Pros: close and comfortable shaves, reasonably priced, easy to use and to clean, good pop-up trimmer, wet and dry use, great for beginners, quality blades, solid build quality, useful LCD display
Cons: not quite as good as the more powerful Arc 4 models, replacement parts are pricey, no travel lock, works best on short hair
The ES8243AA/ES8243A is one of the best-selling Panasonic electric shavers in the Arc 4 line.
With a compelling set of features and a reasonable price, this model appears to have a lot going on for it.
But in order to keep the costs low, some compromises had to be made, especially in comparison to other Arc 4 models.
After thoroughly testing the Panasonic ES8243AA for several weeks, in this review I will share everything you need to know before buying it.
We’ll check out its pros and cons, how it stacks against other Arc 4 models and some similarly priced shavers from Braun.
Let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- Features overview
- Build quality and ergonomics
- Included accessories
- Battery life and charging
- Shaving performance
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Replacement parts availability
- Wrapup — Who should buy the Panasonic ES8243A(A)?
- Alternative shavers
My review unit is the ES8243AA model (the one with the blue LCD display). For some reason, the ES8243A variation is getting really difficult to find as of 2020.
But again, they are absolutely identical (design and performance-wise), so you should simply get the one you’re able to find (at a better price).
4-blade shaving system
As the Arc 4 name suggests, the ES8243A/ ES8243AA features a shaving unit comprised of 4 slightly arched cutting elements.
Precisely, there are two regular foils (the two outermost ones), one finishing foil that cuts hairs very close to the skin and one slit trimmer for cutting longer, flat-lying hairs.
As usual, there are two inner removable blades (corresponding to the regular outer foils), while the other two are integrated into the foil block.
The four cutters can also move independently, although the range of motion is quite short.
The blades feature Panasonic’s trademark 30 degrees bevel that allows them to cut the hairs clean and efficiently.
Flexible shaving head
The entire head unit of the ES8243AA can move from right to left and it can also be depressed.
This supposedly ensures better contact with the skin and makes it easier to follow the contours of the face.
A switch on the right side of the shaver allows the user to lock the head in a fixed position when more precision is needed.
13 000 CPM motor
The ES8243AA/ES8243A is fitted with a fast 13 000 CPM (cycles per minute) linear drive motor.
Other shavers in the Arc 4 family come with an upgraded 14 000 CPM unit that’s used on the more expensive Arc 5 models.
We’ll see how this affects the results in the performance section of the review.
Other important features that will be covered later on are:
- Popup trimmer
- 10-stage LCD display
- Wet & dry use
- 5-minute quick charge option
- Sonic cleaning mode
Build quality and ergonomics
In my opinion, the build quality of Panasonic’s electric razors is currently the best out of all the major brands, regardless if we’re talking about entry-level or high-end models.
The material choice, fittings, engineering, and durability are usually on a different level compared to the competition.
So obviously, my expectations were high for the ES8243AA, even though it’s a more affordable Arc 4 variation.
Fortunately, things are good for the most part.
The shaver feels well-balanced and lightweight and the slim body makes it really comfortable to hold.
Compared to other 4-blade Panasonic razors, the ES8243A(A) has one of the slimmest shaving heads, making it easier to use and maneuver around tight spots.
The build quality seems solid and even though it’s entirely made out of plastic, it’s a high-quality plastic that should be able to hold up well in time.
There’s a rubber-like sleeve that covers the back and the sides of the shaver, providing a decent grip even when it’s wet.
To be perfectly honest, it could have been better. For example, one of my other Arc 4 models, the Panasonic ES-LF51-A, is noticeably grippier.
Also, the hexagon-shaped dimpled area on the front that should serve as a thumb rest has a glossy finish, so it’s not ideal.
The blue pearlescent paint looks quite nice and I know from previous experience that it will not tarnish in time, even if you use shaving cream and clean the shaver with water and soap.
Again, Panasonic seems to be on top when it comes to build quality.
On the back of the shaving head, there’s a popup trimmer that can be deployed by sliding a switch forward.
This is the older style of Panasonic’s trimmers (also used on the ES-LF51-A Arc 4); the newer ones use a multifunction switch that can also lock the head in place.
On the ES8243A and ES8243AA, that function is achieved via a dedicated switch located on the right side.
In the soft position, the head can move freely, while sliding it up will lock it in a fixed position.
This can come in handy when shaving more difficult areas, like the one below the nose.
The LCD display of the ES8243AA is one of the better designed and most useful you’ll find on any shaver.
