Pros: comfortable, inexpensive, quiet, very good build quality, popup trimmer, performs very well on longer and flat lying hairs, can be used while charging, waterproof, easy to clean
Cons: the closeness of the shave could be better, 8 hours charging time, cannot be used with shaving cream, mediocre popup trimmer, no cleaning brush and travel pouch included
The Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 (S3310/81) represents a newer iteration of another popular shaver from the same Series 3000 line, the PT724/46.
Compared to the older model, the Norelco 3100 brings along redesigned shaving heads and a new black color scheme.
Entry-level shavers like this one that are reasonably priced and punch above their weight are very appealing to potential buyers and usually end up being quite popular.
The Norelco Shaver 3100 S3310/81 is already a best-seller in its category, so in this review, we are going to put it through its paces and find out if how good it really is.
As usual, we’ll kick things off with a quick look over the main features.
Table of Contents
ComfortCut Blade System
The Norelco 3100 S3310/81 is a basic rotary shaver that features the usual 3 cutter setup.
The shaving heads have a rounded profile that should allow them to glide smoothly over the skin and with less irritation. Philips calls this ComfortCut Blade System.
We’ll see how well this works in real life in the performance section of the review.
4-Direction Flex Heads
I have no idea how they came up with the number four, but the individual shaving heads can be depressed and they also tilt inwards.
More advanced Norelco razors have cutters that can flex outwards and the whole shaving head can pivot. Being a budget shaver, the Shaver 3100 lacks these capabilities.
However, the shaving heads manage to maintain contact with the skin even if you have very prominent facial features.
This is one of the advantages of rotary shavers, even if the Norelco 3100 is not by any means an advanced model.
Corded and cordless use
The Philips Norelco 3100 is equipped with a rechargeable Li-Ion battery, allowing you to use the shaver cordless.
However, you also have the option to shave while it’s plugged in. This is possible because the Norelco Shaver 3100 is only suitable to be used dry.
Wet & dry models can’t be used while plugged in as a safety precaution.
On the back of the shaver there’s a pop-up trimmer, very handy for shaping your sideburns or goatee.
Not all entry-level shavers feature one — like some Braun Series 3 models — so it’s nice that Philips decided to include it.
Despite being suitable for dry only operation, the Norelco Shaver 3100 can be safely cleaned with water.
Build quality and ergonomics
While it doesn’t look and feel particularly premium, the quality of the materials is excellent for a razor in this price range.
The Shaver 3100 is definitely larger than you would expect it to be, especially from Norelco’s official product photos. Here it is alongside the Braun Series 5 for the sake of comparison:
However, it’s very lightweight and well-balanced, making it easy to hold and maneuver.
The construction is very solid and the finishing is also good, despite the slightly rough edges on the sides of the shaver where the matte plastic on the back meets the front glossy fascia. Nothing too serious that would cause discomfort though.
On the front of the shaver, the top half is covered in a very grippy rubber-like material that features horizontal striations, further improving the grip.
The rubberized area houses the ON/OFF button, the replacement heads notification light and the low battery/charging LED.
Right below the shaving head there’s a small release button used to pop open the shaving unit for cleaning.
On the back of the shaver you’ll find the pop-up trimmer and right below there’s the switch that deploys it.
Unlike other shavers where you must slide the switch to gradually lift the trimmer, here you have to slide it down and the trimmer, being spring-loaded, snaps into position, perpendicular to the shaver’s body.
If I were to nitpick, I would say that the way you hold the razor during use, with your thumb resting over the power button, makes it susceptible to be accidentally pressed.
However, this will happen only if you hold it excessively tight.
Also related to the ON/OFF switch, there’s no travel lock on the Norelco 3100.
Overall, it definitely gets our seal of approval for build quality and ergonomics.
The retail package includes the following items:
- Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 (S3310/81)
- Charging cord
- Protective cap
- User’s manual, Extended warranty card (6 additional months), leaflet with the replacement parts.
As you can see, there’s no travel pouch or even a cleaning brush.
The extended warranty card adds an additional 6 months to the 2 years warranty. In order to redeem it, you must register your product on Philips Norelco’s website.
Philips Norelco Shaver 3100
The two and a half years warranty, along with a 45 days money-back guarantee are excellent, so kudos to Philips for that.
Battery life and charging
My review unit came with the battery completely drained, so I had to charge it before being able to use it cordless.
The charging brick is among the most compact I’ve seen and that’s definitely a plus. For example, here it is alongside the one from an older Panasonic Arc 4.
