When Bugs Bunny shaved Elmer Fudd's beard with a hatchet in the 1950 cartoon, The Rabbit of Seville, he failed to take advantage of the market's best electric razor technology. That technology had arrived on the consumer market in the 1930s, and it's still going strong today.
Today's electric razors fall into two design camps: Rotary and Foil.
At the BestReviews test lab, we researched dozens of popular rotary and foil electric razors. After an in-depth analysis, we selected the top five in terms of quality and popularity. The razors covered here are some of the best available. Read on if you want a trustworthy electric razor that will give you a quality shave.
We purchased seven popular rotary and foil electric razors for side-by-side comparison. Volunteer testers on the BestReviews team were men with with various styles of facial hair and different preferred shaving methods. Some men always tested razors with one day of beard growth while others consistently let their beards grow for two days between tests.
Each tester followed his own consistent method to subjectively measure shave closeness and comfort. Some tested two razors a day, one on the right side of the face and one on the left. Others used the “girlfriend test” to judge post-shave smoothness. Testers evaluated their own skin irritation and how easy each razor was to use. All of our testers compared each razor's performance that of a traditional, non-electric safety razor, too.
Foil electric razors generally performed better than their rotary cousins, but we did encounter some surprises in our study.
Each of our testers tried all the razors with the same amount of beard growth. Some, with existing facial hair, opted to shave around their existing beards; others took the plunge and shaved their entire faces.
Some testers used commercial shaving gels to prepare their faces (with the razors that allowed wet shaving). Others opted to shave dry. We noted any skin irritations or discomfort during testing.
All the products in our top five include a rudimentary trimmer designed to define a beard or sideburn line. We tested the trimmer as well.
While sound is not a major consideration for all users. The range of noise these products emit is an important trait for certain travelers, or for users who tend to use these products while others are sleeping.
By design, electric razors collect a significant amount of tiny hair clippings during operation. These hairs tend to congregate inside the blades, around the mesh foils, and in the motor housing itself. Our testers followed each manufacturer's recommended cleaning and maintenance procedures and made careful observations along the way.
Waterproof razors can be rinsed under a faucet for fast cleaning, but non-waterproof models require special brushes for best results. Some high-end electric razors (like the Braun 7) include a dedicated cleaning/charging station.
Specific notes about each contender's ease of maintenance can be found in our in-depth review section.
Some people favor electric razors because they're portable and typically small enough to fit inside a standard grooming kit. This type of razor provides a decent shave without the use of hot water, shaving cream, or a towel.
All the models we tested are battery powered (only one was powered by batteries alone with no option of a charger) and can be charged with either a US 110- or international 220-volt outlet.
Protecting the delicate foils and blades of an electric razor is an important consideration, especially if they're to be jostled around during travel. Our testers noted the presence (or absence) of a protective case during each product evaluation.
Entry-level rotary razors with disposable batteries may perform well enough for quick touch-ups, but they don't have the power to regularly trim thick patches of stubble.
High-end foil razors, by contrast, can mow through the thickest of beards, but they cost a pretty penny, too.
The trick is to find an electric razor with the performance you need and the price you want.
Susan Sano Tuveson has been cooking for people for five decades. Educated in music, law, and languages, she left her legal practice to establish Cacao Chocolates in Kittery, Maine. A three-time Best of Seacoast New England winner, the shop was popular for its high-quality artisanal truffles flavored with unusual local ingredients.
The Good: Feels great in the hand. "Smart" technology adjusts to beard thickness. Exceptionally smooth shave.
The Bad: Foil head angle may necessitate a few awkward shaving positions.
The Bottom Line: It's pricey, but this elite Braun package has everything most people could want.
The foil Braun Series 7 790cc-4 employs some impressive performance technology, especially when it comes to tackling thick stubble. Braun's "Intelligent Sonic" sensor detects hair resistance and adjusts its motor speed accordingly.
Our testers praised the Braun's balance and control, both of which are crucial when trimming around existing facial hair. They experienced minimal problems with skin irritation and ingrown hairs, but some did have trouble reaching certain areas of their neck and face due to the angle of the foil head.
