Review Summary Editor's choice
Pros: One of the closest shaving razors available, very fast and powerful, comfortable, suitable for very coarse beards, decent performance on a 3-day beard, foils stay cool during use, fantastic wet shaving performance, excellent build quality, easy to clean, great pop-up trimmer, waterproof
Cons: Only available in Japan, no hard travel case, basic LED display, still not great with longer facial hair, not as comfortable as a premium Braun shaver, noisy
Panasonic’s Arc 5 line of shavers has been around for more than 10 years.
During all this time we’ve seen many updates, ranging from completely redesigned shavers to minor overhauls.
And in June 2021 the latest generation of the Arc 5 family was launched (exclusively) in Japan.
UPDATE May 2022: the new 2022 Arc 5 (Pro) was recently announced in Japan. However, the shavers themselves are identical to the 2021 Arc 5 in this review with no real differences whatsoever.
UPDATE September 2022: The revision G Arc 5 models were officially released outside of Japan in 2022.
These can be now bought in Europe, Australia, etc for a reasonable price and represent a good alternative to the generation 2 Arc 5. They are not however available in the USA or Canada.
Interestingly, Panasonic markets them under a different name. Instead of Arc 5 or Lamdash, this line is called Series 900. It is however identical to the Japanese series.
The two models from the revision G that are available globally under the Series 900 name are the ES-LV9U and ES-LV6U. The former includes a cleaning station, while the latter does not.
Both are wet/dry models and will only operate cordlessly.
Unofficially referred to as the Panasonic Arc 5 revision G, these new shavers come with a redesigned outer foil that could contribute to a significant improvement in one key area.
Having owned and used many of the previous models, I was really excited about this update.
I finally managed to buy one of the new Panasonic Arc 5 2021 (Series 900), test it for almost a month and in this review, I will share everything you need to know about it, pros and cons included.
Regardless if you’re looking to buy your first Arc 5 or you’re wondering whether it’ll be a worthy upgrade for your older Arc 5, this review should be helpful.
I’ll also share a few tips for current Arc 5 owners and a few (cheaper) alternatives.
The model I bought for this review is the ES-LV5U, a wet/dry Japan-exclusive model.
However, the actual shaving performance of all the Panasonic Arc 5 2021/Series 900 models is identical.
So it doesn’t really matter if you’re getting the ES-LV9U, ES-LV7U, ES-LV7G, ES-LV6U or the ES-LV5G — they all shave the same.
The so-called Series 900 with models like the ES-LV9U and ES-LV6U is also identical to the original Japanese release, so the review will still be relevant.
The differences between the above-mentioned variations come down to included accessories, wet/dry & dry only use and some other features that don’t impact the shaving performance.
Table of Contents
- Features overview
- Build quality and ergonomics
- Included accessories
- Battery life and charging
- Shaving performance
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Replacement parts availability
- Wrap-up — Should you buy the 2021 Arc 5/Series 900?
1. New 5 blade shaving unit
The trademark of the Arc 5 series has always been that massive head that featured 5 individual shaving elements.
And until recently, that was the highest number of cutters you could find on a foil shaver (alongside Xiaomi’s 5 blade razor).
What makes the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5/Series 900 exciting and different than the previous revisions is a new central trimmer that should improve the shaver’s performance with longer facial hair.
The Arc 5 has always been a stellar performer on short stubble but always struggled when shaving a 3-day beard for example, especially if the hairs would stay flat on the skin.
Panasonic explicitly mentioned this new cutter on the official product page and also states that it’s better than the previous ones.
I will be covering this aspect in great detail later on in the Shaving performance section.
The new cutter now comes in a gold finish which is likely the result of a Titanium Nitride coating.
We still have the two comfort rollers that are now silver instead of gold.
The rest of the shaving elements have remained unchanged compared to the previous Arc 5 generations.
Precisely, we still have the two finishing foils (1 and 5 in the image above) that will cut the hairs at skin level.
The Arc 5 is in my opinion the best when it comes to closeness and I expect things to be at least as good in the case of the 2021 models.
Finally, there are two reverse tapered foils (2 and 4) that flank the central trimmer and should lift and cut shorter hairs the stay flat on the skin.
The remaining longer hairs are tackled by the new cutter, at least in theory.
I have actually tested my ES-LV5U thoroughly on different beard lengths just to see how effective it really is.
Interestingly, the two removable blades (that oscillate behind the reverse tapered foils) are the same ones used on every other Panasonic Arc 5 generation, the venerable WES9170.
The other two blades are built-in and permanently attached to the finishing foils:
The new central trimmer is a standalone cutting element, for a total count of 5.
2. Highly flexible shaving head
The massive head of the Panasonic Arc 5 has some impressive engineering behind it.
For example, the compact and powerful motor is placed in the actual head, allowing direct and reliable delivery of power and torque.
But it’s also able to move and flex in all possible directions.
Panasonic calls it a Close contact 5D head and we’ve seen it on the previous revisions as well.
In my experience it works fine, even though I prefer the simpler implementation used by Braun for example.
It can get a bit too wobbly, but you can also lock it in place via a switch located on the back of the head.
The 5 blades can move independently (in addition to the whole head), but their range of motion is still too short in my opinion and it takes a lot of pressure in order to move them.
So that aspect still hasn’t been properly addressed with these Panasonic Arc 5 models.
The Arc 6 on the other hand promises to fix that, so you can check out my review of it and see if it managed to get any better in that regard.