Upon plugging the shaver in, the battery notification LED blinks intermittently, alternating between green and orange. This signals the fact that the battery is fully drained.
After a few minutes, the LED will only blink green and continue so until the battery will be completely charged.
And this takes up to 8 hours according to Philips, although mine needed approximately 6 hours for a full charge. The green charging lamp will light up continuously to signal that the battery is full and will then turn off.
The long charging time would be a problem if you couldn’t use the shaver while it’s plugged in, as it was the case with the cheaper Philips Norelco 2100 from the Series 2000.
However, you can shave with the 3100 while the shaver is charging, so it’s not really a big deal.
With a fully charged battery, you’ll get around 45 minutes of shaving time, which is on par with the industry standard.
The battery life is very good overall; while I haven’t rigorously tracked it, I can confidently say that it’s within those specs.
Let’s now get to the most important part of the review and see how well the Norelco 3100 shaves.
I tested the shaver for a couple of weeks, shaving mostly every other day, but also tried my luck on a two and three days beard.
Most of the time, I used a pre-shave lotion as I have sensitive skin. Since the 3100 can only be used dry, a pre-shave lotion is a must-have for me.
As usual, the performance section will be divided into several parts.
Closeness of the shave
The Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 is a basic, budget-oriented rotary shaver. It comes as no surprise that the closeness is pretty much on par with what you would expect from such a product.
Precisely, it’s not the best. After completing a shave I could still feel some rough patches of hair, especially on my neck.
On the cheeks, it actually managed to do very well, but on my neck and above the upper lip it just couldn’t get as close as I would have liked.
Trying to go over those areas repeatedly and applying more pressure didn’t do anything beyond a certain point. In fact, you will only get a rash doing so.
Don’t get me wrong, the Shaver 3100 wasn’t worse than any other rotary shaver you can get at this price point or even a bit beyond.
However, a foil Panasonic Arc 3 for example will get you a much closer shave, so if you are particularly interested in this aspect I think the Panny would be a much better choice.
Rotary shavers have some specific pros and cons compared to foil shavers, the closeness of the shave being one of their weak points.
The comfort during and after the shave with the Philips Norelco 3100 was quite good for a basic rotary shaver. In fact, it was a lot better than I was expecting.
The shaver is adequately smooth and gentle, it didn’t pull on the hairs nor did it pinch the skin. It’s very important not to apply too much pressure, particularly with rotary shavers.
I do get some razor burn on my neck when shaving dry with most electric shavers.
However, apart from a slight discomfort and itching after completing the shave, I didn’t have any problems major with the 3100.
The shaving heads always stayed cool, even after a lengthy shaving session.
Shaving longer hairs
Rotary razors have a clear advantage over most other foil razors when shaving longer, flat-lying hairs.
While with daily use the differences aren’t that obvious, a two or three days beard can cause serious issues for foil shavers, particularly for the basic ones.
The Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 performed great in this regard. Shaving a two days beard went really smooth.
On my neck the hairs grow mostly parallel to the skin and if I don’t shave often I will have trouble getting a smooth shave.
Again, I was pleasantly surprised by how the Norelco 3100 managed to get those hairs very efficiently, even though the closeness wasn’t the best.
Granted, it wasn’t as good as other premium Philips Norelco razors, but it was definitely good enough.
The pop-up trimmer on the Norelco Shaver 3100 had all the premises for a great performance: excellent positioning, adequately sized and the shaving head didn’t get in the way.
However, using it was a bit anti-climatic. It just didn’t feel sharp enough and required multiple strokes to get the hairs.
Also, while the 3100 is very quiet during use, when the trimmer is deployed there’s a very noticeable hum accompanied by vibrations.
Anyway, it’s still better than not having a trimmer at all.
Cleaning and maintenance
Cleaning the Norelco 3100 is very straightforward and easy for the most part.
You should perform a quick cleaning after every use to avoid dirt and hair buildups.
This implies rinsing the shaving unit (both the inside and the outside) under warm tap water.
After you’ve finished shaving, with the razor turned off, press the release button to pop open the shaving assembly.
Rinse the hair chamber, as well as the inside part of the shaving unit where the cutters are located.
Make sure to clean the outside of the shaving unit as well.
Shake off the excess water, then with shaving head open, let it air dry completely before closing it.
And that pretty much concludes the cleaning operation that you’ll be performing for most of the time.
