Review Summary Editor's choice
Pros: provides a very close shave, fast motor, slim shaving head, easy to use and to clean, 10 stage battery level, sturdy construction, decent pop-up trimmer, wet/dry use
Cons: can’t be used while charging, sometimes it struggles with long hairs, no travel lock, not ideal for very sensitive skin
The Panasonic ES8103S from the Arc 3 line is one of the top-selling electric shavers in the USA and for good reason: you get a lot of shaver for the money.
With a powerful motor, sharp blades, sturdy build quality and (usually) an affordable price, it’s easy to see why this particular shaver became a massive success.
And even though it was launched all the way back in 2008, the ES8103S has aged extremely well and it’s still highly relevant today.
Read along for all the pros and cons in our comprehensive Panasonic ES8103S review.
Table of Contents
We’ll kick off this test by quickly going over the most important features of the ES8103S.
1. 3 blade shaving system
As all the shavers in Panasonic’s lineup, the ES8103S features a foil shaving system.
The Arc 3 is Panasonic’s entry-level range of electric shavers.
As the name implies, the razors in this family have 3 shaving elements.
It’s the typical 3-blade foil shaver setup, with two outer foils and one slit trimmer in the middle.
The foil elements cut hairs at skin level, while the middle trimmer with its wider slots captures longer hairs and trims them down to a more manageable size.
The two foils will then cut any remaining stubble at skin level.
2. Round-shaped outer foils
The perforated stainless steel foil that covers the blades has a slightly arched profile, hence the Arc name.
Panasonic calls it a multi-fit arc foil and states that it is designed to follow the contours of the face for maximum efficiency and comfort.
I don’t know about that, but the curved foil head of almost all current Panasonic shavers do manage to get closer than most, particularly when shaving under the chin or above the upper lip.
3. 30 degrees „nanotech” blades
Many Panasonic shavers come with their trademark 30 degrees nanoblades.
Precisely, the blades feature a very sharp bevel that provides a very clean and efficient cut, so you won’t experience any hairs getting yanked.
The three nanotech blades are actually two (oscillating behind the two foil elements), the third one being integrated into the foil block itself (the middle slit trimmer).
Apart from the obvious marketing purpose of this nanotech terminology, Panasonic’s aggressive 30 degrees bevel does make a difference and these blades are some of the best in the industry.
4. High-speed motor
The unit that powers this shaver is a fast, 13 000 CPM (cycles per minute) linear drive motor that provides a counter-directional move of the blades (ie they move in opposite directions) to reduce vibrations and noise.
Speaking of noise levels, some may find the high pitch hum a bit on the loud side.
5. Pivoting shaving head
Another feature worth mentioning is the pivoting function of the shaving head, allowing it to move vertically and also sideways.
Having used Panasonic shavers for many years, I must say that I was never too fond of this feature on entry-level shavers as the flexing is usually very basic (limited range of motion) and becomes jerky in time.
There’s a whole different story with high-end models like Braun Series 9 or Panasonic’s very own Arc 5 or Arc 6.
You have the option to lock the head in place with a switch located on the side of the main body for more precision when shaving tricky areas.
6. Wet/dry use, 100% waterproof
You can use the Panasonic ES81103S for dry or wet shaving, being completely waterproof and safe to use in the shower or with your favorite shaving cream.
7. Cordless operation
As it’s the case with most modern electric razors, the ES81103S can only be used cordless.
As a result, you cannot shave with it when plugged in, so if you forgot to charge it and the battery is dead this may come as a downside.
Panasonic tried to compensate for this shortcoming by including a quick charge option, which should give you just enough power for a 5-minute shave.
Finally, I can’t really consider this a downside as no wet/dry electric shaver can be used while charging as a safety precaution.
Build quality and ergonomics
The build quality of Panasonic shavers has always been top-notch and this one is no exception.
It feels very sturdy and I know from past experience that it can take a beating.
It’s very comfortable in the hand, not too heavy and the grip is excellent.
Weighing only 168g according to my kitchen scale, the Panasonic ES8103S is really easy to maneuver.
The rubber sleeve extends to the side as well and the body of the shaver is slim and comfortable to hold.
I also prefer this silver, classier color scheme to the old blue of the previous generation (pictured below) that also lacked the curved profile of the foils.
The ES81103S with its 3 blade shaving head is also very manageable and nimble, a lot easier to use than an Arc 4 or 5.
This makes it ideal for beginners as well.
A pop-up trimmer is a welcome addition to any shaver and the one we have here does a very good job, but there is one small caveat.
