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The best electric shaver I have used
on November 15, 2014
This is the best electric shaver I have used. My review will be based on comparisons to the electric shaver this Philips Norelco 9300 unit has replaced, which is the Braun Series 7. This review has three components; Shaver Review, Cleaning Unit Review and 9300 Shaving Technique Tips
This Philips Norelco 9300 shaves much closer and much more thoroughly than the Braun Series 7 model. Note that I'll occasionally use the abbreviation PN to represent Phillips Norelco.
I was satisfied with the closeness of the shave provided by the Braun Series 7, but the Braun unit missed too many hairs on the neck and jawline areas. Too many missed hairs motivated the search for a more thorough electric shave. Upon first use of the 9300, I immediately noticed that not only does the PN 9300 shave much closer, but it also shaves much more thoroughly on the neck and jawline areas. The number of missed hairs on the neck region for the 9300 is very close to what you would achieve with a traditional razor. I had been using the Braun series 7 for several years and was not used to the closeness of shave provided by the PN 9300. The 9300 shaves so close that it feels like shaving with a razor, when compared to the Braun series 7. Yes, you can also achieve razor-like burn on your lower neck with the 9300 if you apply too much pressure to the shaving head and do not keep the shaver head in constant motion. I'll further discuss PN 9300 shaving technique tips down below.
So, yes, the PN 9300 shaves very close and is very thorough. I give the shaver itself 4.5 stars. The missing half star is due to the fact that you have to manually disconnect the shaving head assembly and then attach the included sideburns trimmer each time you want to trim your sideburns. This may seem like a small thing, but repeated, daily motions consume time and provide opportunities for breakage. I don't trust plastic parts holding up to the daily wear and tear of being snapped into and out of place over and over. I have a separate small, Philips Norelco hair trimmer that I use for the sideburns trimming job. However, don't let that design aspect deter you from experiencing this very effective electric shaver.
If you're looking to try an electric shaver for the first time, then let this be the model you choose. Yes, old fashioned razors still provide the closest, most thorough shave, but the savings provided by an electric shaver in terms of reduced shaving time, no mess to clean up, no more facial cuts and no more razor/shaving creme purchasing vastly outweigh the very minor trade-off in shaving performance. I haven't cut my face while shaving in many years and never plan on doing so again. To me, razors are old technology similar to vinyl records and leeches. After five weeks of PN 9300 ownership, I'm very satisfied with the shaving performance. And yes, you do need to follow the 30 day skin-adjustment period rule when switching from razors to electric shavers before passing judgement on an electric shaver.
If you're looking to upgrade from another electric shaver model, go with the Philips Norelco 9300 shaver. You won't be disappointed. I had thought foil-based electric shavers were the best, but was mistaken. The flexibility, articulation and degrees of freedom engineered into the PN 9300 shaving heads provide the closest and most thorough electric shave I've been able to get. The Braun Series 7 just doesn't have enough flexibility and articulation built into the shaving head to do a thorough job of shaving all of the hairs on your neck. I didn't realize I was walking around for years with a not so close AND not so thorough Braun Series 7 shave until I tried the Philips 9300. The Philips unit is also much quieter than the the Braun unit. The Philips emits a light, whirring sound whereas the Braun emits a louder, higher-pitched buzz. The first time I turned on the PN 9300 I wasn't sure the thing was actually on. Yes, it's relatively quiet. Both units feel well-balanced in the hand and of high quality.