Extra thorough cleaning
With rotary shavers, a more thorough cleaning is needed every once in a while.
Due to the way the shaving heads are designed, it’s likely that a quick rinse won’t remove all the hairs and dirt trapped inside the combs.
Therefore, each shaving head must be taken apart and cleaned separately.
I usually perform a thorough cleaning every two to three weeks.
Let’s see what this implies in the case of the Norelco Shaver 3100 S3310/81.
With the shaving unit opened, pull forward to detach it from the shaver’s body.
On the inside you’ll see a lock with arrows pointing in a counterclockwise direction. Turn it counterclockwise to unlock and remove the retaining frame that presses the cutters against the combs.
Remove and clean with hot tap water each pair of cutters and combs one at a time. It’s very important to not mix the cutters and combs since they are matching sets.
If you interchange them the performance of your shaver will suffer, so take your time when performing this operation.
A cleaning spray like the Remington Shaver Saver can also be used; it will also lubricate the cutters, reducing the friction and the wear.
After you’ve cleaned each shaving head, put the retaining frame back on and turn the lock clockwise. Reattach the shaving unit to the shaver and you’re all set.
Replacement parts availability
The Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 uses the SH30/52 replacement shaving heads. In fact, all the updated Series 3000, 2000 and 1000 use the same cutters.
Philips Norelco SH30/52 Shaving Heads
These ComfortCut shaving heads only have slots for capturing hairs as opposed to having both holes and slots like the older heads used on the PowerTouch models; also, the SH30/52 are usually cheaper to buy.
Philips recommends replacing the shaving heads every 12 months. The Shaver 3100 S3310/81 will also remind you to change them via the indicator located right below the ON/OFF switch that will light up orange.
You can reset it by pressing and holding the power button for at least 5 seconds.
Wrapup — Who should buy the Philips Shaver 3100?
If you prefer rotary razors and your budget is limited, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 is a viable option. It won’t blow you away, but it is comfortable and quite capable at shaving flat-lying hairs.
Philips Norelco Shaver 3100
The replacement shaving heads are also reasonably priced and widely available.
If you have light to medium facial hair, you’ll probably be satisfied with the closeness as well.
I have a thick beard and while it didn’t feel underpowered, it just couldn’t get as close as I would have liked.
If you have very dense, coarse facial hair and are particularly interested in getting a close shave, this razor is probably not for you.
A more advanced rotary shaver like the Philips Norelco 8900 or 9300 will be a much better option — but will also be exponentially more expensive.
Philips Norelco Shaver 2300
See the price on Amazon
The newer Shaver 2300 is a very similar machine in terms of shaving performance, but it costs less and it’s widely available.
It uses the same SH30 cutters, hence the very similar performance.
Another plus of the 2300 is that it only takes one hour to fully charge and works both cordless and corded.
You can check out my review of it here.
Philips Norelco 4500
The Norelco 4500 (AT830/46) represents a slightly more advanced shaver compared to the 3100. It has different shaving heads that are fitted with both holes and slots and it can be used for wet shaving as well.
These features can improve the closeness of the shave, but don’t expect it to be as good as premium Philips Norelco razors.
Another plus compared to the Norelco 3100 in this review is the charging time; the 4500 can go from empty to fully charged in one hour compared to the 8 required by the 3100.
Keep in mind however that the 4500 can only be operated cordless since it’s a wet/dry model.
Panasonic ES8103S Arc 3
The Panasonic ES8103S is more expensive and it’s not even a rotary shaver; however, I think it makes sense to recommend it as it represents an alternative that addresses the closeness issue.
The ES8103S will get you a significantly closer shave, but keep in mind that it works best when used daily or every other day at most.
Being a basic foil shaver, it’s not as good as rotary shavers at catching wiry, flat-lying hairs.
Another similar shaver would be the Braun Series 3 3040s, particularly suitable for users with sensitive skin.
21 thoughts on “Philips Norelco Shaver 3100 (S3310/81) Review: A Very Decent Budget Razor”Leave a comment
I’m just getting ready to replace my “2100” that gave up because its battery just wouldn’t hold a charge for any more than 5 minutes. 2 1/2 years is all I got out of it so it’s no surprise. Following your advice (finally!) I’m moving up to a “3100” to keep my 71 year old face presentable. Thanks for the help.
Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. The battery is indeed the Achille’s heel of the 2100, so the 3100 should be a welcome upgrade in that regard.
Enjoy your new shaver!