Unlike the newer Panasonic models, the trimmer sits lower on the back of the shaving head, so you can’t perfectly see what you’re doing.
What I found to do the trick is removing the foil frame and the two inner blades. It doesn’t sound very practical, but they’re really easy to remove and put together again.
As for other downsides, the ES81103S doesn’t have a travel lock like the newer models from the Arc 3 line.
Battery life and charging
With a fully charged battery, you should have enough power for 45 minutes of use.
Charging the ES81103S takes about an hour. It comes with the older Panasonic RE7-68 charger, so the charging port is different compared to the one on the newer Panasonic razors.
As a result, some of your existing Panasonic chargers won’t work, so you will need to always charge it with the supplied cord.
The automatic voltage conversion feature means that you will be able to use the ES8103S anywhere as it adapts to any electrical outlet in the world (100 to 240 volts).
The LED display has a few, but useful indicators, like the percentage of battery charge left and it also displays a notification when the shaver needs to be cleaned.
The fact that it shows the battery level in 10% increments is really impressive for a shaver in this price category.
For example, a Braun Series 3 will only feature a 2 or 3-level LED indicator.
Cleaning and maintenance
The more expensive Panasonic models come with an automatic cleaning and charging station. In order to keep the price low, this shaver doesn’t have one.
However, cleaning the ES81103S is very easy, so you don’t really need a cleaning station.
You can rinse it directly under warm tap water or for a more thorough cleaning you can use a bit of liquid soap and then start the Sonic Cleaning Mode by pressing and holding the ON/OFF switch.
This increases the motor’s speed from 13 000 to 17 000 CPM, inducing vibrations that get rid of any debris and hair clippings stuck inside the shaving head.
After that, rinse the shaver thoroughly, shake off excess water and let it air dry completely.
If you use soap to clean it, you should also lubricate the blades regularly with a bit of light oil or a spray lubricant.
And now let’s see how the ES81103S fares in terms of actual shaving performance.
For the majority of potential buyers, this is the decisive part when choosing an electric shaver. It all comes down to a solid shaving experience regardless of all the neat features.
I’m glad to say that the Panasonic ES8103S will be an excellent shaver for most users, particularly in this price range.
In fact, I would even say that it’s probably the closest shaving entry-level electric shaver out there.
For the purpose of this review, I specifically compared it side by side with its direct competitor, the Braun Series 3 ProSkin, and when it comes strictly to closeness, the Panasonic wins.
With the ES81103S you’ll get a very close and adequately comfortable shave.
Even if you have a medium to coarse beard, this shaver will have just enough power for a smooth and close shave.
Now, if you have very sensitive skin, it may be a bit too aggressive and the foils can get a bit too warm. This is a downside of that excellent closeness.
However, with the addition of a pre-shave lotion or even shaving cream/gel if you’re into wet shaving you’ll have no problem getting a comfortable shave.
Lubrication makes a huge difference and as mentioned above, you should do it on a regular basis.
The only areas where the ES81103S will struggle and will require additional passes are the neck and jawline, especially if you have longer hairs that grow in different directions.
In this case you’ll have to change the direction of the stroke and always go against the grain.
This can increase the time it takes to complete your shave. However, most electric shavers have difficulties in this situation.
The Panasonic ES81103S will work best on short facial hair, so it’s recommended to use it more often in order to get the best out of it.
As with any basic foil shaver, getting those flat-lying hairs can be a problem. Again, using it more often will make this less of an issue.
That’s pretty much it, overall the ES81103S punches above its price and would make an ideal everyday shaver.
Being a budget shaver, at least with regards to its price tag, this Panasonic doesn’t come bundled with a lot of goodies.
You will only get an AC adapter, a protective plastic cap, and a travel pouch. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as for a lot of people this is really all they’ll need.
I would have liked to see a cleaning brush or at least the faux leather one that Panasonic includes with some of their other shavers.
Replacement parts availability
As with all foil shavers, you will eventually need to replace the blades and the outer foil. Fortunately, they are widely available (separate or as a set):
- Panasonic WES9087PC Replacement Outer Foil
- Panasonic WES9068PC Replacement Inner Blades
- Panasonic WES9013PC Combo Replacement Foil and Blades Set
The price of the replacement parts is pretty reasonable, but they are more expensive than the ones for similarly priced Braun shavers, like the Series 3.
Wrapup — Who should buy the ES8103S ?