It shows the battery level in increments of 10% and will even display the duration of your shaving session.
Surprisingly, the shaver doesn’t have a travel lock.
Other Arc 4 models like the aforementioned ES-LF51-A or ES-LA63AA feature dedicated physical switches that prevent accidental operation.
It’s a bit disappointing, but most likely another cost-cutting measure.
Overall, the build quality of the ES8243AA is very good, but the shaver’s lower price is reflected in some areas, like the lack of a travel lock and the less powerful motor.
In fact, given its design and features, it looks and feels more like an Arc 3 ES8103S with an extra blade:
They even use the same 13 000 CPM motors as opposed to the more powerful units fitted to the other Arc 4 models.
But again, considering the price point, it’s somewhat understandable.
Here’s what you’ll find in the box (apart from the shaver itself):
- Protective cap
- Faux leather soft travel pouch
- User manual, warranty cards, leaflets
Unfortunately, the bundle is pretty basic.
You won’t even get a cleaning brush or a small bottle of lubricant.
Battery life and charging
The Panasonic Arc 4 ES8243A (ES8243AA) is a wet & dry model, 100% waterproof, that can only be operated cordless.
As such, it’s fitted with a rechargeable Li-ion battery that should give you around 45 minutes of use.
And I did find this to be pretty accurate, even though I always charged mine once the battery dropped below 20% as it would cause the motor to slow down a bit.
There’s a 5-minute quick charge function as well that should provide just enough charge to complete one shave.
Charging the shaver takes just under one hour.
The automatic voltage conversion adapts to any voltage between 100-240v, so you can also use it when traveling abroad.
Unfortunately, this shaver comes with the old connector, so the chargers used by the newer Panasonic models will not be compatible.
And this is odd since the ES8243A and ES8243AA are actually newer than other Arc 4 models that come with the newer connectors and chargers.
The compatible charger has the part number WES8228K7558 if you ever need to buy it later on.
The 10-stage battery level indicator and the duration of the shave (shown in minutes and seconds) are excellent.
I must say again that I really like the LCD display of the ES8243AA because it’s genuinely useful and I wish more shavers would feature something similar.
I’ve always been a fan of the Arc 4 range from Panasonic, particularly in recent years when the prices of these models started to go down.
They used to be quite pricey in the past and for only a few dollars more you could get an Arc 5 for example.
The ES8243A/ES8243AA is usually the cheapest out of all the (still) available Arc 4 models, which makes it even more intriguing for the potential buyer.
So let’s see how good the shaver really is.
I tested my ES8243AA for a couple of weeks and tried to use it in a variety of situations to see how well it can handle them.
I shaved daily, every other day and every 3 days, both wet and dry.
Let’s start with the closeness of the shave.
For the most part, shaving with the Panasonic ES8243A resulted in an adequately close shave.
It was consistent in all the areas of my face, while some other (less capable) shavers only manage to perform well on my cheeks.
It even managed to get close under my chin, usually a problem area in my case.
Using the Speick pre-shave lotion actually improved the closeness during a dry shave, especially on the neck.
I think most men will find it satisfactory in this regard.
However, my other Arc 4 shavers did manage to get even closer to the skin, especially when shaving right below the nose.
This is likely due to the more powerful motor and possibly the foil and cutters themselves (which are different from the ones used by the ES8243AA).
As mentioned previously, the ES8243A/ES8243AA comes with a 13000 CPM motor that (on paper) is only slightly less powerful, but in my case, it was also noticeable during use.
I have medium to coarse facial hair and the shaver fared quite well, but again, I would have liked a bit more power.
Even so, I think most users, unless they have very coarse, wiry hair, will find it suitable.
One of the weak points of several Panasonic shavers, the comfort, was surprisingly good in the case of the ES8243A.
In fact, I think it was the best Arc 4 I’ve tried in this regard, especially when used dry.
I have a really sensitive neck and I often get irritation and razor burn when using shavers that are a bit more aggressive.
And the ones from Panasonic usually are.
But to my surprise, I didn’t have any major issues with the ES8243AA except for some minor post-shave stinging that quickly disappeared after applying an aftershave balm.
Using a pre-shave prior to my shave resulted in an even closer and smoother shave.
The foils of some Panasonic shavers, particularly the Arc 3 and even some Arc 4 models, tend to get quite warm during use.
In this case, the foils did get warm, but not to the point of causing discomfort and only toward the end of my shave.
