Pros: Stylish, ergonomic, locking hair length selector, swivel head, cordless
Cons: Charging indicator useless, no case included, dry use only
Hair trimmers have been around and while my first Wahl served me well for over 7 years, there have been 2 attempts to replace the trusty old one with a newer model (a bit more stylish or simply different). Both attempts failed miserably and the original model is still on duty. So here is another attempt. Tempted by the sleek looks of the Norelco QC5170, this time it just had to be right ... or had it?
Anyway, most notably about the QC5170 is the design which deviates significantly from other models on the market. The handle is fairly ergonomic and ambidextrous. The main switch is hard to reach in normal use, but that's less important as it doesn't really have to be easily accessible while trimming hair. Another control is located near the shaving head, and the red button must be pressed in order to set the ring to any of the 5 available length settings. Once released, the red button functions as a lock to prevent accidental changes. It's one of the coolest designs in the market, even if it's slightly confusing at first to have two scales telling the same thing.
The device can be powered via the integrated rechargeable battery or corded with the charger plugged in. Charged in about 8 hours, it's claimed to last up to 60 minutes of trimming. Oddly, the charging light remains lit even once the battery is full and essentially doesn't help to determine intermediate charges. Norelco doesn't recommend those anyway, as that can degrade battery life quicker. With that, corded use is more or less a backup only for when the battery is empty, though the charging is disabled in actual corded use. Either way, it's dry use only (unlike the Panasonic).
A major departure from typical hair trimmer designs is the swivel head which can be rotated 90 degree to the left and 90 to the right, for a total of 180 degree in 45 degree increments. This is very handy to keep the handle in ergonomic orientation while trimming different portions of your head, and especially when working on the back of your head. What I thought to be a minor feature, turned out to be a great enhancement; the kind one wouldn't want to miss once used to it.
Norelco lists 10 cutting length settings (up to 7/8 in. [22 mm]), but requires to change combs to decide between two ranges: Large (0.51 - 0.83 in.) and Small (0.12 - 0.43 in.). Once in the proper range, the hair length selector (red button, see above) divides the range into 5 settings. This doesn't directly translate into the No.x settings as represented by different combs in the Wahl system and one probably has to experiment a bit for the correct length.
Generally speaking, the QC5170 is refreshing new design for a relatively stagnant market segment. The price puts it in the mid field of consumer grade devices and judging from the design of the blades, professional heavy duty use in not where this is likely to excel. For home use, however, it's a great design that's both stylish and easy to use.
Given that there are 6 separate components including the trimmer, power supply, large and small comb, precision trimmer and cleaning brush; the lack of any type of case is quickly apparent as one has to keep all those pieces together. A little bag may come in handy, but that's up to the owner to figure out.
© 2009, theuerkorn