This guide was perhaps our most ambitious yet. Over 10 months we had a panel 20 testers try out all the current brand name electric shavers on the market. The testers had one simple goal. To find the best electric shaver.
As I discovered, coordinating this many people and products was very similar to herding cats. Although in this case they were very smooth shaven cats. But we got there in the end. Creating this guide may have put a few gray hairs in my beard but at least now I know the best electric shaver to use to get rid of them.
Over the 10 months we got to know all the electric shavers very intimately. We learned how they work, the best way to use them as well as what they excelled at and what they sucked at.
Now the problem with a test as long as 10 months is that new electric shavers were released and older models were discontinued. When this happened we frantically switched to the newer model. The result is that this is the most up to date electric shaver guide on the entire internet. And it is continually being updated!
Use the links below to jump down to your preferred section
- Findings – What we found after our 10 month test.
- Electric Shavers – A detailed look at the following shavers:
Before we began our search for the number one electric shaver, we had to choose our testers. Beard and skin type can vary dramatically from person to person, a good mix of test subjects were required.
Some testers had beard growth so thick it would make a lumberjack blush, needing daily shaving. Others only had a light beard growth that hadn’t changed since puberty, only needing to be shaved once or twice a week. Two black males rounded out our testing group, with notoriously difficult to shave wiry, inward-curling beard hairs
So with our physically and ethnically diverse team of testing superstars, we set about testing every brand name shaver we could lay our hands on that was commercially available in America.
Things got interesting when we asked the testers which electric shaver was best at the end of the study. There was a huge difference in recommendations from each tester. In fact, the responses were so varied that no single electric shaver could be crowned the king.
Failing to find an outright winner – we had each tester rank their favorite shavers in first, second and third places; scoring them 3 points, 2 points and 1 point respectively. From this we were able to identify some obvious front-runners for best electric shaver. But they were all liked for very different reasons.
You see, it turns out that shaving is a very personal experience. The right electric shaver for you will depend on your skin sensitivity, beard density and hair thickness as well as the directions your hair grows in. Then there is budget. And that is just a few of the variables..
So while a shaver worked perfectly on one tester it failed to impress another. This is less a fault of the shavers design and more a problem of using the right tool for the right job. Or in this case, right person.
The mixed response made us feel that giving an electric shaver to someone else as a gift is a waste of time. While it may make a great Birthday or Fathers day present (after all, every male has a beard) it is highly unlikely you will choose one suitable for their hair and skin type. Coupled with the fact that lower priced shavers are typically inferior and your well intentioned present will be discarded rather quickly.
After much discussion we decided not to go with a “best shaver for most people” approach for this guide. Because the results were so varied, there obviously isn’t a “best shaver” and it would be dishonest of us to suggest otherwise. Instead we will be closely examining each electric shaver and cover it’s pros and cons.
The electric shavers
Below we will take a detailed look at the leading shavers from each big manufacturer.
Panasonic Electric Shavers
Panasonic is one of Japans largest manufactures of electronics. It is no surprise then to see the majority Panasonic’s electric shavers manufactured in their home country.
Testers agreed that the Panasonic models of electric shavers cut closer than any other brand.
Out of all the electric shaver brands, Panasonic had the quickest upgrade cycle, updating their electric shaver line on average once every two years. Where things get confusing is that Panasonic still sells many of these older models right alongside their current ones, despite being seriously outdated.
We were still able to buy a Panasonic Arc 3 2011 model even though it has been upgraded twice since (once in 2014 and once in 2016). Even worse, Panasonic charges top dollar for these older, in some cases they were even more expensive than the current ones.
Panasonic appears to enjoy confusing it’s customers because nowhere on it’s website does it list their shavers in date order. And the differences between the older and newer models are very poorly documented.
Panasonic has really shot themselves in the foot with this approach. We had difficulty figuring out what Panasonic’s current range is and we feel that the average consumer would have even more problems. It is likely that this is a major reason why Panasonic’s shavers do not have the same fan base as Braun or Philips Norelco…
…And this is a shame. Their current line up of electric shavers is AMAZING. When we say current we are talking about the Arc 5 and Arc 3 in particular. The Arc 4 has been out since 2011 and is in desperate need of an update.
Testers agreed that the Panasonic Arc 5 and Arc 3 respectively shaved closer than any other shaver in their price range. 5 o’clock shadows took longer to appear and skin was left feeling much smoother due to the closeness of the shave.
But they are not for everyone. The close shave came at the cost of comfort. The Panasonics Arc series of shavers are perhaps the most aggressive electric shavers on the market. Because they get right up to the skin, those of you with sensitive skin may find that you are left with a nasty case of razor burn after each shave.
Now it is worth mentioning that Panasonic has rectified this issue somewhat on their premier model, the Arc 5. The 2016 models feature comfort rollers that help the shaver slide smoothly across the skin, resulting in a gentler shave.
Panasonic were perhaps the worst performing when it came to shaving the hair of our black testers. The smaller holes in the pattern of the foil were better suited to hair that is of fine to medium thickness. if you describe your hair growth as “dark and coarse” then you should look at the other shaver brands further down.
Let’s take a look at the best that Panasonic has to offer:
Panasonic Arc 5
The Arc 5 is the Rolls Royce of electric shavers with a price to match. Panasonics top model electric shaver is more than just a status symbol, it’s ability to give a close shave is unparalleled.
As the name suggests, the Arc 5 has five different cutting elements, more than any other modern electric shaver. But the more razors you cram into the head of an electric shaver the bulkier the head is. And this is true of the Arc 5.
While it will take some getting used to the larger than normal shaving head, the extra cutting elements sure do their work. The Arc 5 cuts closer than any other electric shaver on the market.
The 2016 Arc 5 has improved on the older model in almost every single way. The addition of comfort rollers helps reduce the harsh shave and gone is the polished chrome exterior that was a fingerprint magnet are just two of the many improvements made.
Panasonic Arc 4
While the Arc 4 may have been the star of Panasonics line up back in 2011, since the release of the Arc 5 it has been relegated to the back seat. In fact, the Acr 4 has not been updated once since 2011. And it’s starting to show, especially when compared to the newer models in the Arc Series.
The cleaning station that ships with the Arc 4 is HUGE. Take up half your bathroom counter huge. And the shave is now comparable to the newest model of Arc 3, even though it has an extra cutting element. Perhaps even more disappointing is that Panasonic is still charging top dollar for this dinosaur.
