In early 2016, Panasonic quietly rolled out an update to their long running Arc 3 electric shaver.
The Arc 3 is a popular shaver due to it hitting the sweet spot in performance and price. Can the newest model continue this tradition? Find out if this si the right electric shaver for you in our detailed review!
It is surprisingly poorly documented the differences between each of Panasonic’s electric shavers. To make matters worse, the Arc 3 has undergone 5 updates since it’s original release. And all of them can still be found for sale.
Above you can see just some of the updates. From left to right – 2012, 2014 and the current 2016 model.
Below are all the Arc 3 models listed from newest to oldest.
- ES-LT7N-S -2016 Model with Cleaning station (current)
- ES-LT5N-H– 2016 Model with charging stand (current)
- ES-LT3N-K– 2016 Model, shaver only (current)
- ES-RT97-S – 2014 Model with cleaning station
- ES-RT77-S – 2014 premium metal model, shaver only
- ES-RT47-S – 2014 Model, shaver only
- ES-ST25 – 2012 model with cleaning station
- ES-SL41-S – 2012 shaver only
- ES-8103-S – 2011 shaver only.
- ES-LT41-K – 2011 shaver only.
- ES8103S – 2008 shaver only.
With all those models still available to buy its not wonder people get confused. Having tested the 2012 models onwards, we highly recommend buying the current model of Arc 3 to experience the best possible shave.
This review will focus on the ES-LT7N-S, the latest and by far the greatest model of Arc 3 shaver.
Unboxing the Arc 3 Electric Shaver
If you were to tear open the box of your brand new Arc 3 electric shaver, this is what would be waiting for you inside:
Let’s break it down.
- Panasonic Arc 3 Electric Shaver
- Foil protector cap
- Drawstring travel bag
- Automatic cleaning/charging station
- Cleaning detergent
- Charging cord
- Instruction manual
Examining The Panasonic Arc 3 Electric Shaver
The current model of the Arc 3 is without a doubt the best looking yet. It is clear Panasonic have spent some time improving the design for the latest update.
Now the color scheme of the Arc 3 will vary depending on the model you buy.
The Arc 3 with the cleaning station (ES-LT7N-S) or charging stand (ES-LT5N-H) come in a Silver and Black design with red highlights, pictured above.
The lower priced “shaver only model” of the Arc 3 (ES-LT3N-K). sees the metallic silver section replaced with gloss black plastic. The result is a slightly less premium feel. It is also worth mentioning that fingerprints and watermarks show up easily on the gloss black plastic
Located at the top of the shaver, just under the head is a large plastic thumb rest. This originally featured on the 2014 model of the Arc 3 and we are pleased to see it’s return.
The thumb rest not only give a dedicated area to sit your thumb but also allows you to be more precise with your shaving strokes. I know it seems like a simple addition but the thumb rest was so good that it found it’s way onto the panasonic arc 5, Panasonic’s top of the line electric shaver.
Further down you can see the power button. The power button can perform three different functions depending on how and when you press and hold it.
1. On/off Press shaver button once.
2. Sonic cleaning mode – Press and hold button for two seconds.
3. Travel lock Hold power button for two seconds when shaver is on.
The travel lock is a handy feature that prevents you from turning the Arc 3 on by mistake. There is nothing worse than stuffing your shaver in your luggage finally managing to zip it up only to hear a faint buzz because your shaver has turned on.
I will cover the sonic cleaning mode in the cleaning section of this review.
Further down the face of the shaver is the display screen:
With the power turned on, the indicator panel displays relevant indicators such as remaining battery, and whether travel lock is on. Unlike the top of the line Arc 5, the Arc 3 does not display how long you have been shaving for in minutes.
Unlike the body of the Arc 3, finger prints and water marks were clearly visible on the display screen. While these could easily be wiped away, even a smudged screen is easy to read thanks to the built-in backlight.
Hidden away from view at the very base of the shaver is a small socket.
This is one of the two ways you can charge your Arc 3 electric shaver. Simply plug the charging cord into the socket and the Lithium-ion battery will immediately begin to charge.
Printed just above the charging socket are the words “Made in Japan”. While Panasonic is a Japanese company, their older models of Arc 3 are made in China. I was pleased to see that the newest model of Arc 3 is made in their home country.
