Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Electric Shaver Sweet Spot

Panasonic ES8103S
Choice is good, but too much choice can be too much of a good thing, and with the plethora of rechargeable electric shavers on the market, with prices from $15 to $500 (yes, $500!), it's hard to select a shaver that's not only a great shaver but also a great value. Pay too little and you risk a shaver that is underpowered, cuts poorly, charges slowly, doesn't hold a charge, is hard to clean, etc. But if you pay too much you can waste money on features you don't need or even get features that don't actually facilitate a good shave.

Features that matter:
  • Fast shave
  • Close shave
  • Minimal pulling or irritation
  • Cuts longer hair not just stubble
  • Popup trimmer
  • Fast charging
  • Long battery life
  • Easy cleaning
  • Wet shaving
Foil vs Rotary. Each type has pros and cons, fans and foes, and the truth is that both can work well enough that you should go with the type you prefer. My own preference is for a good foil shaver, because it gives me a faster, closer shave with less irritation. But see note at bottom.

How many blades? Foil shavers can have anywhere from 1 to 5 blades (currently at least). More blades are touted as being better, but are they really? 2 blades cut much faster than 1 blade without adding much bulk, and 3 blade shavers can have the advantage different types of cutters, slit for longer hairs in addition to standard foils with holes. But past that number (more than 3 blades) there's little increase in shaving speed to compensate for the added bulk, weight, and cost, and not just the cost of the shaver itself.

Replacement Blades and Foils. To maintain shaving efficiency, blades and foils should be replaced regularly, at least annually, more often if needed. The cost of replacements is often overlooked when choosing a shaver, and the cost of a single set of replacements can be almost as much as a new shaver. Over the lifetime of a shaver you'll probably be spending more on replacements than you did on the shaver, so do pay close attention to replacement cost.

Battery technology:
  • Poor: Nickel-cadmium (memory effect degrades capacity)
  • Good: Nickel-metal hydride (no memory effect)
  • Best: Lithium-ion (high capacity, fast charging, light)
Foil brands:
Sweet Spot: When all is said and done, the sweet spot of electric shavers (as of this writing) is the Arc3 (3 blade) Panasonic ES8103S:
  • Great shaver
  • Great price (less than $80)
  • Wet or dry shave
  • Easy cleaning
  • Affordable replacements
  • Fast charging
  • Long battery life
  • Light and compact
  • Comfortable to hold
  • Excellent pop-up trimmer
Norelco 6100
Best alternatives:
  • Panasonic ES8109S: Essentially the ES8103S with a cleaning stand.
  • Braun 340s or the newer Braun 3040s. Closest Braun equivalent to the Panasonic ES8103S, but nickel-metal hydride battery is not as good, and shave isn't quite as good.
  • Philips Norelco Shaver 6100: If you prefer a rotary shaver, this is the one to get.