Note:Panasonic recently updated there Arc 5 to a new model. As a result this is no longer the most up to date Arc 5 model. You can read our review of the new Arc 5 here.
If you wanted to know everything about the Panasonic Arc5 Shaver then you have come to the right place. This is without a doubt the most detailed review on the internet.
And rightly so, if you are going to drop a wad of cash then you are going to want to know the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to this shaver.
Important: There are numerous models of Panasonic Arc5 shavers on the market. This review is of the ES-LV95-S.
The arc5 range contains the following models:
- ES-LV95 – Current model, includes a cleaning station.
- ES-LV65-S – Current model without cleaning station.
- ES-LV81 – Older model with cleaning station
- ES-LV61 – Older model without cleaning station
With the introduction out of the way it’s time to explore this high-end shaver and see if it really is worth your hard earned cash.
Panasonic Arc5 Electric Shaver
Who doesn’t love opening up a box and finding out what’s inside? Let’s take a closer look together.
The first thing that hit me when unpacking the Arc5 box was the lack of wow factor. Opening the box gave me the same feeling as opening up a under $100 electric shaver.
Let’s say you were to peel off the price tag and give this shaver as a gift (very generous of you). There is no way in the world that the person receiving this gift would assume that it is a top of the line electric shaver.
But looks aren’t everything right? With this off my chest it’s time to break down exactly what is in the box.
Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first. The paperwork:
Panasonic includes a LOT of paperwork with their Arc5 Shaver. Perhaps more than any other brand.
The paper bits include:
- 71 page instruction manual (English, French and Spanish).
- A fold out data sheet on cleaning detergent (in every language imaginable)
- A “how to clean your shaver” sheet
- Warranty terms
- Product registration card
It is worth mentioning that registering your shaver provides no real benefit, other than Panasonic sending you junk emails. This was disappointing since Philips Norelco offer an extra year of warranty for free on their top models (the 9300 and 9700) just for registering.
Instead Panasonic will charge you extra for and additional 2 or 3 year warranty. If you have just paid full price for this shaver then the idea of shelling out more again is hardly appealing and just comes across as greedy.
Next is the star of the box. The Electric shaver:
I will be covering this in much more detail further down the page.
Panasonic have also included two accessories to keep your shaver safe. The first one is a zippered travel case:
Out of the three premium electric shavers (the other two we reviewed being the Braun Series 9 and Philips 9000 Series) this was my least favorite included case. Rather than being hard and protective, it is made from a soft fake leather (my bottom line is pleather!) and feels somewhat cheap.
Also you have to make sure that Arc5 shaver has completely dried before stowing it away in the case. No air vents means that any moisture left on the shaver can cause mold and mildew to grow inside the bag if you leave it for too long.
If you only shave in the comfort of your own home then this is hardly a deal breaker. But for those of you that need a shaver for travelling; you will have to ensure your shaver has thoroughly dried before packing it away.
Because the travel bag is soft you are going to have to protect the foil of your shaver with a plastic cap:
The lid easily snaps over the electric shaver providing the fragile foil guards with some much-needed protection.
When the time comes to use the shaver, the lid can easily be pulled off. But not so easily that it will fall off at the bottom of your bag.
Next up in the box is Panasonic’s take on a cleaning/charging dock:
I’ll cover the dock in much more detail further down in the cleaning section. But my first impressions is that out of all the cleaning/charging stations (including Braun’s and Philips’) the Panasonic is by far the ugliest.
Next up is the cleaning detergent:
Unlike Braun and Philips, who use cartridges; Panasonic gives you a single sachet of cleaning detergent. You will need to mix the detergent with water yourself.
While this will no doubt reduce the cost of replacement sachets, it hardly feels as hassle-free as simply inserting a cleaning cartridge.
The last item in the box is the charger:
After all, it wouldn’t be an electric shaver without one.
After digging through the box I was amazed at how little thought Panasonic had given to presentation. Now you might argue that looks are not everything. And you would be right.
But the fact remains, that this is a rather expensive shaver and it simply does not feel like you are getting your money’s worth.
If the other high end shavers from Braun and Philips can portray a feeling of elegance then there is no reason that Panasonic can’t either.
Obviously looks are only a small part of this review. Functionality and results are a much bigger concern to users and many of you will forgive poor looks if the product is amazing.
