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Braun Series 7 vs. Panasonic ES-LA63 vs Norelco SensoTouch 3D
on December 29, 2010
I've accumulated quite a few electric razors over the years, with the three most recent being the new models from Norelco, Braun and Panasonic. So, thought I'd do a comparison to perhaps help those who are debating between these high-end models.
But first let's get a basic question out of the way: do you have to spend this much to get a good shave from an electric shaver? Absolutely not. Lower-end models such as the Braun Series 5, the 7000 and 8000 Norelco series and the Panasonic ArcIV are great shavers. What you get for the extra money is a slight improvement in the shave, a bit better design, and a few somewhat useful bells and whistles.
Build quality - all are very nicely put together. The Braun feels the most substantial; the 3D feels the most "plasticy."
Sound - the 3D runs very quietly; the Braun and Panasonic are far more "buzzy" but not too loud.
Overall feel - for me, the Braun feels the most comfortable to hold. Easy to grip even if your hands are wet. The Panasonic is a close second. The 3D feels the most awkward. Not horrible, but not all that comfortable either.
Dry shave: closeness - this is a tough call, with the Braun and the Panasonic both providing very close shaves. The 3D does a pretty good job, but my face does not feel as smooth as with the others.
Dry shave: speed - the 3D is the clear winner here. Just mows through my beard, with a total shave time of less than 3 min. The Panasonic takes about 4 min for a good shave; the Braun clocks in at about 5 min.
Dry shave: neck - this is the most difficult area for most shavers, and all of these models left a few errant hairs here and there. The 3D did the best but it comes at the expense of some irritation (see the next note). The Braun and Panasonic are about equal.
Dry shave: comfort - Braun is the winner for me, followed by the Panasonic. Zero redness even in the more sensitive spots (jaw line and neck). The 3D left me with some red spots on my neck. Nothing severe, but it is clearly a notch below the others on the comfort meter.
Wet shave - this is limited to just the Panasonic and the 3D. I'm not a big fan of wet shaving, but both of these do a very good job. The Panny works best with a very thin layer of gel-type cream; the 3D works best with a heavier lather (I got good results with Edge). Both provided close shaves, with the Panny a bit more gentle than the 3D. But, the 3D did a better job on the neck and jaw line.
**Update: Just tried the new Remington Alphagel shaving cream and that works very well with both the Panny and the Norelco. The scent is a bit heavy (menthol) but the no-foam consistency is a perfect match for a wet electric shave. Much better than any other shave cream I've tried. I reviewed the Alphagel if you want more info.
Maneuverability - this is where the Braun really shines for me. I have a mustache, and edging it with the Braun is a piece of cake. The 3D takes some practice, but it can do a decent job. Worst by far was the Panasonic - the huge head makes it very hard to create a clean edge around the `stash.
Auto cleaning - I love the cleaning station from Braun. Works well, cleans well, and the razor comes out lemony-fresh. The Panasonic cleaning station is OK, but is louder, takes longer, and the water-based cleaning solution is not as effective. I can't comment on the 3D station since the model I bought didn't come with it.
Manual cleaning - both the Panasonic and 3D are very easy to clean manually. They actually don't need the auto cleaning station (although it is handy for storage for the Panny). The cutters are removable from the 3D (unlike the Arcitec models) for extra cleaning every so often. The Braun can be cleaned with water, but it's hard to get it very clean since the cutter block is a single unit.
Lots more that I could say about these razors, but this review is already way too long. If I had to pick just one, I'd go with the Braun. While not perfect, it excels in several areas and feels the best. It also offers three settings (gentle, normal and intensive) that vary the speed of the cutters, a feature the other two lack. I find that very helpful. Plus, replacement heads are easily available and often discounted (as are the cleaning cartridges). But, the 3D and the Panasonic are also very good shavers and will get the job done. If you are willing to spend the money, any one of these would be a good choice.
Note: I have the Braun 790cc-4 since I was able to get it at a fantastic price (on another site - sorry Amazon!) on Black Friday. But, under normal pricing situations, the 760 is cheaper and a better value. They work the same, with the differences limited to color of the razor, type of read-out on the handle, and the fact that the 760 lacks the "quick clean" feature in the cleaning station. None of these are really significant, so if you go with the Braun, pick the one that is cheaper.
But, you have to learn how to use an electric razor properly to get a good shave. Some quick tips:
1) Don't press hard - use an easy touch. If the heads are getting warm or hot, you're pressing too hard.
2) Shave against the grain when using a foil; shave in circular motions when using a rotary.
3) Stretch your skin taut when shaving your neck
4) Wait at least an hour after getting up before shaving (everyone's face gets a bit puffy when sleeping).
>>Update June 2012: Thought I'd post an update after 1.5 years of use. No complaints at all - works as good as the day I bought it. I'm also pleased to report that I have not yet had to replace the foil. Although I have several shavers, this remains my favorite, and I have yet to find another shaver that provides the same blend of solid build quality, ease of use, and outstanding shaving performance. It's still a 5-star razor in my book.
>>Update August 2013: Still working like a champ! Zero problems with functionality; fit and finish still looks very nice. I did end up replacing the head a couple of months ago, and it was surprising how much of a difference that made. I didn't really notice the foil and blades wearing since it occurs so slowly, but really noticed the improvement with the new head. I'm not going to wait so long to replace the head next time.
>>Update July 2014: Humming along without a problem. I did find that the head can be cleaned very well if I use an ultrasonic cleaner. Not nearly as quick and easy as using the cleaning station, but if you find yourself without any cleaning cartridges (as I did), an ultrasonic cleaner gets the head very clean. That method of cleaning does not add lubrication as the Braun cleaning fluid does, so I give it a quick spray with Norelco shaver spray after an ultrasonic cleaning.
>Update May 2016: Zero problems to report. Getting some wear on the silver parts and the handle has taken a ding or three due to getting knocked about while traveling, but the shaver continues to put in a good day's work without complaint. However, I recently had the opportunity to use the Panasonic ES-LT7N-S. I have to give the edge to that as my current favorite. It is new, so the price is still way up there, but Panny fixed a lot of the issues/complaints I had with their other high-end models. If your wallet doesn't complain about the price of the Panny ES, it's well worth considering along with the Braun 7 series.