Panasonic makes state-of-the-art foils and blades with incredibly small tolerances, to the friction between them is higher than in the case of other brands.
That’s why is particularly important to lubricate them regularly, especially if you clean the shaver with water and soap.
You can use a light lubricant like clipper oil or a spray cleaner and lubricant for electric shavers. For all the details you can check out my guide here.
Shaving longer hairs
The Panasonic ES8243A works best on short facial hair, so using it daily or every other day will yield the best results in most cases.
If your beard grows at a slower pace, you can of course get excellent results shaving less often.
Panasonic shavers, even the latest generation Arc 5 models, don’t do well on long, flat-lying hairs, especially if they grow in different directions.
You’ll have to go over an area multiple times, which may cause some irritation and increase the length of your shaving session.
If you usually shave every three days for example, I think you’d be better off with a Braun shaver (more details in the alternatives section).
The ES8243A wasn’t actually as bad as I thought it would be, but it wasn’t great either.
My facial hair grows relatively straight on my cheeks and chin, so I didn’t have major issues shaving those areas.
But on my neck almost all the hair lies flat on the skin after 2 to 3 days of growth, so I had to work a lot harder in order to get a clean shave with the ES8243AA.
I also missed having a shaving head that can swivel up and down (like the one on the ES-LA63AA Arc 4) — I think it is by far the most useful out of all the different flexing systems.
Trying to keep the head at 90 degrees relative to the skin requires a bit more wrist work and that made the whole shaving experience a bit less enjoyable.
To summarize, the Panasonic ES8243A(A) should ideally be used on short facial hair in order to get the best results.
I know only a small percentage of users will actually shave with gel or shaving cream, but if you’re into it, the ES8243A would be a really good choice.
It is fully waterproof, so you can safely use it in the shower as well.
Using a quality shaving cream will pretty much improve the performance of this razor in all the above-mentioned areas: closeness, comfort, and when shaving a longer beard.
In this case, the closeness was on par with the rest of the Arc 4 models and the comfort excellent as well.
Using only a thin layer of slick lather will make the shaver glide effortlessly on the skin. I think even men with sensitive skin can use it in this manner.
Flat-lying hairs were also less of a problem and the shaver managed to cut them more efficiently.
The wet shaving performance was not really a surprise to me as pretty much all Panasonic electric razors work great with shaving cream.
It’s business as usual when it comes to the integrated pop-up trimmer.
Placed on the back of the shaving head, it’s adequately wide, sharp and comfortable to use.
It cuts the hair really well and it’s great for minor tweaks and grooming.
I mainly used it to shape and shorten my sideburns, but you can use it to maintain a goatee or moustache for example.
I wouldn’t recommend it to pre-trim an entire beard though as it’s really not designed with that in mind.
The ergonomics are pretty good as well, but you can remove the foil frame and inner blade to get an even better experience and see exactly what you’re doing (without the head getting in the way).
As for the noise during use, it’s not great, but not terrible either.
To me it seems a bit quieter than my ES-LF51-A, but louder than the ES-LF63-S, which is a bit odd given that the latter has the more powerful motor.
But all in all, it’s a pretty loud shaver, as all foil shavers are, generating a high pitch buzz that gets louder when actually cutting the hairs.
So it’s not by any means as quiet as a rotary razor; it will wake up someone sleeping nearby for example.
Cleaning and maintenance
The Panasonic Arc 4 ES8243AA (ES8243A) doesn’t come with a cleaning station, so you’ll have to clean the shaver yourself after every use.
Actually, there’s a version called ES8249K that includes a station, but it was discontinued some time ago.
Fortunately, this razor is really easy to clean and it will literally take you less than a minute.
Panasonic foil shavers have a few advantages over other brands when it comes to manually cleaning them.
They are 100% waterproof, the inner blades are separate from the foil block, offering great access to clean the inner part of the foils and the shavers feature a special sonic cleaning mode (we’ll get to it right away).
So here’s how you should go about cleaning the ES8243A/ES8243AA.
Once you’ve completed the shave (with the razor turned off), remove the foil block by squeezing the two release tabs on the sides.
Gently tap the plastic part of the foil unit to remove most of the hairs trapped inside.
Snap the foils back in place, add some water to the foils and pour a bit of liquid soap over them.
Press and hold the power button for at least 2 seconds — this will cause the shaver to enter the aforementioned Sonic cleaning mode.
This will make the blades move at a much faster rate, dislodging any dirt and also preventing water splashes. You should easily notice the change in the sound which now has a higher pitch.
The corresponding icon will also show up on the display.