3. 14 000 CPM motor
Panasonic is in a different league compared to the other manufacturers when it comes to motors.
That’s just my opinion after testing dozens of shavers at different price points.
Panasonic’s units are very powerful, punchy, reliable and have been constantly refined and improved throughout the years.
The Arc 5 ES-LV5U and the rest of the revision G models are powered by a 14 000 CPM (cycles per minute) linear drive motor and it simply performs outstanding.
4. Beard density sensor
Just like the previous generation 3 revisions, the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 comes with an always-on beard density sensor.
According to the manufacturer, this sensor will read the density of the stubble and modulate the power output of the motor accordingly.
The idea is to have the motor run slower when shaving a lighter beard and faster when dealing with coarser hairs.
I personally never found this type of technology to be of much use, but it’s here to stay. The other shaver brands like Braun and Philips have jumped on the bandwagon as well.
On some older Arc 5 generation 2 models (ES-LV65, ES-LV95) you had the option to turn it off and shave in full power mode whenever you wanted.
You can’t do that anymore, but to be honest, I didn’t find this shaver to be any less effective because of that.
5. Wet/dry and dry only use
My ES-LV5U is a wet/dry shaver that can be used in the shower or with shaving cream/gel.
I specifically wanted to get this one as I do enjoy shaving wet (for the added closeness and comfort) when I have more time to spare.
The wet/dry models can only work cordless though.
I personally don’t mind this as I never shaved with the cord plugged in, but if that’s a must-have for you, there are other Arc 5 models in this lineup that will also work corded (ES-LV7G, ES-LV5G).
The downside is that you will be restricted to shave dry as a safety precaution, even though all of them are waterproof and can be cleaned with water.
6. Misc features
Other noteworthy features include a 3-minute quick charge function, universal voltage adapter (100–240v), pop-up hair trimmer, and a 3 level battery indicator (except for the LV9U’s display that has 5 levels).
Build quality and ergonomics
The Arc 5 shavers (and Panasonic in general) have pretty much set the standard for build quality in recent years.
And even though the 2021 models feature an all-plastic build, they’re still impressive.
Some older Arc 5 revisions had one or two range-topping models that came with brushed aluminum panels, but that’s not the case anymore.
The ES-LV5U that I got has a familiar shape and proportions, being an Arc 5 through and through.
It feels solid and well built, it has a modern and premium look and despite the large head that also accommodates the motor, it is very well balanced.
Shaving with it is really comfortable and easy once you get used to the wide head.
And speaking of it, the outer foil is a really nice piece of engineering. Compared to a Series 9 foil for example, it just seems in a different league.
On the front of the razor, right below the head, there’s a texturized thumb rest. It’s very grippy and positioned just right.
The back of the shaver is sculpted on the opposite side, so you can even hold it between the thumb and your index and middle fingers with ease.
My ES-LV5U weighs exactly 200 grams (7 oz), while the rest of the models are just a bit heavier at 210 grams (7.4 oz).
Further down there’s a rectangular power button that also doubles as a travel lock.
You can activate it by pressing and holding the button for a few seconds while the shaver is running. A padlock icon will light up on the display to confirm that the button is now locked.
Pressing and holding it again will deactivate the travel lock.
Interestingly, none of the 2021 models, not even the ES-LV9U, the most expensive one, comes with the smart lock function of the previous revision F.
And speaking of features getting ditched, the LED displays are very basic.
While on older Arc 5 razors (like the ES-LV65) the display would even show the duration of your shave and the battery charge in 20% increments, we don’t get any of those anymore.
For example, the ES-LV9U and ES-LV6U come with a 5-level battery indicator, while my review unit (ES-LV5U) and the rest of the models only have a disappointing 3 level indicator (High, Mid, Low).
This is a cost-cutting measure for sure (among others); as you’ll see in the next section, Panasonic skimped on accessories as well.
Moving on to the backside of the shaver, things haven’t changed at all from the previous iterations and that’s actually good in my opinion.
The hair trimmer is positioned on the head and you can deploy it via the multi-function switch located right below.
With the switch in the FREE position, the head can move freely in all directions.
Sliding it up one click to the LOCK position will, as the name suggests, lock the head in place. It would still wobble a bit from left to right, but nothing too serious.
And in the third setting the switch will extend the trimmer which is in my opinion the best you’ll find on any electric shaver.
A rubber sleeve covers the back and sides of the shaver and extends towards the front. It provides a really good grip even when the shaver is wet.
Also, you may have noticed three dots on the back of my Arc 5 ES-LV5U. Those are just rubber blanks that are replaced by actual contact pins on the models that come with a cleaning station.
That means you won’t be able to use the ES-LV5U or ES-LV6U with a compatible station from another shaver.
The charging port is located at the very bottom and it’s the same proprietary connector that Panasonic uses on all their shavers.
The 2021 Arc 5 is shipped with the new RC1-80 charger which has a slightly different output compared to the older ones (those will still work with it though).
Mine came with a US plug, but I had no problem using it in Europe with a simple adapter.
The charger can take between 100 and 240 volts, so you will be able to use it while traveling as well.
Summary: it’s business as usual regarding the build quality of the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5/Series 900. Solid, aesthetically pleasing and most likely very reliable as well.
While it’s a bit disappointing to see some features gone, like the smart lock and the better displays, I don’t consider these to be deal-breakers.
Here’s what came with my review unit (ES-LV5U):
- Cleaning brush
- Lubricating oil
- User manual (only in Japanese)
- Plastic cap
- Textile pouch
To my surprise, my shaver only came with this cheap-looking and pretty useless pouch instead of a decent travel case.