So although the Arc5 is off to a poor start, can it redeem itself?
Let’s find out as we take a closer look at the shaver.
Panasonic’s Arc5 shaver is the second most shiny out of the premium electric shavers (first place goes to the Braun series 9). The chrome plating is very reflective. You can see yourself in the shaver, like a mirror.
I am not a fan of chrome, especially when it comes to bathroom products. Bits of hair, fingerprints, and watermarks are all very visible on the chrome surface.
While chrome definitely makes you say “Wow!” as you take your shaver out of the box, it just isn’t very practical for bathroom products. If you want to keep your Arc 5 shaver looking shiny, it will require constant polishing on your part.
Sitting in the center of the shaver body, just above the display screen is a round button:
This is the on/off button for the Arc 5 shaver.
In what seems like an odd design system, Panasonic has included the travel lock as a physical switch on the front of the shaver.
If you look closely at the above picture you will notice a small ring with a hump running around the on the button.
The travel lock prevents your electric shaver from turning on at the bottom of your bag or suitcase, a common problem when traveling.
For many of you who exclusively shave at home, the travel lock will never be used. So I find it unusual that Panasonic decided to include the feature front and center on their flagship model.
Flipping the Arc 5 over reveals a common trend amongst electric shavers, an ugly rear:
If you have ever wondered why electric shaver advertisements only show the front of the shaver, this is the reason. Because your hand will cover this part of the shaver, little effort has been made when it comes to looks.
If you look closely at the shaver you will realize that Panasonic has used an assortment of textures and indentations to make the shaver easy to grip:
1. Running around the entire handle/body, just below the chrome plating is a textured rubber grip. If you hold the shaver naturally, your fingertips will fall on this section.
I was genuinely impressed with just how grippy this rubber was. Your fingers will be unable to slip from it, even when wet or coated with shaving foam.
2. A white plastic seam runs around the entire handle. This smooth plastic appears to cover the edges where the two pieces of rubber meet, sealing them in.
The plastic is very slippery, especially when covered in water or shaving foam. Fortunately, the majority of your fingers will be touching the grippy patterned rubber above it.
3. A smooth rubber makes up the majority of the rear handle. While not as effective as the textured rubber, it still offers enough friction that the palm of your hand won’t slip off the shaver in the shower.
Let’s take a closer look at the rear of the shaver.
The first thing you notice when you flip the Arc 5 shaver over is the three little metal balls sticking out from the rear of the shaver.
These balls are actually the charging terminals. Simply place the shaver in the cleaning dock and the dock will charge the shaver through these terminals. No cables, no fuss.
Unfortunately, these terminals feel a little odd when holding the shaver in your hand. The hard metal feels out of place when contrasted with the softer rubber around them.
Braun Series shavers also have these the charging terminals on the rear but are placed in such a way that they are not as noticeable when the shaver is held in your hand.
Moving down the rear of the handle you will notice that Panasonic continues with their odd design choices:
Either side of the final plastic grip are two slits in the rubber.
Now I did have to magnify these slits and unless you look closely at the electric shaver you very likely won’t notice them, but the shaver design really should be seamless at this price point.
The slits are actually from where the removable cover meets the rubber. Given that this feature will only be used once in the Arc 5’s lifetime (this is how you remove the internal battery before you dispose of the shaver), it feels like this could have been better implemented.
Printed towards the base on the rear of the handle is some model information:
Nothing particularly exciting. Just some model details, and a waterproof logo.
Proudly printed below the model info is “Made in Japan”. Since Panasonic is a Japanese company it makes sense that the shaver is manufactured there.
Just below the model details, you will find the appliance socket:
If you are not going to use the cleaning dock to charge your shaver, you can simply plug the charging cord straight into this socket.
If you wrap your hands around the shaver handle you are in for a pleasant surprise:
The Panasonic Arc-5 shaver feels quite nice to hold. While the weight is not as evenly distributed as the Philips 9000 Series (it is a little top heavy) the shape of the handle fits naturally in your hand.
The shaver itself weighs 6.9 oz (that’s just under 200 grams for you metric folk). Nothing that’s going to make you strain.
Now while all this is nice, the key selling point of an electric shaver is the shaving head itself. So what does Panasonic offer you for your hard earned cash?
