The Best Beard Trimmer
After spending 46 hours on research, surveying more than 550 Wirecutter readers, spending a week testing tools with a pair of professional barbers, and personally sacrificing a beard in the name of science, we concluded that the Wahl Lithium Ion all-in-one trimmer is the beard trimmer we’d recommend for most people. It has the sharpest blades, the most reliable beard guides, the longest run time, and the strongest overall stubble-cutting power of any cordless tool we tested. It also has a high-quality design, from its blade materials to its ergonomics, and its battery lasts longer than those of the competition. At the end of 2015, we tested it against five new trimmers, and we still think this longstanding recommendation is a better shaver (and a better value) than anything else in the category.
However, cordless trimmers aren’t for everyone. If you want a reliable tool that can cut a thick beard and mustache down to nothing but stubble, we recommend the Wahl Peanut. This inexpensive and powerful corded trimmer—which was our pick in a previous edition of this guide—beat everything we tested it against on overall cutting power and the closeness of the trim. You see it in hair salons everywhere; professionals dig its powerful motor, easy-to-maintain blades, solid ergonomics, and rugged durability. But unlike some pro tools, the Peanut is easy to clean and maintain without breaking out the screwdriver. It’s also lighter, smaller, and more maneuverable than other tank-like pro trimmers, yet because it’s so well built, the Wahl Peanut is bound to last home users for years—a claim that numerous online testimonials back up.
If you prefer a trimmer with incremental length controls, we suggest the Panasonic ER-GB60-K, which comes with two trimmer guards that you can adjust to cut at lengths between 0.5 and 20 millimeters. That adds up to 39 length settings, far more than the competition provides (even our main pick offers only 12 settings). The Panasonic’s cutting power is mediocre compared against that of the high-quality blades and motors in the two Wahl trimmers we feature in this guide. But it actually has better cutting power than our previous pick for fine length control, the Braun cruZer 6 beard&head trimmer. The ER-GB60-K is best suited for people with thinner beards who want to have as much control as they can over the length.
In three years of reporting and updating this guide, we’ve considered about 70 pieces of hardware and tested 37 of them. While none of these trimmers are perfect, they are the best we’ve found. The two Wahl products in particular are standouts, having risen to the top after a week of scrutiny and testing against 10 devices by the employees at Victory Barber & Brand in Victoria, British Columbia. This year, thanks to what we learned from the experts, we felt comfortable testing five new devices on our own, adhering to the barbers’ exacting test standards.
Table of contents
- Our pick
- A more powerful, corded pick
- A pick for fine length control
- How we picked and tested
- This year’s competition
- The old competition
- What to look forward to
For the second year in a row, with its powerful motor, its sharp near-professional-level blades, its long-lasting battery life, and its excellent selection of sturdy beard guides, the Wahl Lithium Ion all-in-one trimmer is our pick for the best beard trimmer for most people.
While not as powerful as the Wahl Peanut (which we’ll get to in a minute), it proved more than capable of cutting through coarse beard hair, no matter whether we trimmed around an upper lip or took a beard off. Among the battery-powered trimmers we tested, the Wahl Lithium Ion had the most power overall. It cut more hair in a single pass—and cut it shorter—than any other rechargeable trimmer in the test. Working without a cord is convenient, and this tool’s battery offers the best balance of charge times and run times in our test group: With a roughly two-hour run time from a one-hour charge or the option to use it for five minutes after plugging it in for one minute, it’s almost always ready to go.
After hours of testing with professional barbers and more than a year of personal use at home, we still think that of all the battery-powered trimmers we’ve used, the Wahl Lithium Ion all-in-one trimmer provides the cleanest lines, consistently offering an even trim with or without a beard guard. During our tests, we did feel the trimmer tug at hair a few times, but not as hard or as often as either the Panasonic ER-GB60-K or the Wahl Lithium Ion Beard & Stubble trimmer did. Overall, it provided a comfortable trimming experience.
In our one-pass trimming test, this model also provided the closest cut of my beard among the battery-powered devices we tried. (The Wahl Lithium Ion Beard & Stubble and the Panasonic ER-GB60-K came in second and third, respectively, with top honors going to the AC-powered Wahl Peanut.) Much of that result is due to this model’s excellent blade design, which our experts said wasn’t as good as the kind you’d see on a piece of professional-grade hardware like the Wahl Peanut or an Andis trimmer but was of a far higher quality than anything else we looked at.
Aside from its primary trimmer blade, the device comes with a number of other accessories including a detail blade (for futzing with ear, nose, and eyebrow hair), a dual-foil shaving attachment, and four guide combs to use with the trimmer blade (stubble, ⅛ inch, 3/16 inch, and a six-position guide). Also in the package are a wider T-blade and three guides for it (⅛ inch, ¼ inch, ⅜ inch), an AC charger, a beard comb, and a wee bottle of mineral oil for its blades and cleaning brush. That’s a lot of bits and pieces to keep track of. Fortunately, Wahl also tosses in a zippered travel case.
With its primary trimmer head attached, the Wahl Lithium Ion weighs 4.3 ounces and measures 2.5 by 5.5 by 10.1 inches. In use, it doesn’t feel heavy enough to be unruly as you move it around your head, yet it still has enough heft to create a solid feeling in your hand. The body of the trimmer is largely coated in grippy rubber, which is a nice touch since you’ll be using the device in the bathroom.