If you flip the Arc 3 shave rover, you will see what it looks like from behind:
The majority of the rear is made up of a ribbed rubber grip. The grip is fantastic and even if your hands are coated in shaving foam you will easily be able to grasp this shaver.
I particularly liked that no matter how you held the electric shaver, a section of your hand would always come into contact with this non-slip grip. Whether hold the Arc 3 with a clenched fist or just by your finger tips, you will be able to get a good hold of this shaver.
You may have noticed three metal studs located half-way down the rear of the shaver:
These are the charging studs. These are only found on the Model of Arc 3 that comes with a cleaning/charging station (ES-LT7N-S).
Instead of constantly plugging and unplugging the power cord from the socket, you simply place your shaver in the cleaning station and it will begin to charge through these studs.
Sitting at the very top of the Arc 3 handle is the shaving unit.
The shaving unit is made up of four parts:
- Foil guard
- Foil frame
- Shaving unit body
The whole shaving unit can move in three different directions:
Back and forth, side to side and up and down. This movement allows you to easily shave the contours of your face and is most noticeable along the jawline.
If you look closely at the foil guard you will see that it is made up of three different cutting elements:
The center cutting element is the comb blade. The comb blade is designed to capture slightly longer hairs, cutting them to a stubble.
The outer two cutting elements are the finishing foils. These trim the stubble to down to the skin resulting in that smooth faced feeling we all love so much.
If you press down on the one of the cutting elements you will notice that they not only flex up and down but pivot from side to side:
The pivoting action ensures that the cutting elements maintain contact with your skin even if you are shaving over contoured areas like your jawline.
As an added bonus, this movement also absorbs some of the pressure that can come from pressing down too hard. Pushing down hard trying to cut that one remaining chin hair can leave you with a nasty case of razor burn and the flexible cutting elements help prevent this to an extent (if you are really determined you can still press down too hard).
If you look at the foil guard closely, you will notice that it has a slight curve to it:
The curve is designed to help shave that particularly annoying area under the chin as well as where your neck meets your jawline. We found the curve allowed us to get a much closer shave in these areas using a straight foil guard (the kind found on Braun shavers).
So we have three cutting elements and the foil guard is arched rather than straight. Care to guess how the Arc 3 got it’s name?
Located on either side of the shaving unit are two small buttons. Pressing these in with your fore finger and thumb will allow you to remove the foil guard and frame, revealing two razor blades hiding behind:
The third razor blade is actually built into the foil guard of the electric shaver.
Over time the razor blades will begin to dull. You will notice that your Arc 3 shaver will begin to pull hairs rather than cut. Just like a manual shaver, you will have to eventually replace the blades in your electric shaver.
Panasonic recommends changing the razor blades once every 12 months. They base this on shaving for once a day for 3 minutes at a time. If you only shave every other day then you can expect your razor blades to last twice as long.
You can either buy the replacement foil guard (Part number: WES9089) and replacement blades (Part number: WES9068) separately or together as a set (Part number: WES9015).
We recommend buying the set as not only is it cheaper than buying each piece individually, but only replacing one part will have a negative effect on the over all shave. We actually find it odd that Panasonic even offers the replacement parts separately.
Below you can see the all the different parts that make up the shaving unit:
But the shaving unit is hiding one more surprise. And to activate it you are going to have to use the sliding switch, located just below the head on the rear of the shaver:
The switch performs three different functions and each is printed in white on the surface of the switch.
1. Free In this mode the shaving unit is free to move in all directions. This is the default position of the switch.
2. Lock Locks the shaving head in position, preventing it from moving up and down. With the shaving head locked you will be able to shave with more precision without the shaving head bending and flexing. Useful for shaving near your sideburns or under your mustache.
3. mm Sliding the switch up to the symbol that looks like two M’s will see the a trimmer pop out of the side of the shaving unit.
The trimmer is designed to detail finer areas. If you have a mustache, goatee or sideburns then you will know just how quickly these stylish patches of hair can look out of shape.
The pop up trimmer will allow you to detail these areas, cutting the longer hairs and giving them a definitive edge.