Panasonic has chosen to go with a foil shaving head:
Now the shaving head of the Arc 5 is perhaps the most elaborate out of all the high-end shavers.
The cutting head contains 5 cutting blades. Panasonic has taken the same approach Gillette have taken to wet shaving: More blades = better.
As you can see below, the shaver head is made up of 5 different blades, each covered by a foil guard with three distinct patterns:
1. Comb Blade – The trimmer has wider slots for cutting longer beard hairs.
2. Quick Lift Foil – Reverse tapered edges help lift and cut hairs that lie flat against the skin.
3. Outer Finishing Foil – Designed to capture and cut hairs that have been missed by the previous two blades.
So as you can see, the shaver head actually works from the middle out. The middle blade cuts longer hairs; the next two blades lift and cut hairs that lay flat or angled against your skin. And the outermost blades cut and finish whatever is left.
The idea behind the blade arrangement is that the shaver head can cut all the different types of hair that make up a beard. No matter how patchy your beard may be.
The workmanship on the foil is amazing is fantastic. The pattern remains the same across the entire foil, resulting in an even shave. Much better than the less effective pattern found on the Braun Series 9 foil.
If you look closely at the foil guard you will notice that it is slightly curved:
Panasonic claims that the arched foil guard will help you trim that annoying area underneath your chin much easier. I will discuss whether or not this is effective when I use the beard trimmer further down the article.
So you have an arched foil guard and a shaving head with 5 blades. Care to guess how Panasonic came up with this electric shaver’s name?
On either side of this shaver head are two buttons. Pressing the buttons at the same time with your forefinger and thumb causes the foil guard half of the head to pop off…
Revealing two cutting blades inside.
But doesn’t this electric shaver have 5 blades?
You are 100% correct. So where are the other blades hiding?
Flipping the foil guard head that you just removed over will show you just where the other blades are hiding:
Turns out the middle and outer most blades sit inside the detachable guard head of the shaver. 2 blades on the shaver, 3 in the detachable head for a total of 5 cutting elements.
Now you may be wondering what use is removing the guard head?
If you are ever away from the cleaning station (say when you are traveling for instance) you can manually clean the electric shaver. Much easier than lugging around a bulky cleaning station.
The only other reason you would want to remove the guard head is if you are replacing the blades after they have dulled.
Yep, even electric razor blades eventually lose their sharpness. Fortunately, you can replace both the foil (WES9173) and the two inner blades (WES9170) when required.
Removing these parts is simple:
If you squeeze the two sides of the collar you can pop the foil guard right out:
The two inner blades can be removed just as easily.
Simply grab either side of the blade (to avoid cutting your fingers) and pull upwards. The inner blades will simply lift out:
Here is another gripe with Panasonic. While Braun and Philips only require you to purchase a single replacement part for their electric shavers, Panasonic requires you to purchase two.
As you can guess, this isn’t exactly cheap.
While Panasonic’s replacement parts are more expensive than any other shaver brand, there is something you can do to save yourself some money:
Don’t buy your replacement parts from the Panasonic online store.
They are almost double the price that you would find them anywhere else, like Amazon or Walmart.
The head of the shaver can pivot back and forth and side to side, depending on how you are applying pressure to your face. Panasonic calls this it’s ‘Multi-Flex” head.
All high end electric shavers (and some lower ones) have some kind of pivoting action.
A pivoting head helps keep the shaving head in contact with your skin, especially when moving over contoured areas such as your jawline.
If we flip the shaving head over you will notice a sliding toggle and 3 markings:
1. Free – The default setting is free. This allows the head to freely flex and pivot.
2. Lock – Holds the shaver head in position. When locked, the shaver head cannot pivot.
3. mm Activates the pop-up detail trimmer:
The detail trimmer is a nice little add-on that allows you to trim your sideburns. When you are done, simply slide the toggle down and the trimmer automatically returns to it’s hidden starting point.
I am a huge fan of electric shavers that include detail trimmers in their body. Not all manufacturers do this.
Some electric shavers, like the Philips Norelco 9300 and 9700 have a separate trimming head. In order to use it, you have to physically remove the shaving head and slot in the trimming head. Needless to say, the process gets old really quick.
Unlike some pop-up trimmers that push hair away rather than cut, this one means business. It effortlessly slices through longer hairs, providing much-needed shape to sideburns and mustaches.
