Philips has completely redesigned one of their most popular electric toothbrushes, the Sonicare essence, bringing it in line with the rest of their range of Sonic Toothbrushes.
A feature packed electric toothbrush at a low price point seems almost too good to pass up. But is it the right electric toothbrush for you? We will answer that question and more in our detailed review of the Philips Sonicare Essence Plus.
Sonicare Essence Plus
Unboxing the Philips Sonicare Essence Plus
Interestingly, on the front of the box the Sonicare Essence Plus is referred to as the 1 Series Sonic Toothbrush. However, this is the only place you will find the word 1 Series mentioned anywhere. Even the toothbrush and instruction manual make no mention of it.
If you tear open the box of your brand new Sonicare Essence Plus, this is what you will find inside:
Let’s break it down:
- Philips Sonicare Essence Plus Electric HX3211/30
- SimplyClean brush head
- Protective bristle cover
- Charging stand
You will also find an instruction manual included in the box. As you would expect from a budget model, the Essence Plus is pretty bare bones when it comes to accessories.
Examining the Sonicare Essence Plus electric toothbrush
While the Essence represents a huge update on the original Sonicare Essence model, they have made an attempt to keep the styling somewhat the same.
Below you can see the new Essence Plus compared with the older model side by side:
As you can see the Essence Plus is essentially a more streamlined version of the older model. The original Essence has been a part of the Philips Sonicare range for 10 years and we thought it was a nice way to honor this by keeping the look of the new Essence Plus fairly similar.
At the front of the toothbrush you will find the power button:
The Essence Plus has no extra features like speed settings or brushing modes. The only thing that this button does is turn the electric toothbrush on or off.
As far as the button goes it is sturdy and responsive and gives off a satisfying click sound each time it is pushed.
Further down the Sonicare Essence Plus handle you will come across a small battery icon:
While you cannot see it with the power off, just above this icon is a small indicator light. The indicator light will flash when the battery is running low or charging.
At the very base of the handle you will find the charging socket:
This is the part of the handle that slides on top of the charging stand. We will cover the charging the Sonicare Essence Plus in more detail further down the review.
Just below the socket you can make out the model type (HX3220B) as well as the country where the Essence Plus is manufactured. Just like all the other electric toothbrushes in the Philips Sonicare range, the Essence Plus is made in China.
On either side of the Essence Plus are two rubber strips that run the length of the handle.
The rubber helps add some much needed grip to what is otherwise a glossy and somewhat slippery plastic handle. The grip lines up with there your fingers and thumb would naturally rest on the handle during brushing.
Even with the handle covered in toothbrush foam, we were able to keep confident grip on the Essence Plus.
Flipping the handle over reveals a rather plain looking rear:
Philips has decided to leave the rear completely bare. Higher models of Sonicare toothbrushes have a textured grip here and we were a little disappointed to see that the Essence Plus does not feature the same.
But even without this extra grip, the Essence Plus is still easy to hold in the hand.
The only feature of note on the rear of the Essence Plus is the small flat section of rubber at the very base of the handle:
Thanks to the stand, the round handle will not roll away when you place the toothbrush down on your bathroom countertop.
Perhaps the most unusual part of the Sonicare essence plus is the shaft. Unlike other models that have a straight shaft, the shaft on this electric toothbrush all bent.
When we first opened the box we thought that we had a defective unit. Comparing the Essence Plus to all the all the other electric toothbrushes we reviewed; it just didn’t look right. Despite it’s bent looks, we were easily able to slide a brush head onto the handle.
However, the new metal shaft did bring with it an unusual feature:
When a toothbrush head was attached it left a wider than normal gap between the toothbrush and the handle.
Now this gap has absolutely no affect on the performance of the Sonicare Essence Plus. A gap can be found on every model of Sonicare Toothbrush that accepts snap-on brush heads but this gap is much more noticeable.
Philips Sonicare Essence Plus Brush Heads
Perhaps the most noticeable different between the original Sonicare essence and the Essence Plus is the brush head:
On the left you have the snap-on brush head used by the Sonicare Essence Plus and on the right you have the much larger screw-on brush head from the original model.
While the large screw on brush heads performed their job, they are much more difficult to clean than the petite snap-on brush heads. Given that the old Essence was the last toothbrush to use the screw-on style we will not be surprised if Philips chooses to discontinue this brush head in the coming year.
As you would expect on the budget model, Philips only includes a single brush head in the box of the Essence Plus.
We were pleased to see that Philips has included the SimplyClean brush head, one of the most beginner friendly brush heads in the Philips Sonicare range.
The Simply Clean brush bristles fall between soft and medium-firmness. The bristles are stiff enough to remove surface plaque yet soft enough to be used on all but the most sensitive of gums.