We really liked that the pop-up trimmer stuck out horizontally. Despite the relatively large shaving unit, we found ourselves easily able to see what we were trimming without having our vision blocked.
Now we must stress that the pop-up trimmer is for detailing only. It is very ineffective at cutting down a thick and bushy beard in preparation for a close shave. While it can be done, it is very time consuming and will leave you with lots of small nicks.
With every corner of the Arc 3 shaver covered, it’s time to place it on charge.
Charging the Panasonic Arc 3 electric shaver
As we touched one earlier, there are two different ways that you can charge your Arc 3 (or only one if you don’t have the cleaning station model).
1. Charging cord – Plug the cord into the socket found at the base of the Arc 3 electric shaver.
2. Cleaning station – Place the Arc 3 shaver down inside the cleaning station and it will instantly begin to charge.
Since we will be focusing on the cleaning station in the next section of the review, we will take a closer look at using the cord to charge your shaver.
The charging adapter is multi-voltage (100V – 240V ) meaning that you can charge your Arc 3 shaver anywhere in the world. Great if you need to remain clean shaven for business or want to take your shaver with you on vacation.
Just remember to buy one of those travel adapters to fit the odd shaped power outlets you will come across on your travels.
The cord length of the Arc 3 adapter is long. Measuring just over 6 foot in length, you will easily be able to reach from your neared power outlet to your bathroom countertop.
Those of you with Braun shavers will know just how annoying a short charging cord can be.
If you do not need the extra length, hang on to the twist tie that comes in the box. You can use this to shorten the length of the cord, keeping your bathroom free from cable mess.
The screen will light up as soon as you plug the charging cord into the Arc 3:
The battery is displayed as a percentage out of 100 and slowly decreases as you use the shaver. When it reaches 10% the indicator panel will flash at you, warning you that the battery is running low. Even at 10% we were able to get two shaves before the battery would completely die on us
When fully charged Lithium-ion battery holds enough juice for 14 shaving sessions (3 minutes each). That’s two weeks worth of shaves between each recharge. Even better, it takes just one hour to fully charge the battery.
Cleaning the Panasonic Arc 3
After each shave you are going to want to clean you’re your shaver. If you don’t you may find that bits of skin and hair clippings that fall inside the shaving unit will have result in a worse cut. Not only that but it’s unhygienic. So clean it.
Just like charging, there are two different methods to clean your shaver:
1. Cleaning Station (ES-LT7N-S) – The cleaning station will automatically wash and dry the shaving unit of your Arc 3.
2. Manual Clean (all models) Using the built in sonic cleaning mode, rinse the shaving unit under running water.
First let’s take a closer look at the Cleaning station:
The Panasonic cleaning station is by far the smallest out of all the major brands (including Braun and Philips Norelco). If your bathroom countertop is short on space then this may very well be your best option.
The cleaning station is powered by the very same cord that plugs into the base of the Arc 3, charging it. Simply plug the cord into the socket found at the rear and you are in business.
We were pleased to see that the plug does not stick out the side of the cleaning station, allowing you to sit it flush against the rear of your bathroom counter.
The cleaning station uses a special detergent to thoroughly clean your Arc 3 shaver.
The detergent comes in sachets and is much cheaper than the bulky plastic cleaning cartridges that ship with the Braun and Philips Norelco models.
But there is a downside to using sachets. You have to mix the cleaning detergent yourself. To do this, press the button on the side of the cleaning station. The base of the station will pop up, revealing a bucket.
Tear open your sachet and add the contents to the bucket. Add water and carefully place the bucket back inside the cleaning station.
We found that mixing our own cleaning detergent took away from the hands off feeling that a cleaning station should provide. You also have to remove and clean the bucket once it fills with hair clippings.
One sachet lasts approximately one month (cleaning daily). If you want to continue using the automated cleaning station you will have to continue buying sachets on an ongoing basis. We were disappointed to see that Panasonic only includes a single sachet in the box of the Arc 3.
If you wanted to save some money there are generic versions of Panasonic’s cleaning detergent available for a fraction of the price. Just be mindful that using these detergents can void your warranty
As we touched on before the Arc 3 will being to charge the moment it is placed inside the cleaning station.
The cleaning station is designed to be set up in a permanent location on your bathroom counter. By doing so you can easily clean and charge your Arc 3 after each shaving session.