But don’t throw away your full-sized beard trimmer just yet. Due to the pop-up trimmers small size, it is unsuitable for larger patches of hair, such as your beard.
But even if you could use it on your beard, you might not want to. There is a huge downside to built-in trimmers – they cannot be replaced.
This means that if the blades dull or the trimmer breaks, you will be unable to purchase a replacement. The only way to get a new one is to buy the whole electric shaver all over again. Quite a pricey exercise.
Fortunately, if you just use the detail trimmer as it was intended and use a full sized trimmer for your beard then the blades should stay sharp for the life of the Arc 5.
It’s getting to the part of the review where I take this electric shaver for a test-drive. But first, we have to charge this sucker up.
The Arc 5 ships with just enough juice in the battery for it to turn on and have an angry red light flash at you, prompting you to place the shaver on charge.
As I touched upon earlier, you can either use the adapter or the cleaning station to charge the Arc 5. Since I will be focusing on the cleaning station further down, I will take the shaver’s charging virginity by using the adapter.
Good news if you travel for business, the Panasonic Arc 5 can be used anywhere in the world. The charger can run off anything between 100V and 240V.
USA, Japan, Australia, England…. The list goes on. Since the charger that comes in the box is designed to fit USA power sockets, you will need to buy a travel plug so that you can fit the oddly shaped sockets you come across during your travels. (You can pick them up for super cheap on eBay).
Panasonic claims the Lithium-ion battery of the Arc 5 offers 45 minutes of shaving time off a 1-hour charge. If you shave for three minutes that means you will get around 15 shaves before you have to recharge.
There is no audible sound to indicate you have plugged the charger into the shaver. Instead, a power plug indicator glows red, letting you know that the shaver is charging.
The battery is shown on the display screen as a percentage. As you wait for it to charge you will see the LCD display increase from 0% to 100%.
A second battery indicator also fills up; a circle made up of 6 bars.
Here is where it get’s confusing. All but the bottom bar represent 20% worth of battery charge. The bar at the bottom of the circle will blink when there is 10% or less charge remaining and is always lit until this limit is reached.
It is very easy to forget that the bottom bar is not a charge bar, fooling you into thinking that you have more charge in the shaver than the actually is. Yet another example of Panasonic’s odd design choices.
After what seems like forever (okay, about 50 minutes) your brand new shaver is fully charged and ready for use:
It is worth mentioning that you cannot use the Arc 5 while it is plugged into the charging cord. If your shaver runs flat you will have to wait for it to reach at least 10% charge before you can get a full shave out of it.
Since the Panasonic Arc 5 is operated by a single button, you must use press this button multiple times to cycle through the modes.
If you press the power button the shaver bursts into life with a loud hum. This is the screen you will be greeted with on the display:
1. LCD timer Starts ticking away and is used as a quick reference to let you know how long you have been shaving for
2. Battery ring As discussed earlier, each bar represents 20%.
3. Shaving sensor Lights up when smart shave is on.
The shaving sensor is an interesting addition. Panasonic claims that the shaver can automatically sense the thickness of your beard and adjust the power usage accordingly.
It’s not as confusing as it sounds. This diagram will help you have that lightbulb moment:
If you want the shaver to run at a constant speed then you simply press the power button again and the shaving sensor turns off:
The display screen times out after seven seconds. After this the only thing you will see is the blinking smart-shave sensor indicator:
If you have already turned the shaving sensor off before the seven seconds are up then the screen will go black instead, in an effort to save battery.
Pressing the power button a third time will turn the shaver off. The screen will then cycle through the display and time used for 10 seconds before fading to black.
A quirk of this design is that you cannot see how long you have actually been shaving for until you turn the shaver off.
So even if you only wanted to see how long you had been shaving for you have to turn the power off.
Let’s be realistic. You are not going to stop shaving because three minutes is up. You are going to stop shaving when your beard is no more.
So for this very reason, it seems odd that Panasonic even bothered to include a shave timer. Unless there is a secret society that has shaving races, I really don’t see the point of it.
With the basic operations out of the way, it’s time to let this bad boy tackle my beard hairs.
If you have read up until this point you will be aware of all the quirks I have found on the shaver.
