Welcome to our incredibly detailed review covering everything you could ever need to know about the Philips Norelco 9300 and 9700 (and now 9800) Electric Shaver. We give you all the information you need to decide if this is the right shaver for you.
Disclaimer: This review is of the Philips Norelco 9300, which is IDENTICAL to the 9700 with the exception of three INCREDIBLY MINOR differences. We feel these differences do not justify the extra $100 price of the 9700. Use the index above to jump down and see just how minor these differences actually are.
Philips Norelco 9300 Electric Shaver
Out of all the electric shavers we tested, the Philips Norelco 9300 Shaver came in the biggest box.
Now as you know, bigger does not necessarily mean better. This is true of many things such as bills, hangovers and of course, penis size (unless you want to beat someone with it).
So is Philips compensating for something when it comes to it’s oversized packaging?
Apparently not. The Philips Series shavers are perhaps the best packaged out of all the major brands.
Ordering expensive products online is often a scary process. Delivery drivers are often known for their heavy hands and ability deliver packages squashed and misshapen.
But fear not…
The shaver and accessories are packaged so well that it could survive a tornado. So well done to Philips on that.
As you can see, the box holds quite a bit of stuff.
Let’s break it down!
First is the envelope with a “Grooming Club” membership card on the front:
Opening up the envelope reveals an instruction manual for your brand new shaver and a sheet to order replacement heads.
The membership card is little more than a credit card shaped piece of cardboard that prompts you to register your shaver online at the Philips Website.
Now this confused me somewhat. The card included in the box states:
However, Philips website says something completely different:
1 year additional warranty beats 6 months, but I could not figure out how to get my 50% off my first cleaning cartridge purchase as promised in the box.
Now it may be that I was given older stock (this was purchased from Amazon) but since the model number (S9311/84) is current according to Philips website, it is worth mentioning that this inaccurate information is likely found inside all 9300 boxes.
Okay, moving on. Next up is the star of the box. The 9300 Shaver itself:
Covering the display on the front of the shaver is a protective sticker.
The sticker serves two purposes:
- Protect the display from scratches.
- Show you the indicator locations.
After you have removed the shaver from it’s box you should peel the sticker off since it actually prevents you from viewing the indicators underneath.
I will be examining the 9300 shaver in much greater detail further down the page. Right after I show you all the other cool stuff in the box.
And one of those cool things is the trimmer head:
Your side burns don’t stand a chance!
Digging further through the box you will discover that you have the option of protecting your shaver with this funky travel case:
First impressions are that it is quite rugged and sturdy enough to protect your 9300 from even the roughest of hands.
Philips has decided to use mesh along the hinge of the case. This allows air to circulate through the case. I think this is a pretty nifty idea, especially if your shaver is still damp from a recent shaving session.
Unfortunately, there is ONLY enough room inside the carry case for the shaver. You will need to pack the charger (and any other accessories you want to bring along) separately.
The bulkiest thing in the shaver box is what Philips calls the SmartClean System
This fancy 2-in-1 dock not only cleans your shaver but charges it as well.
The Smart Clean dock uses disposable cartridges filled with a cleaning solution. One comes included in the box.
Unlike Braun, the cleaning fluid found inside the cartridge is not alcohol based.
This is actually important, as shipping alcohol in any amount often brings with it a hazardous materials handling charge, particularly when posted internationally. Just a tidbit I felt was worth mentioning.
Also included in the box is an unusual shaped piece of plastic:
At first it was not immediately clear as to what this is used for. Upon referring to the instruction manual I learned that it was a tool to assist with removal of the individual shaver heads.
This won’t be of much use to you until the time comes to replace the shaver heads (which could take a year or longer), so store this tool away in a safe space so that you do not misplace it.
Then finally, there is the power adaptor:
After all, this wouldn’t be an electric shaver without it.
And that is everything that comes in the box. Quite a lot huh?