Don’t get us wrong, the Arc 4 still provides that close and aggressive shave that Panasonic is known for.
It’s just starting to show it’s age. We are somewhat confused as to why Panasonic still pushes the Arc 4 as it’s second best shaver, when they have leap frogged it with the Arc 3. For the price you are better off jumping up to the Arc 5 or stepping sideways to the new Arc 3.
Panasonic Arc 3
The Arc 3 electric is the lowest model of Panasonic shaver that we recommend. And up until recently we could only call it average.
The newest model of Arc 3 shaver was released early January, 2016. Up until then we were testing the older model. And it wasn’t all that great. The updated model fixed the majority of the complaints we had with the shaver.
The Arc 3 is an aggressive shaver. There is no doubt about that. For its price it shaves closer than the Braun Series 3, Remington SmartEdge or Philips but you definitely trade that closeness for comfort. This is not a shaver for those of you with sensitive skin.
But what about the rest of the Panasonic shaver range?
Dual-Blade Electric shaver (model ES4815S)– Powered by two AA batteries (annoyingly not included) the small and portable Dual-Blade is a travel shaver at heart. While it won’t blow you away with how well it shaves your face, it works just fine for stubble that is less than a day old. Interestingly, one of our female co-workers found the shaver great for legs, which are often less coarse than beard hairs.
Single Blade Travel Shaver (Model ES3831K) You definitely get what you pay for and this is a pretty poor product even by travel shaver standards. While the bargain price may be too good to pass up, you will suffer for it. Shaving took too long for an average finish and if you have thick facial hair then you could spend the whole morning shaving and not be satisfied with the result.
Extra information on Panasonic Shavers
Panasonic uses a soft travel case combined with a removable plastic guard to protect the foil on their electric shavers. We personally prefer the single hard travel cases found on Braun and Philips Norelco models since the plastic guard is just another plastic object waiting for you to misplace.
Panasonics are by far the easiest electric shavers to clean without a cleaning station. The built in “sonic cleaning mode” will allow you to simply rinse your shaver clean under running water.
Braun Electric Shavers
Backed by the deep pockets of Proctor & Gamble, Braun is an advertising powerhouse. Being the “Official Shaver of the NFL” is a pretty expensive title. Combine this with an aggressive print and media campaign and it is little wonder that Braun is one of the most recognized names when it comes to electric shavers.
Braun was originally a German company and staying true to their roots, manufactures the higher end shavers locally. Made in Germany is proudly printed on the higher models. As is the trend, cheaper Braun shavers are manufactured in China.
Fortunately, Braun Shavers are more than just hype brought in from the media. Higher models provide you with one of the most comfortable shaves you will ever experience from an electric shaver.
Testers commented that the higher Braun models were the least punishing foil shavers when it came to sensitive skin. We recommend the higher models Braun shavers for beginners to electric shaving due to them being more forgiving of poor shaving technique.
The comfort does come at the cost of closeness and we noticed 5 o’clock shadows came back quicker with Braun shavers when compared to the equivalent Panasonic model. But many of our testers were happy to compromise. A quick and comfortable shave beat a close but irritating one every day of the week.
Braun shavers pack some serious heft. The high-end models have the bulkiest shaver handles out of all the major brands. Now whether or not you enjoy a larger handle entirely comes down to personal preference. Some of our testers loved it while others were less impressed.
Interestingly, Braun is the only shaver manufacturer to use an irregular hole pattern in their foils. If you look closely you will see that there is no clear pattern, each hole varies ever so slightly in size and shape.
Even more unusual is that the foil pattern changed on the exact same model of shaver. A close up of two different Series 7 shavers saw a different variation of foil holes.
We could not tell whether or not this had a major effect on the overall performance of the Braun shavers but felt that this irregularity was worth mentioning.
The Braun Series shavers (3, 5, 7 and 9) provided the best foil shave for our black testers. While the holes in the foil may be irregular, they are also much larger than that found on other shaver brands and better managed the coarse hairs found on a black face.
Black testers noted that these larger capture more of their thick coarse hairs than any other foil shaver.
With the exception of the Series 9, flat laying hairs proved to be the biggest problem with Braun shavers. Multiple passes were required for them to be cut to a satisfactory length.
Interestingly the Braun range of electric shavers ranges dramatically depending on where you live in the World. The models on offer differ dramatically from country to country. Even our Canadian neighbors have completely different Braun Shaver models available.
Where it gets confusing is that Braun’s instruction manuals refer to all the international variants as well as the local ones. And it isn’t immediately clear which feature belongs to the shaver you are holding in your hands. Testers commented that the user manuals on Braun shavers were set out the worst of any brand.
Let’s take a closer look at the leading electric shavers in Braun’s line up.
Braun Series 9
The Braun Series 9 is the Cadillac of the range. Decked out in shiny chrome and packing 4 different cutting elements, this is the very best shave will experience from a Braun shaver.
The Series 9 is the first shaver to move away from the three cutting element design found on the Series 3, 5 and 7 models. An extra cutting element has been included to lift and cut flat laying hairs, and the improvement in performance is very noticeable with it’s addition.
Braun has done a great job at providing a powerful motor (with 40,000 cutting actions/minute) yet still managing to maintain a comfortable shave. A careful balance that saw the Series 9 regarded highly by many of our testers.
We were just disappointed to see that Braun chose a polished chrome color for the Series 9. Take a good look at the shaver when you take it out of the box. It will never look that good again, fingerprints and watermarks are very visible on the reflective surface. It will require constant polishing on your part to keep the shaver looking it’s best.
This is hands down the best shaver that Braun has to offer. But excellence comes at a price and like all the top models from the various brands you had better be prepared to pay for it.
Braun Series 7
Braun has taken a “Ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach with the Braun series 7. First released in 2010, the Series 7 shaver is still going strong over 6 years later.
The Series 7 is perhaps the most recommended shaver on the internet. In fact, It has been The Sweethome’s number one recommendation for the last three years. And we respect their opinion a lot.
So we tested it. And tested it. And tested it. Maybe we were missing something. But compared to other shavers in Braun’s line-up, we just couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.
The Series 7 uses an identical shaving head to the Series 5. And despite the addition of sonic vibrations to help the hair stand on end, in a blind shave test, participants could not tell the difference in the end result. Why would you pay more for the same shave?
