Pros: Light weight, close as a blade shave
Cons: Its fat.
I received a Panasonic ES8109S Vortex Wet/Dry Shaver with Nano Technology and HydraClean System as a gift not long ago my older razor had bought the farm.
This is my 3rd Panasonic razor. My previous electric razors lasted an average of 7 years. I hope this one follows suit. The second one I had did not last as long, 5 years until the battery kicked out and I did not feel like ripping into it, and using a solder iron to replace the battery.
Impression out of the Box
My initial impression taking it from the box was "Wow this thing is HUGE!" Coming from a world of 2-3 rows of blades into 4 is a bit of a shocker at first. This thing is just FAT. But it looks cool.
It comes with a chargeable base that is fitted to a small cartridge filled with 'Special cleaning solution". Not sure what is is, but it comes with the base.
It has a nice pivoting head that can be locked, the ergonomics are fine for larger hands like mine. It has a nice aluminum look with a L.E.D. display that shows the real time battery charge. The razor can be charged using either the base or by plugging directly into the wall.
The base is a bit bulky for sitting on a counter top all the time. Maybe it was not meant to, but I don't care for it to be in my way every morning.
It has a 13,000 RPM motor on it meaning it is about the fastest in it's class. So after plugging it in to fully charge the battery while I read the instructions, I gave it a try.
It is very quiet. It does not have excessive vibration and is not heavy at all. So the first impression on that front was nice.
It is a wet dry razor. So I tried first a dry shave with no water or cream. It wasn't bad, but still left a very slight burning sensation where I shaved. However, it seemed to take it clean to the skin.
So I wet the razor and used cream this time. It felt good, but did not seem to shave as close as my previous razors did. The pamphlet tells you to try it several times for a couple of weeks to allow your beard to 'adjust' to the razor. I was a little disappointed at the 1st shave, but after using it a week I can see the pamphlet was spot on. After several days of using it, it finally seemed to 'kick in' and the shave was pretty intense.
This thing really will shave as close as a blade. It is a pretty amazing piece of equipment. I have taken this razor on a 4 day beard and shaved myself clean in short order. No hard pulling or burning, it simply takes the hair off clean. it may take a few fast passes, but it does the job and it does it well.
The issues I have with it is the fat design of it. This thing is literally a couple inches wide. It may not sound like much, but when you try and get it between the nose and the upper lip it's just flat clumsy. In order to get it to clean certain areas, you have to tilt it in several directions and try to get those little spots.
It does clean up the neck area well, but again it takes a few passes. And some goofy angles.
However, the compromise is that the shave is incredibly close. I guess the extra blade certainly has its advantages, but are the advantages worth the extra money? That is a personal decision. This razor can now be had for 100 dollars but it's original cost of over $300.00 was the reason I never bought it. Had I not gotten it as a gift, I would have tried to find a similar version of my older Panasonic models. But at todays prices I would have sprung for it easily.
The battery life is really good on this unit. I can actually go 10-15 shaves before it goes too low to use. A couple of times the meter said I had no charge and I still wrangled a fast shave from it. It charges pretty fast too. Within an hour it seems the 100% light comes on and you are good to go for another round.
Now this base and cleaning solution thing....I do not really use it much. The cartridges run about 3-5 dollars each. But they contain a supposed lubrication additive that oils it up as it scrubs. Not sure if the money is worth it, but it basically stands head down in this basin and looks to me like an ultrasonic type cleaner.
I use it maybe once per month, as I use it wet anyway and constant rinsing while use keeps it reasonably clean. However, it does perform a deeper cleaning than simple hot water rinsing. As I sue foam, this is a nice feature, i just do not use it nearly as much as Panasonic would want me to. After a year of buying cartridges and cleaning a few times per week, you could probably buy another razor at todays costs. Its not like a printer ink cartridge you can refill on your own.
It does work, but it's simply not convenient to have sitting on a counter all the time in my opinion.
The small clipper attachment is noisy and not as effective as I would think. Due partly again to it's fat design perhaps, but the thing is pretty noisy as well when you pop it out. I only use that function a few times per year so it's not a huge issue but ti tends to lower the expectations of a high end razor somewhat.
I have no idea how previous reviewers actually got cut with this thing. It is so smooth its scary. Unless the intial blades were just too sharp and needed to be used, i have no idea. But I had no such experience at all at anytime.
So, my final impression? Is it worth the money? At todays prices by all means. Remember that a package of Gillette razors can easily hit over 15 dollars for a handful of blades. That fact alone is worth the value if this thing lasts as long as my previous Panasonic models. If not, if it lasts 18 months I suppose it's a wash. But I do not expect Panasonic to have built a poor quality razor. If it lasts between 5-7 years I made money at $100 cost. If it lasts a year I pretty much spent the same.
This thing really WILL shave as close as a blade. I have taken a blade after shaving with it to 'trace' the performance and when you scrape nothing at all you know you have a winner.
So can I put up with the fat blade? Sure. Do I prefer it would reach harder to get places easier? Of course I do. It is a small complaint, but a complaint nonetheless. A minor irritation.
The shave is extraordinary. No burning when used wet. It is a very comfortable shave.
Are there better razors for the money? I do not know from personal use but I do know that it must be at the very top of its generation as far as performance goes. Only time will tell if the reliability is as good as previous Panasonic models.
I know a fellow at work is so cheap its almost funny. he uses at his desk ( to avoid using his own electricity at home to charge it ) a small 10 dollar special from Walmart. He claims it shaves as good as any high end razor. But I have never asked to fell his face to test his theory, so I will never know any more above his own statement. But he also has a different type of beard than I do. Mine is tough and bristly. His looks more liekm a bowl of cream could be applied and a cat could lick the whiskers off.
So how I would I valued this if the going cost were $300.00+? I would say wait until the price drops. It is a nice razor but in my opinion, at best worth $150.00 dollars new, unless you think the cleaning function is worth the extra cash.
If you have a small or angled face I am not sure how this would work for you without a bit of tilting and edge cutting. On my mug, its just a bit tight under the nose and near the ears.
For todays prices Is ay give it a try. As far as shaves go I cannot see where an electric razor could be better. There may be some great competition, but I cannot see it getting closer shave than this puppy gives.
I give it a Heads Up...albeit a Fat heads Up....I would have given it 5 stars instead of 4 but for the size of the shaving head.