Even the faux leather one (picture below next to it) would have been much better.
Considering the price of the Panasonic Arc 5, this omission is hard to understand.
Except for the ES-LV9U and ES-LV6U that come with a premium hard leather case, the rest of the 2021 Arc 5 shavers only come with this textile pouch.
You can purchase the case separately, but that’s not really fair for the customer considering the price of the shaver.
As a side note, the box itself is smaller and of lower quality compared to my older Arc5 boxes that had this really thick and sturdy cardboard.
This one is flimsy and very thin, similar to the ones you’d get with a Panasonic travel razor.
Battery life and charging
The 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 shavers are fitted with the same rechargeable Li-ion battery as the previous ones.
That basically gives you around 45 minutes of cordless use, but you’ll probably want to charge it before the battery is almost drained.
Not only will this contribute to the lifespan of the battery, but I actually can notice the motor slowing down when the battery is almost out of juice.
And because modern batteries don’t suffer from the memory effect anymore, you can charge them whenever you want.
Other manufacturers have gradually increased the capacity of the batteries and some shavers can go for more than an hour on a single charge.
Panasonic has lagged behind a bit in this regard, but 45 minutes is still good enough.
The Arc 5 ES-LV5U that I’m testing is a cordless-only model, so it will not work with the cord plugged in.
But as I mentioned previously, you can choose one that can be operated directly from a power outlet as well.
Those models are the Japan-exclusive ES-LV7G and ES-LV5G.
Charging takes 50+ minutes and you can plug the cable directly into the shaver or you can charge it via the cleaning station (if it came with one).
Also, this new Arc 5 line could have been a good opportunity for Panasonic to ditch their proprietary charging port in favor of USB-C.
I’ve been saying this for years, but there’s really no point in having a bunch of different cables and chargers for every device that we use.
All things should be USB compatible in 2021. Electric shaver brands are still not on board with this, sadly. Except for Xiaomi, so props to them for that.
Another negative aspect has to be the LED display of the new 2021 Arc 5.
It’s something we normally get on low-end Panasonic shavers.
That multi-function display that debuted with the second-generation Arc 5 should be standard in this price range.
Summary: the battery life of the new Panasonic Arc 5 is exactly the same as before, the LED display is a downgrade but at least we get to choose between cordless only or cordless+corded operation.
Important: All Panasonic Arc 5 revision G (Series 900) use the same motors and foils/blades, so the shaving performance is identical throughout the entire range.
This is the part I was the most excited about: to see how well the new Arc 5 shaves and how it compares to the older generations.
Since the only true novelty is that redesigned outer foil, that’s pretty much the only thing that could make a difference and improve the performance in one specific area.
So let’s see how good it is. There’s a lot to be covered, so I will discuss each aspect separately, starting with the closeness.
Closeness of the shave
For me and for most men that use electric razors, being able to get a close shave is really important.
The closeness is inherently not as good compared to a razor blade, so manufacturers have constantly tried to compensate for this shortcoming in various ways.
Panasonic’s take on this has always been simple and effective: thin (but still reliable) foils, very sharp stainless steel blades and a punchy motor.
As their flagship shaver, the Arc 5 has always been at the very top in this regard.
Luckily, the 2021 models are still at least as good as the previous ones when it comes to closeness.
In short, they’re fantastic.
I think anyone switching from any previous shaver to the new Panasonic Arc 5 will be impressed by it.
Shaving areas with thick and dense hair is a breeze, it just bites into the hairs and cuts them effortlessly at skin level.
There’s no need to apply pressure (in fact you shouldn’t) in order to get a perfectly smooth shave.
I usually have some trouble getting the desired result (in terms of closeness) above the upper lip (moustache area) and under the chin.
Out of all the razors that I’ve used, the Arc 5 does the best job in those areas.
The Panasonic ES-LV5U used for this review was just stellar regardless of the length of the hair.
Shaving a 3-day beard may require more passes in order to capture all the hairs, but once it does that, the razor will cut them very close to the skin.
It would be difficult to say if the new 2021 Panasonic Arc 5/Series 900 actually shaves closer compared to the previous models.
I do have a few and I tried to compare them head to head, but it wasn’t really a fair comparison since my older Arc 5s have been used quite extensively, so the blades don’t cut as well as they used to.
But from what I can recall, I’d say that the closeness is definitely similar.
And that’s not surprising since the so-called finishing foils of the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 have remained the same.
Also, it’s worth noting that I got these results shaving dry (usually with a pre-shave lotion). I will discuss the wet shaving performance of the ES-LV5U separately later on.
Some users are bothered by the addition of the two comfort rollers and feel like they’re getting in the way and prevent them from getting the closest possible shave.
I never had any such issues with these foils and I actually enjoy them more. They make the head glide a lot easier on the skin when shaving dry.
Summary: the closeness of the new Arc 5 is still among the best out there. However, I wouldn’t say it’s an improvement over the older models in this regard.
Older Arc 5 models from the first and second generations weren’t the most comfortable shavers out there.
Not terrible, but definitely not the best option for users with sensitive skin.
Things have gotten better with the third generation and the introduction of the comfort rollers.
I admit that initially, I considered them just a gimmick, but it turns out I was wrong.
From that moment on Panasonic continued making small tweaks to the foils, but with no direct impact on the comfort.
The foil of these 2021 Arc 5 models is actually the first one that has been modified more extensively.