Then there is the build quality. The locking mechanism on the shaving head is very flimsy and breaks with very little pressure (we broke it on two Series 7 shavers). Customer service even acknowledged that this was a common complaint but is not covered under warranty due to being “accidental damage”.
The LCD indicator panel is positioned in a way that makes it difficult to read when charging and if you use the cleaning station for an extended period of time then you can expect the paint on the Series 7 to peel.
What it is that big review websites see in this electric shaver is beyond us. But after our rigorous hand’s on testing we insist that you steer clear.
Braun Series 5
Interestingly, the Braun Series 5 bears more than a passing resemblance to the Series 9. From the body shape, position of the buttons to an identical long hair trimmer on the rear, there are a lot of similarities. And this is a good thing, since the build quality of the Series 9 was nothing short of brilliant.
For the most part the Series 5 is a better version of the Series 7. The battery display is easy to read; the shaving head locking mechanism has been redesigned (we couldn’t break this one). And the shave is identical. All at a more affordable price.
While flat laying hairs will require multiple passes, the shave is comfortable and testers were satisfied with the result.
Braun Series 3
Moving down the models, the Series 3 is the first of electric shaver to be made in China (as opposed to Germany). Braun quietly updated their Series 3 range in late 2015, Improving the rubber grip and power button, feeling much more natural to use. While the looks may have improved, it shaves identically to the older model.
Testers found that the Series 3 left you with more irritation than the higher models. This was due to the shaver requiring more passes to achieve a uniform shave.
While the Series 3 performed satisfactorily on coarse facial hair, fine hair was where it really shined. A single pass was all that was required to leave the area completely hair free.
We recommend the Braun Series 3 for teenagers looking for a good beginner electric shaver. The lower price point and combined with an effective shave for soft beard hairs (peach fuzz) makes this a great “first” electric shaver.
But what about the rest of the Braun shaver range?
Going further down into price range of Braun shavers brings disappointment.
Braun Series 1 – is one of the worst shavers we have ever had the displeasure of using and we are unsurprised that Braun doesn’t even bother to advertise it. It is like that uncle that turns up at your kid’s birthdays and gets drunk. He is an embarrassment to your family just like the Series 1 is an embarrassment to the Braun Series family. It has the same foil and cutters as the $15 Mobile Shave. Avoid it.
Braun CoolTec – The worlds first shaver that gives you a cooling sensation while you shave. It feels great and testers remarked that it helped eliminate razor burn. But it really struggled to give a effectively cut hairs on the neck area and the shave wasn’t all that close. Coupled with an annoying charging stand, we recommend you steer clear of this shaver.
Braun MobileShave – The cheapest electric shaver in Braun’s line up. Powered by two AA batteries, the MobileShave is designed to be a travel shaver. Our testers found it was better used as a touch up shaver, to help beat down that 5 o’clock shadow when it appears late in the day. While it was effective at this, it just wasn’t powerful enough to be used as an every day shaver.
Philips Norelco Electric Shavers
All testers unanimously agreed that if you wanted a rotary electric shaver than Philips Norelco trumped the competition. Philips introduced three-disc rotary shavers to the world back in the 1960’s continues to innovate and improve on their design to this very day.
Philips Norelco manufacture their higher end electric shavers in the Netherlands. Once you start to go towards the cheaper models you will find that they are made in China.
I don’t know what it is about electric shaver manufacturers but they sure do love to confuse you. Philips Norelco shuffles its shaver line up around once a year. Not only do they release newer models while discontinuing others, they also rename existing models, which can make things incredibly puzzling when researching their electric shaver range.
Take the 2016 line up. Philips just released their 5000 Series range of electric shavers. These models are better than the 6000 Series but worse than the 7000 series. It doesn’t really make sense, does it?
Branding aside, Philips shavers excel at shaving problem hairs that grow in every different direction and testers noted they performed exceptionally well along the jawline. Higher models flex and pivot according to the surface of your skin, which helps shave more hairs with each pass.
It did take some time to get used to using a single disc to shave underneath the nose and in more precise areas like near the side burns, but with practice this wasn’t too difficult to overcome.
Sensitive testers in particular favored the electric shavers from Philips Norelco. While the comfort trades off against closeness, testers commented that the shave was short enough and it beat walking around with blotchy razor burn for half the day.
Update: Philips Norelco has just recently launched a new shaver/beard trimmer hybrid. For more information check out our detailed Philips Norelco OneBlade review.
Let’s take a closer look at the finest electric shavers Philips Norelco has to offer.
Philips Norelco 9000 Series
The undisputed king of Rotary shavers. The 9000 Series is made up of the 9700 and 9300 models. We recommend the 9300, since it provides an identical shave at a lower price point. The only difference between the two shavers are three minor cosmetic features that don’t justify the $100 difference in price.
The 9000 Series are absolute beasts at tackling the contours of your face. Each of the three shaving heads can independently move in 8 different directions, conforming perfectly to the shape of your face. The shave along the jawline was outstanding.
The shaver has three different speed settings. Philips Norelco claims the lowest speed provides a gentle shave while the highest speed setting is the most effective but more aggressive. During testing we found that even the most sensitive skin could handle the highest speed setting, so were somewhat confused as to why Philips Norelco chose to include the feature at all.
Ultimately testers were very satisfied with the 9000 Series shavers. Even those who had a preference for foil commented that it was the stand out amongst rotary shavers tested.
Philips Norelco 7000 Series
The 7000 Series is made up of two different rotary shaver models. The 7300 and the 7700. As is the case with the 9000 Series, the lower model offers an identical shave at a lower price point.
The 7000 Series are advertised as Philips Norelcos “sensitive” model. The addition of the micro-bead coated comfort rings helped the shaving heads glide smoother than any other rotary shaver we tested
The 7000 Series offers a near identical shave to that of the 9000 Series. The only difference is that it requires more time and effort on your part to achieve it.
This is mostly because the 7000 Series of shavers is just the 9000 Series with features removed. While the shaving heads have less range of movement, the tracks and the blades inside are identical, despite Philips Norelco deliberately advertising them as being different.
Unfortunately, the features removed seem to be the very ones responsible for the efficient shave the 9000 Series offered. It feels the only reason the 7000 Series was created was because Philips Norelco did not have a middle range shaver that separated their top of the line model from the cheaper shavers.