Cleaning Unit Review: (updated 12-31-2016)
*Begin Update-I give the 9300 cleaning unit 1.0 star. I've come to the conclusion that the cleaning unit is completely optional (i.e. unnecessary) as I end up cleaning the shaving head by removing the head cover and then running the heads under water. For me, the cleaning unit now simply functions as a stand and charger. The only way to remove the large amount of hair that accumulates behind the shaving head is to remove the shaving head cover from the shaver and empty the hair. The cleaning unit just rinses the surface of the heads and has no effect on the hair that has accumulated behind the shaving head. I haven't noticed any change in shaving performance since rinsing with water. The replacement head instructions also indicated to simply remove the head and run them under water. I've said so long to 4 hour cleaning cycles and the never ending replacement of cleaning fluid. End Update 12-31-2016*
Original cleaning unit review
The Philips cleaning unit works well, but it takes a full 4 hours and 10 minutes to clean, lubricate, dry and charge the shaver. It takes 10 minutes to clean and lubricate and then almost 4 hours of drying time followed by a short period of charging. What happens if you remove the shaver from the cleaning unit before the 4 hour drying time has elapsed? Well, the shaving heads are still wet from the cleaning fluid. I prefer a dry shave, so this is somewhat annoying. The Braun cleaning unit is designed better in terms of ease of use and it also provides a much shorter drying time. The benefits of the cleaning unit include convenience and time savings. One simply presses a button to perform a cleaning, lubricating, drying and charging cycle. I think Philips should aim for a 1/2 hour cycle time for the next version of this cleaning unit. 4 hours of drying time? Really?
I don't leave the cleaning unit constantly plugged in with the shaver in charging mode as I'm concerned about over-charging the battery, however, the 4 hour 10 minute cleaning and drying time isn't that big a deal as you can simply start a cycle when you get home from work. 4 hours later, I unplug the cleaning unit and the shaver is clean, lubricated, dry and ready to go in the morning. I use the cleaning unit about every other day. My cleaning unit functioned as described in the manual for the first several weeks of ownership. The cleaning unit would run a ten minute clean/lubricate cycle and then go into drying mode for approximately four hours, then charge mode. The cleaning unit stopped operating in this manner near the fourth or fifth week of ownership and began to continuously switch back and forth between cleaning for ten minutes and then drying for ten minutes and then back to cleaning for ten minutes, etc... for hours on end. I contacted Philips tech support concerning this behavior and a replacement cleaning unit has been received. I had to contact Philips support three times before the replacement was actually sent, so be prepared to followup as needed. The replacement cleaning unit I received is of a newer design as evidenced by the ring of clear plastic around the top of the cleaning cartridge housing. My original cleaning unit did not have this ring of clear plastic, so I'll assume that the original unit was of an older design. The replacement cleaning unit is working well and also comes with dashed lines that light up around the top of the cleaning cartridge housing to indicate where the unit is within a given clean/lubricate, dry, charge cycle. In any event, in case your cleaning unit malfunctions, save your order confirmation email as proof of purchase.
Both the Braun and Philips cleaning units use 170 milliliter (ml) plastic reservoirs of cleaning fluid. Since both brands chose to use the same exact volume, I suspect competitive parity was the goal. This cleaning fluid seems to evaporate over time and needs to be periodically replaced. Yes, cleaning fluid replacement is a recurring revenue stream for both companies. The Braun unit uses a sensor to measure cleaning fluid level and is set to prompt the user to replace the cleaning fluid when a low fluid level is reached. The Philips cleaning unit claims to sense when the cleaning cartridge filter is full and prompts the user to replace the cleaning cartridge at this time. I'll be monitoring whether this is indeed the case or if perhaps the fluid level is simply being measured. In any event, I've noticed similar cleaning fluid replacement rates between the Braun and Philips units. Philips claims each cleaning fluid container can last up to 2 months, which may mean the replacement time is dependent on how thick ones beard is, how frequently one shaves and how frequently one uses the cleaning unit. I'll experiment with this to determine what the Philips cleaning unit is actually sensing inside the cleaning cartridge. **Update**. I've determined that the Philips Norelco cleaning unit simply measures the level of the cleaning fluid remaining in the cartridge rather than sensing the condition of the "filter" inside the cartridge. When the cleaning unit indicated that the cleaning cartridge needed to be replaced, I added a small amount of water to the old cleaning cartridge and reinserted it into the cleaning unit. Sure enough, the cleaning unit operated as designed. Don't use water long-term, however, as this may not lubricate properly. This information suggests limiting the evaporation of the cleaning fluid from the cartridge will extend the life of the cleaning cartridge. I'll try removing and covering the cleaning cartridge when it's not in use to see if this helps extend the life.