And while the changes were focused on improving the shaver’s performance on longer facial hair, for some reason, the ES-LV5U was really comfortable.
Compared to my older ES-LV65-S, the improvement in comfort is significant.
The head glides really smoothly on the skin and as long as you don’t apply excessive pressure, it remains perfectly comfortable even on the neck.
I’ve been testing the razor for almost 3 weeks and so far the outer foil has always stayed cool to the touch.
I did lubricate the blades before each shave (more details on that later on).
Also, the shaver is gentler even when moving the head a bit too fast over an area with longer hair.
I didn’t experience any pinching or hairs getting snagged.
I have very sensitive skin on the neck and shaving dry with this Arc 5 didn’t cause me any serious discomfort.
The only negative would be in the form of some pseudofolliculitis/shaving bumps on the sides of my chin.
Nothing too serious though and I’m pretty certain that it was due to me being sloppier and pressing the shaver a bit too hard.
I highly recommend the use of a quality pre-shave if you tend to get razor burn or post-shave rashes. It should also help with getting a closer shave.
A quick word on that beard density sensor: it’s the same one used on the previous E and F revisions and again, I guess it works.
I could also hear the change in the motor speed a couple of times during a shaving session but I’m still a bit skeptical about its effectiveness.
Panasonic says that it’s less taxing on the skin because it slows down the speed when shaving a lighter beard.
From my own experience, I’m not sure about that; for example, when the battery is almost drained and the motor slows down, the quality of the shave only gets worse and that’s when you might even experience some hairs getting pulled.
Luckily, it seems to almost always run at full speed in spite of the sensor.
Summary: I think most users will be perfectly happy with the level of comfort (during and after the shave). It is an improvement over the older models and it gets even better when using a pre-shave or shaving cream.
Shaving longer stubble (3 days or more)
This is where the 2021 ES-LV5U could have been quite a bit better than any of the previous 5-blade Panasonic shavers.
Electric razors work the best on short facial hair, but some of us prefer to shave less often.
Panasonic was never really good in these situations.
Their razors are phenomenal on short hair, but would struggle to capture longer, stray hairs, especially the ones that grow parallel to the skin.
That central redesigned trimmer should address this, at least according to the official product page of these latest Arc5’s.
It certainly looked promising, but the proof is in the pudding.
So I let my beard grow for 3 days and put the shaver to the test, both dry and wet.
The results were a bit of a mixed bag.
First of all, I would say that the dry shaving performance on a longer beard is not significantly better compared to the older ones.
The flat-lying hairs are indeed captured and cut with less effort, but the ones that also grow in different directions are still a problem.
Those require multiple strokes and changes of direction. Using a Braun Series 9 for example on the other half on my face reminded me how much better that shaver is with this type of hair.
For someone that shaves dry most of the time and does so every 3 days or more, the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 isn’t the groundbreaking razor we were all expecting.
Again, if the hairs grow mostly in the same direction, it’s fine. But you will have to do some extra work if the grain is different.
Perhaps things will be better with the Arc 6 that uses two such elements, although having an extra one doesn’t necessarily imply that it’ll be twice as good.
The results are a lot better for the Arc 5 in the case of a wet shave as you’ll see next.
Important: a 3-day beard is a relative term. My facial hair grows back pretty fast, so other users could actually get away with shaving less often and still get really good results.
Summary: Shaving longer hairs that stay flat on the skin and grow in different directions is still an issue with the latest Arc 5. Things are a bit better than before, but it lags behind the top Braun models.
I’ve been raving in the past about how well Panasonic electric razors perform when you use warm water and a quality shaving cream.
And I have no choice but to do it that again in the case of this Arc 5.
The 2021 models that are suitable for wet/dry operation (ES-LV9U, ES-LV7U, ES-LV6U, ES-LV5U) are simply a joy to use.
The closeness and the comfort of the shave are phenomenal.
My shaving cream of choice is from a German brand called Speick and together with the ES-LV5U I got one of the closest and most enjoyable shaves that I can remember.
The shaver feels effortless to use and even if you have very coarse hair and you can’t normally get a close enough shave, I think you’ll still be impressed with the results.
As long as you follow a few simple rules when shaving wet (like only using a thin layer of watery lather), this Arc 5 is unbeatable.
Shaving wet requires some prep work and it’s overall lengthier, but if you have the time, definitely give it a try.
I think that even men with sensitive skin could use this Arc 5 without any worries in this manner.
Also, shaving a longer beard is less of a problem when shaving wet. The razor is able to catch those difficult hairs easier and with fewer strokes.
Summary: the wet shaving performance of the Panasonic Arc5 ES-LV5U is outstanding, arguably one of the best shaves you can get from any of the current electric razors.
This is a somewhat subjective issue as it depends on how you’ll be using the pop-up trimmer.
If you only want to trim, shape or tweak your sideburns/moustache/goatee, then it’s perfect.
In fact, the trimmer on the Panasonic Arc 5 is in my opinion the best out there for this type of use.
It’s positioned at the top of the shaving head, which is ideal. And you can further improve this by removing the foil frame.
The blades are very sharp and effective at cutting the hairs close to the skin without pinching or pulling the hairs.
The trimmer is also wide enough and doesn’t fall back during an upstroke like some of the similar trimmers on Philips Norelco shavers.
If, on the other hand, you want to trim your entire beard with it, I don’t think it’s ideal: it will just take longer, it’s a bit awkward to use and to cut the hairs evenly.
