Pros: Good shaving performance, very comfortable, quiet, works well on short and longer beards, good build quality, lightweight, easy to clean, works cordless and corded, reasonably priced
Cons: no travel lock, long charging time, very basic battery indicator, mediocre hair trimmer, not ideal for very coarse beards
As Philips continues to revamp its 2021 lineup of affordable electric razors, there’s one that stands out in particular: the new Series 2000.
Cheaper and extremely similar performance-wise to the new Series 3000, it looks like a very appealing option for the budget-conscious buyer.
Part of this new Series 2000, the Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 (S1211/81) is already a best-seller and one that seems to tick all the right boxes.
I have been using it constantly for the past couple of weeks and in this review I’ll be sharing my findings and hopefully help you decide whether the Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 would be a suitable option for you.
I will discuss its pros and cons and we’ll also check out some alternatives that may be better in several situations.
Side note: Before getting to the actual review of the Norelco Shaver 2300 (S1211/81), I just want to mention that the European version is (oddly) called the Philips Series 1000 S1332/41.
The other two variations available in the USA are the Philips Norelco Shaver 2500 (S1311/82) and the Philips Norelco Shaver 2100 (S1111/81).
All of them are identical in terms of shaving performance, so this review will be relevant for those models as well.
With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Table of Contents
- Features overview
- Build quality and ergonomics
- Included accessories
- Battery life and charging
- Shaving performance
- Cleaning and maintenance
- Replacement parts availability
- Wrap-up — Who should buy the Norelco Shaver 2300?
- Alternative options
1. 3-blade shaving head
The new Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 is a basic rotary shaver that uses a typical shaving unit with 3 cutters.
The blades are called ComfortCut by Philips and they’re supposed to be gentle on the skin — we’ll see how that pans out in the performance section later on.
While the shaving unit itself is fixed (unlike the ones of the more expensive Philips models), the three heads can flex inward and remain in contact with the skin without the need to apply excessive pressure.
2. Cordless and corded use
This is a feature that many users seem to want and one that’s actually absent in the case of most modern electric razors.
Luckily, you can use the Philips Norelco S1211/81 cordless but also directly from a power outlet with the included cord.
The rechargeable battery will also provide up to 40 minutes of cordless use.
3. Pop-up trimmer
Another welcome addition to any budget shaver is in my opinion a long hair trimmer.
The new Philips Shaver 2300 comes with an integrated pop-up trimmer that you can use for some on-the-fly tweaks and light grooming.
I personally prefer it to the click-on trimmer attachments of the more expensive Philips razors.
4. Waterproof for easy cleaning
The Norelco Shaver 2300 is water-resistant, so you can simply rinse it clean under the tap.
That said, the shaver is only suitable for dry use.
And we’re pretty much done with the main features of this shaver. As you can see, there’s not a lot going on since it lacks the bells and whistles of the high-end rotary razors, but fortunately, (almost) all the basics are covered.
Build quality and ergonomics
From a visual point of view, it’s immediately obvious that Philips went with the same design language as in the case of the recently updated Series 3000, 6000 and so on.
Subjectively, I think they did a good job as these products now look and feel better than before.
The Shaver 2300 comes in a black and light grey color scheme and while it’s not the most exciting thing to look at, it’s definitely a step up from the previous bland designs like the older Series 2000 or 3000 for example.
The shaver is quite large, definitely larger than what the official photos might suggest, but it is very lightweight at 189 grams, so the ergonomics aren’t really affected by the size.
It’s made entirely out of plastic, but it doesn’t feel cheap, there are no uneven gaps between panels or any rough edges.
Unlike older budget Philips razors, it actually seems pretty solid and well made.
On the front part right below the shaving unit, you’ll find a small button that pops open the shaver head for cleaning.
This is a very convenient and practical solution and again, something that we don’t see on high-end Philips razors like the Series 9000 Prestige — in that case, you’ll have to pry it off using your fingers and it’s not always easy to do it.