You’ll definitely get a lot of shaver for the money as the ES8103S incorporates the same technology as other more expensive shavers from Panasonic: same motor, same high-quality blades.
The price is kept low by not including a cleaning system and other features like beard density sensors or a travel lock.
If you are looking for a reliable, inexpensive and capable shaver you can’t go wrong with this one.
It works particularly well when used for shaving daily, but you can also get great results shaving every other day, maybe even more if you have a slower beard growth.
Since it’s very easy to use and clean, it will also make a great choice if you’re just getting started with electric shaving.
Panasonic Arc 3 ES8103S
You should definitely shortlist the ES81103S, particularly if you can find it at a nice discount.
The first obvious choice would be its direct competitor from Braun, the Series 3.
As I said in my detailed comparison of the two, I find the Arc 3 line from Panasonic to outperform the shavers from the Series 3 when it comes strictly to the closeness of the shave.
While the Arc 3 is more powerful and shaves faster and closer, the Series 3 is more comfortable out of the box.
So if you suffer from sensitive skin, the Series 3 ProSkin from Braun is probably a better option.
Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s
The Series 3 is also a bit better at catching longer, flat-lying hairs than the Arc 3, so that’s another thing to consider if you don’t shave as often.
My pick would be the 3040s ProSkin that I reviewed here. It is suitable for wet/dry operation and it’s inexpensive.
Finally, for just a few dollars more you can go for a Panasonic Arc 4 like the ES8243A (ES8243AA) or ES-LA63AA.
As I said in my review, this one has an additional cutting element and offers excellent shaving performance.
Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63AA
It also comes with a faux leather travel case. I would personally spend a few dollars more and go for this one instead of the ES-LA63AA.
Finally, there are the latest Arc 3 LT models released a few years ago.
However, after reviewing them, I can’t really recommend them over the older variations like the ES8103S.
Yes, the design is a lot slicker and more modern, they have a travel lock and come with a fancy beard density sensor.
But in real-world use, the shaving performance has remained pretty much unchanged.
Moreover, the shaving heads of the new Arc 3 models are bulkier due to a large foil frame, which makes them a bit more difficult to use.
I would however recommend them if you can’t get the ES8103S in your country (for example, it’s pretty difficult to buy in Europe or it’s very expensive).
The new ES-LT2N is usually the most reasonably priced model in Europe or the ES-LT67 if you live in the USA.
23 thoughts on “Panasonic ES8103S Review: Still The Best Arc 3?”Leave a comment
Brilliant insights. Thanks for the tips.
Thanks for your comment, Jay. Glad you found the information useful.
What is the difference between the Panasonic ES8103S and ES8103? Some replacement parts only list compatibility with ES8103 but will they also be compatible with the ES8103S?
No difference, it’s the same shaver (S stands for Silver and it’s sometimes left out).
Thanks for all the shaver reviews you have done. They have really helped me narrow down my choice to the old & reliable ES8103S. I have been using a really old Braun 6520 for at least 25 years. I had to replace the batteries about 2 years ago. Recently, the razor has been making strange sounds and momentarily “locking up”, so its time to replace it.
Question on foil/cutter replacements: On the Braun, I have only had to replace the foil a couple of times over its lifetime. What kind of life can I expect from the Panasonic foils & cutting blades? I know that Panasonic recommends replacement every 18 months or so, but what is your real life experience? I only changed the Braun’s foil when the cutters finally wore thru the foil.
I also see that they sell the foils and blades separately and as a combo.
Thank you for your comment, Tom, glad you found the review useful.
With the current electric shavers, you will definitely need to replace the cutters and foils more often. Panasonic recommends changing them every year, but that will vary a lot. If you clean and lubricate them regularly you can easily go beyond that, especially if your facial hair isn’t very coarse. My experience isn’t however very relevant as I use a lot of different shavers, so it doesn’t really resemble a typical use case when you have a single shaver that’s used constantly.
I highly recommend changing both the blades and outer foil.
Are all the other models of the arc the same in the interest of comfort and irritation as its been quite hard finding this exact model in my area?
If you’re referring to the Arc 3 line then yes, pretty much. I would stay away from the ones with slower motors though as they’re nowhere near as good. As long as the specs sheet mentions a 13 000 CPM motor, it should shave just like the ES8103S.
