Pros: reasonably close and comfortable shave, suitable for shaving the head, practical pop-up trimmer, wet & dry use, light and comfortable to handle, quiet, inexpensive replacement shaving heads
Cons: pricey compared to other similar shavers, not ideal for sensitive skin, doesn't shave as close as similarly priced foil shavers
The 3500 is one of Philips Norelco’s more popular mid-range electric razors.
Marketed as an affordable shaver capable of delivering close and comfortable shaves, the Philips 3500 (S3560/81) is looking like a solid option for anyone looking for a decent, but still reasonably priced rotary shaver.
However, the 3500 does have its pros and cons, so in this review we’ll be taking a close look at all the aspects that matter and hopefully help you decide whether it’s the right shaver for you.
UPDATE: For the new Philips Norelco Shaver 3500 (S3212/82), check out this review.
Table of Contents
The Philips Norelco 3500 packs quite a few features for a basic rotary razor.
Here’s a summary of the most important ones.
ComfortCut Blade System
The shaving heads of the Norelco 3500 have rounded edges, which should ensure smooth gliding over the face.
This is sometimes an issue with entry-level rotary razors that tend to stick to the skin.
4-Direction Flex Heads
The three heads can tilt inward and can also be slightly depressed. This should provide better contact with the skin, regardless of the area that’s being shaved.
Super Lift & Cut
In order to provide a closer shave, Philips used a double edge design of the blade.
One blade is used to pull the hair up and a second one practically cuts it below skin level, at least according to Philips.
The Shaver 3500 features an integrated pop-up trimmer that can be easily deployed and used for some light grooming.
It’s definitely a welcome feature on shaver in this price range and other more expensive Philips models come with separate attachments that aren’t as practical.
Wet & dry use
The shaver is fully waterproof and can be used wet or dry. You can use it in the shower as well.
As all wet/dry electric shaver, it will only work in cordless mode.
Other noteworthy features include a 3-minute quick charge function, LED indicator for battery full, battery low and charging, automatic voltage converter.
Build quality and ergonomics
Due to its ergonomic profile and reduced weight, the Norelco 3500 (S3560/81) feels very comfortable in hand.
It also features a non-slip rubberized area on the front for a very secure grip.
If I were to find anything wrong with the built quality I would have to say that it just doesn’t feel as upmarket as you would expect from a Norelco shaver. It is a bit too plasticky and a feels bit hollow.
Also, the battery level indicator is almost useless, signaling only a low battery. In this price range, you can find a three or even 5 level indicator on other electric shavers.
Overall, the design and construction of the Philips 3500 should be good enough for most users.
Battery life and charging
The Philips Norelco 3500 comes with a Li-ion battery that will provide more than 50 minutes of cordless use.
In real life, the battery life of this razor is very solid. It should give you enough power for two weeks of cordless shaving, depending on your shaving routine.
You do have the option to quick-charge it for 3 minutes if the battery is completely drained and you are in a hurry.
Also, being a Li-ion type means that it won’t overcharge and affect its performance in the long run.
Other similar Philips shavers require 8 hours to charge the battery completely, but luckily the 3500 only needs around one hour.
Cleaning and maintenance
This razor is one of the easiest to clean: just pop the shaver head open and rinse it under running water. That’s it.
You can also use the included brush as an alternate way of cleaning it, especially on the inside of the head unit and hair chamber, but it won’t be as effective in my opinion as a simple rinse with warm tap water.
Every once in a while, each rotary blade and comb should be cleaned more thoroughly to avoid grime and dirt buildups.
This implies taking apart the shaving unit. Make sure to consult the user’s manual and only perform this operation one head at a time so you won’t mix them.
The blades and combs are matching pairs and mixing them will affect the performance of the shaver.
The Philips Norelco 3500 will provide a decent, close and comfortable shaving experience for most users.
It’s also great for shaving your head if you’re looking for a razor that needs to be good at that.
The trimmer is also pretty well designed and useful.
The positioning and the fact that it’s long and not too wide means that you can actually see what you’re doing and the shaving head won’t get in your way.
As with all shavers, not everything is perfect and this one has some minor drawbacks.
First of all, the motor is not as powerful as on older Norelco shavers and some may find that it takes a little longer to shave.
This shouldn’t be a problem at all if you’re a daily shaver since it can deal with short stubble quite well.
Where it might struggle a little is with long or very tough beards.
