Review Summary Editor's choice
Pros: provides a very close shave, fast motor, good for everyday use, 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 worldwide 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.
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 shave any remaining stubble.
2. Round-shaped outer foils
The perforated stainless steel foil 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.
3. 30 degrees „nanotech” blades
Almost all current Panasonic shavers come equipped 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, 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 jerky.
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.
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 this shortcoming by including a quick charge option, which should give you just enough power for a 5 minutes shave.
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.
The rubber sleeve extends to the side as well and body of the shaver is slim and comfortable to hold.
I also prefer this 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 really 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.
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 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 or shower gel and then start the Sonic Cleaning Mode for cleaning 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.
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, and when it comes strictly to closeness, the Panasonic clearly 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.
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 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.
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 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 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. 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 hard travel case 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 like 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 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 beard 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 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 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).
As I said in my review, this one has an additional cutting element and offers excellent shaving performance.
Panasonic Arc 4 ES8243A (ES8243AA)
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 ES8103S.
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-LT3N-K if you live in the USA.