Electric razors have always had a bit of a bum rap, derided for being louder and less efficient than a “real” blade. But today, electric razors look more like Jetsons props than mid-century mechanizations. We collected and tested four of the best shavers on the market. Here’s what made the cut.[jump]
Over the course of the past two months, each razor faced one, two, and three days worth of stubble. We rated the gadgets on their comfort in use and their shaving efficiency—the closeness and thoroughness of the shave, how long a shave took, and how often I had to re-shave areas. The rate at which their heads wore out, the associated cost of replacement heads, and other operating costs were also taken into ranking consideration as well.
There are a lot of things I really like about the Series 7. First of all, it looks great, sitting in its charging cradle like the Sword in the Stone. At the touch of a button, the system will automatically clean, dry, and lubricate the cutting head, which comes out of the base smelling like lemons. Seriously, lemons. It’s awesome. I also like the integrated LCD display in the shaver’s handle, letting you know exactly how charged and hygienic it is at any given moment. I can also appreciate the SmartPlug’s automatic worldwide voltage adjuster that regulates from 100V-240V.
Unfortunately, sweet smells are a poor substitute for a close shave. While the Series 7 worked especially well on the upper lip and cheeks, shaving the neck was a nightmare. It was like the last three hairs remaining somehow always fell outside the realm of the shaver’s ability—needing five or six passes to finally capture. It’s also pricey, with an MSRP of $269, though you can get it for $215 at Target. What’s more, that lemony fresh scent costs $5 per cartridge (Amazon’s offering 4-packs of Clean & Renew for $20) and each refill is only good for a month of daily use. Replacement cutting cartridges sell for $34 on Amazon, but they’re rated for about 18 months of daily use. A full one-hour battery charge gives you 50 minutes of shave time, and a “fast recharge” takes five minutes to juice a single shave—two minutes slower than the third place Wahl.
Don’t get me wrong, the Series 7 is a capable razor. But given the price and upkeep costs, you can find more cut for your buck elsewhere.
Wahl’s 3 in 1 certainly delivers decent performance at a discount prices—the razor retails for just $70, and includes a full 16-piece kit with alternate shaving heads, length guides, a comb, and other accouterments. Problem is, these pieces never quite seem to fit into their injection-molded base, which is unfortunately easy to knock over, sending the accessories to the most inaccessible areas of your bathroom. The Wahl can charge in three minutes for a single shave, and if you charge it for an hour, it builds up to two hours worth of shave time—that’s enough to power about 45 shaves.
The shave quality is decent. The Wahl cut more efficiently than the Braun, but still required a fair amount of touch up work (also around the neck) after the initial pass. These multiple passes also tended to increase the rate at which razor burn developed. Also, the Wahl does not play well with water or shaving foam, so you won’t be able to use it in the shower. However, despite this, the shaver’s versatility as a conventional razor combined with its affordability make it worth a look, especially for guys who need a versatile tool to maintain ornate stubble styles. Plus, if you register the product, you get free shaver head replacements for the life. Score.
The Arc 4 is a linear shave, like the Series 7, but it incorporates a fourth blade and cycles 14,000 times a minute—that’s 4,000 cycles more than the Braun. The difference is noticeable. In addition, the Arc 4 can be used wet or dry, with or without shaving foam. It provides a close, quick shave, including around the neck and jawline. So on the most basic requirement of the test, the Arc 4 delivers. But there are a few problems.
First, it has the weakest charge/runtime ratio—an hour’s charge nets you just 45 minutes of shave time. The LED charge display is easy enough to read, but it isn’t particularly well-designed, with a percentage indicator that feels like an afterthought. The unit’s inner blades, which should be replaced annually, run $15 on Amazon. One other annoying thing (which might not be a big deal to some users): The Arc 4 doesn’t come with a stand. Just a charging cord. For an MSRP of $200 (or $102 on Amazon Prime), you might feel your electric razor deserves better than lying by the sink like a dead fish.
Shaving with the Sensotouch 3D feels like removing facial hair with robot kisses. There is virtually zero hair tugging, even through three-day long stubble. The SensoTouch did require more passes as the stubble length increased, but for daily use, its performance was unmatched. I often found myself using it to clean up after testing the other units—using it wet or with shaving foam, the SensoTouch consistently shaved trouble spots that the others missed.
An hour of charge provides an equal length of run time. You can’t adjust the intensity of the shave as you can with the Braun, but the SensoTouch’s pivoting/flexing/tilting head doesn’t miss a single curve on your face. It is also the most aesthetically sharp shaver we tested. It genuinely looks like it’s from the future. The body reads out the remaining amount of shave time in bold white numbers, while its LED power display gently pulses, urging you to use it.