While it will get longer, flat hairs more efficiently than other similarly priced foil shavers, if your beard is very coarse, it will struggle a bit.
In this case, the Norelco 3500 may not be the most suitable option and you should consider a more advanced rotary razor like the Series 9000.
Also, rotary shavers are not the most comfortable out there, so if you have sensitive skin you may be better off with foil shaver.
I find rotary shavers that use the Lift & Cut double blade design (like the 3500 reviewed here) to be particularly harsh on the neck.
I do have very sensitive skin, so for other users this won’t be a problem.
Here’s what you will find inside the box:
- Protective cap
- Power cord
- Cleaning brush
- User’s manual
There’s no travel pouch included, unfortunately.
Replacement parts availability
Just as the other models in the Series 3000 range, the Philips 3500 (S3560/81) uses the SH30 shaving heads.
These parts are widely available and quite reasonably priced, especially when compared to the competition.
Philips SH30/52 Shaving Heads
Philips recommends changing the shaving heads every year, but depending on how you use the shaver you may need to replace them sooner or later than that.
The 3500 also has an indicator that will signal you to replace the heads after approximately one year.
Wrap–up. Who should buy the 3500?
Overall, the Philips Norelco 3500 (S3560/81) is a good, simple, effective and usually reasonably priced rotary shaver.
I would recommend it to Norelco users that don’t want to spend a ton of money on a new shaver or to anyone getting into electric shaving looking for a decent rotary razor.
This can be a great first shaver as it’s pretty comfortable and simple to use.
However, I think that there are more compelling options out there and will even cost less money.
Let’s check them out.
Philips Norelco 3100
The Philips 3100 will basically provide the same shaving experience. It uses the same shaving heads and while it’s marketed as a dry only shaver, you can still clean it with water.
It can also be used while charging and it usually costs a lot less than the 3500.
One downside is however that it takes more than 6 hours to charge the battery completely, but the ability to use it corded sort of makes up for that.
Braun Series 3 ProSkin 3040s
I think a foil shaver would make a very interesting alternative for the 3500.
Unless you’re a die-hard rotary razor fan, the Series 3 from Braun will be a better choice in most cases.
It shaves a bit closer and it’s more comfortable, making it a better choice for sensitive skin.
Moreover, it’s very reasonably priced and the shaving heads last a long time.
The Series 3 3040s is probably the pick of the range due to its price and features.
Finally, if you live in Europe, the S3560/81 may not be available. In that case, you should check out the S3580/06 or S3560/11 from the same Series 3000 line.
The shaving performance will be identical.
16 thoughts on “Philips Norelco 3500 (S3560/81) Review”Leave a comment
Maybe it was because I was new to electric shaving and didn’t have the correct technique down yet, maybe it is my beard, but I never got a close shave with a rotary electric shaver and had other problems with them. There were times it was like not shaving at all making repetitive pass after pass and not do much more than just knock the tops off the beard hair. Never a smooth spot on my face, just lowered stubble. And then there were the ingrown hairs and bumps, sometimes turning into cysts on my jaw line or neck. Always left with long hairs and stubble the razor couldn’t touch and a deteriorating skin condition the rotary shaver sent me back to my double edged blade several times until I tossed the electric in the garbage can determined to never look back. Lift and cut was a marketing lie as far as I was concerned.
The answer for me was the Foil shaver. I have a full face/neck beard of average thickness yet extremely coarse, think coarsest grade sandpaper, and a beard that lays in one direction on each section of my face. When I was put on blood thinners and nicked myself once very lightly and squirted blood for about 5 minutes I decided to give electrics one more try and this time went with the Bruan 340-S and am elated that I did. I would have to do a four way shave with a Feather blade and spend about 30 – 40 minutes shaving/re-prepping to get the results I get with that Bruan 340 in about 15 minutes. A BBS shave with NO razor burn, cuts, nicks or ANY discomfort in any way. Just for fun once I bought a bottle of Mennen Skin Bracer see how it felt after a shave with this heaven-sent electric and it was like splashing cool water on my face…that’s all. No burn or redness. If you have ever used Skin Bracer you know what I mean. Even with the Schick Hydro and shaving with the grain Skin Bracer will burn you and leave your face reddened. I fell in love with my Braun 340 and will never return to a blade/wet shave again…but will never use a rotary shaver either. I honestly think there are Foil men and Rotary men and I’m a Foil guy and sorry to say I hate Rotary’s and will never use one again.