When used occasionally it’s fine, but I would definitely recommend having a dedicated beard trimmer if that’s something you’ll be doing regularly.
Summary: the pop-up trimmer on the latest Arc 5 works great for light grooming and touch-ups.
Foil electric shavers are generally noisy during use because of the very way they work.
Moreover, the latest Panasonic Arc 5 is also powered by a very fast motor, so if you want a very quiet shaver, this isn’t the one.
The noise level seems to be exactly as before and that impression is also backed by a sound measuring app.
It has a distinctive, high-pitched whine.
But unlike some other foil-based razors from Braun for example, the Arc 5 is more refined in the way that it vibrates less.
That is due to the fact that Panasonic uses linear instead of rotary motors and the blades oscillate in opposite directions, basically balancing each other out.
Summary: The 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 is still as noisy as before. If you absolutely must have a quiet shaver for whatever reason, a rotary shaver would be a better option.
Cleaning and maintenance
There are 5 different Arc 5 models so far in this update and 3 of them come with automatic cleaning & charging stations: ES-LV9U, ES-LV7U and ES-LV7G.
So if you choose one of those shavers, you’ll also have the option to clean it automatically.
My ES-LV5U and the ES-LV6U and ES-LV5G don’t come with a station, so they must be cleaned manually, preferably after every use.
I will be covering both methods since the cleaning system of the 2021 update is basically unchanged.
With every Panasonic shaver that I’ve reviewed in the past (entry-level or high-end), the cleaning part was always a breeze.
I would often recommend the variations that don’t have a cleaning system because they’re cheaper and while the stations are among the best, you don’t really need one.
All 2021 Arc 5 models are waterproof, including the ones marketed as dry-only, so the easiest and most effective way to clean them is with water and a bit of liquid hand soap.
Here’s how I would typically clean the ES-LV5U.
Once I finish my shave, I turn the razor off, remove the foil frame and gently tap out the bulk of hair clippings trapped inside the head.
Always disconnect the charging cord from the shaver before proceeding with the cleaning.
Make sure to only tap the plastic frame, not the actual foils as they’re very delicate.
You could also use the included brush, but I don’t bother since I’ll also be rinsing everything with water.
Side note: when I’m using shaving cream I just give everything a quick rinse instead since all the hairs are trapped in the lather.
I then put the foil frame back on and add a bit of water and a few drops of liquid soap to the outside of the foils.
After that, I press and hold the power button for a few seconds to activate the sonic cleaning mode.
You will notice a higher frequency sound coming from the motor as the blades start to oscillate even faster compared to normal use.
This will remove any dirt quite effectively and it won’t splash water all around when rinsing the head.
Also, add a few more drops of water if needed for the soap to lather nicely and to coat the foils evenly. Use your index finger to spread it across the foils.
After 20 seconds or so the shaver will turn off by itself (you can do it sooner by pressing the power button).
I turn the cleaning mode back on and rinse the head thoroughly with warm tap water for approximately 10-15 seconds.
With the razor turned off, I remove the foil head and give it one final rinse inside out. I also rinse the inner blades one more time and then shake off the water.
I like to pat everything dry with a clean towel and let the shaver air dry on the countertop with the foil removed.
Doing so will help the moisture evaporate faster.
I usually let my shavers dry overnight before storing them in a closed cabinet.
That’s pretty much everything it takes to clean a Panasonic shaver manually.
It may seem like a lot to do when you read about it, but the whole thing takes less than a minute (literally).
For this Arc 5 generation, Panasonic opted for the if it’s not broke don’t fix it approach for many of the key features.
That includes the cleaning system shipped with selected models.
It seems to be identical to the previous generations in terms of design, functionality and pretty much everything else.
That doesn’t automatically mean that it will be backward compatible.
It still uses the same concentrated detergent packs that you must mix with water in the station’s tray.
Detergent has a few advantages over alcohol-based solutions since it doesn’t evaporate as fast and at least the original products are usually cheaper (compared to Braun’s cartridge refills).
On the other hand, you cannot simply take them out of the station when not in use (like you can with the above-mentioned Braun refills).
The station itself is compact, lightweight and made of high-quality plastic.
It’s also quite feature-rich since it can charge, clean, or just dry the shaver — the user can cycle through the available actions via a button.
Moreover, the drying system includes both a fan and a heating element, making it very effective.
And it works really well for cleaning the shaver. The solution also has lubricating properties, so you won’t have to oil the blades.
But again, it’s also really easy to clean the razor yourself, so you might as well save some money and get the ES-LV5U or the ES-LV5G — the latter will also work with the cord plugged in.
Panasonic is one of the few manufacturers that include a small bottle of oil with most of their electric razors.
Lubrication is important, particularly for shavers like the Arc 5 that use cutting parts machined with tight tolerances that rub against each other at very high speed.
Oiling the blades on a regular basis will reduce the friction and wear, while also minimizing the heat generated during use.
I prefer to lubricate my shavers right before using them. If you clean yours with water and liquid soap, I recommend doing it before each shave.
One or two drops of oil on the outside of each foil will suffice. Let the shaver run for a few seconds to distribute the oil across the cutters and gently pat with a paper towel to absorb the excess.
If you don’t use liquid soap, doing this a couple of times a week should be enough.
The cleaning station makes this operation redundant since the solution acts as a lubricant as well.
Replacement parts availability
With most Panasonic shavers, the parts that you’ll eventually need to replace are the two inner blades and the outer foil.
