The good: very close shaves, comfortable, wet & dry operation, powerful motor, easy to clean, quiet, compact size, very good build quality, excellent battery life
The bad: foil tends to get warm during prolonged use, standard retail price is pretty high, replacement shaving heads are a bit pricy
The Panasonic ES-LF-51-A Arc 4 electric shaver promises remarkably close and comfortable shaves due to its smart and innovative features.
We have put the shaver through its paces for almost a month of use in various situations and have come up with an in-depth, real-world Panasonic ES-LF51-A review.
Read along to see how it performed and if it’s worth buying.
Table of Contents
As the name Arc 4 suggest, it features a 4 blade shaving head (2 cutting foils, 1 slit foil and 1 finishing foil) and it’s powered by a very fast and quiet 14 000 CPM (cycles per minute) linear motor.
The blades are Panasonic’s now notorious nano-blades, made from high-quality stainless-steel and sharpen at a very aggressive 30 degrees angle, ensuring clean and effective cutting.
The cutting head has a pivoting function, allowing it to move up and down and also to pivot from left to right.
It can be locked in place when shaving delicate areas for more precision and control.
Other features worth mentioning are the LED readout, built-in pop-up trimmer, travel lock, 5 minute quick charge option and a sonic vibration cleaning mode.
You can check out our unboxing video below:
Build quality and ergonomics
The Panasonic ES-LF51-A is surprisingly compact for a 4 blade razor. The shaving head is not as bulky as the pictures may suggest, while the shaver itself fits great in the hand and feels light and well ballanced.
The build quality is usually very solid with Panasonic razors and this one is no exception. The plastic has a glossy finish with a nice pearly effect, while a textured rubber sleeve covers the back and the sides, ensuring a very secure grip.
The 5 stage LED display is clear and useful, displaying the remaining battery charge in increments of 20%.
Surrounding the power button you’ll find the circular travel lock switch, while on the side there is a switch for locking the pivoting head in place.
On the back side there is a pop-up trimmer, typical for Panasonic shavers. As I’ve said in other reviews, I don’t find this positioning particularly fortunate as the shaving head gets in the way and you can’t really see what you’re doing. A quick and easy fix to this is to remove the foil and inner blades.
Overall the build quality and ergonomics are very good and nothing really stands out in a negative way.
Click the images for full size.
Battery life and charging
Like all wet & dry shavers nowadays, the Panasonic ES-LF51-A can only be used cordless as a safety precaution.
It comes with a Li-Ion battery that should be able to provide enough power for 45 minutes of use. And in real life use it matches the claimed numbers.
Moreover, due to the fact that the motor maintains its peak power right until the end, it gives the impression of even longer battery life. Therefore, no pulling or tugging is experienced when the battery is running low as it’s the case with other electric shavers.
Charging takes approximately one hour and is carried out via the included AC 100-240V adapter. When plugged in, the charge status icon will glow and the number of the battery capacity lamp will increase as the charging progresses. When completed, all the lights will turn off.
Cleaning and maintenance
Since it doesn’t come with a cleaning station, the ES-LF51-A must be cleaned manually after every use. Since it’s completely waterproof, this operation is very straightforward and easy.
After completing the shave, just pour some liquid soap on the outer foil and activate the cleaning mode by pressing and holding the power button.
After approximately 20 seconds it will automatically turn off. After that you just remove the outer foil, press and hold again the power button to activate the cleaning mode again and hold the shaver with the inner blades under running tap water.
Give the outer foil a thorough and careful rinse too; pat the shaver and foil with a towel and let them dry completely before storing the shaver in a cabinet.
Manually cleaning is a breeze with Panasonic shavers and it takes under 1 minute. That’s not the case with the foil shavers from Braun for example. As a result, there’s really no need for a cleaning station.
I have been using the ES-LF51-A for almost a month by the time of writing this review. In order to get a more accurate and unbiased picture of its performance, the razor was used in various scenarios — one to three days of growth, both dry and wet shaving.
The shaving performance was very solid for both closeness and comfort. It shaves effortlessly and with minimal discomfort — in the form of the foil getting warm after extended use — but not to the point where it would cause razor burn or irritation.
I also liked the fact that despite its 4 blades, the shaving head is compact and easy to maneuver and makes the whole experience very enjoyable.
What really impresses is the fast 14000 CPM motor that really maintains its performance even when the battery is almost drained and manages to cut the hairs very close and with minimal effort.
Shaving takes little time and I experienced no tugging or pulling regardless of how the shaver was being used. It’s also quiet during operation, generating a high pitched, but not at all intrusive buzz.
The only time where I had to try harder in order to get a smooth shave was when I had to shave longer hairs on my neck that tend to lie flat and grow in different directions.
However, I had this problems with shavers that cost more than twice the price of the ES-LF51-A and only when shaving a two or three days beard.
All in all, a very solid performance.
This is the part where I expected a bit more. Panasonic decided to only include a faux leather travel case and the AC adapter; not even a cleaning brush or a small bottle of oil for lubricating the foil and cutters.
Other manufacturers — like Braun for example — include this type of accessories even for their lower priced shavers.
Also, if you would like a cleaning and charging station you will have to look elsewhere as the ES-LF51-A doesn’t offer the option for one.
Replacement parts availability
Panasonic recommends replacing the outer foil every year and the two inner blades every two years. You can also buy them together as a set.
While the blades are very reasonably priced, the outer foil is a bit on the expensive side. Buying them together as a set also won’t give you any benefits in terms of money savings.
The blades and foil combo represents basically a third of the shaver’s price.
As a comparison, a replacement cassette (foil and cutters) for Braun 7 Series 790CC usually costs half the price of a Panasonic foil and blades combo.
Wrapup – Who should buy it?
Panasonic ES-LF51-A is a very easy to use shaver that performs excellent, provides close and comfortable shaves and has great battery life. It can be used for both wet and dry shaving and its compact size makes it suitable for traveling too.
Anyone looking for a capable foil shaver should definitely consider it. It’s suitable for sensitive skin, deals great with both coarse and fine hair, while the powerful motor and the 4 blades ensure fast shaving times. It can also be successfully used for shaving the head.
For starters, we have the excellent Panasonic ES-LA63-S from the same Arc 4 family, a very similar shaver in terms of specs and performance.
It has the same powerful 14 000 CPM motor, same inner blades, a more complex pivoting mechanism of the shaving head and can sometimes be bought for even less money then the ES-LF51-A in this review.
A unique feature of the ES-LA63-S is the addition of a second motor inside the shaving head that vibrates the foils to capture hairs more efficiently, similar to Braun’s pulsonic technology.
For these reasons I actually recommend it over the ES-LF51-A if you can get it for a similar price.
If you have very sensitive skin, a Braun Series 5 is probably a better option for roughly the same price. The 5090cc that we reviewed here would be the best pick as it also comes with an automatic cleaning station and is very gentle to the skin and forgiving.
Braun Series 5 5090cc
Unlike the Panasonic, the foils remain cool even after an extended use.
The replacement shaving heads are usually cheaper compared to the ones needed for the Arc 4 shavers from Panasonic.
And finally, the Panasonic ES8243A Arc 4 is great choice if you have a limited budget. In terms of performance, the only difference compared to the ES-LF51-A is a slightly less powerful motor.
However, 13 000 CPM it’s still easily enough and the performance drop will be insignificant and most importantly, the price of the ES8243A is very reasonable.
And this is my main gripe with the ES-LF51-A. It is an excellent product, but unless you can find it at a great discount there are other better options for the same or less money. Definitely check them out before buying it.