Pros: Very powerful, a close and relatively quick shave.
Cons: Cleaning dock isn't great, dangerous when used wet, you wear what you shave off.
Last Christmas I decided it was time to trade in my Norelco razor I'd used since high school for something new. My Norelco had worked pretty well through the years, its only downfalls being its lengthy cleaning process and general wear and tear that roughly 7 years of use inevitably brings.
I watched some demo videos for the latest and greatest Norelco razor and, while I'm sure it worked much more smoothly that my old model, I didn't see any huge changes in its basic functionality other than a sexier design. If I bought another Norelco, I pretty much knew what I would be getting.
I decided to be adventurous and buy a Panasonic ES8109. I liked the thought of its single shaving grill (called a "foil shaver"), instead of Norelco's classic three grills (a "rotary shaver"). This would greatly simplify the cleaning process. It also just looked really powerful and got good reviews online, so I ordered it.
The ES8109 is every bit as powerful as you might expect. It leaves you with a very smooth shave in minimal time. This is probably the only thing I really like about this razor, but it's a very big pro. What's the fundemental point of a razor except to minimize the time you spend in front of the mirror and leave you looking good?
The biggest problem I have with the ES8109 is its inability to collect the hair that it shaves off you face. About a fourth of it winds up residing behind the grill: the rest is left all over your chest, the sink, and your face. This last part is the really annoying part because you can't accurately assess whether you've shaved your entire face. I usually shave with the ES8109 before I take a shower, rinse my face off, then do a touch-up after the shower. This is every bit the pain in the ass it seems. Also the hair that actually winds up behind the grill isn't guaranteed to stay there: if you turn the ES8109 on and tilt it down even at say 70 degrees from being upright, the hair behind the grill comes buzzing back out.
After about two months of tolerating the ES8109's messiness, I got the idea to shave wet with the ES8109. Shaving wet usually makes it tougher to clean a razor, but if it allowed the ES8109 to actually collect the hair I was shaving off I was all for it.
This was a BIG MISTAKE. With shaving cream and water on my face the ES8109 literally ate my face up. Your cranium contains about a fourth of your body's blood so it doesn't take much of a cut to make it bleed a lot, but seriously after shaving with the ES8109 wet for 5 minutes I was considering calling the hospital because of how badly I was bleeding. The cuts the ES8109 gave me shaving wet were so bad they were visible the next day and maybe two were large enough to scab over. I didn't get any scars (well, physical ones) from this scary experience but I'm honestly surprised I didn't. I'll never forget looking down at the grill of the ES8109 right after I shaved with it wet for the first and last time and seeing pink shaving cream gurgling up from behind its grill. (Hint: white+red=pink)
The cleaning dock for the ES8109 is fairly straightforward to use, but its pretty useless unless you use it to clean the ES8109 every time you shave. More than one shave and you're going to have to take a small brush and manually clean the ES8109. This isn't a huge deal to me because the ES8109's foil design and easy disassembly make it pretty simple and fast to clean manually, but it's still annoying having a cleaning dock that's pretty much useless. I almost wonder if the cleaning dock's functionality wasn't intentionally limited so Panasonic can sell more of the cleaning gel packets the cleaning dock requires.
Another problem I've had with cleaning the ES8109 is odor. I shave pretty much once weekly. If I use the cleaning dock the week before or, as the ES8109's user's manual suggests ocassionally doing, using handsoap and water to rinse out the ES8109, the razor starts to take on a weird, chocolately smell. I've found my best bet when cleaning the ES8109 is just to do it manually with plain water.
In conclusion, I don't know how the other reviewers on this site fell in love with this razor: for me it's a nightmare. Perhaps some of my problems, like the ES8109 mutilating my face when used wet, are unique to me and my sensitive skin type, but really I don't see any way around issues like how this razor doesn't collect the hair it shaves off and actually spits back out some of what it does collect. I used a Norelco for seven years and it collected every single hair I shaved off, so I know this isn't too much to ask of a relatively high dollar razor. When I buy a new razor it might not be a foil razor and definitely won't be a Panasonic.