Shave closeness was comparable to that of the traditional razor we used as a control. Braun claims a trim length of down to .05mm (half the thickness of a human hair). Our test data largely support that claim.
In our lab, cleaning and maintaining the Braun 7 was straightforward and easy. To release trapped facial hairs, our testers had only to tap the foil cover a few times. Running the foil blades under a faucet quickly removed any other hair residue. Replacing the foil was also a simple process.
People with sensitive skin or other medical conditions would probably want to use the Braun's elaborate, on-board cleaning station for improved sanitation. However, most Braun users can get satisfactory results from a quick manual cleaning between shaves.
Those who travel frequently may appreciate the Braun 7's hard, protective case. The case is compact enough to fit inside a small grooming kit, but it isn't large enough to accommodate charging cords and other accessories. Fortunately, the battery can typically go for several days without recharging.
At a cost of $184, this isn't a cheap electric razor. But for the money, you get a high-end product that works extremely well. Few other models offer what the Braun 7 offers: three separate shaving speeds, intelligent speed adjustment, and an ultra-thin shaving foil. Add a seven-year guarantee and a charging and cleaning station to the mix, and it's easy to see why this electric razor is so popular.
The Good: Closer-than-average shave, considering that it's a rotary razor. Easy maintenance.
The Bad: No travel/storage case included.
The Bottom Line: A top-notch rotary blade razor with a relatively high price.
If you like shaving with rotary blades, the Philips Norelco 6100 is definitely worth your consideration.
Rotary electric razors are often criticized for their lack of closeness when compared to foil models. The rotary Philips Norelco 1150X/40 Shaver 6100 is nearly an exception to that rule. The manufacturer incorporates slots and holes in its rotary cutting screens for a closer-than-average shave. (The slots lots capture longer hairs; the holes handle stubble.) Our testers were largely pleased with their results.
Interestingly, one of our testers noted that the Philip Norelco 6100's cutting head seemed fragile compared to other models. This fragility gave him the impression that it could easily break off the base with moderate to severe handling.
The product is rated for wet and dry use, so owners can safely use shaving gel or bring it in the shower. For cleaning purposes, most of the 6100's parts can be rinsed off in the sink. One customer noticed a tendency for water to collect inside the housing. This doesn't affect the product's overall performance, but it's something to consider before storing the unit.
Speaking of storage, the Philips Norelco 6100 includes no storage/travel case. This could be an issue for potential buyers, as many people say they use this particular product for travel purposes. For whose who intend to travel with the Philips Norelco 6100, we recommend the purchase of a solid case or storage bag.
A plus for travelers is the fact that, after a one-hour charge, this razor will deliver 40 minutes of shaving time. And if the battery is completely dead, a quick five-minute charge will easily provide enough juice for a single shave.
We do have a few minor concerns about this razor, including its balance during operation. One tester said the unit felt better-balanced when he was using it compared to when he was just holding it—but that's what the product is designed for. In addition, we noticed that the housing has a tendency to tip to the side when the unit is on its charging base.
The Norelco 6100 package includes a beard trimmer that must be snapped on after the rotary heads are popped off. Other shavers have pop-up trimmers which are more convenient than that of the Norelco. Also, one of our testers found that the protective covering over the shaving head can be difficult to remove. The effort required to remove this could lead to the accidental dislodging of individual blades.
The Philips Norelco 6100's $69 price lines up with other high-end rotary electric razors on today's market. It definitely costs more than an entry-level travel electric razor, but for rotary blade lovers, its terrific performance and easy maintenance could justify the cost.
The Good: Impressive power. Shorter shaving times. Close shave.
The Bad: Travel case may not be protective enough of the Panasonic's delicate foil.
The Bottom Line: A powerful foil razor sold at a decent price.
With foil electric razors like the Panasonic ES8103S Arc3, shaving quality comes down to two design elements: Vibrations Per Minute (VPM) and the number of on-board cutting blades. The Panasonic is impressive on both counts. It uses three blades and an ultra-thin foil for an exceptionally close shave.