So impressed with Panasonic as a company, they make products that last. I’m STILL using a. Panasonic shaver that has to be between 20 & 30 years old – an ES8068. It has original everything – foil, plexiglass foil cover, battery, charger, cleaning brush and blue drawstring pouch. It charges fully and still gives as close a shave as you’re going to get with any battery shaver. I am curious as to exactly how old it is. For its time it had some extremely advanced technology, LI-Poly battery (molds to any available space), Linear motor, wet/dry shaver with a non-contact charger (no metal to metal contact.) The only drawback (if you could call it that) is that the battery will lose charge over time. I have a beard and use this shaver for trims every three days. If I don’t trim and charge for say three weeks and use it it will cut out after about a minute of use; I have to keep it “topped up.”
Thank you for taking the time to share this. The ES8068 is one of the all-time greatest shavers in my opinion, but Panasonic razors in general are extremely robust and built to last. It’s a shame they never reached the same popularity as the other two big brands, at least in the USA.
I stumbled on your site after trying to find the best electric razor and can say you have the best insight on shavers! I am on a budget and am trying to figure out if i should go with the Arc 3 (ES8103S) or Braun series 5 (5018s). This will be my first electric shaver. I like the close shave of the arc 3 but do have sensitive skin but after reading your review on the new Braun series, it’s not as good as the older models. My facial hair fair is mostly thin and does take longer than most to grow out. Any input would be greatly appreciated!
Thank you for the kind words, much appreciated. Strictly between those two, I would go with the Arc 3. It should still be comfortable enough for most users. I just didn’t like the new Series 5, 6, or 7. There would be a third option if you can get it, the Arc 3 ES-LL41-K. I’m still in the process of testing it, but it is surprisingly comfortable, the comb attachments work great and it shaves close like any other Arc 3. The price is also very reasonable, often cheaper than the ES8103S.
Thanks, Ovidue! Right now, it’s a toss up between the arc 3’s (ES8103S and ES-LL41-K) and braun series 5 (5140s). I think my skin would appreciate the comfort of the braun.
No problem, glad I could help. I think so too, I own an older generation Series 5 as well and it is gentler than an Arc 3. After several months of use, Panasonic foils in general will start to get increasingly warm which isn’t ideal if you have sensitive skin. Braun shavers, particularly the ones from the Series 5 and up aren’t affected by this to the same degree and tend to remain reasonably cool.
Somewhat related to GC’s question, I’ve got sort-of sensitive skin and slow, sparse growth but wet-shave stubble in the shower every weekday to keep things clean-looking. I’ve been using disposable razors for a while but have nicked myself one too many times as I tend to (try to) go fast. My decades-old hand-me-down Philips HS250 travel rotary is probably not what I should go back to haha.
I’ve spent maybe 8 hours reading your reviews now (it’s that good!) but I still can’t choose between the Braun 5140s (for $180 locally), and the Pana ES-LL21 (for $130). There’s also the ES-LT2N ($160) and Braun S5-B1000s ($125; related to the 5018s perhaps?) but those seem to be compromised in their own ways—correct me if I’m wrong though.
I can source the ES-LL21’s foil and blades for $65, and the 5140s cartridge for $49, and figure I’d need two sets of replacements to cover the 5-7 years I expect the shaver battery to last for given my lighter use. So they come out pretty evenly in cost.
Given the old Series 5 is marketed a bit above the Arc 3, should I even be cross-shopping them, or just go for the 5140s as a no-brainer? Or is the Arc 3 actually competitive? I’m concerned the Brauns are harder to clean and keep in good condition, but only the Panasonics have the sonic cleaning mode, and that the Panasonics may be a bit harsh on the skin to get the close shave.
Thanks in advance for your guidance!
Thank you for your comment.
All things considered, I think you should go with the Braun 5140s. I would disregard the newer S5-B1000s and the new Series 5 in general — the 5140s is hands down a better shaver in all regards.
Even though Panasonic shavers work generally great during a wet shave, they’re still not as gentle as a decent Braun foil razor like the old Series 5 generation. That’s actually why I think you should get the Series 5 instead of the ES-LL21 or the ES-LT2N.
As long as you clean the cassette after every use (I would highly recommend warm water and liquid soap if you’ll also be using shaving cream), I don’t think you’ll have any issues.
Also, if you’re thinking about trying a quick dry shave in the future (preferably with a pre-shave lotion like the ones from Speick or Tabac), the Series 5 will also be a bit better suited for someone with sensitive skin.
And Panasonic replacement sets are traditionally more expensive, even in the case of entry-level shavers like the Arc 3.