On the lip of the cleaning station are four indicators:
1. Status – Couldn’t actually figure out what this does. It appears to perform the same function as low, the instruction manual did go into detail on what it does.
2. Low – Flashes when the cleaning liquid needs to be replaced.
3. Clean – Lights up during cleaning.
4. Dry Lights up during drying.
A full cleaning cycle takes around three hours. Ten minutes of that is dedicated to cleaning while the remaining time is spent drying the shaving unit.
Now generally if a shaver ships with a cleaning station then that is the best way to clean it. However, the Arc 3 and Arc 5 buck this trend thanks to their included sonic cleaning mode.
With the shaver turned off, press and hold the power button for 2 seconds. You will hear the sound change from a low hum to a higher pitched whir. You have now activated the sonic cleaning mode.
This mode causes the blades to vibrate back and forth incredibly fast, making water swirl around the foil guard and blades inside.
Cleaning is as simple as adding some hand soap to the foil guard and rinsing it under running water. Remove the foil guard and repeat. You have now cleaned your shaver.
The Panasonic Arc 3 (and 5) are by far the easiest shaver to manually clean out of all the major brands. You will be incredibly thankful for the sonic cleaning mod if every you are away from the cleaning station.
Testing the Panasonic Arc 3
The Panasonic Arc 3 feels great in the hand. Whether you are right or left handed, the handle fits perfectly. The shaver itself is nicely weighted, maybe only slightly too top heavy but not so much that it impacts your ability to control it.
Pressing the power button will see the shave burst into life. As far electric shavers go it is relatively quiet. However, it would still be loud enough to wake someone sleeping one room over.
Like all electric shavers, the Arc 3 worked best when used on a beard growth that was shorter than 3/32 inches (an average two day growth). If your whiskers are longer than this then you will want to cut them to length with a beard trimmer before proceeding.
The Arc 3 offers an aggressive shave that will leave your hair feeling shorter than the similarly priced electric shavers (Philips Norelco 6100 and Braun Series 3). If you want a close shave then this the best you will get from an electric shaver in this price range.
The fully pivoting head worked wonders as we worked our way across the jawline, all cutting elements remained pressed against the skin.
But where the Arc 3 really shines is right under the chine. The curved foil guard noticeably performs better on this area than the flat foil guards found on the Braun range of shavers. Besides the Arc 5, this is probably the best shave that we were able to get under the chin from an electric shaver.
Now the smooth shave of the Arc 3 does come at the cost of some aggressiveness. If you have sensitive skin then you might find the shave a little too harsh for your liking. But this is the price you pay for such a close shave.
Older Panasonic models that deliver 10,000 CPM (cycles per minute) had a bad habit of losing power as the battery drained. The newest Arc 3 models have a 13,000 CPM linear motor that not only provides a more powerful shave but maintains a consistent power right up until your battery dies.
The Arc 3 has a built in shaving sensor. For less dense sections of your beard (such as your cheeks) the power of the shaver drops, resulting in a softer shave.
Moving the shaving head over to a heavily bearded are (such as your chin) sees the power jump back up resulting in a more aggressive shave to cut through the thicker patches.
We were concerned that the softer shave on the cheeks would lead to missed hairs but the Arc 3 successfully cut less hairy areas just as well as the thicker patches.
But it does have a flaw. If you use shaving foam to shave then this tricks the shaving sensor into thinking it is dealing with a really thick beard growth resulting in a maximum powered shave all the time.
But the Arc 3 isn’t for everyone. If you have thick hairs (say if you are African American) then you may find that the Arc 3 will require more passes than normal to effectively cut your hair. If the thickness of a single hair is fine to medium then you shouldn’t have any troubles. But thicker haired testers did not shave with the same effectiveness as those with finer hairs.
For you thicker haired folk shopping for an electric shaver in this price range, you would be better off checking out the Braun Series 5 (reviewed here).
The Panasonic Arc 3 is a huge update over the previous model. The shaver sets out what it promises to do, give you an incredibly close shave.
While it isn’t for anyone (those of you with sensitive skin or thicker beard hairs), the Arc 3 should definitely be considered by anyone shopping for a shaver in this price range.