As we already saw, the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 comes with a new, redesigned foil, while the removable blades have remained the same ones from the very beginning.
You can buy them separately or a set, usually for slightly less money.
Here are the part numbers:
- Outer foil: ES9181
- Inner blades: (W)ES9170
- Set: ES9040
As with any newly launched shaver, the availability of the foil and set is limited at this moment.
Precisely, you can only get them from Japan.
The set is already in stock at Amazon.co.jp and the price is actually not too bad — lower than Panasonic’s suggested retail price.
The good news is that all the other previous variations of the Arc 5 foil, including the ones without the comfort rollers, are compatible with the 2021 Arc 5 razors.
So you’ll definitely have cheaper (and easier to get) options as well when it’s time to change them.
Likewise, if you own an older Arc 5, you can upgrade to this 2021 foil. I’ve tried it on my ES-LV65 and it worked perfectly.
For an in-depth explanation of all the available foils for your Arc 5, you can check out my guide here.
Panasonic recommends changing the foil every year and the inner blades every two years.
With regular cleaning and lubrication, that can definitely be achieved.
It will however depend on the coarseness of your beard and how often you shave.
I personally prefer to replace both the foil and the blades at the same time. Using a new foil with the old blades just doesn’t provide the same cutting quality.
Wrap-up — Should you buy the 2021 Arc 5/Series 900?
In short, if you can get it from Japan (using a proxy service for example) without spending too much on taxes and shipping fees, then yes, by all means, you should get it.
Also, the ES-LV9U and ES-LV6U are available globally under the Series 900 name:
Panasonic Series 900 ES-LV6U
And as I already mentioned, these are identical to the Japanese models.
Even with its obvious cost-cutting features (no hard travel case, basic LED display), this Series 900/rev G is the best performing Arc 5 currently available, even though the differences from the older ones are not massive.
The improvements relate mostly to the excellent comfort during the shave and the improved performance of the new foil when shaving longer facial hair.
And since the launch price is actually lower compared to some of the previous revisions (again, it should be), the 2021 Panasonic Arc 5 makes for a very compelling option.
It’s an ideal shaver for men with thick, dense, coarse beards that usually shave more often.
I would still not rate it as highly as a Braun Series 9 or 7 when used of a 3-day beard (or even more).
The closeness of the shave is phenomenal, especially if you add a pre-shave or shaving cream to your routine.
I also found the comfort to be quite good, so unless you have very sensitive skin, I think most users will be fine shaving wet or dry with the Arc 5.
My pick would be the Panasonic ES-LV5U that I bought for myself or the more recent ES-LV6U from the so-called Series 900. They are the cheapest alongside the ES-LV5G and they shave exactly the same as the more expensive models.
I enjoy shaving wet, so I went with the wet/dry ES-LV5U (the ES-LV6U was not available at that time). If that’s not something you’re into, then the ES-LV5G with its cordless and corded operation would make more sense.
I personally don’t need the automatic cleaning station, but you can definitely get one of those models if you have the budget for it (like the ES-LV9U).
Also, the Arc 5 works great as a head shaver, you’ll be able to get a really close shave, but it can be a bit too harsh on the back of the head. But the closeness is among the best you can get from any foil shaver.
I consider value for the money to be very important when buying an electric shaver.
As such, older Panasonic Arc 5 models still make a lot of sense in my opinion.
They cost a lot less, are widely available and you can actually upgrade the foil to any of the newer ones.
If you already own one and it’s still in good shape, why not just upgrade the cutting parts?
That said, the ES-LV65 and ES-LV67 are two very compelling options.
You can often buy them at a discount for a fantastic price.
The former is usually a better option for users in the USA/Canada, while the ES-LV67 is widely available in the UK/Europe for a more reasonable price. But that’s not always the case, so definitely check out both.
These shavers shave just as close as the 2021 models and while they’re not quite as comfortable or as effective on longer beards, the performance is top-notch.
You can get them with a cleaning station as well (ES-LV95, ES-LV97), but again, I don’t think you need it.
Users based in Europe can also consider the newer revision C models that were officially launched there (not in the USA/Canada, though).
Those models include the ES-LV9Q and ES-LV6Q.
I would actually lean more towards these than the 2021 Arc 5: the final price will be lower and they have some other advantages as well (aluminum construction, multi-function LED display, hard travel cases and so on).
And as I already mentioned, you can upgrade the outer foil as well.
I will be posting an in-depth Arc 5 guide and I’ll link to it in this review once it’s live.
UPDATE: The Panasonic Arc 5 guide is now live. Check it out for all the differences between all Arc 5 models ever released.
Finally, when it comes to comfort and shaving longer, wiry, flat-lying hairs that grow in different directions, Braun is still on top.
Their Series 9 is in my experience the best for this type of hair.
So if that sounds like you, I strongly suggest considering a Series 9 instead, I think it’ll be a more suitable shaver. It’s also gentler and better suited for very sensitive skin.
Over to you now: will you be getting the latest Panasonic Arc 5? If you have any other questions related to this topic, make sure to post them in the comments section below.
30 thoughts on “Panasonic Arc 5 2021 (Series 900) Review: Is It Worth Buying?”Leave a comment
Outstanding review as always Ovidiu! Sounds very similar to my experience with every other Arc 5, which is to say excellent. Head interchangeability is a plus for any manufacturer (Norelco being another example) to inexpensively upgrade a shaver, so kudos. I think I’ll stick with my current models until the 6, but sounds like a typical great shaver from Panasonic – thanks for the update!
