Philips Norelco has released the 9100, their top of the line laser guided beard trimmer.
You may hear of this shaver referred to as a Series 9000 shaver. This is just branding on Philips Norelco’s part in an attempt to sort their beard trimmer range into tiers. The 9100 is currently the only trimmer in the 9000 Series.
Is it the right beard trimmer for you? Find out in our detailed review.
Unboxing the Philips Norelco BeardTrimmer 9100
If you were to tear open the box on your brand new 9100 beard trimmer, this is what you would find inside:
Let’s break it down:
- BeardTrimmer 9100 BT9285/41
- Detail Comb
- Beard Comb
- Charging adapter
- Cleaning brush
An instruction manual is also included in the box. Flipping through the manual we were pleased to see that the 9100 is covered by Philips Norelco’s 45-day Satisfaction Guarentee
What this essentially means is that if you are unhappy with the product for whatever reason you have 45 days from the date of purchase to return the product for a full refund. It’s a nice little safety net to ensure you are not stuck with an unsuitable beard trimmer.
Examining the Philips Norelco BeardTrimmer 9100
The first thing you will notice when you pick up the 9100 BeardTrimmer for the first time is it’s incredibly shiny looks. The chrome plastic casing contrasts nicely with the rest of the gloss black plastic that makes up the body.
Why manufacturers of products designed to be used in the bathroom insist on shiny designs for their top models is beyond us. It is a trend we really wish would just go away.
Because if there is one thing that shiny surfaces are good at it’s showcasing fingerprints, smudges and watermarks. And the 9100 is no exception.
So take a good look at your 9100 fresh out of the box. Unless you routinely polish it, it will never look this good again.
Like getting past that first scratch on a new car, once you get used to the fact that the handle attracts smudges it won’t even bother you.
Located in the middle of the shaver is the power button:
The power button just turns the beard trimmer on and off. Interestingly there does not seem to be a travel lock feature on the 9100.
You couldn’t have missed that big red recessed dial sitting just above the power button. This is comb adjuster. By twisting it you can adjust how much length is left behind as you trim your beard.
We will take a closer look at how this dial works in the combs section further down the review.
Besides the dial the only other point of interest on the front of the Philips Norelco 9100 is the battery indicators, sitting just below the power button. Although they are not visible with the power off, the indicator lights allow you to quickly determine the amount of battery charge remaining at a glance.
At the very base of the 9100 handle you will find the charging socket:
By plugging the charger plug into the socket you will be able to charge the battery of the 9100.
Flipping the 9100 beard trimmer over reveals a much less shiny rear:
Printed at the base of the rear you will see some basic information on the 9100 including the model number, BT9285 as well as a customer service phone number to contact for technical difficulties. A handy point of reference if you have misplaced the instruction manual.
It is here that you will also discover the country of origin. Unlike Philips Norelcos electric shaver range which is made in the Netherlands, all Philips beard trimmers are manufactured in China.
In the middle of the rear you will see the other half of the red length selection dial found on the front:
By exposing two sections you can easily twist the dial with both your forefinger and thumb.
At the top of the rear you will come across a curious looking gold piece of plastic that doesn’t match the rest of the color scheme:
This is the laser guide. When not in use it remains recessed into the body of the beard trimmer.
To release the laser guide all you need to do is press down on the gold plastic and the laser will pop right up, ready for use.
We will cover the laser guide in it’s own little section further down the review.
At the very top of the Philips Norelco 9100 you will find the star of the show, the trimmer head:
We were pleased to see that Philips decided to use ground blades on their beard trimmer. Ground blades are not only sharper but do not dull as quickly as stamped blades.
Interestingly the blade appears to be sharper than that found on Braun’s BT5090 beard trimmer.
As you would expect from a high end beard trimmer, Philips Norelco also includes a smaller detail trimmer on the 9100. But how they have implemented it trumps all the other brands in comparison:
A reversible trimmer head. As you can see, the detail trimmer is built right into the main trimmer head!
And to use it all you need to do is spin the head around:
Out of all the beard trimmers we have tested, this was by far out favorite way that a detailed trimmer was implemented.
Pulling up on the trimmer head will allow you to completely remove it from the 9100 handle:
With the head removed cleaning out hair clippings becomes much easier.
Philips Norelco claims that the blades on the trimmer heads are self-sharpening. The blades brush against the steel comb, sharpening themselves as they trim.