This isn’t a cheap shaver and the performance just doesn’t fall in line with the price, especially given that the 9000 Series is only $30 more expensive. We do not recommend either the 7300 or 7700 shavers.
Philips Norelco 6000 Series
Up until the recent release of the 5000 Series, the 6100 was the only rotary shaver under 100 dollars that we recommended.
While the boy racer design will more likely appeal to teenagers to adults, the shave itself is better than any other rotary on the market for the price.
While the shaving heads do not move independently, they still conformed wonderfully to the jawline and other contoured areas.
The one thing we didn’t like was that you had to use a charging stand to fill the battery rather than plugging a cord directly into the shaver.
If you are looking to see if rotary shavers are right for you then the Philips Norelco is a great starting point. But it’s not just for the beginners, if you are looking to hit the sweet spot where price meets performance than this is currently our number one recommendation for rotary shavers.
Note: This was written prior to testing the 5000 Series, which have been designed to supersede the 6100. We will update in the coming months on whether the 5000 Series can steal the crown for the best budget rotary shaver.
Philips Norelco 5000 Series
The 5000 Series are the newest release from Philips Norelco. Released in early 2016, the 5000 series aims to combine high end features with at a more affordable price.
We are currently in the process of testing the 5000 Series shavers. Since we like to give shavers a good work out before we review them, this section will be updated with our experience in the coming months. Stay tuned.
UPDATE- We have reviewed the 5000 Series electric shaver and where less than impressed with the results. You can read the full review here
But what about Philips Norelco’s other electric shavers?
Philips Norelco 4000 and 3000 Series – The 4000 and 3000 Series are near identical. Most commonly found on the shelf of your local drug stores, these models of shaver failed to impress. The shaving unit that houses the three shaving disks does not float and really made shaving a slow and imprecise experience.
Philips Norelco 2000 and 1000 Series – The only difference between the 2000 and 1000 Series is that the 1000 Series lacks a pop up trimmer. The shaving experience was about on par with the 4000 and 3000 Series. Not good.
Philips Norelco Click&Style Shavers – A 3-in-1 electric shaver that also has a long hair trimmer foil body groomer attachment. As with most “do-it-all” products, this one is too good to be true. The shaver head only features two shaving discs instead of the traditional three and the experience really suffers for it. The less said about the other attachments the better.
Philips Norelco Series 500 – Powered by two AA batteries, the travel sized shaver had a tendency to pull hairs rather than cut. Only having two shaving heads made the shave along the jaw a much more difficult task than it needed to be. A very time consuming and ineffective shave.
Remington Electric Shavers
In the good old days Remington was unrivalled when it came to manufacturing quality electric shavers. One particular user, Victor Kiam, was so impressed with his Remington electric shaver that he purchased the company. Some of you may even remember his famous catchphrase:
I liked the shaver so much, I bought the company
Unfortunately Remington’s glory days are long behind them. While their competitors continued to innovate and improve on their products, Remingtons electric shavers have gone in the other direction and savings been made at the cost of performance. All Remington electric shavers are manufactured in China.
Remington is one of the few companies that makes a high end foil and rotary electric shaver. But let down by some odd design choices (and an inferior shave) we cannot recommend them, especially at the price they command. The current line up of electric shavers would make Victor Kiam roll in his grave.
Remington upgrade their product line up very frequently. For the most part they only change the look of the shaver and the model number while keeping the shaving heads identical.
We will come straight out and say it. By and large Remington shavers are crap. They just did not have the same build quality or performance as similar priced electric shavers.
There is one exception to this, and that is the budget priced F5-5800 foil shaver. It provided a closer and more comfortable shave than comparably priced electric shavers, but this isn’t a big effort, most low priced shavers we tested were terrible.
Let’s take a closer look at the current best that Remington has to offer.
The HyperFlex is Remington’s top of the line rotary electric shaver. From all outwards appearances it seems a winner.
It is obvious that Remington drew a lot of inspiration from Philips Norelco’s range of shavers for their HyperFlex range. And that’s not a bad thing. The HyperFlex not only dazzled us with it’s good looks but felt great when held in the hand.
But shaver to skin, the wow factor is replaced with the ow factor. The shaver just does not glide smoothly across the face at all and would even “catch” on areas of skin, particularly under the chin.
Where the HyperFlex really takes the cake is the amount of hair it left on the face. You just can’t get a close shave out of it, even for a rotary it left too much length. If you like that stubbled look then you may be happy but those of you looking for a close shave will be very disappointed.
Okay, so Remington butchered their top tier rotary shaver, surely their most expensive foil shaver will be better, right?
Not even slightly.
While the HyperFlex had at least had a good design going for it, the SmartEdge doesn’t even have that. The design is as ugly as it gets. While looks are not everything, for the price we would have expected a design that reflects the amount paid.
The SmartEdge’s head is the perfect example of poor design. On the shaver’s head you will find two long hair cutters and one finishing foil to cut hairs to the skin.
The shaving head digs into your face rather than glide. It snags on all but the flattest sections of your skin. The SmartEdge required so many passes to get an effective shave that it would have been quicker for us to use a traditional razor. Convenient it isn’t.
But the best bit of comedy comes from Remingtons recommendation that you replace the head and cutters every 6 months for optimal performance. In a year you would have spent half the SmartEdge’s value on replacement parts.
Remington F5 Power Series (F5-5800)
As we touched on earlier in the guide, we recommend that you avoid cheaper priced electric shavers. During our testing we noticed an odd trend. Low-end electric shavers suck.
But if you are searching for a frugal choice then the F5-5800 from Remington beat all comparably priced electric shavers from Braun, Panasonic and Philips Norelco in terms of performance and quality.
Now don’t get us wrong, the bar for shavers in this price range is set exceptionally low. But even so, some testers reported that the shave was as comfortable and close as electric shavers twice it’s price.
A steady hand was the name of the game. And part of the reason for the F5-5800’s great shave is that it can be quite aggressive. Testers reported that the shave could be quite irritating if a light touch was not maintained.
But it’s not all good news. Once again you will have to change the cutters and foil once every 6 months to keep the F5-5800 shaving as good as they day you bought it. While the replacement parts may be half the price of those from Panasonic and Braun, they also last half as long.
If you are feeling brand loyal and really want a Remington shaver then we would go so far to say that this is the best that they have to offer. Especially since their premium electric shavers failed to impress.