You are way too kind, Allan, thank you for the comment. That’s basically what it is, yet another excellent Arc 5 with some specific pros and cons (slightly better foil, a couple of compromises like the LED displays and the accessories, but the price is also a bit lower compared to the previous F revision). I do plan on reviewing the Arc 6 next, so I’m also pretty excited about that one.
Great write up on the Arc 5, looks like a great shaver,too bad I just bought a Braun Series 6.
Speaking of Braun, can you tell me if any other Braun Series cartridges will fit my Series 6?
Thank you for your comment. The shaving head of the 2020 Series 7 (the part number is 73s/73b) will actually fit the Series 6 as well. Your Series 6 originally comes with the 53b head. They look the same to me, so I don’t expect you’ll notice any significant differences. In fact, I actually found my Series 6 to be more comfortable than the 7, even though I can’t say if the cassette was the sole cause of that.
Great review as usual!
Thank you, Avi, I really appreciate it. Glad you found the post useful.
Thank you Ovidiu for your comment. It’s much appreciated!
I look forward in reading more comparisons.
My pleasure, Wayne, glad I could be of help.
Informative review as always. I have an Arc 5 LV67 that works great and love how simple it is to clean myself. I’ve used the Revision F foil and, while a bit more gentle, I didn’t find that it shaved any closer and have stuck with the standard foils for now as my go-to replacements.
For me to trade up to a new Arc 5 (one beyond this Revision G) or an Arc 6, I’d like to see it either shave a bit closer or tackle the longer hairs on the neck better. An improvement in either one of these areas and I’m sold.
I do think there’s value to be had with an actual hard travel case for the shaver and, if I do get a new unit, I’d separately spring for a proper case as well.
Thank you, Matt, much appreciated. I agree, the ES-LV65 and ES-LV67 are just unbeatable in terms of value for money — especially when you can get one at a discounted price. That’s why I always recommended them as alternatives to every revision in the third Arc 5 generation. The new ones are better, but only incrementally better.
I will be getting the Arc 6 soon and I’ll do a comparison with the Arc 5 as well.
Thats another great review on the arc 5 shaver I have been using the Panasonic es lv65.s shaver which is a great shaver i like the bit were the new foils would fit the old arc 5 shavers I look forward to getting a new foil and cutter pack in the near future I live in Northern Ireland and I have to send to England to get spares for my shaver as there’s a problem getting spares here with the big retailers thank you
Thanks for the comment, glad you found the review useful.
I personally used a proxy service to buy this shaver from Japan. It’s called forward2me.com and has been very reliable and reasonable as far as costs go. You can buy various things from large Japanese retailers (including Amazon.co.jp). I am not affiliated with forward2me.com in any way (just a satisfied customer).
Thank you for the review; I have relied on your advice for quite a few years now :-).
Question: I have the Panasonic ES-LV9CX-S and it’s time to replace the foil and cutters. Would you recommend purchasing the ES9040 kit from Amazon in Japan for this model? (the price to have it shipped to the US appears to be ~$90.) Or should I replace with a locally available foil/cutter kit, and if so, which one?
Thank you, I really appreciate it.
If you can find locally any of the newer foils that have the comfort rollers, I’d say you should get it. The 2021 foil is incrementally better with longer facial hair, but if you can get another one for significantly less money (those include the ES9034, ES9036, ES9038), that would be a better option in my opinion. The only one that is officially launched in the USA is the old ES9032 (no rollers).
I find your website and reviews to be very informative and accurate! Thanks for all you do in keeping us informed.
Thank you for your comment, Giovanni, much appreciated. Glad you found the information useful.
This review is awesome and accurate. Based in the UK and having had Panasonic Arc’s for sometime now I’m always looking to improve, I had a year with a Braun S7, which was excellent until I replaced the cutter/foil cassette and this lead to it tugging at the whiskers, tried another new cassette but still the same, disappointing as the original had no such issue, so back to Panasonic and this time the 95 – brilliant bit of kit and after three years I replaced this with the 9Q – Not so sure the shave was any better with the 9Q but it was more comfortable, I change the foil and cutters every 7-8 months max as with the motor speed it makes sense, so after two foil/cutter changes it was time for the third, in the UK the part no. 9036 is hard to find at the moment, but thankfully I found your wonderful site and expert review and analysis. Your site told me that there was an updated foil (revision G) and it would fit the 9Q, after reading your review I thought that this has to be my answer to resolve the downsides of the 9Q with under-chin and especially neckline which the 9Q struggles with. Using your advice I managed to order via Amazon Japan the part (ES9040), delivery to the UK took a week and the cost was £70UKP, I usually pay (£50 UKP) for the 9036 parts. After using the new revision G I can’t agree with your expert comments more, the neck line is now NOT a problem, and there is a small improvement in the under-chin, everything else is the same as the previous foil (Rev F). Maybe, just maybe the 6 blade with finally do the job as next year I will be changing the unit, if the 6 blade fits on the 9Q unit then great I’m up for trying that when I change the foils in 7 months and I guess I will be checking on here if you have beat me to it!! Thank you.
Many thanks for taking the time to share this, glad you found the information useful. Unfortunately, the 6 blade unit will not fit the LV9Q or any of the Arc 5 models. As a side note, I have been using the Arc 6 for almost a month now and I can’t say it’s a noticeable improvement over the Arc 5 revision 5 in the areas you’ve mentioned. It is very refined, quieter, fast and the most comfortable Panasonic I’ve used so far, but that’s about it. So for the time being I think you should hold on to your 9Q, especially if you can source the newer foils.
