The good: wet/dry use, provides a close shave, suitable for sensitive skin, good for everyday use, inexpensive, sturdy construction.
The bad: can’t be used while charging, sometimes it struggles with long hairs, a bit noisy, no cleaning/charging dock.
The Panasonic ES8103S from the Arc 3 line is one of the top selling electric shavers worldwide and for good reason: you get a lot of shaver for your buck.
With a powerful linear motor, sharp blades, sturdy build quality and an affordable price, it’s easy to see why this particular shaver is a massive success.
Read along for all the meaty details in our comprehensive Panasonic ES8103S review.
Table of Contents
- Features overview
- Build quality and ergonomics
- Battery life and charging
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Shaving performance
- Included accessories
- Replacement parts availability
- Wrapup — Who should buy it?
- Alternative shavers
Pivoting shaving head
As all the shavers in Panasonic’s lineup, the ES8103S features a foil shaving system.
The actual shaving head is made out of a perforated stainless steel foil that is slightly curved and covers the cutting blades.
Panasonic calls it a multi-fit arc foil and states that it is designed to follow the contours of your face for maximum efficiency and comfort.
The whole shaving block can be easily taken apart for cleaning by pressing the release buttons located on both sides of the foil frame.
Another feature worth mentioning is the pivoting function of the shaving head, allowing it to swivel back and forth 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 and jerky.
There’s a whole different story with high-end models like Braun Series 9 or Panasonic;s very own Arc 5 line.
You have the option to lock the head into place with a switch located on the side of the main body for more precision when shaving tricky areas.
30 degrees „nanotech” blades
The three nanotech blades are actually two, the third one being integrated in the foil itself and serves the purpose of trimming the longer hairs to a more manageable length and are then captured and cut at skin level by the two outer foils.
Apart from the obvious marketing purpose of this nanotech terminology, I must admit that Panasonic’s aggressive 30 degrees bevel does make a difference, ensuring an extremely clean and efficient cutting. So you won’t experience any tugging or pulling with this one.
High Speed linear motor
The unit that powers this shaver is a fast, 13 000 CPM (cycles per minute) linear 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, especially when compared to a Braun foil shaver like the 3040s ProSkin.
The whole shaving head is a bit bulky and with the trimmer positioned below it, you can’t really see what you’re doing.
What I found to do the trick is to remove the foil frame and the two blades. It doesn’t sound very practical, but they’re really easy to remove and put together again.
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.
As it’s the case with most modern electric razors, the ES81103S can be used cordless.
However, you cannot shave with it is plugged in, so if you forgot to charge it and the battery is dead this may come as a downside.
Panasonic tried to compensate this shortcoming by including a quick charge option, which should charge the battery with enough juice for a 5 minutes shave.
I can’t really consider this a downside as all wet/dry electric shavers can’t be used while charging as a safety precaution.
Build quality and ergonomics
The build quality of Panasonic shavers was always top notch and this one is no exception.
It feels very sturdy and it looks like it can take a beating.
It’s very comfortable in the hand, not too heavy and the grip is excellent.
I also prefer this classier color scheme to the old blue/navy blue of the previous generation (pictured below) that also lacked the curved foils.
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 and it shouldn’t be left plugged in after the battery is fully charged, as doing this repeatedly will reduce its lifespan.
The automatic voltage conversion feature means that you will be able to use it anywhere, as it adapts to any electrical outlet in the world.
The LED display has a few, but useful indicators, like the percentage of battery power left and it also displays a notification when the shaver needs to be cleaned.
Cleaning and maintenance
The more expensive Panasonic models come with an automatic cleaning and charging dock/system. In order to keep the price low, this shaver doesn’t have one.
However, cleaning the ES81103S is very easy: you can rinse directly under warm tap water or for a more thorough cleaning you can use a bit of liquid soap or shower gel and then start the Turbo Mode for cleaning by pressing and holding the ON/OFF switch.
This increases the motor’s speed from 13000 to 17000 CPM, creating vibrations that get rid of any debris and hair clippings stuck inside the shaving head.
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 will say this right off the bat, the Panasonic ES8103S is an excelent shaver and you can’t go wrong with it, especially for the money you’re paying.
In fact, I would even say that it’s the closest shaving entry level electric shaver. For the purpose of this review I compared it side by side with its direct competitor, the Braun Series 3 3040s, and when it comes strictly to closeness, the Panasonic leaves it in the dust.
Panasonic ES8103S Arc 3
With the ES81103S you’ll get a very close and adequately comfortable shave. Even if you have a a medium to coarse beard, this shaver will have no problem in delivering a smooth and irritation free shave.
Now, if you have very sensitive skin the Panny may be a bit too aggressive and even get a bit too warm. This is a downside of that closeness.
However, with the addition of a pre shave or even shaving cream if you’re into wet shaving you’ll have no problems in getting a perfectly comfortable shave.
The only areas where the ES81103S will struggle a bit and will require additional passes are the neck and jaw line, especially if you have longer hair that grows in different directions.
In this case you’ll have to change the direction of the strokes 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.
That’s pretty much it, overall the ES81103S punches way 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. Which 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 hard travel case or at least the faux leather one that Panasonic includes with the Arc 4 shavers, but it is what it is. At this price point I can’t really complain.
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 Men’s Shaver Replacement Outer Foil
- Panasonic WES9068PC Men’s Shaver Replacement Inner Blade
- Panasonic WES9013PC Combo Replacement Shaver Foil and Blade Set
The price of the replacement parts is pretty reasonable, but more expensive than the ones for similarly priced Braun shavers, like the Series 3.
Wrapup — Who should buy it?
You’ll definitely get more than what you pay for as the ES8103S incorporates the same technology like other more expensive shavers from Panasonic: same motor, same blades, same foil.
The price is kept low by not including a cleaning system and other features like lift-tech foil or travel lock.
If you are looking for a reliable, inexpensive and very 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 if you have a slower growth.
Since it’s very easy to use and to clean, it will also make a great choice if you’re just getting started with electric shaving.
Panasonic ES8103S Arc 3
You can currently find the ES8103S on sale on Amazon.com at a bargain price, so you should definitely shortlist it.
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 in pretty much all aspects.
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 from Braun is probably a better option.
Braun 3040s ProSkin
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. As I said in my review, this one has an additional cutting element and offers excellent shaving performance.
Panasonic ES8243A Arc 4
It also comes with a faux leather travel case. I would personally spend a few dollars more and go for the ES8243A Arc 4.