A Great Beard Trimmer

If you just want a great beard trimmer, get the Wahl Lithium Ion All in One Trimmer because it is simple, precise, powerful and charges very quickly.

ARCHIVED: June 18, 2013
If you want a wireless model, this is still the best pick. But further research and testing has shown that its wired sibling, the Wahl Peanut trimmer, is the better performer. The Peanut is our new pick (although we still like this cordless Wahl if you absolutely must go cordless).

Why electric? You could do beard-scape manually, using scissors and a comb. But trimming your facial hair this way takes a steady hand, excellent judgment and an innate sense of artistry. While many of us possess one or maybe two of these traits, finding all three in an individual is a rare thing. So while some purists will argue for the old-school approach, most of us can probably benefit from an automatic beard trimmer.

The Wahl trimmer is one of two lithium-ion powered devices offered by Wahl (the rest of their trimmers and clippers are either corded or powered by a NiMh battery), but the only one dedicated to beards. It’s also a steal at $32 at Amazon, even though it’s the most expensive trimmer Wahl offers.

Who and what is a Wahl? It’s a little-known brand in the regular gadget world that seems to be loved by men’s magazines and reviewers. And barber shops, so I’ve heard. One particularly informed Amazon reviewer says, “I’ve owned a half a dozen rechargeable trimmers, most of them for beards, and I have to say that I’ve never been that impressed regardless of the brand name. I can’t seem to find one that’s both simple and powerful. The Wahl Lithium Ion All In One is probably the most powerful rechargeables I’ve ever used. I tried a number of current Norelco models and they’re frequently on the wimpy side. One was so weak that it would pull hair right out of my face instead of cutting it.” Esky likes Wahl, too, even if it’s a different model, and so does men’s mag Valet.

Perhaps the most thorough and glowing review comes from Jonathan S. Paul for New York Times Magazine, who calls this brand underdog as his favorite. “Ironically, it was one of the ugliest that I tested, the Wahl Lithium Ion Trimmer, that I ended up loving, for its high-endurance battery (no charger needed for short trips), its handy attachments for close detail work and its good value. Sure, it’s not handsome — with tacky chrome trim and matte black grip ribs — but I’ll make a nice home for it deep inside my medicine cabinet. If any style snob inquires about my beard trimmer, I’ll just tell them to buzz off.”

Will it work for your weird face? Well (breaking eye contact, looking to the floor) I think so. Sure, grooming facial hair can be a complicated affair. No two faces are the same, beard density differs from man to man, and personal preference lends itself to variations in moustache or beard styles and length. But Wahl’s Lithium Ion All in One Trimmer come equipped with enough attachments to deal with a variety of chins and necks. It can be mated with a trimmer head, a T-blade, a dual shaver head and a detail head. In addition to the four-trimmer heads, Wahl also ships the Lithium Ion All in One with six clip-on hair guides of varying lengths to ensure that your trimming session ends with a consistent beard or moustache length, and not tears.

(In a pinch, the trimmer can even use the device as an electric shaver—but you shouldn’t.)

All these heads and attachments wouldn’t be worth much without a reasonable amount of torque, which is probably the Wahl’s biggest selling point. Wahl claims that thanks to the its lithium ion battery, the trimmer is capable of delivering twice as much torque as other NiMh/NiCAD powered trimmers. Doug Aamoth, a rather hairy fellow, confirms as much, saying, “I found myself needing to go over the same area of my face far less than usual as the Wahl was, for the most part, able to trim everything down equally and on the first pass.”

That’s a good thing: In addition to finishing your grooming session with fewer passes of the trimmer, having a more powerful trimmer typically results in less pulled facial hair and  jammed blades.

Even if the trimmer’s torque wasn’t affected by its battery, Wahl’s choice of a lithium ion battery would still be a win. By charging the battery for one hour, users are rewarded with two hours of runtime. NiMh/NiCAD powered trimmers can take twice as long to obtain a full charge while lasting less than half as long. Read the specs of other shavers and weep. If the Wahl is dead and you’ve got to run, a one-minute charge will net you a four-minute trimming session. Best of all, battery memory is a non-issue with lithium ion batteries, making it possible to plug the trimmer into the charger after every use without fear of shortening the its life. And although the Wahl has a very small charger, you probably won’t even need to bring it along on trips because the battery life is so ridiculous.

Despite everything this trimmer has going for it, there are a few things lacking that you might find elsewhere. For starters, the stand is kind of a joke. And you might notice that unlike some competing shavers, the trimmer doesn’t have a built-in vacuum. That feature is available in high-end trimmers like the $60 Philips Norelco Qt4070 (although there have been reports of people cutting and stabbing themselves using the Norelco) as well as in cheaper trimmers like the Remington MB70 ($16, which can only be had as a used, disgusting, refurb.) But we’d rather have a powerful, competent shaver than one that can also hoover your face. To be honest, it’s also unmanly to have a beard trimmer that has a vacuum in it.

All of this sounds pretty good, right? The question remains, what makes the Lithium Ion All in One such a killer? After all, many trimmers, such as the Philips Norelco BG2040/34 Bodygroom Pro can handle just about anything that the Wahl can, including nether regions and backs. It’s also waterproof. But again, eight hours of charging equals less than an hour of service. The Remington MB-200 also looks good, initially, but people with thick beards complain it can’t handle heavy brush. Panasonic, which seems to make great gadgets in every category, simply does not fare well in the beard-trimmer department. Simply put, we couldn’t find a trimmer reviewers and users found more confidence in than the Wahl.