However, if this thing provides a shave from the heavens then all these faults will be forgiven.
So now for the million dollar question:
So how does it shave?
Spoiler: pretty darn good.
All the times I tested this electric shaver I had a 2-day growth.
I’ll be upfront. It took my skin and beard three weeks before it started to get used to being mown down with the Arc5 Shaver. Until that point, I would break out in a bad case of shaving rash.
It is worth mentioning that this is not unique to Panasonic. Any electric shaver you use will come with a weaning period.
Whether you choose Braun, Philips, Panasonic or any other shaver, you won’t experience its full potential until after a few weeks use (sometimes up to 4-6 weeks).
In addition to my skin getting used to the shaver, I also had to refine my shaving technique – Applying the right amount of pressure and then using the proper motions (a gentle back and forth motion seemed to work best for me).
The first thing you will notice when the shaver touches your skin is that the foils heat up. This is not exactly a pleasant experience. If you have sensitive skin then the last thing you will want is heat opening your pores as you shave.
Although I was a little unsure of the curved head, it seemed to make the annoying spot underneath the chin easier to shave. Much easier than the flat foil guard you find on the Braun series shavers.
However – This may also be because the Panasonic Arc 5 has an extra two sets of blades cutting away with each swipe.
How does it cut in terms of closeness?
Very close. The Panasonic Arc 5 cut closer than the Philips 9000 series and the Braun Series 7. Even closer than the recently released Braun Series 9.
Panasonic proves that the extra blades are not just for looks. The shaver cuts cleanly through even the coarsest of hair, easily outperforming electric shavers with fewer cutting elements.
While all the high-end shavers offer an incredibly close cut, Panasonic edges them out and I noticed it took much longer when for my 5-o’clock shadow to appear when I used the Arc 5.
Now there is a drawback of having 5 blades on an electric shaver. It makes the shaving head quite thick.
The extra thickness makes the electric shaver difficult to steer around goatees, sideburns and under the nose. While you shaving these areas will get easier with practice; in my opinion, the Panasonic Arc 5 is best for those of you who have to remain completely beard-free.
As I moved the shaver around my face I noticed the intensity of the motor adjust. This was the shaving sensor in action and it was noticeably quieter on less hairy areas (cheeks) than it was when slicing through thicker parts of my beard.
I’ll be honest and say that I could not notice the difference in the shave whether the shaving sensor was turned on or off. So this appears to just be a marketing gimmick and should not be the sole reason why you buy this shaver.
If I had to describe the shave in one word it would be “aggressive”. The shaver gets a VERY close shave efficiently and quickly but it just doesn’t have the same shaving comfort that you find on Braun’s higher models.
That is a big trade-off. If you have rough skin that isn’t prone to sensitivities then you are going to want the closest shave possible. And the Panasonic Arc 5 definitely beats out all the competition
But if your skin blemishes at even the thought of an electric shaver then this probably isn’t the shaver for you.
But what about shaving wet?
The Panasonic Arc 5 cuts just as wet as it does dry. But perhaps with a little more comfort. Shaving cream noticeably reduces the aggressiveness of the shaver but not to a point where someone with sensitive skin could consider this a viable shaver.
It is worth mentioning that if you use shaving cream then the shaving sensor will not work. But since its usefulness is questionable, you won’t find this a big loss.
The long and the short of it: perhaps the closest shave you will experience from an electric razor. But it definitely isn’t for those of you with sensitive skin.
Edit: Since posting this review I have had a whole bunch of readers email in claiming just how amazing this shaver is head shaving.
While I didn’t test it out (I am very attached to my hair) this does make sense, since the shaver offers the closest shave out of any electric shaver currently on the market.
So if you are looking for an electric shaver that does BOTH your head and face then this may be the shaver you have been searching for.
If you want your Arc 5 to cut to the best of its ability you are going to have to clean it regularly.
There are two different ways that you can clean the Arc5
Automatically – Simply place your electric shaver in the cleaning unit, hit clean and the dock will automatically wash, clean and dry your electric shaver for you.
Manually – Roll up those sleeves and give the shaver some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease.
I will focus on the automatic method first. Let’s take a closer look at that cleaning dock.
Unlike Braun’s and Philips all black docks, Panasonic has gone with a silver and black design. If you line all three docks side by side, the Panasonic dock looks the least premium.