Remington changed the look of their F range of electric shavers in early 2016, they also renamed the range “Comfort Series” Instead of “Power Series”. The upgrade is mostly cosmetic and still offer an inferior shave.
But what about Remington’s other electric shavers?
Remington R Series Range – Made up of the R2, R3, R4 and R5 models. This line up is a is pretty much a clone of the Philips Norelco 4000 Series and lower. They shave is poor due to heads that don’t float (less range of movement) and the shaving heads themselves are imprecise
Remington Dual Flex– Remington’s attempt at rotary travel shaver. While it is nice to find a rechargeable shaver at such a low price point, the shave was less than satisfactory. Only having two cutting heads made shaving along contoured areas difficult and the blades dulled too quick.
The Remaining F Series range. – Made up of the F4, F3,F2, F1 models, the lower down you go the more frustrating the shave as features are deliberately removed from the F5 to justify different price points.
Remington Dual Foil – Remingtons attempt at a foil travel shaver. Powered by two AA batteries, the shaver could be best described as “weak”. The shave itself required too many passes and caused irritation in many testers.
Wahl Electric Shavers
As you make your way into the lower priced electric shavers Wahl makes an entrance. Wahl is well best known for their beard trimmers, catering to both professionals and home users alike.
Wahl has the most limited selection of electric shavers out of any big name brands. 4 shavers are on offer and of those 3 are variations of the same model and one is designed to be used on both your face and body.
If you are feeling patriotic and want a shaver made right here in the USA then Wahl is your only choice. Just be mindful that the whole shaver is not made here and that parts are imported. Still, this is as American as you will get from an electric shaver.
Don’t be fooled by their small size, Wahl shavers are powerful and are performed well at cutting through coarse and wiry beard hairs.
Wahl uses incredibly thin foil (aluminum foil thin) to cover the blades of their razor. While the resulting shave is incredibly close, care must be taken with the delicate foil which can bend and tear quite easily.
If you have ever received an electric shave from your barber then chances are it was with the Wahl 5-Star shaver. It may look ugly but it is many barbers shaver of choice for face, head and neckline.
Wahl’s can be frustrating to clean. When cleaning time rolls around you will have to tap the excess hair clippings out and manually brush away any hair that remains stuck to the shaver. Wahl shavers were the most difficult to clean out of all the electric shavers we tested.
During our tests Wahl shavers gave us the most issues in terms of breaking. From tearing the thin foil heads to the Bump-Free model dying on us completely, no other brand let us down as badly.
Wahl 5-Star Shaver
The Wahl 5-Star is solely aimed at barber shop owners and other professionals. Professional users are less focused on the looks of a product and more on the quality of the shave.
Going off looks alone, you would steer clear of Wahl’s 5-Star shaver. The maroon and gold color scheme and brick like looks make the 5-Star the ugliest shaver we came across in our tests.
Be mindful that there are two variations of this model. One uses a charging stand (model 8547). The other has a cord that plugs into it allowing it to be used either corded or cordless (model 8061).
The shave was powerful and close, cutting through thick stubble with ease and is exactly what we expected from a shaver marketed at professionals.
We did manage to break the foil head once during our testing. This appears to be a common problem. While the thin foil allows for an incredibly close shave, it is also very easy to bend and tear.
Unless you own a professional salon or barbershop then the 5-Star shaver can be difficult to track down. We could not find any stock at retailers like Target or Walmart. Your only real option is to order online, either from Amazon or pro-barber supply stores.
Wahl Custom Shave
This is one of two variations of the “for home” 5-star model. The key difference between the two is that the Custom Shave comes with three different foils. One for a sensitive shave, one for a regular shave and one for an ultra close shave.
The other model, the Bump-free only comes with a single foil head, made from titanium. The hypoallergenic properties of titanium supposedly help reduce bumping up. In our testing we failed to notice a difference in the end shave and sensitive testers still had a problem with skin irritation.
For the most part the custom shave provides a near identical shave to the 5-Star professional model. They main difference is the improved design and the different foils.
The Sensitive foil failed to impress. It required more passes and still irritated skin. On the flip side the close shave was very aggressive. While it did capture and cut thicker hairs with ease, it needed a lighter touch or it would leave your skin a red, blotchy mess.
The standard foil head was by far the best of the three. Just like the 5-Star, we managed to break the sensitive foil with little effort on our part. Unfortunately the quality of the foil heads really is lacking.
Wahl Beard and Body
Since Wahl offered so few electric shavers we decided to give their “do it all” beard and body model a test. As the name suggests, this electric shaver is designed to keep your entire body hairless, from your head to your toes.
With so much versatility at a bargain price, the Wahl Beard and body seems too good to be true. Sadly, it is.
While the longer handle helped with reaching that awkward (and often hairy) spot in the middle of the back, it made it difficult to be precise when shaving the face.
The shaving head did not work well on contoured sections of the face, particularly struggling on the jaw line. And while it did perform better on flatter areas, the shave just wasn’t close enough.
The Beard and Body leaves a very noticeable stubble making it unsuitable for those of you who need to remain clean shaven for work.
Shaving 101 – What you need to know before buying
Before we explore the wonderful world of electric shavers we wanted get you up to speed on the basics. This will help determine whether an electric shaver is right for you.
Foil and rotary electric shavers
Currently there are two different type of electric shavers on the market. Each requires a different shaving technique on your part.
- Foil electric shavers
- Rotary electric shavers
Let’s take a closer look at the differences between the two:
1. Foil Electric Shavers
The term “foil “refers to the thin layer of metal that guards the blades. The foil has a unique pattern of holes cut into it that are designed to capture your whiskers as you move the shaver over your skin.
The hair sticks through the holes in the foil guard and is then cut to length by the oscillating razor blades behind it. The razor blades on foil shavers move rapidly from side to side.
The foil found on many electric shavers is fragile and can dent, bend or tear. If this happens, you will need to replace it. Fortunately, most electric shavers come with a protective case of plastic cap to prevent this from occurring.
When shaving with a foil shaver you will use up and down or left to right movements. These strokes will be instantly familiar to you if you are swapping over from a manual razor. As a result, there is less of a learning curve when it comes to the using a foil shaver.