The Blades should remain sharp for the life of the trimmer. There may be some truth to the matter as over the course of the testing period we failed to notice the blades dull even a little.
Philips Norelco Beard Trimmer 9100 Combs
While you do have the option to use the beard trimmer as is, the main appeal of the Philips Norelco 9100 is the ability to trim your beard hairs to a set length.
To achieve this, two plastic combs are included in the box:
The quality of plastic combs varied dramatically across the different beard trimmers we tested. The combs found on the Philips Norelco 9100 are amongst the sturdiest. The thick plastic teeth were much more difficult to bend than those found on the Braun and Wahl shavers.
Installing the combs onto the body of the 9100 is simple. Just behind the trimmer head, on either side of the handle you will find a small slot:
The arms of the comb slot neatly into these slots, locking it into place.
With the comb attached you can now decide how much length you want to leave on your beard.
You set the length of the comb by adjusting the big red dial found on the handle of the 9100. As you turn the dial, a number will light up on a small screen just above:
This number represents the length you have selected in millimeters. There are 17 length settings to choose ranging from 0.4mm (1/64”) to 7mm (9/32).
Each of the above length settings can be selected with the dial and displayed on the screen. It is worth mentioning that the screen is not a digital display. Instead it is painted plastic that an LED light shines through. The numbers are designed to LOOK like a digital display but this simply isn’t the case.
We felt this is worth mentioning since on the box Philips Norelco dishonestly calls this an LED Digital Display, when that isn’t really the case. There is nothing digital about it. To put it bluntly Philips Norelco is blatantly lying to consumers. And this is a practice that we simply cannot get behind.
Below you can see the lowest length setting:
As you twist the dial to the left, length of hair left behind increases as the comb moves further away from the blade:
Below you can see the comb with the length at the highest setting:
You may have noticed that two different combs are included in the box. Let’s takea closer look at each.
1. Detail comb
The detail comb is completely blocked off by the teeth of the comb. This allows you to get a perfectly even shave no matter what angle you hold the comb.
We found the detail comb to be particularly helpful when maintaining a shorter stubble or shaving under the nose.
2. Beard Comb
If you have a longer beard then you may find the squared teeth of the detail comb prevent the blade effectively trimming your beard. Because of this Philips Norelco include a longer an open toothed comb just for combatting big wooly beards.
The teeth of the comb performed well at guiding bushy beard hair towards the cutting blade. However care must be taken not to tilt the comb too much or the exposed blade will cut your hair too short.
Initially we found that removing the combs was much more difficult than installing them and unless a good amount of effort was applied they would not come out. With continued use we noticed that the plastic “stretched” and comb removal became much easier.
Philips Norelco Beard Trimmer 9100 Laser Guide
Lets face it, the real reason you are considering this beard trimmer over any other is because of the laser guide. The 9100 is currently the only beard trimmer available on the American market to come with such a feature.
Pressing down on the gold piece of plastic on the rear of the 9100 beard trimmer will see it pop up. If the battery is charged, the laser will shine even if the power is switched off.
The laser helps you achieve the perfect straight edge when detailing your beard. Instead of attempting to use your eyesight alone, which can lead to crooked lines, you simply follow the line that the laser beams onto your face. Simple and perfect straight edges every time.
Now some of you may be a little concerned about the inclusion what is essentially a laser pointer attached to a product designed to be used on your face.
There is no need to worry, the laser on the 9100 is a class 1 laser, which is safe under all conditions of normal use. This essentially means that you can look at the laser with the naked eye. Even so, we would not recommend you get into a staring competition with it.
The laser is only designed to be used with the bare trimmer head. You will be unable to use the laser guide with a comb attached.
Considering the combs are designed to give an overall trim rather than detailing this should hardly be a problem.
Charging the Philips Norelco 9100 Beard Trimmer
When the time comes to charge the Philips Norelco 9100 you are going to need the help of the charger included in the box:
The charger cord is a little over 5 foot in length and should be more than long enough to stretch from your power outlet to your bathroom counter top.
If you travel for work or take frequent vacations then you will appreciate that the charger is multi-voltage. To put it simply this means that the charger will work on any voltage that falls between 100 -240V.
Charge your 9100 beard trimmer in any country from America to Australia; and everywhere in between. If you do plan on using this as your travel beard trimmer remember to purchase a travel adapter so that you can plug the charger into the odd shaped electrical outlets you come across on your travels.