Hey; did something stupid…left my ES-LV65 charging cord at home; any cheaper alternative I could use?!? Also my trimmer seems to be loosening-up…due to plastic reciprocating parts??
The cheapest alternative would be a USB cable with a Panasonic connector on the other end like this one, but I really doubt you can find it in a local store.
Regarding the trimmer, a worn-out plastic bit is most likely the cause. It only happened to me once with an old Arc 4.
I’m 83 and pretty active – cycling, motorcycles etc. I’ve been a noralco shaver for years but I needed a new razor. After reading your review of the Panasonic Arc5 I purchased theLV95 with the cleaning system. I’m more than pleased and really recommend this razor. Thanks again for the thorough review.
Thomas, that is awesome — thank you so much for the comment. Enjoy shaving with your new Arc 5!
By the most in-depth review! Well done! Already own a Braun S9 (bought after reading your review). Somehow I am tempted to also get an Arc5 (though I am very happy with the S9).
Thank you, Lev, I really appreciate it. Both are excellent foil shavers, definitely among the best out there. But they do excel at different things (the S9 is the best in terms of comfort, and effectiveness with difficult/longer facial hair, while the Arc 5 is just great for really close shaves especially if you shave more often).
Great review! I bought the ES-LV6Q on your recommendation and got a fantastic razor! I saw that the grid of the G series can be put on the machine. Is it possible to buy knives (a set) as well, or can it be possible to put only the grid? Will this violate the manufacturer’s warranty?
Thank you, Idanor, glad you enjoy shaving with the ES-LV6Q. You can buy just the foil (grid) or the foil + blades as a set. It’s usually best to replace both because if the blades are worn, you won’t get the best out of the new foil.
A great thorough review as always!! I have read several of your reviews. I have been considering a new electric razor. I have been shaving with Gillette 5 blade cartridges and like the close shave, but hate the cost of the replacement cartridges. I have a travel Philips Norelco electric (two rotary) heads that does a half decent job on dry shaving.
I am debating between Braun series 9 Sport and Arc 5. The Braun series 9 is on sale at Costco for $159.00. I shave daily, unless I am on a multi-day hike, or backpacking trip – so Braun dealing with longer beard better than Panasonic wins that catagory. My concern with Braun is the cleaning pods as they are not recyclable. I know you mentioned aftermarket solutions that can be used in the cleaning pod container until the filter gets clogged. Which keeps it in the running. Not sure how many cleanings that takes? I had an old Braun from the 1980s but the foil really tore up my face. I am sure technology has made the foils much better. I would wet shave too, when time permits.
The Panasonic Arc5 is appealing as it doesn’t require the cleaning station or pods. The Panasonic Arc5 Series 900 is appealing for the improved comfort and cutting cassette, but not the price. It looks like I can get the older ESLV 67 close to same price as the Braun series 9 sport. Any thoughts or comments you may have are appreciated !
Thank you for the comment, I really appreciate it.
If your main concern with the Series 9 is the cleaning cartridge, I think it won’t be a problem. I’ve been using some for years just to see how much abuse they can take, refilling with Cleanerist or other cheap solution I could get here in Europe. The only thing that could break is the mesh filter inside, but as long as you tap out the hairs from the cassette before putting the shaver in the station it should be good and not get clogged/damaged. Also, you can always clean the shaver manually. You will need to wash it with water after every shave in order to keep dirt from piling up inside the head.
The ES-LV67 or ES-LV65 can be had for even less money than the 9 Sport and I think your decision should only be based on the shaver’s performance and how you’ll be using the shaver most of the time. Precisely, the Series 9 is very comfortable, very effective when shaving dry and for longer/flat-lying hairs, while the closeness is good enough, at least for me. The Arc 5 is the closest shaving razor in my experience (alongside the Arc 6), works great with shaving cream and would be ideal for shaving daily. It’s also impressive on thick, dense and relatively straight stubble. You can even upgrade the foil with the one used on the Series 900, so that would be a cheaper upgrade in the future as a new Series 900 shaver could cost a lot.
Hope this helps.
Ovidiu, Great reviews in a complex range.
I am looking at the Panasonic ES-LV6U appears the same as the Panasonic ES-LV9Q, except the display? Can you geta cleaning station for the Panasonic ES-LV6Q. Is the station is useful?
I am also considering the Panasonic ES-LV97. I have a relatively light growth and none on the neck..
I am currently using a 20 year old 3 head Panasonic shaver which is not very close but comfortable and Brawn prior to that.
As usual close and comfortable is good as I have seen in on the internet a user with ES-LV97 got big read blotches all over which is alarming, maybe a faulty product as most rates it highly. Any suggestions welcome.
Many thanks for your help.
Thanks so much for the comment.
I think you should get the ES-LV6U. The differences between that one and the ES-LV9Q are minor (the display, aluminum body for the ES-LV9Q and of course the cleaning station). The ES-LV6U is a newer model with a tweaked outer foil that is marginally better than the one on the ES-LV9Q. The ES-LV6U and any other models that didn’t originally come with a station will not work with a station purchased later on. I personally don’t think the station is a must-have, the shavers are very easy to clean manually.
The ES-LV97 uses an older outer foil that is not as comfortable as the one on the ES-LV6U. You can still get a good shave if you’re careful and don’t press hard, but I would recommend the ES-LV6U if you have sensitive skin.
Hope this helps.