Instead of performing at the standard foil razor speed of 10,000 VPMs, the Panasonic Arc3's motor delivers an impressive 13,000 VPMs. To put this in perspective, the most expensive foil razors we researched deliver 14,000 VPMs.
The Panasonic's lithium-ion battery does not fade out like some rechargeable do, so the power level remains constant from beginning to end. And because the Panasonic cuts more hairs per pass than most rotaries we tested, its overall shaving time is shorter than much of the competition.
Our testers were impressed by the precision of the Panasonic Arc3's cutting line. Men with mustaches or beards can safely bring the razor right up to the beard line; the included pop-up trimmer can handle the finer detail work. When evaluating their final results, customers praise the smoothness and lack of post-shave irritation they get from this razor.
Because the Panasonic is a true wet/dry foil electric razor, it's easy to clean. After dry use, the foil cap snaps off and most of the stubble falls off after a few quick taps. If needed, a brush could be used to remove the hairs that accumulate around the blades, but buyer beware: the blades are extremely sharp. When used wet, a simple rinse under running water should be enough to clean the unit.
The Panasonic package includes a soft-sided travel case, but we have some concerns about it. Foil razors generally require more protection during travel than rotary models, and we're not convinced that this case provides enough protection. The thinness of the Panasonic's foil is a major selling point, but if jostled by frequent travel, it could also be a liability. In addition, the unit's long, bulky power cord doesn't fit neatly into the travel case.
Considering its consistent delivery of 13,000 VPMs and wet/dry rating, the Panasonic Arc3's $64 price is a bargain. It sells for less than the exalted Braun series, yet it's a skin-friendly razor with a pop-up beard trimmer and enviably smooth results. In short, the Panasonic Arc3 delivers a great shave at a fair price.
The Good: Extremely affordable. Great technology.
The Bad: Cannot be immersed in water. No case, but a snap-on head guard is included.
The Bottom Line: Inexpensive yet effective, this foil razor is a great choice for travelers.
With the Remington F5-5800, you get the benefits of a quality foil razor for about as much money as you'd pay for a basic rotary razor. That's a good thing.
As a rule, foil electric razors perform better than rotaries. Their one design challenge is the space between the foil heads. Longer hairs can get compressed and fail to enter the trimmer properly. The Remington F5-5800 addresses this issue by adding an "interceptor" blade between the foil heads. The interceptor raises and trims longer hairs to stubble length before they reach the foil cutters. Indeed, this is a very useful piece of shaving technology.
The Remington F5-5800 is reportedly a good choice for African-Americans and others with concerns about in-grown hairs and shaving bumps. Nevertheless, some owners have complained of skin irritation after shaving with the Remington. We recommend the use of shaving gel for those with sensitive skin.
Notably, the Remington F5-5800 is not intended for full immersion in water. It's definitely "water resistant," which means the user can use shaving oils or beard stiffeners, but it should never be taken into the shower or rinsed in the sink. Much of the stubble that collects in the housing can be blown out manually or with compressed air.
Our testers noted some problems with the Remington's hand comfort and balance. In order to access certain regions of the neck and jaw line, they found themselves assuming some awkward positions. Excessive noise was another complaint voiced by testers and owners at large. Even so, the end results are still better than a comparable rotary, and the finish is almost as close as a standard safety razor shave.
Many people use the Remington as a travel razor. Foil razors are especially vulnerable to damage caused by accidental drops, but the Remington comes with a snap-on head guard that protects it from suitcase trauma. Unfortunately, the snap-on head does not protect the power switch, so it's possible for the device to be switched on while in transit, thereby draining the batteries.
The Remington delivers a decent shave and could be used as a day-to-day razor. However, it's common for a consumer to buy a high-end electric razor for home and a cheaper razor for travel. In this scenario, the Remington F5-5800's low price of $44 makes it an ideal choice for the road. It would store neatly in a hotel drawer, glove compartment, or RV toiletry cabinet.
The Good: Decent rotary shave. Flexible head follows facial contours.
The Bad: Thicker beards may require extra strokes, which could lead to skin irritation. Operates only in cordless mode.