Cordless use only was never a problem for me, but I sometimes see potential buyers being put off by this. And I kind of empathize with them, especially in the case of expensive, high-end shavers. Many users that spend hundreds of dollars on such a shaver expect to get many years of use out of it and the ability to shave with the cord when the battery can’t hold a charge anymore is somewhat reassuring.
Does Norelco offer a corded only , no battery shaver?
Not to my knowledge, no.
Yes, they do. I have a Norelco s 1150
Thanks for the info, Martin. That is correct, the S1150/81 is a corded only shaver.
Great review! I have a choice between S3310/81, PT724/46, PT729, S3510/08. They’re all similar, but I think S3510/08 maybe the best because of faster charging and longer cordless operation. Price is not a factor, but corded and cordless use is.
Thank you for your comment, Alex. That is correct — considering the battery life, charging time and corded/cordless use, the S3510/08 is the best option. The PT724/46 is basically just an older S3310/81, while the PT729 has a smaller battery and it takes a lot of time to charge it.
One last thing. In your review you mention that S3310/81 has “redesigned shaving heads” compared to PT724/46. Is that significant enough to choose it over the others based on performance?
In my experience, no, it’s not significant. I guess it was more of a rebrand of the heads to go along with the new shaver.
I guess S3510/08 it is. Appreciate your help and knowledge.
You are very welcome, Alex. Glad I could help.
I have owned 3 Norelco razors over the last 20+ yrs, and they have all been wonderful. They did NOT require the following: …”It’s very important to not mix the cutters and combs since they are matching sets.”. I found that requirement several pages into the instructions pamphlet, after I had already mixed them up, and the shaver has not given a close shave, since!!! That requirement should be stated in BOLD RED Print, on the 1st page. I called the Norelco hotline, and the guy was NOT Helpful at all!!!!!
Thank you for your comment. I totally agree, there really should be more emphasis on that part as it’s very important.
I used a Philips Speed XL for the last 13 years and liked it a lot. Did no maintenance at all (never changed head, blades… cleaned it under tap water every week only). It was considered high-end at the time. I am looking for a replacement and the 3100 looks very similar, but is considered low-end. I wonder if it is really similar, but they just came up with new designs for the upper end or there is lot of cut backs compared to the Speed XL. I notice the heads are simpler on the 3100, for example.
Any hint would be helpful. Thanks!
I didn’t have the chance to shave with the Speed XL, so I cannot really compare the two. I do know however that the Speed XL was one of the more reliable and long-lasting rotaries, which cannot really be said about the ones in recent years. The 3100 is indeed a low-end, basic rotary shaver that is actually quite decent for the price. The heads are simpler on the 3100, but all current Philips shavers (even the high-end ones) use heads with two tracks instead of three.
Is the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800, S3311/85 a better alternative? It has a travel pouch unlike this model. I’d appreciate any input you might have about this shaver. Thanks.
It is a better alternative in the sense that it has a bigger battery (60 minutes of cordless use), it takes only an hour to charge and has a 3-level battery indicator (and a travel pouch like you’ve mentioned). On the other hand, the shaving performance will likely be the same since it’s using the same SH30 blades. Also, the Shaver 3800 will not work with the cord plugged in. If you think the pros outweigh the cons, you can get the 3800 instead.
Thank you very much for your answer.
Not being able to use the shaver while plugged in is not considered such a downside in my opinion, since all it takes is to charge it if indicated.
The performance is indeed a bit of an issue. I understand that the a foil shaver will be better in that regard. However, I had one of those many years ago and the foil tore up. I read some recent reviews about such a machine and saw complaints about the foil not lasting. That is why I am opting for a rotary shaver.
You are very welcome. For most users, a foil razor will usually shave closer while also being more comfortable. The foil can wear out faster since it’s very thin compared to the combs of a rotary cutter. So in the case of the latter, you will probably never see a broken comb. That said, I have been using electric shavers for almost 20 years now and I’ve only managed to tear apart 2 foils (both belonging to old, discontinued shavers from Braun and Remington). So it’s not really a big issue nowadays, especially with Panasonic and Braun. Remington and Wahl foils for example seem to be more brittle though.
But getting back to the Philips 3800, I think it’s a decent rotary shaver, but a bit expensive considering that it comes with the same blades as the Shaver 2300 S1211/81 and that one costs a fraction of the price. The 3800 costs almost as much as the Shaver 6800 which is a better product in pretty much every aspect.