It's also worth noting that the Braun cleaning fluid is alcohol-based, which may mean the Braun cleaning fluid disinfects the shaver as well whereas the Philips cleaning fluid is "alcohol free" and may simply clean without disinfecting. The Philips cleaning fluid lubricates as well, whereas the Braun unit includes a separate small container of oil to be occasionally manually applied for lubrication purposes. Also, the Philips cleaning unit is much more quiet than the Braun cleaning unit, which emits a fairly loud buzz, but nothing unbearable.
As far as long-term maintenance goes, the Philips 9300 will require more manual cleaning time due to the more complex design of the rotary shaving heads. By long-term maintenance, I mean removal of the three shaving heads from the shaver assembly for a more thorough hair removal and cleaning. A thorough cleaning of the Braun shaving head is simple, fast and easy to do with the included hair removal brush. It would have been nice had Philips included a similar hair removal brush. The PN 9300 includes a shaving head removal tool (it's the orange plastic part, so don't throw it out!) and Philips notes that each of the 3 shaving heads must be placed back in the original location from which each was removed (maintain cutter/comb pairing) for optimal shaver performance. In other words, clean one Philips shaving head at a time. It took about 15 minutes to perform the thorough shaving head cleaning on the Philips unit the first time through. That time will dramatically decrease with familiarity. Yes, the very flexible PN 9300 shaving head design is more complex than the Braun head and thus requires more disassembling/reassembling time. A thorough cleaning of the Braun shaving head takes about one minute. For the Braun unit, I performed this more thorough cleaning each time the cleaning fluid was replaced. I'll likely follow the same more thorough cleaning schedule with the PN 9300. You'll find a decent amount of hair building up inside the PN 9300 shaving head assembly, so I'd perform the more thorough cleaning at least every three months or so.
Shaving Technique Tips when using the Philips Norelco 9300:
1. Maintain constant circular motion. Always keep the shaver heads moving in a circular path via a series of overlapping circles. One can alternate between using clockwise (CW) or counterclockwise (CCW) circles. Either direction works fine, but I notice a mixture of using both CW and CCW circles maximizes shaving performance since the direction of hair growth can vary. The size (diameter) of your circles can be roughly the same size (or smaller but not larger) as the size of the circle that encompasses all three shaving heads. To achieve more precision near the sideburns, aim one of the three shaving heads at the targeted area and use very small diameter circles to approximate a straight edge. Adjust circle size and direction as needed using your eyes and ears to monitor shaving effectiveness. Over time, you'll come to notice a different sound being emitted when hairs are actually being shaved.
2. To shave the upper and lower lip areas, reverse pucker, as in pull your lips in on themselves, and then glide the shaving head left and right in a circular motion. The reverse pucker (pursed lips) essentially creates a single, larger skin surface roughly equivalent to one of your cheek areas. Think of the area extending from under your nose to the bottom of your chin as a single surface similar to a cheek. Move the shaver over this area as if the lips did not exist. This allows you to use the same circular shaving technique on the lip area as is used on the cheek area. In order to shave the hard-to-reach hairs under your nose, aim one of the three shaving heads at those hairs and use very small diameter circles to catch them with your one chosen shaving head.
3. For the lower neck area, use a very light pressure on the shaver head while keeping it moving in constant circular motion. The pressure being applied to the shaver head has a big effect on lower neck area skin irritation, whereas pressure applied doesn't seem to matter on the cheek, lip or upper neck areas. I haven't experienced any skin irritation in those areas, regardless of the pressure being applied. Don't let the shaving heads remain stationary in the same area of lower neck skin for very long or you will experience razor burn/skin irritation. Yes, it shaves that close. Also, I find that keeping the skin loose on the lower neck, rather than pointing the chin up to tighten the lower neck skin, helps prevent razor burn. You can also experiment with using the three different shaving head rotation speeds (rpm) on the lower neck area. Lower rotation speeds allow for more pressure to be applied and vice versa. When shaving the lower neck area you should basically be aware of the pressure being applied to the shaving head, the tightness of skin on the neck and the shaver rotation speed being used. Adjust any of those variables as needed to achieve a close, thorough, irritation-free lower neck shave.