You will be unable to use the beard trimmer straight out of the box and will need to charge it prior to use.
Your 9100 will begin to charge the moment you plug the charger in and turn the power on.
On the face of the beard trimmer you will find three small indicator lights. Each of these lights represents roughly a third of the battery charge. When you charge the beard trimmer these lights will slowly light up until the battery is full.
It takes a full hour charge the trimmer after which you will get a full 60 minutes of use. If you are in a hurry or the battery dies on you a quick 5 minute charge will give just enough battery juice for a single use.
When the battery is running low the battery indicator light will flash orange, warning you that it is time to place the beard trimmer back on charge.
Philips has quite a few rules to follow when it comes to caring for the battery. Properly caring for your trimmer will ensure that you get the most possible use out of it over the course of it’s life. We highly recommend you check them out in the instruction manual prior to use.
Testing the Philips Norelco 9100 beard Trimmer
With the battery fully charged it is time to take the Philips Norelco 9100 beard trimmer for a test-drive.
For the purpose of testing six users were brought in with varying types of beard lengths and densities. The following contains summaries of their experience with the 9100 beard trimmer.
The built-in laser guide adds some bulk to the shaver handle. Despite this, the 9100 is surprisingly ergonomic. Your middle finger naturally rests in the gap on the rear of the trimmer where the dial hides, allowing you to maintain a confident grip on the trimmer.
Turning the 9100 on was a different story. Despite having a seemingly large power button, pressing the top third of the button down will not turn the beard trimmer on. You must press accurately on the power symbol to kick the trimmer into action.
Some testers found this behavior frustrating and we understand. After all, why would you have such a large button if only half of it works?
When you manage to push the power button just right the motor will kick into action. If you have ever owned a beard trimmer then the sound will be instantly familiar. A higher pitched whirring sound accompanies the rapid movements of the cutting blade.
Without the combs attached the beard trimmer glides smoothly across your face. Very smoothly. However, the beard trimmer failed to trim all hairs in a single pass. This was most noticeable on coarse hairs. Testers with fine to medium hairs were able to trim their beard in a single pass.
While the Wahl Lithium Ion Plus we tested was able to trim most hairs in a single pass, the 9100 required multiple passes before a satisfactory length was achieved.
The 9100 also left a little more length than we would have liked. If you are attempting to maintain a very short stubble then this probably isn’t the right beard trimmer for you.
Despite all this, testers commented that this was one of the most comfortable beard trimmers tested, even with the multiple passes required. One tester who was irritated by the blade of Wahl beard trimmers noted that he did not experience the same irritation with the 9100.
Testers also noticed less skin flakes when trimming without the combs. This is likely because the blades do not cut as close to the skin.
Flipping the trimmer head around the detail head performed much better at trimming hairs down. Upon closer inspection we noticed that the blade of the detail trimmer sits much closer to the metal teeth than the regular beard trimmer. We almost wish the main head had a similar design.
The laser guide received mixed opinions. While the red laser beam did help testers achieve a straighter edge (we tested one cheek with it vs. one cheek without it) the benefit was more noticeable in those who did not edge their beard regularly.
Those who did maintain a beard or sideburns with sharp lines said that it felt like putting training wheels on the beard trimmer. It’s inclusion to them felt like a gimmick and these testers chose not to use it.
However, those who did not regularly style their beard commented on how they were able to get a perfect edge without practice. If you are new to the world of facial hair grooming then you may find value in using the laser guide to avoid wonky beard lines.
Whacking a comb on the end of the trimmer saw the beard trimmer perform better. While the lower length settings again required too many passes for our liking, the higher lengths were effective at maintaining length.
When trimming was done the testers found the beard trimmer incredibly easy to maintain. Simply rinse the blades out under water and leave to dry.
One thing that annoyed testers is that the instructions state that you need to allow the trimmer to dry with the laser guide in the up position. However, the moment you pop the laser guide up, it will shine it’s beam, even with the power off.
Many commented that not having to oil the blades was a huge relief, something that most beard trimmers require on a regular basis.
To put it simply the Norelco 9100 is an expensive beard trimmer and the only reason you should even consider purchasing this is if you intend to make use of the laser guide.
If you are looking for a fool proof way to give your beard and side burns the perfect edge then there really isn’t anything else on the market like this.
But if you do not intend to make use of the feature then you are better off looking for a different option