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Panasonic ES-LV95-S vs Braun 9095cc
on March 20, 2016
I recently began using the ES-LV95 after a brief detour with the Braun 9095cc, both flagship shavers from Panasonic and Braun; the ES-LV95 replaces my older ES-LV81. This review is a comparison of the (relatively) new Panasonic with the newest Braun, however contrasting this new Panasonic with the old, the ES-LV95 improves performance and convenience in every respect by comparison with the earlier Panasonic, so I won't reference the venerable ES-LV81 again.
Compared to the Braun, the new Panasonic is lighter weight (7 oz vs 8 oz) and slightly slimmer. It's mostly plastic, but then so is the Braun, and esthetics of either is a matter of opinion. The Panasonic has slightly less chrome showing and is a little more svelte, which I sort of favor, so a win for the Panny for appearances for me. The head is larger - about 1/4" wider - and seems more flexible than the Braun's, moving more easily around a true 360 degree axis rather than the Braun's two-dimensional swivel, allowing the Panasonic to adapt to the contours of your face better. It covers more area quicker, and shortens my morning shave by almost half compared to the 9095cc, but does require practice maneuvering the larger head around the corners and angles of your face. The Panasonic has 5 cutters arranged symmetrically (a center flat cutter for longer whiskers, flanked on either side by 2 foils), contrasting Braun's asymmetrical 4 cutters (2 different flat cutters, blue and silver, with a foil on either side). One advantage of the Panasonic is that the cutter blocks and foil can be purchased separately - the foils wear out faster, so may need more frequent replacement, but can be replaced without replacing the cutters. With the Braun, the cutters and foils are one cartridge assembly so you have to buy both. As an addendum, replacement heads for the Braun have been generally unavailable now for more than a year, with the few that are available priced sometimes at more than the cost of the shaver. The Panasonic replacement heads are readily available anywhere, usually $50-60 range for foil and cutter blocks combined.
The higher speed cutting cycles of the Panasonic (14,000 cpm) compared to Braun's 10,000 cpm, seem to provide a more comfortable shave (for me) - that's 233 cutting cycles per second (Panasonic), compared to 167 cutting cycles per second (Braun), or 40 percent faster. Braun's "sonic" technology also creates more vibration (and noise) in the head and shaver compared to the Panny. The high speed Panasonic seems to smooth out each pass, and require fewer passes or repeat passes, as opposed to the Braun's "paint mixer" vibrations on your face and in your hand. Neither of course is as quiet as a rotary shaver. The Panasonic shave is definitely closer, with fewer missed spots or random whiskers. Panasonic also has a "sensor" mode on this shaver, which reportedly detects beard thickness and adjusts cutting speed, which it actually appears to do; it does result in a less irritating shave than previous models or the Braun, which could be attributable to this feature. The Panasonic requires a different technique and a lighter touch than the Braun - since it cuts your beard more easily, you don't need to apply any extra pressure shaving to get a close cut; in fact if you press as hard with the Panny as you sometimes must with the Braun, it will let you know you've had a close shave, and not in a good way. Easy does it. Both shavers have a lock for the head, allowing a closer shave around more challenging areas such as under the nose and around sideburns, and both have a pop-up trimmer for trimming along a straight line. Both configurations work equally well for those purposes.
Battery longevity seems similar for both shavers, with the nod going to Panasonic for number of shaves per charge because it takes less time to shave; should last a week or more on the road with a single charge. You can charge these shavers with the cord, without the cleaning station, and both are multi-voltage for traveling. Cords are similar with large transformer plugs, and like all wet/dry shavers, you can't use either shaver as a corded shaver but must recharge. Straight cord for the Panny, coiled cord for the Braun. Information on the shavers' LED displays is similar; the Panasonic provides percentage of charge left versus the Braun, which just displays diminishing bars until the final ten minutes of charge. The Panasonic also displays "MIN USED" for a shave, up to ten minutes, when it starts over. I actually find this useful for improving my shaving technique and speed.
The cleaning station for the Panasonic is significantly improved over the previous design, which sometimes had problems with leaking solution. The new design uses a detergent solution and a filter tray rather than a cassette - you mix the detergent packet with water in the tray, and I recommend distilled water to avoid mineral build-up on shaver or cleaner. The Panasonic cleaner is water based versus the alcohol based Braun station, but both provide excellent cleaning performance - Braun says their cleaning solution is not compatible with soap, so none of the Braun shavers that include a cleaning station are approved for use with shaving foam or gel. That's right folks - the Braun wet/dry shavers that include a cleaning station are not approved by Braun for use with shaving cream. The Braun alcohol solution is advertised as "sanitizing" the shaver head, but both cleaning solutions provide more than adequate anti-bacterial properties (remember, you wash your hands with soap and water), and neither actually sterilizes the head (important tip - don't share your shaver with anyone boys and girls). The Braun station runs with a couple of minutes of louder buzzing (running the shaver for cleaning), followed by about 40 minutes of a quiet fan cycle, while the Panasonic station runs the shaver a little over 5 minutes, followed by a little over an hour of fan drying; both stations seem to run either comparable cycle at about the same noise level - the fan cycle is plenty quiet for a spouse, partner or family member sleeping feet away. The Panasonic seems to dry the head completely, whereas the Braun is always slightly damp the next morning. Both station/shaver combos occupy about the same counter space and height, with similar controls and information for drying or cleaning, with the Braun being slightly larger and taller.
Probably most significantly, the Braun cleaning cartridges cost more than twice as much as the Panasonic detergent packs, require orders of magnitude more storage space, and are flammable; one plus for the Braun cartridges is that they are self-contained like the Philips Norelco cleaning system, requiring no mixing. If storage space is as important as convenience however (and we're talking a minute or so exercise of opening a detergent pack, emptying it into a tray and filling the tray with water - once a month tops), you can store more than a year's worth of Panasonic cleaning packets in the bottom of a bathroom cabinet drawer without noticing, while that many Braun cartridges will fill a substantial part of your closet with flammable liquid. Cartridges for the new Braun cleaner don't seem to last as long as previous units either, less than a month on average for me, shaving daily. Panasonic detergent solution lasts well over a month - going on two months now with the current solution and just as effective cleaning. Cleaning with either station will leave your shaver like new and smelling fresh, but both shavers can really just be rinsed in running water, so you don't absolutely need a cleaning station, although it is convenient. The Panasonic head is much easier to clean manually than the Braun since the foil and cutters are separate. The one minus of the Panasonic compared to the Braun is the travel case - the Braun has a nicely fitted hard leather case, where the Panasonic has their standard "faux leather" vinyl bag, but they do provide a hard plastic head cover.
As a side note, there is already a new Panasonic series of shavers (ES-LV6/7/9) on the market that appear similar, with a slightly redesigned head and body, and a similar cleaning station, so the ES-LV95 is not their newest model. Again, be aware that if you are a traditional "wet shaver" - I.e. shaving soap and water - Braun specifically says their only approved Series 9 shavers for shaving foam or gel are the 9040s and the 9080s (the "s" suffix means does not include the cleaning station), NOT the 9095cc. I have used it successfully with a shaving brush and soap, but according to Braun's literature this is an "off label" use and may void your warranty. If you are a wet shaver, technically your only choice is the Panasonic between these two. Highly recommended.