Generally speaking, foil Shavers:
- Shave closer
- Allow for a more precise finish near mustaches and sideburns
2. Rotary Electric Shavers
As the name suggests, the blades of a rotary shaver spin (like a weed whacker). Rotary shavers come with three circular heads (or two on cheaper models).
The the circular heads are made up of two or more “tracks”. These tracks have different patterns of holes designed to trap both shorter and longer hairs.
The spinning blades behind the tracks cut any hair that pokes through. Many people find that rotary shavers are move comfortable to use and perform better along contoured areas of the face such as the jawline or under the nose.
The trade off is that the metal guard on rotary shavers is thicker than that found on foil shavers. As a result rotaries do not shave as close as the foil variety.
If you are using a rotary shaver your should use small circular motions while shaving.
Generally speaking, foil Shavers:
- Give a more comfortable shave with less irritation
- Work better on the contoured sections of your face
Why choose an electric shaver over a traditional shaver?
The main argument for electric shaver use is convenience. You don’t need to apply shaving foam to your face. You don’t need to rinse the shaver under the faucet with each swipe. Heck, you don’t even need to stand in front of a sink. Being able to shave anywhere at anytime is something that traditional shaving just can’t offer.
Whether you are at work, at home or in between in the car (although that could be messy) you can pull out your electric shaver and go to town on your beard without any preparation. And electric shaver models come with automatic cleaning systems make the whole process even more hands off.
Easier to travel with
Those of you who are frequent flyers will avoid headaches with TSA restrictions on blades and aerosols. Having been in this exact situation I will gladly recommend any product that means you do not have to deal with these power hungry idiots who were trying to convince me that my safety razor “without blades” could still be used as a weapon. Being able to walk past the TSA and straight to your plane is a huge advantage.
Most electric shavers we tested offered at least two weeks of shaving on a single charge. More than enough to keep you clean shaven while on vacation. And if the battery does die, most shavers are multi-voltage (100-240v) meaning you can charge them anywhere in the world.
May be more suitable for black males
Shaving can be a particular problem for black males. Many suffer from ingrown hairs and razor bumps after each shave. This is due to coarse, coiled hair that can begin to grow under the skin when it is shaved right back with a traditional razor.
To some the less-close shave of an electric shaver is a disadvantage. But this weakness is its strength in this situation. Because the hair is cut back just above skin level, the curly hair is less likely to grow downward and cause irritation.
Wet/Dry shavers, what’s the deal?
You may notice while shopping for electric shavers that some make mention that they are wet/dry while others don’t list this at all..
Wet/dry electric shavers can be used with shaving foams and creams in an attempt to offer a better shave for those of you with sensitive skin. The shaving foam provides an extra layer of lubrication and may result in a more comfortable shave.
Now here is the funny part. Electric shavers are designed to be a quick and easy alternative to manual shaving. By adding shaving foam to the mix you are making the whole process much more complicated to the point where you might as well be using a traditional shaver.
During testing we found that using shaving cream and an electric shaver didn’t work too well. Where a manual shaver “swipes” away the shaving cream, allowing you to see where you have shaved, an electric shaver smears it around. It was much more difficult to see where we had shaved and where we hadn’t, which made each wet shave take much longer than a dry one.
In our testing we found the only difference between a shave with shaving foam and a dry shave was comfort. Shaving with foam did not result in a closer shave.
If an electric shaver doesn’t explicitly state that it is “Wet/Dry” then assume that it isn’t.
You will have to maintain your electric shaver
A lot of people do not realize that with continued use, the blades of your electric shaver will begin to dull. Razor blades that once easily cut through your beard hairs will require more passes to get the same effect.
When this happens, you will need to change the razor blades (and guard) in your shaver. All major brands we tested had replacement parts readily available at big name retailers.
The recommended amount of time between replacing your razor blades will not only depend on your make and model of shaver but how often you use it.
Some of the cheaper shavers require their blades changed once every six months, while more expensive models can go years without needing their razor blades replaced.
If you wash your electric shaver with water then a light coating of household oil every month will help extend the life of the blades in your shaver.
Also, be mindful that while older electric shaver models may seem like a bargain, you may find that when the time comes to replace the razor blades, they are no longer available.
An electric shaver does not cut as close as a traditional shaver
We have all looked enviously at that disturbingly handsome male with the chiseled jaw in Braun advertisements. His perfect, blemish free shave looks amazing. Not even a hint of a 5’o clock shadow.
Despite manufacturers insisting that their electric shaver can do the job just as well as a manual razor, this just isn’t true (although they might for some men).
By design an electric shaver will always have a guard between your skin and the fast moving razor blades that sit behind. Without the guard the razor blades would turn your skin into a bloody mess.
In contrast, manual shaver razor blades make direct contact with your skin. There is no barrier of separation which results in an incredibly close shave.
There is no argument that electric shavers have come a long way. Some now feature mechanisms designed to “lift and cut the hair below the skin” as well as sonic vibrations to get the hair standing straight for easier cutting.
But at the end of the day, if you want to experience the closest possible shave then you are better of sticking to traditional wet shaving. When we talk about traditional wet shaving we do not mean the awful modern 5,6,7 etc. bladed shavers, we mean the old style safety razors. They shave MUCH better.
There is a break-in period
You you will need to use your new electric shaver for at least two weeks before your skin begins to adjust to this new method of shaving. But it’s not just if you are swapping over from a manual to an electric. Those of you swapping from one model of an electric shaver will also have to endure this break in period.
The break in period varies from person to person. Some of you may experience itchiness while others will get small red blemishes. Others may find that your new shaver leaves small patches of short stubble. The minority of you will be lucky enough to not experience a break in period at all.
There seems to be no general agreement as to why the break in period occurs. Depending who you ask you will get a very different answer. Some of the reasons we found included:
- Your skin needs to heal from the “micro scrapes” caused by a manual razor.
- Your skin needs to be “trained” to adjust to the pulling/shearing action of electric shavers
- You need to learn a new shaving technique and mistakes when starting out.
Surprisingly there is no academic research as to why this break in period exists. While the above reasons may just be speculation, one thing was very real – all our testers experienced the break in period.
Now this break in period does mean that you will have to test your electric shaver for a few weeks before you will know if it is the right one for you. . By pushing past the break in period you will know if the shaver’s performance can meet your expectations.
All major shaver manufacturers are fully aware of the break in period and offer a 30- to 60-day money back guarantee in the case that you are not satisfied with your electric shaver.