Great review, bought the ES8103S shaver last April 2021 for $59 and it’s the best shaver I’ve ever owned. I’ve had Remington, Norelco and Braun. Braun exclusively for the last ten years. Unfortunately they’ve become too expensive and they’re quality has fallen in my opinion. So did some research and chose the Panasonic ES8103S and very glad I did, this shaver works Great! Almost twice the price now $109, for fifteen dollars more you can buy the Flagship Model Arc5! Still worth it in my opinion.
Thanks for the great in-depth review,
Many thanks for the comment. I totally agree, it’s a great shaver and my personal favorite in the Arc 3 range, even though it’s 14 years old.
Great review, I tried to post a comment a couple weeks ago, I can’t find it now, maybe it didn’t make it, but thought I’d try again.
At least on my face, the Arc 3 shaves the closest of all my razors (current and past). Right now I have the Braun 9, Arc 5, Norelco prestige and this older Arc 3. I actually ran across my old Arc 3 in the back of a drawer and had forgotten about it. I was curious so charged it up and used it, I was amazed, it wasn’t as fast a shave as my newer Arc 5 but it got way closer in the end. It’s like the Arc 5 gets me to level 8.5 in about 5 minutes, but the Arc 3 got me to level 10 in about 10 minutes. I even did some tests and shaved first with the Arc 5, for about 10-15 minutes, trying to get every hair as good as totally possible, then I grabbed the Arc 3 and heard that satisfying rattle of it cutting hairs that the Arc 5 didn’t, when I got done shaving, my face was literally as smooth as if I did a careful shave with a regular blade and shaving cream. Even rubbing my fingers against the grain there was zero feelable stubble. An absolute perfect shave. I hunted another one down on ebay and just ordered it. My poor other razors will probably just gather dust now as none of them can match this razor for closeness, at least not in a decent time frame. The Norelco can get really close but it literally takes about 30 minutes of solid shaving as you have to press one of the rotors down and drag it against the grain so your only shaving like an 8th of an inch with each pass. The Braun 9 has zero chance of ever getting my face smooth, I’ve tried it for non stop 30 minutes, every direction, various pressures, angles, etc. It’s like having your lawn mower blade set too high, no amount of mowing will ever get the lawn shorter.
Really enjoy your reviews, thanks for all your hard work on these!
Many thanks for the comment, I really appreciate it. Your previous comment did make it and I even replied to it here. 🙂
As I mentioned there, I think the difference in closeness between your Arc 3 and Arc 5 comes down to the former having sharper blades and less worn foils. A brand new Arc 5 will cut the hairs closer to the skin than a new Arc 3 and it will also be faster as you’ve mentioned. But the Arc 3 is one of the best shavers in the entry-level segment, if not the best and it’s also cheap compared to the other ones you own. I agree that neither the Series 9 nor the Prestige will win any prices for closeness, although they have other specific pros, especially when compared to Panasonic shavers for example.
Oh man there’s my comment, I searched and searched and couldn’t find it, even read every review on your site about panasonic to see the comments but still couldn’t find it lol thanks for the link 🙂
I thought that too about the blades so I ordered a new set of Panasonic brand Arc 5 foil/blades, installed em and it still shaved the same as it did with the older blades and the Arc 3 still beat it out by quite a bit. I did that test again where I shaved for a long time with the Arc 5 until it was as close as it would get (uncountable passes from all directions over the same areas), I rubbed the skin against the grain and could feel some little stubble, then grabbed the Arc 3 and as soon as I started going over those areas I could hear that rattle sound of it cutting more and when I rubbed my skin against the grain after, it was as smooth as if I never ever even had whiskers.
I can’t imagine my Arc 5 being defective? As long as it’s vibrating the blades back and forth, all the cutting ‘should’ be about the blades and screen/head right?
It’s highly unlikely to be anything wrong with your Arc 5 shaver. The part most susceptible to causing problems is the shaving head, ie the foil & blades and you replaced them. So the only thing I can think of to account for the results is that for some reason the large Arc 5 head and the specific way you use it (there are small shaving technique variations among different users) prevent it from cutting the hairs as close as possible. But getting a better shave with the Arc 3 is ideal since it’s cheaper and more manageable with that small shaving head.
ok thanks very much, I think it’s just my face, I have a thinner face and I think the larger head kinda ‘rides over’ areas. (I’ve had the Arc 5 for over a year so have really learned techniques, etc. ) I would bet the blades and screen work just as well as the Arc 3 and logically 4 regular vs 2 regular blades should cut faster (each pass of the Arc 5 would be 2x the cutting of the Arc 3), it has to be that the Arc 3 is smaller and fits into dents, etc. Thanks for all your responses 🙂