So this is a major plus in my opinion.
Going further down, there’s this textured, rubbery surface where your thumb naturally rests and that improves the grip quite a bit.
Speaking of grip, I would have liked more of it as the shaver body is quite chunky and the very smooth texture of the plastic doesn’t help.
As a side note, on the back of the shaver there’s a small area that appears to have the same textured rubber insert, but it’s actually just plastic so it’s not as grippy.
Luckily the shaver is very lightweight and you probably won’t have any serious issues during use.
The power button is pretty clicky and large enough, but unfortunately it doesn’t work as a travel lock as well (with a long press).
The battery indicator is as basic as it gets — there’s just an LED that surrounds the ON/OFF button and only signals a full or low battery.
On the back we have the pop-up trimmer and the button that deploys it.
The charging port is located on the bottom and it’s the usual Philips two-prong connector.
Overall, the build quality and ergonomics are really good for this price point and the only real negative is the absence of a travel lock.
Here’s what you’ll get in the box (apart from the shaver itself):
- Protective cap
- User manual
- Leaflet for registering your product with Philips
So the bundle is quite poor as you can see. It would have been nice to get a cleaning brush or a basic travel pouch.
Battery life and charging
The Philips Norelco S1211/81 is an electric shaver that you can use both cordless and corded.
This is a feature that’s becoming increasingly rare with current shavers and one that many users seem to want in order to future-proof their investment.
It’s a known fact that rechargeable batteries have a finite number of charging cycles and when they can’t hold a charge anymore, it’s definitely nice to be able to keep using the shaver by simply connecting it to a wall socket.
So in that regard, you are covered.
This model comes with a rechargeable battery that can provide up to 40 minutes of use according to Philips.
And it definitely matches and even slightly surpasses that number. While 40 minutes is nothing out of the ordinary compared to other electric razors, it’ll definitely be good enough for most users.
Charging on the other hand can take up to 8 hours, although mine was always fully charged in approximately 6 hours.
You should also charge the shaver before using it for the first time.
The Norelco Shaver 2300 S1211/81 comes with a USA charger that can take between 100 and 240V, so you can also use it abroad.
You will likely need a simple plug adapter (I use one for European power outlets):
The battery level indicator is really rudimentary and consists of a simple LED light that surrounds the power button.
When there’s enough charge in the battery, it doesn’t do anything at all. When there are 5 or fewer shaving minutes left, the light will flash orange, signaling that the razor needs to be charged.
After plugging it in, the light will flash white and then light up continuously when the battery is 100% full. It will then go out to save energy.
In conclusion, the battery life of the Shaver 2300 is on par with most other razors in this price range, while the ability to use it plugged in makes up for the long charging time and the lack of a quick-charge function.
And now for the most important part of the review, let’s see how well the Philips Norelco S1211/81 actually shaves.
Comfort of the shave
I’ll start with the comfort because for me it was easily the most impressive thing about this razor.
In short, it was surprisingly good considering it’s a basic, rotary machine. From past experience, my skin doesn’t get along too well with this type of shavers.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with the Philips Norelco 2300 and the comfort was more than adequate for most of the time.
The cutting heads were quite forgiving even when shaving my neck, usually a problem area for me. I did make sure to only use light pressure and let the weight of the razor do the work.
Also, as long as the skin is dry, the shaving head will glide easily and won’t cause your strokes to be jerky. That said, I used it along with a pre-shave lotion most of the time, and that further improved the experience.
While the Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 S1211/81 wouldn’t be my first choice for an inexpensive, sensitive skin-friendly razor (more details on that in the alternatives section), I think it can work reasonably well in these situations.
As mentioned previously, I would highly recommend using it with a good pre-shave lotion like Tabac or Speick. Most users should notice an improvement in the comfort (and also the closeness) of the shave.
As for negatives, my only real issue was in the form of some post-shave itching/rash on the neck. It wasn’t anything major and eventually the skin calmed down.