The Lithium Ion All in One Trimmer‘s powerful, clean trimming and flexible attachments mean more to me than all the sucking, waterproofing and other bells and whistles you can invent.

Last Year’s Model: From what I can tell, they haven’t changed the design in two years.

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  1. Jonathan S. Paul, Buzz Kill | In Search of a Beard Trimmer, New York Times, August 14, 2009
    "I tested, the Wahl Lithium Ion Trimmer, that I ended up loving, for its high-endurance battery (no charger needed for short trips), its handy attachments for close detail work and its good value. Sure, it’s not handsome — with tacky chrome trim and matte black grip ribs — but I’ll make a nice home for it deep inside my medicine cabinet. If any style snob inquires about my beard trimmer, I’ll just tell them to buzz off."
  2. Doug Aamoth, Review: Wahl Lithium Ion All In One Trimmer, TechCrunch, July 2 2009
    "All in all, the Wahl Lithium Ion All In One Trimmer is a great choice for simple, quick, and hassle-free trimmings when you want to leave a little stubble behind. It falls short when it comes to full shaves but the nice torque and worry free battery combined with the high-quality blades and attachments make the $50 list price pretty fair."
  3. Charlie Sorrel, Wahl Reboots Male Grooming with Li-Ion Trimmer, Wired Gadget Lab, June 15 2009
    "The batteries in electric shavers suck. Charge-times are better measured as large fractions of days than as hours, you can’t use them while they are charging and, even when full, they don’t last long. The Lithium Ion Trimmer is the fist trimmer ever to use a Li-Ion battery, according to Wahl, which has several advantages. First, it only takes an hour to charge and then, when done, stops using power. Second, the shaver will run for a couple of hours instead of just a half an hour. Wahl’s new trimmer tries to fix this, and Wahl is so proud of the battery technology that it has put it in the name."
  4. M. Fusco, User Review, Amazon.com, January 29, 2010
    "I have had this incredible trimmer for over two weeks. Charged for just over an hour when I received it, it has been running full strength ever since. The claims for the lithium battery are not hype. Wahl has scored big with this model. Its design and execution are superb. I just wish I hadn't bought all those separate pieces in the past (trimmer, nose clippers, T-blade, etc.). For much less money, I could have bought this unit and had them all. The pieces are easily interchanged, once used to the process, and the components are beautiful designed and engineered to fit perfectly. The blades are highest quality, easily maintained, and the high torque of the motor make them great trimmers."
  5. Dave Alexander, A Review of the Wahl All-In-One Lithium Ion Trimmer, Ask.com, March 16 2012
    "Aside from some minor annoyances, I've found the The Wahl Lithium Ion Trimmer to be a capable and versatile performer. It includes everything you need for most of your face and body trimming requirements and the performance was pretty solid. The trimmer cuts close and will help you create clean lines. At around $60, it's also a pretty good bargain"
  • http://www.richardsnotes.org Richard

    I’ve been cutting my hair (not just my beard) with a Wahl for over 30 years. I’ve had two and my current one (not the one listed here) has been going for 15 years. Amazing products, last a long time and cutting one’s own hair is a lot easier than people think. A good barber scissors, a hand mirror, and a Wahl.

  • Anthony

    Why does it say WAIT over the photo? Is this not the best anymore?

  • Andrew Wilson

    I think “unmanly” is a little unfair. I got the QT4050 because my wife complained about the mess my beard trimming made. What could be more manly than trying (and failing) to make my wife happy. All of that said, the QT4050 just isn’t a very good trimmer.

    My personal experience is that the vacuum function on the trimmer is more of a hinderance than a help: The hair collection area is tiny so if I’m not on top of my thrice-weekly trimming (from say, a busy week at work, or a trip to the beach) I have to stop and empty the trap three or four times in a trim; the vacuum isn’t powerful enough to get absolutely every hair, so I still have to do a fair amount of cleaning afterward; and most importantly the vacuum is pulling loose hair down beneath the blades where, if it gets clogged, makes it much more difficult to clean out.

    My solution has been to go back to my non vacuum PN trimmer, and leave a Dirt Devil Red Versa Power Stick hand vacuum in the bathroom.. It’s an entirely adequate portable vacuum for less than $25, (Usually $23 at Target; I picked mine up on Black Friday for $9.99) and it takes care of the trimmings (and baseboard dust, and the occasional spider) no problem.

  • Deadend

    I had this, I had it for maybe 6 months. It sends hair flying EVERYWHERE, making a huge mess. I used it in the shower before showering, because at least that is easier to clean. It hates wet beards, and it stopped working yesterday midtrim.
    It was GREAT at the trimming, but just too messy. If Wahl made a water resistant version, it would be perfect.

  • juan

    How does the “Sassoon i-Pro” compare to Wahl, Moser or Remington cordless clippers? (noise, battery, powerful…)

    • http://thewirecutter.com/ tony kaye

      We haven’t looked at the Sassoon, but will check it out when we do our update!