With the contents of the 9300 box fully explored, it’s now time to take a closer look at the shaver.
The Philips 9000 Series Shaver (9300 and 9700)
The 9300 (and 9700, they look identical with the power off) is a modern looking trimmer:
Do not be fooled by the chrome looks, the body of the 9000 series shavers are largely plastic. This is hardly a bad thing, plastic doesn’t weigh down the shaver and won’t ever rust.
The 9300 (like the 9700) shaver has just three buttons; located just above the display screen on the front of the shaver.
- Power button: Self explanatory; press this to turn the shaver on or off.
- Plus and minus buttons: Both cycle through the shavers speed settings.
Pressing and holding the power button for three seconds activates travel lock.
With travel lock on, your electric shaver will be unable to accidentally turn on at the bottom of your luggage. A handy little feature for those of you that travel frequently.
The buttons are seamlessly incorporated into the body of the shaver. If you were to slide your finger over them with your eyes closed you wouldn’t even be able to tell they are there.
Each button gives a satisfying “click” sound when pressed and are all within easy reach of your thumb. Perhaps a little too much pressure is required to press each button but this will entirely come down to personal preference.
Unfortunately this shaver ain’t so pretty from behind:
This is probably why you only ever see the front of the 9000 series electric shavers shown in Philips advertising.
Looking closer at the rear you will notice ribbed sections. One behind the neck of the shaver:
And one either side of the rear:
If you have ever tried shaving in the shower, you will know just how slippery things can get. These ribbed grips help stop the your brand new shaver from falling from your hand.
The grips seem to be in just the right places too, lining up perfectly with your fingers when held in your hand.
Hidden from plain sight; at the bottom of the handle, is the charging slot.:
When the battery runs flat simply connect the charger that is included in the box (or use the cleaning dock) to recharge the battery.
The shaver really is comfortable to hold. Not too heavy, not too light. In fact, the shaver only ways 5.9 oz (that’s just over 165 grams for you metric folk).
Despite being quite light, the weight is very nicely distributed, and feels comfortable to hold regardless of how you twist your wrist or position your fingers.
Yup; despite being light weight and having a mostly plastic shell, Philips have manufactured an incredibly premium electric shaver. But this is to be expected, given the price you are paying.
Now while all this is nice, the key selling point of an electric shaver is the shaving head itself. So what does Philips offer you for your hard earned cash?
The shaver actually contains three individual shaving heads and each shaving head is made up of two pieces. A razor blade piece and a guard.
The guards are clearly visible in the above picture. Each guard has a pattern of angled slots.
If you look closely you will notice two distinct circular patterns. One around the rim of each shaving head and one towards the center of the disc. Each of these circular patterns is called a “track”
The outer track is designed for cutting longer hair while the track on the inner portion of the disc not only cuts shorter hairs but helps lift hairs that lay flat against the skin (such as those on the neck).
As you glide the shaver across the surface of your skin, hairs will stick up through the slots in the track and are cut by the spinning blade behind.
If you are having a hard time picturing this, here’s a diagram of a hair poking through the guard just about to be trimmed by the blade:
By pulling gently upwards you can split the shaving unit in half:
This is the method you will use when the time comes to change the blades on your series 9000 shaver.
Flipping the shaving unit over reveals that the blades are locked into position by orange retaining rings.
These rings can be undone with a simple twist, allowing you to remove the individual shaver heads.
Here’s where the shaver head removal tool comes in:
The tool makes it incredibly easy to twist and remove the retaining rings that lock the shaver heads into position.
Don’t worry if you have lost your removal tool. While it was slightly more difficult, I was still able to remove the retaining rings with my fingers.
With the retaining ring removed, the shaver head simply lifts up out of the shaving unit.
While the shaving head is out of the unit, I will show you a closer view of the blade piece:
This is a brand new blade design which Philips has named the “V-Track Precision Blade”, because of the V-shape of the blades. Not exactly creative, but then again Philips have a track record for boring names.