Overall, the comfort provided by the Norelco Shaver 2300 was a pleasant surprise for me as I honestly didn’t expect much from it.
As a side note, I must also mention that it is among the quietest shavers I’ve ever used.
Closeness of the shave
It was pretty much business as usual in the closeness department while testing the Philips Norelco Shaver 2300.
To put it simply, it was decent, nothing to write home about. If you’re particularly interested in getting a very close shave, this is probably not the best option.
Rotary razors in general can’t cut hairs quite as close to the skin as some foil razors and that is usually even more obvious with inexpensive models like the S1211/81 reviewed here.
It’s not by any means bad, but unlike with the comfort of the shave, the razor didn’t exceed my expectations.
Again, the use of a pre-shave improved the closeness, especially on my neck. On the cheeks it was also quite good.
On the chin and below the nose where my facial hair grows particularly thick, things could have been better though.
Even after going over those areas very thoroughly, I could still find some rough patches.
However, for users with light to medium facial hair, the results should be good enough.
Shaving longer, flat-lying hairs
The Philips Norelco 2300 is quite a capable machine if you shave less often or if the hairs stay flat on the skin.
I had no real issues shaving a 3 days beard and the flat-lying hairs were captured quite easily.
Where the hairs also grow in different directions, it did struggle and I had to work harder in order to get a clean shave.
Precisely, I had to make sure that the direction of the stroke was always against the direction of hair growth and it did get a bit fiddly and time-consuming.
Luckily, I only had to deal with that on my neck. If most of your hair tends to grow in different directions, it may be worth investing in a more advanced shaver that can get the job done with less effort.
I would say that in this price range, the Philips Norelco S1211/81 is among the better options when it comes to shaving less often.
However, don’t expect spectacular performance as this is after all a very basic razor.
The shaver comes with an integrated hair trimmer located on the back of the shaving head (near the top).
Its placement is really good and allows you to see what you’re doing.
I personally prefer this type over the separate beard trimmers that must be attached in place of the shaving unit.
It’s quite practical and useful especially for adjusting your sideburns or a goatee.
I’ve only used it for my sideburns and unfortunately, I wasn’t very impressed with this particular one.
While it is wide enough and has a straight edge (which I very much prefer over the curved ones found on Braun razors), it just didn’t cut the hair well. I had to go over an area multiple times and even then the hairs weren’t cut close enough to the skin.
I think I’ve mentioned this in every test, but the trimmers on Panasonic shavers are just in a different league, so much sharper and effective.
This trimmer is only intended for some touch-up work; I guess it can be used to pre-trim your beard, but I would definitely recommend getting a dedicated tool if you have to do that on a regular basis.
Using your shaver’s pop-up trimmer will just take a lot of time and I imagine it won’t be very enjoyable.
But overall, even if the performance was just mediocre, I would rather have this trimmer than not get one at all.
Cleaning and maintenance
Even though this model is a dry-only shaver, it is actually waterproof and you can safely wash it clean.
That’s a feature that makes cleaning the S1211/81 really easy and straightforward.
Here’s how a typical cleaning routine would look like.
Once you’ve finished shaving, switch the razor off and disconnect the power cord (if it is attached to the razor).
Press the small button located right below the shaving unit to pop it open.
It may not seem like a big deal, but this is way more convenient than constantly having to use your fingernails to remove the top part of the shaving head like you have to do with other more expensive Norelcos.
Rotary razors are a lot better than foil shavers at keeping the clipped hairs inside the shaving unit, so almost none of them will end up on your shirt or forearms.
The S1211/81 is no exception and does a great job at storing the hairs inside the head.
Once opened, shake it gently to remove the bulk of hair clippings and then rinse the hair chamber and shaving unit with warm tap water.
Rinse the outside of the shaving head as well.
After that, gently shake off the excess water and let the razor air dry completely with the shaving unit open.
That’s what a typical cleaning process would look like. You can also be a bit more thorough with your cleaning if you want to.
