal pick in this case.
Panasonic ES-LV65-S Arc 5
Regarding the latest models, the price is pretty high at the moment, higher than the price of a Series 9. But if this is not an issue, it really is a fantastic performer and definitely Panasonic’s best shaver yet.
One of the most significant improvements of the second and third generations Arc 5 was the cleaning station.
The detergent sachets are cheap and the monthly cost is even lower compared to Braun’s solution (about half at the moment of writing).
Panasonic WES4L03 detergent (3 count)
Also, since they don’t use alcohol, you won’t have to worry about any evaporation issues.
The ES-LV95-S (second generation) comes with the same cleaning station as the latest generation Arc 5, but the shaver and particularly the replacement foils and blades cost less.
It is an excellent budget Arc 5 if you also want the convenience of a cleaning station.
The Panasonic replacement foils and blades used to be pretty expensive compared to the ones for similar Braun shavers. Regarding the latest Arc 5 and the Series 9, it still appears to be the case.
In its defense, the Arc 5 is newer, so the price will definitely go down in the future. Again, this is where the older Arc 5 can be a great option as the foils and blades are priced significantly lower.
Takeaway: The Panasonic Arc 5 can also offer excellent value for money, especially in the case of the older models.
The low price of the detergent will reduce the cost of ownership — in the case of second and third generation Arc 5. Regarding the latest models, the foils & blades combos are still expensive and sometimes difficult to find (you can order them directly from Panasonic as well).
Overall, I would say that the Panasonic Arc 5 and Braun Series 9 are pretty similar in terms of overall costs.
This concludes our Panasonic Arc 5 vs Braun Series 9 battle. By now you should hopefully have a slight bias towards the shaver that looks like a better fit for you.
The Panasonic Arc 5 and Braun Series 9 are fantastic performers, but depending on your particular needs, choosing one over the other can make more sense. Also, there are currently 3 Arc 5 generations and the first two can still be great budget-friendly alternatives.
Regarding the original and updated Series 9, just buy the one you can find at a more reasonable price as the performance will be the same and the new shaving heads are backward compatible.
Finally, since these are probably the best foil shavers on the market, it’s hard to think that you won’t be perfectly satisfied with either of the two.