According to Philips:
The blades are angled at the optimal cutting position resulting in a more comfortable shave that is 30% closer.
If you ignore Philips’ sales pitch, this simply means each one of those angled pieces of metal you can see sticking up is a razor blade and sit incredibly close to the guard, resulting in a really close shave.
Philips recommends you use this method to replace your shaving heads once a year. Replacement shaving heads can be purchased directly from Philips, or major retail stores like Walmart or even Amazon.
From my experience, only frequent shavers will need to change the shaving heads yearly. If you only shave twice a week or less then you will see the heads last much longer.
Now this process revealed something of a concern to me. Each retaining ring is held in position just two tiny little plastic tags:
In the above image you may notice that the tag is somewhat sheared. This happened when I attempted to return the shaver head to it’s original position.
You have to be REALLY careful that you have the retaining ring in the correct location before twisting it back to it’s locked position, otherwise this tag scrapes along the wall of the shaver head and could potentially shear right off (it is flimsy plastic after all).
Unfortunately it can be difficult to determine what the correct location actually is. Especially if you have already removed the other two retaining rings.
My suggestion would be to pay attention to how the retaining ring locks into place before you start removing each individual shaver head.
Because if you slice off these little tags you will need to replace the entire shaving unit, which isn’t exactly cheap.
Since this is also the same way that Philips expects you to “advance clean” your shaver heads, this system seems poorly designed.
The retaining ring system is by far my least favorite thing about this shaver. Everything else about the shaver is so well engineered, yet it feels like the retaining ring system was implemented without much thought as to usability.
The shaving unit pivots at three different points for a total of 8 directions of movement:
- The whole shaving unit
- The tilt ring
- The shaver head
Now this is quite difficult to describe in writing so rather than waste both of our time trying to explain it, I am going to show how it works in a video:
If you pull upwards a little force you will be able to completely remove the shaving unit from the handle/body of the shaver.
Philips calls this quick action release “SmartClick”. No fiddling around with buttons or levers to free the head. A simple pull and it comes straight off.
Impressively, while the shaving unit did not require much effort to remove, it held on securely through every single shave.
With the shaving unit removed you are now free to clip in the trimming head:
Unlike Panasonic and Braun which include a “pop-up trimmer” in the actual shaving head, Philips has decided to include an entirely separate trimmer attachment.
Let’s get one thing straight; this trimmer head will NOT replace your every-day beard trimmer. It is designed to do little else other than detailing (which to be fair, it does well). So while it will work wonders on your sideburns, just don’t expect it to cut those long and thick beard hairs.
Despite being quick to do, swapping the heads around can become annoying and after testing both the Braun and Panasonic shavers, I believe that a built in trimmer is definitely the way to go.
It is also worth mentioning that the trimmer head will not fit in the travel case. If you want to shave while on holiday, you will have to pack the trimmer head separately.
Okay, now it’s time to take this shaver for a test-drive.
The shaver ships with just enough juice left in the battery to beep angrily at you when turned on, prompting you to charge it, so you can’t expect to use this shaver straight out of the box.
You are going to have to charge this bad boy up.
Good news if you travel for business. The 9300 and 9700 can be used anywhere in the world. The charger can run off any voltage between 100 and 240V.
USA, Japan, Australia, England… Wherever you travel you can be confident that you can be clean-shaven. The only thing you will need is a adapter plug, to fit the odd shaped sockets you will come across during your travels.
Philips claims the Lithium-ion battery of the 9300 and 9700 shavers offers 50 minutes of shaving after a 1 hour charge. I found this claim to be fairly accurate, getting between 47-49 minutes of use before needing to recharge.
Let’s face it, we have all had a shaver battery die on us. Maybe even halfway through a shave. I don’t need to tell you just how frustrating this can be. Fortunately Philips 9000 series feature a handy feature that you are going to just love…
If the battery runs flat on you, a 5 minute charge is all that is needed for 3 minutes of shaving. If you don’t mess around, that is plenty of time for a full shave.