One of the major advantages to moving away from the old fashioned screw on brush head is choice. There are over 10 different sonicare brush heads compatible with the Essence Plus.
With proper brushing technique all the brushes can provide an effective clean. The right brush head for you will all depend on firmness. Maybe you want a softer brush head for sensitive gums. Perhaps you want a firmer brush that excels at surface plaque. Whatever you want there is a brush head for you. For more information checkout our detailed Philips Sonicare Brush Head Guide.
A major advantage that Philips Sonicare brush heads have over that of Oral-B is protective caps:
The brush head included in the box comes with a protective cap. The cap protects the bristles from dust, sprays and whatever other nasties are floating around in your bathroom.
Since the brush head will be spending a decent amount of time in your mouth, you are going to want to keep the bristles clean and hygienic. The protective cap allows you to do just that. Losing the cap isn’t a problem. Every Sonicare replacement brush head will also come with it’s own brush head.
Speaking of replacement brush heads. Just like a regular toothbrush you will be required to replace the brush head of the Sonicare Essence Plus once every three months.
We would also like to point out that since the brush head is removable, the handle can be shared amongst other users; swapping out the brush head for each user.
Charging the Sonicare Essence Plus
Before you can use your brand new Sonicare Essence Plus you will have to charge the battery.
And to do this you will need the help from the charging stand, included in the box:
We were pleased to note that the Essence Plus has ditched the bulky charger that came with the older model. In it’s place is the universal charger that comes with every other Philips Sonicare toothbrush (with the exception of the DiamondClean).
If your family uses more than a single Sonicare toothbrush then you will only have to set up a single charger on your bathroom counter to charge them all.
If you flip the charger over you will notice three small rubber feet. The feet prevent the charger from sliding around your wet bathroom counter top:
Printed at the center of the base you will find the words 100-240V. A big advantage that Philips Sonicare electric toothbrushes have is that they can be charged internationally. Oral-B toothbrushes on the other hand can only be charged on 110V making them unsuitable for those of you who want an electric toothbrush for your world wide travels.
The Philips Sonicare Essence will begin to charge the moment you place the handle on the charger.
You will know charging has started because you will hear a chime sound and a flashing green light will appear just above the battery icon.
We found that it took up to 48 hours to fully charge the NiMH battery. With the battery fully charged we were able to get 22 brushing sessions before the battery would completely die. That’s 11 days brushing twice a day for the recommended two minutes. Not bad.
When the battery is running low the indicator light on the handle will flash orange:
The orange light will let you know that it is time to recharge your battery. You can also check the battery of the Essence Plus by turning the toothbrush on and off. The light and an audible sound will let you know how many brushing sessions you will achieve before the battery completely dies
- 6-20 brushing sessions remaining – Solid green light/no sound.
- 5-2 brushing sessions remaining – Flashing orange light/ 3 beeps
- 1 brushing session remaining – Flasing Orange light/6 beeps
While it is not the most accurate method to determine the remaining battery, it is still a nice inclusion on what is essentially a budget toothbrush.
Testing the Philips Sonicare Essence Plus
With the battery of the toothbrush fully charged it is now time to take the Sonicare Essence Plus for a test-drive.
For the purpose of the review four additional users and myself testerd the Essence Plus. The following contains summeries of our experience.
When you pick up the Sonicare Essence Plus for the first time you will notice just how nicely weighted it is. Not too heavy, not to light. Most importantly the electric toothbrush was just as easy to hold in the right hand as it was the left.
Pressing down on the power button will see the brush head rapidly vibrate back and forth. The sound is best described as a high pitched hum. Oddly enough we noticed that the him would be louder or softer depending on exactly how you held the handle.
We noticed that the vibration of the motor is much more noticeable through the handle than other Sonicare toothbrushes. While the feeling was not uncomfortable, one of our testers has sensitive hands who commented that the feeling of holding the Essence Plus in the hand was slightly ticklish.
Unlike higher models of Sonicare toothbrushes, the Essence Plus only comes with a single brushing speed. If you have particularly sensitive teeth and gums then we recommend the Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health which will allow you to adjust the vibration intensity and also comes with a softer bristled brush head.
But if you don’t need a sensitive brushing option then you will be pleased to know that the Essence Plus brushes as well as the top of the line Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean. The brush head pulses at the same 31,000 brush strokes per minute and the interchangeable head even means that you can use the same brush heads if you so choose. The Essence Plus truly represents value for money.
Hidden inside the handle of the Sonicare Essence Plus are three features that you will not notice until you start brushing your teeth. Let’s take a closer look at each.
Some people find the rapid vibrations given off by Sonicare Toothbrushes take a while to get used to. Brushing with the toothbrush for the first time can cause a slightly unpleasant ticklish feeling in some people. After repeated brushing sessions your mouth will begin to desensitize to this new sensation.