The matte silver on the cleaning station does not even match the polished chrome highlights of the shaver itself, so why they chose this color scheme is somewhat confusing.
The cleaning unit uses the same charging cord as the shaver. Simply plug the cord into the socket on the right-hand side of the dock and you are in business:
As soon as you place the Arc 5 shaver face down in the cleaning dock it will begin to charge:
Remember the three small metal balls on the back of the shaver handle earlier in the review?
Well, these three metal balls line up perfectly with the gold colored pieces of metal on the cleaning dock.
When the two touch… Kapow, It’s charging time!
But there is still another step you must go through before the dock will clean.
Located on the left-hand side of the dock is a big square button. Pressing this button will cause the base to pop up, revealing a secret compartment
On closer inspection you will see that the compartment has a tub in it. This tub holds the cleaning detergent.
Like I touched on earlier, the Panasonic Arc5 cleaning station does not use disposable cartridges. Instead, you have to mix the solution together yourself:
Simply cut open your sachet, mix the detergent with water and pop the tray back inside the cleaning station.
Now if your one big expense in life was this shaver then you will appreciate the fact that the sachets are much cheaper to buy then the cleaning cartridges that Braun and Panasonic use in their cleaning docks.
But if money is less of an issue for you then the DIY approach of the Panasonic definitely detracts from the whole “automatic” and hassle-free experience that a dock is supposed to offer.
Since sachets are much cheaper than cleaning cartridges it feels really cheap of Panasonic to only include one in the box.
Warning: While there are generic detergents that you can pick up cheap, using them may void Panasonic’s warranty.
The cleaning unit is controlled by a single button:
There are three options:
Charge – Simply place your shaver in the cleaning dock and it will automatically begin to charge.
Clean/dry – Cleans the shaving head then dries it with the built-in fan.
Dry – Skips the clean and only dries the shaver with the built-in fan.
A full cleaning cycle can take up to 180 minutes.
The cleaning unit uses a fan to dry the head of the shaver. While this does add a bit of noise to the cleaning cycle, it does slightly reduce the drying time. As an impatient person, I am quite happy with this trade-off.
Next up is the manual clean.
This is another area that the Arc-5 really shines. Manually cleaning the Phillips 9000 series can be quite difficult. And don’t get me started on the Braun 7 series.
With the addition of cleaning docks, it seems that most manufacturers have forgotten that there will be a time when you need to clean your shaver without it. This is especially true if you travel frequently.
Hold the power button four around 3 seconds and the electric shaver enters it’s “sonic vibration mode”. What this does is make the blades vibrate back and forth incredibly quickly.
So to manually clean the shaver you add some hand soap to the shaver head and turn on the vibration mode.
Turn on the vibration mode and rinse the shaver under running water. After 20 seconds the vibration mode will turn itself off. Step one done.
Next, you remove the foil guard and repeat:
And that’s it. Simply shake off the excess water and dry with a towel and you are done.
The clean is so good that it will almost leave you questioning why you would bother with the whole cleaning station.
This is without a doubt the easiest electric shaver to manually clean on the market.
Here is the part where I tell you whether or not this electric razor is worth buying. Unfortunately, it’s not a black or white answer.
There is no doubt this shaver comes with an incredibly cutting head that offers the closest out of any electric shaver we reviewed. But the close cut can irritate sensitive skin.
The shaving head requires very few passes to satisfactorily cut a section of beard. But the thicker shaving head makes shaving under the nose and near your sideburns a tricky task.
If you don’t need a dock then this shaver is the easiest to clean out of all high-end shavers, but the dock itself is by far the worst out of the lot.
And this is just a summary of some of the trade-offs I went into detail in the review above.
Unfortunately, no single electric shaver is perfect for everyone. What is a deal breaker for some of you will be a benefit for others.
All of the high-end shavers give exceptional shaves, there is no doubt about that. But the quality of my shave will differ from yours.
Shaving is an entirely personal experience and opinions on what is best will differ dramatically from person to person.
All of the high-end shavers give exceptional shaves, there is no doubt about that.
This is why I have written such a long and detailed review on a single shaver. My goal is to arm you with the knowledge needed to make an informed decision on this shaver.
So this might be the very best shaver you have ever experienced. Or it might not. Only you know that.