While Philips doesn’t recommend it explicitly in the user manual, it’s probably a good idea to do a more in-depth cleaning of the cutters themselves every once in a while.
This involves taking out the individual cutting heads and removing any hardened grime and dirt.
In order to gain access to the cutters, you must completely detach the shaving unit from the razor. With the head open, gently pull it straight off the body of the shaver.
There’s a locking bracket that holds the cutters in place and in order to remove it, you must turn the center lock counterclockwise (indicated by the arrows). Doing so will release the retaining frame that can now be lifted from the unit.
The three cutting heads (each one comprised of a blade and a comb) are now exposed and you can remove them one by one and clean them thoroughly with water, again making sure not to mix the blades and combs between them.
Once you’ve done this for all three heads, put the locking bracket back in its place, turn the lock clockwise until you hear a click and insert the shaving unit hinge in its slot.
Tip: you can also use a spray cleaner and lubricant on the exposed combs and blades. More details here.
Replacement parts availability
This new Series 2000 uses the same SH30 shaving heads as the previous generation.
The parts are usually easy to find and the price is quite reasonable as well.
The manufacturer recommends replacing them every 12 months, but that can vary a lot depending on many factors (the coarseness of the hair, how often you shave, how well you clean and take care of the shaver and so on).
In order to actually replace the old shaving heads with the new ones, you’ll basically have to follow the procedure described above for thoroughly cleaning each shaving head, only that you’ll just be replacing them with new ones.
The user manual, also available online, provides detailed instructions for this procedure.
Wrap-up — Who should buy the Norelco Shaver 2300?
Considering the shaver’s performance and its price, the new Philips Norelco 2300 (S1211/81) is in my opinion the current best pick for an inexpensive, rotary razor.
The closeness and especially the comfort are good and the more expensive models (from the same Series 2000 or even the new 3000) don’t really bring anything significant in terms of performance.
As a result, I think the Shaver 2300 would be the right choice for most users.
Because it’s very simple in its construction, the razor is very easy to use and to maintain, making it a good option for beginners as well.
I would however recommend it mostly to users with light to medium facial hair. If you have very coarse, dense hair, you should opt for a more powerful/advanced razor.
You can also consider it if you don’t shave every day as it works decently with longer hairs, even though you’ll have to work a bit harder if they also grow in different directions.
As long as the skin isn’t very sensitive, most users should be fine using it (it’s even better with a pre-shave lotion, of course).
If you want an electric razor that shaves really close, I don’t think the Norelco 2300 is the right choice. I would consider something like the Panasonic Arc 3 (which works best when used more often).
Let’s now check out some alternatives to the Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 S1211/81.
Roughly in the same price range, we have the Series 3 ProSkin family from Braun. These are foil shavers that in my opinion will be a safer choice in most cases.
Thanks to their slim head, they’re easier to use, are very comfortable and also shave a bit closer and faster than the 2300.
There are various models available, suitable for dry only or wet/dry use and can come with or without a hair trimmer (the performance is identical though). You can check out my in-depth guide here.
But considering the price and features, the 3040s is usually the best pick.
Finally, the aforementioned Panasonic Arc 3 is also worth considering, especially if you usually shave more often and want a closer shave.
The Arc 3 also comes with a much better integrated pop-up trimmer.
That said, the Arc 3 is usually more expensive than the Norelco Shaver 2300 and the replacement foil and blades are also pricier.
There are lots of Arc 3 models available, both old and new. When picking one, you should only consider two things: the price and the motor.
Precisely, you should stick to the ones with 13 000 CPM motors as those will perform a lot better than the models fitted with slower units.
As you can see, I didn’t actually recommend any other rotary razors; as I said previously, in this price range (where we find other Series 2000 or even Series 3000 models), I think the Philips Norelco Shaver 2300 currently represents the best option.
The next rotary shaver that will indeed provide a performance boost for more money is in my opinion the Philips Norelco Shaver 6800.
If you have any questions, make sure to post them in the comments below.