You can either charge the shaver with the SmartClean shaving dock or just with the adapter. Whatever you prefer.
Since I am going to focusing on the charging dock further down the page, to get started with I will charge the shaver just with the power adapter:
It is here that we come across the first major difference between the 9700 and the 9300. The way that charge is displayed.
- 9300 Battery displayed in bars, each bar representing around 20% of total battery.
- 9700 Digital Battery display with an exact reading from 1-100%, providing an exact calculation of the battery.
Each time you plug in the shaver for charging, every indicator will blink on and off at once and a chime will sound, to announce that the shaver has entered charge mode.
You cannot use Philips shavers while on charge and the 9300 and 9700 are no exception. Pressing the ON button while the shaver is charging will result in the battery indicator flashing and two quick beeps will sound.
Fortunately this is not really an issue thanks to the 5-minute quick charge feature.
While I am waiting for the battery to charge I will take you through what each indicator means.
From top to bottom:
- Speed settings – slow, medium or fast
- Clean Shaver head reminder – Blinks after every shave
- Travel lock – Indicates travel lock is active.
- Battery Capacity – A visual guide to remaining charge
- Change shaver head – Lights up once a year to remind you to change the shaving heads.
- Error – shaver head is blocked and needs a clean.
During shaving, only the remaining battery and shaving speed indicators are visible.
Now for the million dollar question:
How well does it shave?
Pretty darn good.
I have annoying neck hairs that shoot off in every direction, right up to my jaw line. These hairs have always been problematic for me when using electric shavers that require up and down movements.
The circular motions coupled with the shaving head placement missed far fewer long hairs on me than the high end models offered by Braun and Panasonic.
But to achieve the perfect shave there is a learning curve that needs to be overcome. Admittedly my first shave was not all that great, which lead me to read up on proper shaving technique.
As I practiced the proper technique, I got better and better until I got to the point where I was shaving like a pro.
The trick is overlapping circular motions, both clockwise and counterclockwise (in areas where direction of hair growth varies).
I must point out that not a whole lot of pressure is needed for an effective shave. This is largely thanks to the head pivoting in various directions as it crosses the contours of your face.
Pressing down too hard or leaving the shaver stationary for too long (especially on the neck) will reward you with a nasty razor burn. A delicate touch is required which again requires practice.
Overall the shave was incredibly close. Not as close as a wet shave (you just cant get that close from an electric razor) but close enough for me to think “ooh, smooth” when I slid my hand over my cheek.
Now many experts say they rotary electric shavers have a habit of yanking out hairs because of the circular motion required instead of the more familiar up and down motion.
We did find that this was true of cheaper models but once you get to the higher end like where we are now, there is no pulling whatsoever.
The only time I experienced pulling was when I went too long between cleaning the shaver heads. The blades would coat with hair build-up and pull rather than cut. But that was laziness on my part rather than a fault of the electric shaver and a quick clean saw the problem fixed.
Now electric shaving does get used to as you are essentially dragging dry metal over a dry face. I personally use a pre-shave but because this shaver was waterproof I jumped in the shower to test it out.
Let’s get one thing straight. Shaving in the shower feels weird, particularly if you have never done it before. The shaver seemed to work just as well as it did dry, with the water adding additional lubrication.
Now I must admit, I did miss a few hairs from shaving in the shower but this is largely because I did not have a mirror in the shower. If you choose to shave in the shower, you will need to be mindful of the areas where you have and have not shaved.
The shaver is perhaps the quietest out of all the high end electric shavers we tested, even at the highest speed setting.
More of a higher pitched whirring sound rather than a loud buzz.
Now there are a couple of quirks. One of which is the speed settings. Philips states:
Use slow for a more skin-friendly shave, normal for a thorough shave and fast for a high powered shave.