Thank you for sharing your experience, William. I must say that I fully agree with your opinion regarding rotary and foil shavers. Different strokes for different folks. Even though I get along well with both types of shavers, I was always more at home when using a foil shaver and the results were also superior. There are of course men that prefer rotary razors for the same reason: they simply work better for them. Right now my go to shaver is a Braun 380s-4 and it is pretty much identical in terms of performance to the 340 that solved your shaving problems. It is without a doubt an excellent product with a very reasonable price. I’m glad that you managed to find a shaver that is right for you.
I love my Norelco shaver. I grow thin stubble so an electric is perfect for me. This shaver has a quiet motor but gives a close shave. I always start with a pre-shave lotion, shave, rinse off then finish off with my favorite aftershave. My Norelco feels right in my hand and is easy to get around the face and around sideburns. I am ordering a Panasonic foil to compare.
Thanks for your comment, Ernest. It is indeed a very quiet shaver, especially when compared to foil shavers. A pre-shave lotion or powder is something everyone should try, even though the improvement is not always so noticeable for some men. Let us know how your new foil shaver from Panasonic performs.
I just purchased a S3212, is there a way to adjust the depth of cut? Mine is apparently not cutting deep enough. Leaving me with a short beard.
Apart from making some tweaks to your shaving routine, no. You could try a pre-shave lotion that often helps with getting a closer shave, while also using slower, more controlled strokes for a more thorough shave.
Hello my name is Naser. I just bought the 3500 myself so I can shaved my head. I tried both with and without shaving cream. I didn’t notice much difference but I definitely got a close shave. Very simple to clean too.
Thank you for your comment — glad you’re happy with your 3500, it should work very well as a head shaver.
I bought a Norelco 8894XL in 2004. Other than a quick rinse after every shave and new HQ8 heads every couple of years, it was trouble-free and was the best shaver I’ve ever used. (Admittedly, because I was so satisfied with the 8894XL and it lasted so long, I have not had an opportunity to compare it with any more contemporary shavers. But it was better by far than any other shaver I used from 1981 to 2004.) The last two years the tiny plastic latch which holds the sprung hinged head assembly closed has became progressively less able to hold the head assembly firmly, it is now not able to hold it closed while in use. I tried to repair it by adding some material to the tiny tab but I couldn’t quite get it. Really a shame because everything else still works great: The battery still holds more than 100 minutes of charge and right up to the point that the latch completely failed it gave me great shaves. By the way, the battery display on this thing was awesome, it shows shaving time available instead of % while charging and for a few seconds after being turned off and time elapsed for that shave while turned on and was always perfectly accurate.
In need of a new shaver after nearly two decades, I came to your site and just buried myself in the huge volume of content you have created. The amazing thing is how well organized and presented everything is, I can’t thank you enough for making it freely available. The effort you’ve put into your site is obvious in the quality of the reviews and tips.
I came here thinking I was going to get another mid- to high-end Norelco rotary but after reading nearly everything here and learning so much and relating what I learned to the sensitivity of my skin and my beard type and the frequency with which Inshave; I came to the conclusion that I would probably be better off with a foil shaver instead. I haven’t used a foil shaver in over 25 years and never liked them but they were all cheap no-name knockoff crap. I have an order on the way for a Panasonic Arc5 ES-LV65-S, a decision I feel good about given the excellent information here.
John, many thanks for the comment and for the kind words, I truly appreciate it. The 8894XL was an absolute beast in terms of reliability and it pains me to say that current Philips Norelco shavers are a step down in quality.
Panasonic on the other hand is the one brand that hasn’t made any significant compromises and once you’ll get used to shaving with a foil razor again, I think you’ll enjoy the ES-LV65. It’s one of the very best out there, especially for the price.
I have been using the Arc5 for 5 months now and it is giving me the closest and most comfortable shaves of my life. Even though at my current age my skin isn’t as firm and my hair grows in all directions. It’s so easy to clean with a bit of liquid soap, although needing to wait at least 6 hours for all the water to drain and evaporate from the chassis before putting it back together and stored away in a drawer is annoying. (The blades and head assembly themselves get fully dry in only a little more than an hour of sitting on a table but water remains in the case for much longer.) I was afraid that the huge head would get in the way but I have had no trouble even under my nose and reaching around to the back of my neck and around my ears. The flip-up trimmer is incredibly good, so much better than that of any trimmer on any other shaver I’ve used. I don’t find it especially loud.