The Bottom Line: Great price. Although this is not an "elite" razor, it's perfectly adequate for many men.
The Philips Norelco Electric Shaver 2100 is an entry-level rotary model that earns top marks in customer satisfaction.
It's the kind of inexpensive rotary electric razor that a man might like to keep on hand at the office or in the car. It makes a great birthday, Christmas, or Father's Day gift. Owners cite excellent customer service and appreciate the two-year warranty.
The Norelco 2100's flexible rotary head follows facial contours quite well. That being said, both customers and our testers have had to repeat strokes over heavier areas of stubble. This could result in a noticeable razor rash. The rotary blades are described as "self-sharpening," but some owners say that the individual blades can become dull or misaligned over time.
The Norelco 2100 isn't a full-on wet/dry product, but it can be cleaned under the faucet. (Some people find brush cleaning to be just as effective.) The top portion flips open, allowing access to both the rotary blades and power sections. As a side note, the Philips Norelco 2100's operational noise level is minimal compared to some of the full-size units we tested.
This razor operates only in cordless mode; the compact charging cord must be removed before use. Some users may find this annoying, but on the positive side, the Norelco's lithium-ion battery delivers 30-45 minutes of service per charge with very little fade-out.
Buyers don't receive a travel case with the Philips Norelco 2100, but the package does include a plastic protective cover for the rotary blade head.
Philips Norelco is a respected leader in the rotary electric razor field, and in terms of value, this particular razor is an extremely affordable part of the line at just $29. Shaving performance may not be on par with the Braun 7 or Panasonic foil, but it's a solid choice for many men.
The Braun Series 7 Electric Foil Shaver seems to have a brain installed behind its batteries. When it encounters a thicker patch of stubble, it automatically boosts power. And while other foil razors certainly deliver a close shave, our testers liked this razor's shave the best.
Most foil razors are easy to clean, but the Braun goes one better by including its own cleaning station, complete with a solution that will chemically sanitize the blades and foil.
Braun is a strong name in the razor industry. This particular razor is dependable, useful, and portable. Most importantly, its aesthetic results are fantastic. The manufacturer's faith in the product is underlined by a seven-year warranty, which is much longer than the two-year warranty included with most electric razors.
All of the electric razors on our list are great products, but the Braun 7 is the Best of the Best.
The entry-level Philips Norelco 2100 includes many of the features found on high-end rotary razors, but it sells for a much lower price.
FlexHead technology (to maximize skin contact) and a self-sharpening CloseCut blade system combine to yield fantastic results. Maintenance and cleaning are only a faucet away, and the rechargeable battery delivers enough power for at least a week of shaves between recharges.
On top of it all, the durable Norelco 2100 does its job quietly; you won't get a headache while using it.
We recommend the Philips Norelco 2100, our Best Bang for Your Buck electric razor, if portability, affordability, and quality are important to you.
The product selection process at BestReviews begins with a long list of potential candidates. This list is eventually whittled down to a shortlist of five top contenders. Occasionally, our testers encounter products that are worthy of customer consideration even though they didn't quite make the top five.
Panasonic ES3831K Shaver
The remarkably affordable, AA-powered Panasonic ES3831K is a single-blade foil model with a relatively anemic motor, but it enjoys a surprisingly supportive fan base. Satisfied owners praise its portability and decent, if not transcendent, shave quality. Our own testers were not quite as impressed, but they liked it well enough to recommend it as a travel razor or desk drawer back-up.
Notably, this is the only model we looked at that does not include a trimmer.
Braun 3Series 340S-4 Wet & Dry Shaver
The entire Braun collection of electric foil razors uses cutting-edge technology to deliver the utmost in quality. Each series within that collection is worthy of consideration.
Although we ultimately selected the more advanced Braun Series 7 790cc-4 as our Best of the Best electric razor, many people (including our own testers) praise the Braun3 Series 340S-4 Wet & Dry Shaver for its affordability, design, and performance. One tester noted that the shaving head angle of the Braun3 feels more natural and comfortable than the Braun 7, which led to improved balance in his hand and a more satisfying shaving experience overall.