Now I am prone to skin rashes and blemishes but was just fine with shaving on high, in fact, out of the three settings fast seemed to be the one the performed the best, Medium was okay and slow, well it’s name definitely rings true. It adds minutes to your total shave time.
The other downside to the shave offered by the shaver is detail. There ARE areas that you will have trouble shaving with the shaving head layout on Philips shavers.
Under the nose and close to the sideburns.
If you want to get the tight areas you will have to use a SINGLE shaving head in circular motions. Under the nose was not too hard (simply suck your lips in) but going shaving near the sideburns is a scary experience.
All electric shavers have their flaws and with practice you will definitely learn to get the most out of your shaver.
Over all, I highly recommend the 9300 and 9700 shavers if your neck and beard hairs grow in all directions.
Properly cleaning your electric shaver is important. A major complaint leveled at this shaver is that the blades dull quickly. Very often, this “dullness” is due to hair, skin and soap build up coating the blades.
I experienced this first hand when I neglected to clean the shaver after three shaves. On the fourth shave, the blades were noticeably cutting worse than when I first got the shaver.
One cleaning cycle later and the blades were cutting as good as new.
The 9300 and 9700 both come with a SmartClean shaving dock. While you can still clean your shaver without it, the dock definitely simplifies the process.
I’ll be honest, I am not a fan of having a shaver dock forced upon me. I feel that they are a greedy cash grab by manufacturers to lock you into buying a disposable item (the cleaning cartridges) on a regular basis.
Putting my bias aside for the sake of this review, let’s take a closer look at exactly what the SmartClean shaving dock has to offer:
In order for the SmartClean dock to work, you will need to plug in the power adapter. The socket is located on the rear of the dock.
Now plugging the adapter directly into the shaver is an incredibly smooth process. On the dock? Not so much. While the cable was tough to push in, pulling it out required a good amount of strength.
This won’t be a problem for most of you, who will simply set the dock up in their bathroom and be done with it. But for those of you that travel and leave the dock at home, I recommend investing in a spare power adapter.
But there is one more thing required to make the smart dock work. That is a cleaning cartridge. Without it, the dock will only charge your shaver. But no cleaning will take place.
Pressing a button on the side of the SmartClean dock reveals a hidden compartment tucked away in the base.
It is here that you load in your cleaning cartridge. Simply peel the aluminum seal off the top of the cleaning cartridge and you are ready to begin.
Important: Set your dock up before you load up the cleaning cartridge. Moving the dock with a cleaning cartridge installed can cause the cleaning solution to spill everywhere.
The SmartClean dock itself charges, cleans, lubricates and dries the shaver without any effort on your part.
It does it’s job well and is incredibly quiet. Not like Braun’s louder cleaning stations.
Here we come across the second difference between the 9300 and 9700. The display. The 9300 simply shows you what stage (cleaning, drying) the SmartClean dock is up to with a indicator. The 9700 gives you a progress bar.
The whole process takes around 4 hours.
You read that right. 4 hours.
This thing takes it’s sweet time, that’s for sure. No wonder a progress bar is considered a “premium upgrade”.
So I must stress this, start the cleaning process AFTER you have shaved.
I made the mistake of starting the cleaning process prior to shaving before I realized just how long it takes. If you remove the shaver from the unit before the 4 hours is up you will be rewarded with wet shaving heads.
Not exactly what you want, particularly if you prefer to dry shave.
The shaver is dried with heat generated by induction. Similar to how an induction cook top works. The advantage of this is that drying is whisper quiet. However, I also have a hunch that this drying method is the culprit for the extra long cleaning time.
Philips claims the cleaning solution in each cartridge lasts for up to two months before needing to ben replaced. I found myself getting 6-7 weeks out of each cartridge with very regular shaving, cleaning after each session.