If you are unhappy with your electric then don’t be shy about requesting your money back. The shaver manufacturers have put this safety net in place for a reason.
Expect to pay for a good electric shaver
As a general rule, the more you pay for an electric shaver, the better the shave you will experience. As we tested all the different models, one thing was clear. A good shave starts at just under $100 (MSRP). In fact, most low-end electric shavers down right sucked when it came to providing an effective shave.
And there are one of two possible reasons for this: major manufacturers just can’t create an effective yet low-cost electric shaver (perhaps) or they are able to rake in larger profits on the efficient but expensive high end shavers (more likely).
Whatever the reason, the quality of shave that you will experience from a higher priced shaver will generally trump any of the cheaper models. If you want to experience a good shave from an electric shaver, you will have to pay for it.
Features and Gadgets
From facial cleaning brushes to automated hygiene detectors, there is no shortage of features and accessories that designed to trick you into spending more money than you need to on an electric shaver.
But there are two features of electric shavers that our testers agreed are certainly useful:
- Long Hair Trimmers
- Automatic Cleaning Systems
Unsurprisingly the quality and performance of these two features varied according to make and model of electric shaver. Let’s take a closer look at who did them well and who failed.
Long Hair Trimmers
Not everyone who uses an electric shaver is going to want every last hair removed from their face. Those of you who have spent a good amount of time growing sideburns, goatees, mustaches, soul patches or even mutton chops may not want to get rid of them.
While you may not want to shave them down, these fashionable patches of facial hair will require touch ups in order to maintain their shape. Electric shaver manufacturers know this and will more often than not include an long hair trimmer on the electric shaver itself.
The long hair trimmer is not designed to replace your every day beard trimmer. You are in for a time consuming and painful experience if you try and cut down your entire beard. Where these trimmers excel is detailing.
From cutting stray hairs that make your sideburns look funny to giving your mustache some much needed shape, the included trimmer means that you only need one tool to groom all of your facial hair.
Let’s take a look at the trimmers that each major brand has to offer.
Braun detail trimmers
Braun’s trimmers vary in style across their entire range of electric shavers. With the exception of the Series 7, most models had their trimmers obstructed by shaving head. This was a particular problem on the Series 5 and Series 9 and made precise detailing difficult.
The Series 7 was not without it’s flaws either, applying too much pressure saw the trimmer fold up on itself during use.
Then there is the trimmer on the Series 3. If you are not careful the trimmer can actually pinch the meaty part of your hand.
Many testers agreed that when it came to usability, Braun trimmers were the worst.
Panasonic detail trimmers
Despite having some of the bulkiest heads of any electric shavers, Panasonic has designed the detail trimmer so it can still be easily seen when used.
All electric shavers in the Arc series have the same trimmer. It was small and sharp, making it easy to shape and style facial hair.
Philips Norelco detail trimmers
Unlike Braun and Panasonic that build their trimmers into the body of the electric shaver, Philips Norelco includes it as a separate accessory.
This means that you will have to swap out the shaving head for the trimming head each and every time you want to style your facial hair. Swapping the heads over only took a couple of seconds. Even so, testers found it was a needless step and preferred the pop up style offered by Braun and Panasonic.
The major advantage of having a separate trimmer attachment is that your view is not obstructed by the shaving head, since it is removed from the shaver completely.
Note, cheaper models of Philips Norelco electric shavers have a pop-up trimmer in the body of the shaver.
Automatic Cleaning Systems
Higher models of electric shavers come with a cleaning system of some sort. The cleaning system is designed to do two things:
- Charge your shaver
- Automatically clean your shaver
Cleaning systems use a special detergent help remove all traces of hair clippings from your shaver head. Unfortunately, this cleaning detergent is unique to each brand and will need to be purchased on an ongoing basis if you want to continue using your cleaning system.
It’s hard to get over the suspicion that adding consumables to an electric shaver is a sneaky way for manufacturers to continue sucking money out of your wallet after the original purchase. But our testers felt that the advantage of having a clean shaver without any effort on your part outweighed the extra cost.
By and large the cleaning fluid would last around two months before needing to be replaced. Buying cleaning detergent in bulk will see better value for your money.
There are also various recipes online that you can use to create your own cleaning detergent for a fraction of the price. While we cannot comment on their effectiveness, be warned that using a generic cleaning detergent will void your electric shavers warranty.
While cleaning stations can be bought separately, it was generally much cheaper to buy both the electric shaver and cleaning station bundled together in the same box.
It is worth mentioning that cleaning stations are quite bulky and have been designed to set up in a permanent location on your bathroom counter. This can be tricky if your bathroom is already running short on space.
Braun Clean&Charge Station
Out of all the cleaning stations tested, we liked Braun the best. While each Series shaver comes with a different looking station, they all offer the same great clean.
Braun’s cleaning detergent refills come in a hard plastic container (Braun calls this a cassette) and are alcohol based. And it is the alcohol that is responsible for the great clean. Not only does it allow the shaver to dry quicker, but also lubricates the razor blades as well.
When it came to noise, Braun tied with Panasonic. The whirring and clicking was definitely quieter than using the electric shaver but still loud enough to wake someone sleeping in the next room over.
Annoyingly, Braun’s shavers that have a “hygiene sensor” will not reset if you clean them under running water. Even if the shaver is perfectly clean. The only way to reset it is with the cleaning station, which is a sneaky way to push you into using it more.
Panasonic Automatic cleaning Station
Panasonic uses the exact same cleaning station on all it’s current range of electric shavers and is smaller than any other on the market.
The clean was satisfactory and removed all visible hair clippings from the outside and inside the shaving heads.
The cleaning detergent ships in sachets and will need to be manually mixed with water before you can use it. Testers agreed that this detracted from the hassle free experience that other cleaning stations provided.
The flip side of this is that Panasonic cleaning fluid refills are the cheapest out of any other brand, but we preferred to pay that little bit extra for the convenience of not mixing it ourselves.
As we touched on above, The whirring sound given off by the cleaning station is loud enough to wake someone sleeping in the next room over.
Philips Norelco Smart Clean System
Philips Norelco Cleaning systems differ in that you have to physically plug your shaver in for it to begin shaving. The gloss black cleaning station is also somewhat of a fingerprint magnet.
Like Braun, Philips Norelco uses the easy to swap out cleaning cartridges which we much prefer over the Panasonic sachets.