To make the transition simpler, the Essence Plus features an Easy-Start mode. Over the first 14 brushes the toothbrush will slowly increase in power until it is brushing at the full 31,000 brush strokes per minute, easing you into the full powered sensation.
Easy-Start is only in operation for the first 14 brushing sessions.
Now I must mention that all testers including myself have previously used Sonicare electric toothbrushes. So already being used to the sensation we chose to disable the Easy-Start feature following the instructions set out in the user manual.
But I do remember my first time using a Sonicare (the Essence) and I was very appreciative of this feature. I initially found the vibrations much too ticklish and jarring. The Easy-Start was a great help in getting used to the sensations and without it I probably wouldn’t have persisted with the Sonicare toothbrush.
All testers agreed that if the vibrations don’t affect you (and for many of you they won’t) then you are better off simply disabling it.
Interestingly nowhere on the Philips website or on the box does it mention that the Essence Plus features the QuadPacer. It’s not until you read the instruction manual or use the toothbrush that you will notice it exists.
We assume the reason for this is because on paper there is no reason to jump up to the next model; the Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control, which despite insulating the vibrations of the handle better does not offer anything that the cheaper Essence Plus doesn’t.
It’s no secret that dentists recommend that you brush your teeth for a minimum of two minutes. But when it comes down to it, reaching two minutes of brushing feels like it takes forever and many of you will give up long before this time.
The Essence Plus has a handy feature that with proper use not only guarantees you will brush for the full two minutes, but clean every part of your mouth as well.
The QuadPacer is a built in timer that causes the Sonicare Essence Plus to briefly pause and sound a tone each time 30 seconds has passed. The timer gets it’s name from the way in which Philips Sonicare suggests you brush your teeth.
If you split your mouth into quarters and spend 30 seconds brushing each, then you will have effectively brushed your entire mouth for the recommended two minutes.
I split my mouth into the following quarters:
- Brush left half of top teeth for 30 seconds
- Brush right half of top teeth for 30 seconds
- Brush left half of bottom teeth for 30 seconds
- Brush right half of bottom teeth for 30 seconds
By focusing on a small section of your mouth for 30 seconds you can really give each section a really good clean before the QuadPacer alerts you to move on to the next.
While testers agreed that this brushing style took some time to get used to, the QuadPacer was a great tool to ensure you brushed your entire mouth.
The SmarTimer is a built in timer that automatically turns the Philips Sonicare Essence Plus off after two minutes. If you want to brush longer you will need to press the power button again to turn the toothbrush back on.
This feature was the one that our testers simply couldn’t agree upon.
One tester commented:
SmarTimer? More like DumbTimer. I prefer to brush longer than two minuses since this allows me time to focus on my dental restoration, an area that catches plaque and is tricky to clean. Turning the toothbrush back on after two minutes got old real quick.
However other testers loved it. One tester remarked:
Two minutes of teeth brushing seems to take forever and is plenty of timeto clean my whole mouth. I am excited when the toothbrush finally turns off on it’s own.
Whether you love it or hate it, the SmarTimer is a feature that is found on all Sonicare models and cannot be disabled.
Those of you who currently use a Sonicare toothbrush will be instantly familiar with the standard 31,000 brush strokes per minute offered ins tandard clean.
For those who are new to the world of sonic toothbrushes I will quickly cover the technique, which many beginners find a little unusual at first.
Simply load up the brush head with your regular toothpaste, wet as usual and place the bristles against a section of your teeth at a slight angle (roughly 45 degrees), pressing with slight pressure.
Press the power button and gently move the toothbrush back and forth the rapid vibrations will help remove the plaque not only from the center of the teeth but also along the gum line and between the teeth (remember to floss after for best results).
The trick is to let the toothbrush do most of the work. While this may take some time for you to get used to, especially if you are swapping over from a manual toothbrush, but before long you will be using the correct technique without thinking about it.
The clean is exceptional. Far greater than you could get from that of a manual toothbrush.
With proper technique plaque is effortlessly removed from your teeth and along your gumline. I enjoy licking my smooth teeth after each brush, it honestly feels like you have just gotten your teeth cleaned at the dentist.
There is no doubt about it. The Sonicare Essence Plus is the new go-to budget electric toothbrush from Philips. We were pleased to see that Philips had gone out of their way to improve on all the features that made the older model clunky to use.
If you don’t enjoy the feeling the obvious vibrations through the handle then you can jump up to the Sonicare 2 Series Smart Control, it only costs a fraction more. Besides the nicer handle; in terms of features and brushing experience, the two are near identical.
The Sonicare Essence Plus is definitely worth checking out.