Men's Electric Shaver Buying Guide
Updated November 2010
Never mind that the latest “high-tech” razors from Gillette and Schick cost only $10 at the corner drug store. With the high cost of replacement razor blades today—commonly as high as about $30 for an eight-blade package—a man’s daily shaving habit can quickly grow expensive.
So, while top-of-the-line electric men’s shavers priced around $200 or $300 seem to be an extravagant alternative, they could actually be the more economical men’s grooming choice. And that's even more likely with less expensive shavers priced below $100.
But, the array of men’s shavers on store shelves can be overwhelming for a shopper to navigate. Here is what you should consider to find the shaver that suits you and your budget best.
More money equals less irritation...
The fewer times a razor is dragged across the face, the lower the risk of skin irritation. And with every jump up the shaver price ladder comes better technology for increasing the efficiency of each stroke and reducing the number of strokes needed for a close––and less irritating––shave.
Take, for example, the model lineups of leading men’s shaver brands, Philips Norelco, Braun and Panasonic.
The circular shaving head design used by Philips Norelco uses vertical slots in the round foil covering the blades capture long hairs. The least expensive shaver models—such as the Philips Norelco 6940 ($37)—feature just one track of these slots positioned around the foil. But the shaving head in a step-up model like the Philips Norelco 7340 ($60) supplements the slots with holes, which capture stubble in addition, thus boosting the effectiveness of each stroke beyond what slots alone can accomplish.
Stepping up the model line again, shavers like the Philips Norelco 8240 ($100) have shaving heads with three tracks of slots and holes in various configurations, to increase the surface area of the face covered by the blades, providing an even better opportunity to capture each hair in a single stroke. Meanwhile, Philips Norelco’s best shavers, the just released SensoTouch models ($99-$349), boast wider holes and a channel, or deep crevice, in the innermost of its three rings, to help cut even longer hairs more effectively.
Braun, which uses horizontal shaving heads, employs similar advances in technology across its lineup. The entry-level Braun Series 1 ($60) features a single foil, while the Braun Series 3 ($64-$119) features three independent cutting elements, and the Braun Series 5 ($169-$229) adds a “Power Comb” between two independently floating heads to raise and cut the hairs for a more efficient stroke. The top-of-the-line Braun Series 7 ($249-$289) compounds the floating heads and Power Comb with “Pulsonic” technology that oscillates the shaving head at over 10,000 micro-vibrations per minute, to further help raise hairs off the skin and boost the efficiency of each stroke. Recently updated, it now also offers three “personalization modes” that adjust the razor’s motor speed to change the cutting force of the blades: “sensitive,” the slowest speed, which offers a gentler shave for sensitive skin; “normal;” and “powerful,” which runs the motor fastest and cuts hairs most efficiently. There’s also a new “OptiFoil” design that features differently sized holes in the shaving foil (varying in size by 25 percent from top to bottom) to better capture hair and cut it deeper at a variety of angles.
Competing face-to-face with the Braun Series 7, the Panasonic Multi-Flex Wet/Dry shavers ($299-$399) feature two motors in the head rather than in the body––one to move the blades up and down to get them closer to the skin, and the other to move the blades sideways for cutting the hair. Moreover, the Multi-Flex shavers have four blades and they vibrate sideways in opposite directions to offset the vibration of the motor and make the shaver more comfortable to hold. The sideways vibration motor in the Multi-Flex also operates at the fastest speed of any electric shaver motor, 14,000 cycles per second.
We have not yet shaved with the new Philips Norelco SensoTouch, which replaces that brand’s former top-of-the-line Arcitec shaver. But we have shaved with both the recently updated Braun Series 3 and the Series 7 and can attest to a dramatic difference in shaving efficiency; in our experience, the Series 3 requires noticeably more strokes to clear a two-day growth, and to us the Pulsonic technology in the Series 7 actually feels good against the skin.
We did shave with the Panasonic Multi-Flex, too, to clear a two-day growth. True to the promise, it felt vibration-free in the hand while powered on, and also felt as good on the face as the Braun Series 7. But while the Multi-Flex seemed to shave as well as the Series 7 we tried in powerful mode, we didn’t think it shaved any better than the Braun.
Of course, your own experience may be different, depending on the nature of your facial hair. (As a person ages, facial hair grows thicker and therefore becomes harder to cut.)
...And a higher price buys other bells and whistles, too
Besides efficiency improvements, more expensive shavers also offer other differences that you may consider important.
For example, the lowest-priced shavers from Philips Norelco are “corded” models that must be plugged in to a wall power socket while used, but higher-priced shavers are powered by rechargeable batteries. Moreover, stepping up the price ladder with these cordless models buys longer battery life between shaves––increasing, for instance, from 35 minutes of shave time to 50 minutes and ultimately to 65 minutes at the high end.
Lowest-priced Philips Norelco models also don’t offer a pop-up sideburn trimmer, which is featured in mid-priced and higher-end models.
Additionally, shaving heads in higher-end models typically pivot and flex in more directions to better hug the contours of the face and neck. The Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D, for instance, has three individual shaving heads that both flex outward and tilt inward.
Some better models, like Braun’s Series 3, 5 and 7, come with machines that use special solutions to clean and sterilize, lubricate and dry the shaver’s blades, as well as recharge the battery after each use. But replacing the solution can be expensive, so factor that in when considering this option. (Philips Norelco also offers such a machine as an option for a number of its models.)
But beware the adjustment period
One thing to keep in mind: It can take two or three weeks of using an electric shaver for your skin to adjust to the new device, and some irritation can occur during this period, regardless of how much you pay for your razor. So read our tips on how to switch from a razor to an electric shaver to keep the irritation to a minimum.
With this in mind, Philips Norelco has designed the shaving heads on its new SensoTouch models with rounded edges that, according to the company, allow it to be used with shaving cream––a tactic that may help minimize or avoid this initial irritation.
And because many cordless shavers also are "washable" under water, including the low-priced Braun Series 1, it also may be helpful to use one of these device in the shower with soap––a strategy definitely to be avoided with a corded shaver!