An indicator on the front of the unit will light up when the cleaning cartridge needs to be swapped out and you will be unable to begin a cleaning cycle:
It is worth mentioning that the SmartClean unit itself takes up an awful lot of space. Those of you with smaller bathrooms will be quite unhappy with just how much bench space is taken up.
And your choice of locations to sit the unit are limited, since it has to be close to a power outlet.
Overall the SmartClean unit did it’s job, however I definitely feel that 4 hours is a little too long to clean a shaver. It is worth mentioning that the polished black plastic of the SmartClean is a dust magnet.
Before too long; you will notice dust, watermarks and fingerprints surface of the cleaning dock. While this in no way affects the units operation, due to the size of the dock you are kind of forced to keep the darn thing on display, and it can quickly become an eyesore.
Of course you cannot expect to take the big and bulky smart cleaning system when you travel. Fortunately you can simply take the shaving unit head apart and rinse it out with hot water.
Philips Norelco 9300 vs. 9700 vs. 9800
Now if you can afford a Philips 9000 Series shaver then you are going to want the best.
In this series there are three different shavers. The 9300 (S9311/84),9700 (S9721/84) and the 9800 (S9731/90). The 9700 is $100 more expensive than both the 9300 and 9800. So this must mean it’s better right?
Not necessarily so
Philips actually does an incredibly poor job at describing the differences. So what you are getting for that extra Benjamin Franklin?
The answer will surprise you.
1. The color
The plastic around the display is slightly darker on the 9700.
2. The battery display
9300: Shows the battery capacity with 5 bars, each bar represents 20% charge.
9700: Shows the exact battery percentage remaining with a digital display.
3. The SmartClean Dock Display
9300: An individual indicator flashes for each section of the cleaning process.
9700: A progress bar fills up as the cleaning process progresses.
But what about the Philips Norelco 9800?
You would think a higher model number would come with more features. The 9800 actually comes with less and is Philips Norelco’s budget 9000 series electric shaver.
The Philips Norelco 9800 is essentially a cheaper 9700 without the cleaning dock. It displays the remaining battery as a percentage. Instead of a cleaning dock you are given a multi-length beard trimmer, similar to the one found on the 5700, which isn’t all that great.
The 9800 is priced similarly to the 9300. Unless you can pick the 9800 up for considerably less, we do not feel that skipping the cleaning dock justifies the purchase.
And the winner is…
As you can see, the difference between three shaver models are simply cosmetic and will in no way impact your daily use of the shaver.
Out of the three I recommend the 9300 as it offers much more value for money with an included cleaning dock to boot. In my opinion you are much better putting the savings towards replacement cleaning cartridges.
Note: There is also a special edition 9700 available that includes a cleansing brush, but as of writing the special edition was not commonly available.
Here’s the part where I tell you whether or not this electric razor is worth buying. Unfortunately it is not an entirely black or white answer.
There is no doubt that the shaver cuts incredibly close leaving you with a smooth shave that the majority of you will be more than happy with. But this comes with a learning curve that has to be overcome.
The circular shaving motion required was fantastic at cutting hair that grows in all different directions. Yet it required a steady hand and intense concentration for your upper lip and going close to your sideburns.
The build quality is amazing. A lot of thought has gone into engineering the 9000 Series shavers. But on the flip side, the retaining ring system is absolutely crap.
The Smart clean system is quiet and does it’s job well. But it requires 4 hours to do it’s work and runs on disposable cleaning cartridges.
And this is just a summary of some of the trade offs I went into more detail on in the review above.
Unfortunately, no electric shaver is perfect. At least not yet. What is a deal breaker for some is not even an inconvenience for others. Shaving is a very personal experience and opinions on what is best differ dramatically depending on who you ask.
This is why I have written such a long review on a single shaver. My goal is to arm you with all the knowledge needed to make an informed decision about whether or not this shaver is right for you.
So this might be the very best shaver for you. Or it might not. Only you know that.