If needed, you can add a few more drops of water to the foils so that the soap can lather better.
The cleaning mode will turn off automatically after 20 seconds or you can do it sooner by pressing the power button.
Press and hold the power button again to reactivate the Sonic cleaning mode and rinse the shaving head with warm tap water for 10 to 20 seconds.
With the shaver turned off, remove the foil frame again and give it a final quick rinse, inside out. Do the same for the exposed inner blades.
Shake off the excess water, gently pat them dry with a cloth, and let everything air dry completely.
I recommend leaving the foil head detached from the shaver so it can dry faster.
You should clean the shaver after every use in order to prevent dirt buildups inside the foil block.
The liquid soap is optional, so you can use just water if you shave dry. But at least once a week it’s a good idea to give it a more thorough cleaning with water and soap.
If you use shaving cream or gel, you should definitely use soap after every shave.
Do not neglect the lubricating part, it is particularly important in this case as soap will remove any traces of lubricant.
Replacement parts availability
The ES8243A and ES8243AA use the WES9020PC foil and blades set.
Panasonic recommends changing the parts once every year, but it will really depend on various factors, like the coarseness of your hair, how often you shave and how well you take care of the razor (cleaning, lubricating, etc.).
Panasonic replacement parts are usually pricier than for example the ones used by similar Braun shavers.
This one is no exception — while the price of the shaver is reasonable, the foil & blades set is pricy.
WES9020PC replacement set
While the WES9068PC inner blades and the WES9161CL foil can be purchased separately, I recommend changing both at the same time as you won’t get the best out of your shaver by using a worn part together with a new one.
On top of that, buying the parts as a set is usually more convenient financially.
Wrapup — Who should buy the Panasonic ES8243A(A)?
The Panasonic Arc 4 ES8243A (ES8243AA) strikes a really good balance of price and performance and while it’s not quite up there with the more expensive Arc 4 models, I think it’s still a very compelling option.
It will be suitable for someone with medium to coarse facial hair that shaves more often, ideally daily or every other day.
If for example you were planning on getting an Arc 3, for only slightly more you can get the ES8243AA which is a better shaver.
Beginners should consider it as well — despite having 4 cutters, the shaving head is still quite compact and easy to use.
I wouldn’t say it’s the best choice for men with sensitive skin, but it could work, especially when used with shaving cream or a good pre-shave lotion.
I didn’t have major issues shaving dry with the ES8243AA and I do suffer from irritation and razor burn.
With that said, let’s check out some other options that may be better in several situations.
Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LF51-A
This is my personal favorite from the entire Arc 4 family.
It has the slimmest shaving head (although the difference between it and the ES8243A is quite small), it’s fitted with the very fast 14 000 CPM motor and in my case, this shaver manages to give me one of the closest shaves.
Despite the bump in power, it will still work best on short facial hair as it tends to have the same issues with capturing those long and flat-lying hairs.
But it does feel more powerful and faster, making it suitable for men with coarse beards as well.
It is more aggressive if you have sensitive skin, so keep that in mind (I use it with shaving cream to get around that problem).
Sadly, this model is getting more and more difficult to find currently, so depending on where you live, it may not be available.
Panasonic Arc 4 ES-LA63AA
This is the other Arc 4 model mentioned throughout this review and another great alternative to the ES8243A/ES8243AA.
It also has the more powerful motor and the head can also swivel up and down (which I prefer), so the shaving performance is excellent.
However, the foil frame is bulkier compared to the other two, so this may take some getting used to.
It shaves very close and it’s powerful enough for coarse hairs, but again using it more often will yield the best results.
Another issue would be the price as this model is usually more expensive than the ES8243AA. It does have some extra features that would justify it though: a second vibrating motor, travel lock, a more complex flexing mechanism of the head.
Braun Series 8
Finally, let’s check out an alternative from the competition.
Considering its price, performance and features, the Series 8 from Braun is the direct competitor of the Panasonic Arc 4 models.
The 8417s is one of the more reasonably priced Series 8 models since it doesn’t come with a cleaning station, so it makes the most sense here.
While the closeness of the shave is similar (maybe not quite to the level of the 14 000 CPM Arc 4 models), the Series 8 is more comfortable, especially during a dry shave.
Moreover, it fares a lot better when shaving longer hairs compared to the Panasonics.
Finally, the 3-blade shaving head is a lot slimmer, making it easier to use.
So if in your case the pros of the Series 8 make more sense, you should definitely consider it over an Arc 4.