Philips Norelco shavers are notoriously fiddly to clean manually. Skipping the whole process with the cleaning station was well worth the ongoing cost of cleaning detergent.
When it comes to noise, Philips Norelco is whisper quiet. Rather than using a fan to dry the shaver, it uses induction heating. While this is virtually noiseless, it does extend the total drying time. It takes over 4 hours to for the station to clean and dry your electric shaver.
Typically speaking we found that if a model of electric shaver came with a cleaning station then it was Much easier to clean with it than rinsing it under the faucet. This is especially true of the Philips Norelco shavers. The only exception to this is Panasonics range of shavers that have their own built in sonic cleaning mode.
Despite their few quirks, we felt that being locked into buying replacement cleaning detergent was outweighed by the sheer convenience of never having to physically clean your electric shaver.
Unfortunately choosing the right electric shaver for you can require a little bit of trial and error. While some of you may find the perfect electric shaver on the first attempt, others might not be so lucky.
To assist you with making the right choice, all electric shaver manufacturers offer a satisfaction guarantee period. During this time, for any reason at all, if you are unsatisfied with your electric shaver you can return it for a full refund of the purchase price.
The return period and terms vary depending on the manufacturer. Finding this information on the manufacturers website can be somewhat difficult so we have listed the return period and their terms below.
Braun – 60 Days. Click here for the mail in PDF form and contact 1-800-211-6661 for return authorization.
Philips Norelco – 45 Days. Read the terms here then contact 1-800-243-3050 for a return authorization form.
Panasonic – 30 Days. Request return authorization by calling 1-800-338-0552.
Remington – 60 Days. Click here for terms and conditions as well printable return form.
Wahl – 60 days. Call 1-800-767-9245 for more information.
Over the ten months we had numerous queries about specific shaver features and hypotheticals. Who better to ask than the customer service department?
Customer service is there for you when you have a faulty shaver, need a specific replacement part or any other general questions. You would expect a prompt reply with a solution to your question.
With one exception, all major brands replied to our queries within 72 hours giving detailed and well thought out responses to our questions. Where a query could not immediately be answered it was forwarded to someone who was more knowledgeable.
Our one exception is Braun. Their customer service is terrible to the point that we have to call them out on it. Average time for a response was 4 days and more often than not the response was a pre-prepared piece of text that had simply been copied and pasted into our email and didn’t fully answer our questions. Sometimes we didn’t even get a reply at all.
In the opening paragraph of the email form you use to contact customer service you will read the following.
If you do not receive a response from us within 2-3 days we would kindly ask you to follow-up your inquiry by calling us.
Braun missing emails must be commonplace for them to put this warning up.
We counted 15 emails sent to Braun over the 10 months of testing (all from different email addresses). Of the 15 emails:
- 4 emails – Did not receive a reply
- 2 emails – Couldn’t answer our question
- 1 email – Told us to call their customer support phone number
The remainder – Gave very vague answers that seemed like they were copied and pasted, not fully answering our question(s).
Only one email remotely answered our question and it was regarding the faulty locking mechanism on the Series 7.
Remington, Panasonic, Philips Norelco and Wahl all got back quickly and while the answer was not always satisfactory, a lot more effort was put into it than what we experienced with Braun.
The long and the short of it, do not buy a Braun shaver and expect decent after sales support.
Note: Remington also had a problem with a couple of ignored emails but for the most part provided a satisfactory response.
How we chose which shavers to test
The key criteria was that the electric shaver had to be commercially available on united states soil.
Unfortunately this saw us cut the lovely electric shavers from Hitachi and Toshiba. These shavers are hugely popular in Japan, and to a lesser extent across Europe, for the sole reason that they give a darn fine shave.
But non-existent customer service, no warranty on American soil as well as scarce replacement parts available locally meant that we couldn’t recommended these shavers.
From here we eliminated the following:
Knockoffs – Did you know you can find counterfeit electric shavers online? This baffled us. While the low price of a Braum or Fanasonic electric shaver may have been tempting they quality looked dubious (and buying them is illegal). This was an immediate no go.
Rebranded products from China – Recently there has been a surge in rebranded products on Amazon and eBay. Sellers simply import a generic product from China, whack their brand name on it and sell it as if it was their own. This process is known as private labeling and the products are often inferior or even dangerous to use.
Vintage Shavers – That Remington 60 Deluxe from the 1950’s may have awful lot of history to go with it. But we recommend you don’t put it near your face. Not only do modern electric shavers outperform their ancestors but they have replacement parts and customer service to go along side them. We left these in the collectors case.
So now that we knew what to avoid we had to further refine our current line up. Panasonic, Braun, Philips and Remington combined manufacture in excess of 100 different models.
But many of them are repeats.
It is common, especially in electric shavers, to release multiple variations of the same model. Take the Braun Series 9 for instance. There are three models available:
- 9095cc – Wet/Dry model with Cleaning station
- 9090cc – Dry only model with Cleaning station
- 9093s – Dry model, shaver only
Each of these shavers provides you with an identical shaving experience. The only difference between them is extra features that do not effect the shave itself
When presented with an electric shaver that came in multiple variations, we chose the one with the most features. This way we could comment on whether the feature improved our experience with the shaver or if it was nothing more than a fancy gimmick. In many cases the extra features were just a gimmick and could not justify the dramatic spike in price.
If we had known the amount of work that would have gone not only into co-ordinating a review like this then we probably would have quit before we had started. Over 500 man hours went into just using the shavers alone over the 10 month period.
But we feel the work was worth it. The result is the most complete electric shaver test on the entire website. But it’s not quite finished yet…
This guide is going to be constantly updated as new electric shavers come out. Even as I finish typing these final few words, two new electric shavers from Philips Norelco are being tested and will be added to this guide shortly.
As for the best electric shaver? That wholly depends on you. But hopefully we have armed you with all the information you need to make the right choice. And don’t forget to take advantage of the money-back guarentees, they are a great safety net.
Until next time, stay awesome!
The Sweethome – We may disagree with their top pick, but there is some good information on electric shaving here.
Kosher Shaver – How to modify your Philips Norelco Lift&Cut shaver to fit with strict jewish orthodox guidelines.
Tools of Men – A great beginners guide to electric shaving.
ConsumerReports – While their recommendations are out of date, they offer some good buying advice.