Because I found a really good deal and wanted a backup, I purchased at the same time a Philips Norelco 3500 also. It’s actually quite a good shaver. Even though the blades have fewer cutting elements and the SH30 heads have slots only instead of the slots and holes combination I enjoyed with the HQ8 heads of the 8894XL; it does a good job. In fact, I think it would be a really top-notch performer if the motor drove the blades in the heads at least 50% faster. Whether it’s the motor that’s underpowered or the gearing, it’s the only real flaw with the 3500. Even given that, and while the shave is nowhere near as close or comfortable as the shave from the Arc5, if it were my only shaver I’d be OK with that.
The Arc5 does great used daily, on two days of beard growth, and I have even used it on three days of beard growth and it performs about the same. The 3500 does better with more than one day of growth than with only one day of growth but it is good enough with the shorter stubble. After the first month of owning both I have used the 3500 only when I let me beard grow in for more than 3 days, which I’ve only done two or three times. It’s good for those situations and I like having a spare shaver on hand just in case something happens to the Arc5 (such as my big fear of the foil developing a hole or other flaw when I need to finish shaving and get to a meeting or something).
Thanks again for all the great information here at shavercheck.com!
John, thank you so much for taking the time to write such an in-depth follow-up. I’m glad you’re happy with the Arc 5, it looks like a winner. The 5-blade head can definitely be manageable with a bit of work and some technique tweaks. Other than that it’s a wonderful shaver. You’ve also mentioned the trimmer — Panasonic pop-up trimmers are phenomenal (regardless of the shaver, even on the basic Arc 3), by far the best on any electric shaver. Braun and Philips could really learn a thing or two.
The 3500 like all other Norelcos in the lower-end series feels a bit gutless, but it does get the job done and I think it’ll be perfect as a backup. It’s a good thing you managed to buy it at a discount. By the way, Panasonic foils are among the most durable, I am yet to see a hole in one (I’ve been using them for 20 years) and I also got great feedback from other users as well. And rotary cutters last even longer, so it’s all good. Happy shaving!
Yikes! You are still the master of electric shaver reviews!!
I am 71 years old and have had several Norelco and foil razors.
I currently use a Norelco AT830, though I think it is renamed 4500.
The springs on the head mechanism are not working.
I need to get a new head and blade set (HQ8, now SH50) or a new razor) but have not found official Norelco parts.
I read your reviews and comments by others. One guy says he loves the 9985, another says the 7100/7500.
I want the integrated trimmer (that I can’t lose!).
I am not thrilled with the thick pentagon shapes for cutting hair above upper lip and below nose. But one guy commented that it’s not a problem for him.
I tried Panasonic foil razor, but it was toooo loud. I gave it to my son-in-law.
Trying to compare:
Thank you so much for the comment, I really appreciate it.
My advice would be to just get a Norelco Series 3000 like the Shaver 3500 in the article above. If you can only get the 3560/3570, those will work fine as well (require the same SH30 heads). It’s just that they use an old design and the new Series 3000 just looks and feels better in hand.
The models in the new Series 3000 are reasonably priced, shave really well, have the integrated trimmer (which I also prefer), and they’re quiet and easy to use. They’re better in my opinion than the Series 5000 and I would even prefer them over the 7000. The pentagonal heads can be an issue and it would be safe to stick with the conventional heads of the 3000.
Hope this helps.
Thanks for your personal attention!!
You said, “The models in the new Series 3000”
Besides the S3560/81, what other models are in the new Series 3000?
BTW, I currently have a Norelco AT830 – 4500 with HQ8/SH50 heads. The wires in the head mechanism are not working so I need to replace the entire head mechanism.
How does the AT830 -4500 compare to the new S3560//81 with the SH30 blades?
You are very welcome, Paul.
The updated Series 3000 would be the S3212/82 (aka the Shaver 3500 I mentioned), S3311/85 (Shaver 3800), S3210/51, S3134/84 and S3115/81. These all shave the same and the accessories and battery indicators are the only things that vary. I reviewed the Shaver 3800 in great detail here, but everything applies to the rest of the models as well.
I had a Norelco 4500 many years ago, but I’d say the shaving experience is very similar to the Series 3000 with the SH30 blades.