Unlike most of the trimmers we looked at, the Wahl Lithium Ion has beard guides made of a hard plastic that’s difficult to bend or break. While they aren’t as tough as the metal guides that come with some professional-grade trimmers, the quality of this model’s guides was better than that of everything else we tested, with the exception of the Wahl Peanut.
Maintaining the Wahl Lithium Ion isn’t difficult: After each use, pop the blade off the trimmer, clean the trimmer body and blade of any hair and debris, replace the blade, turn it on, and run some oil over the blade’s cutting surface. If the blade gets clogged up with hair that you’re unable to remove with a brush, it’s okay to run the blade under the tap (after detaching it from the trimmer) so long as you dry it off thoroughly and oil it well.
This trimmer’s lithium-ion battery can run for close to two hours after receiving a one-hour charge. If you forget to recharge it, you can juice it up for a minute and then use it for five minutes. That’s more than enough time to touch up even the most stubborn beard or mustache before leaving the house. You can also charge this Wahl model while using it—a feature we didn’t find on some of the other trimmers we looked at or on most of the older NiMH-powered cordless units still being sold.
Not a lot of in-depth beard-trimmer reviews from trusted editorial sources exist out there. However, I did find a couple of decent write-ups on the Wahl Lithium Ion. David Alexander at About.com writes: “This is one of the better home trimmers I’ve had my hands on and I can certainly recommend it on the basis of solid performance, value, and versatility.” And in a 2009 review, TechCrunch’s Doug Aamoth notes that the “blades are solid, almost heavy, and feel very high-quality.” Aamoth continues: “The guide combs are made of relatively durable plastic and all the attachments can be swapped out quickly without fussing with any levers or clips, which is nice.” He does note, however, that the trimmer comes with far too many accessories.
The Wahl Lithium Ion all-in-one trimmer is well-liked on Amazon, where at the time of our research it had a respectable 3.8-star rating (out of five) across a total of 1,331 reviews, with 626 users giving it a five-star rating. Other users give it similar love on the sites for retailers like Drugstore.com, Walmart, and Best Buy.
Long-term test notes
I’ve been pulling out the Wahl rechargeable beard trimmer to use it at least a couple of times a month since we made it our pick more than a year ago. I have no complaints: Everything is working as well as it did when we first tested this model.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
For the best experience with the Wahl Lithium Ion all-in-one trimmer, ignore all of the accessories that come with it except for its main trimmer blade, T-blade, and beard guides. Barber Paul Huxtable and I both had bad experiences with its electric shaver and detailing blade attachments, the latter of which is designed for trimming nose and ear hair or trimming out areas of your face that the hardware’s full-size blade is too big to tackle. If I had to use one word to describe the shaver head, it would be awful. After using the shaver, I ended up with a number of ingrown hairs and razor burn on my neck. Huxtable reported similar issues.
As for the nose/ear hair trimmer, I gotta say that it isn’t something you want to put in your nose without having established a safe word first. Because it was either underpowered or poorly designed, the attachment ripped and pulled at my nose hair. That result makes me less than wild about the idea of using it on any visible part of my face like my brow, ears, or lower lip.
Oh, and one more thing: Paul Huxtable noted that during his testing, if you’re not careful when you remove the blade guides from the trimmer, you’ll likely wind up removing the blade as well. Our guess is that this is a feature, as the Wahl Lithium Ion was designed to work with a number of different blades and accessories, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying.
Try not to worry about these minor quibbles, though. Honestly, as a trimmer, it does its job very well, if you prefer using a cordless beard trimmer over one that you need to plug into a wall. This model is the best one I could find for less than $60, a cost that readers in our survey said was a suitable price ceiling for the category.
Now, if you don’t care about whether your trimmer runs off a battery, perhaps I can interest you in…
A more powerful, corded pick
If you have a thick, coarse beard and find that battery-powered trimmers take several passes to clear the thicket on your face—all the while pulling your hair instead of cutting it—you’ll want the Wahl Peanut. Of the four finalists we asked barbers to test last year, the Peanut did the best job of removing the largest amount of beard hair in one pass, leaving an immeasurably small amount of stubble in its wake. It also managed to remove the stubble that all three of our battery-powered finalists left behind during my de-bearding at Victory Barber & Brand. The Peanut clearly cut closer than any other tool we tested.
Our barber experts, who have used the Peanut professionally, say it’s tough enough to survive a few years at a time in a high-volume shop. Home users will be able to get many years of service out of it, making it a great investment. The Peanut was our winner in the 2013 version of this guide thanks to its strong AC-powered rotary motor, which is capable of producing a crazy amount of torque that helps the tool cut through dense facial hair like butter. The only reason it didn’t get our top recommendation this time is that our survey indicated most folks prefer a cordless device. But given how well it performed in our experts’ tests, it’s still a compelling alternative to our main pick.
Weighing 4 ounces and measuring only 4 inches in length, the Peanut is easy to hold and maneuver around your face, even with a 7-foot-long cord attached to it. Hold a rechargeable trimmer in one hand and the Peanut in the other, turn them both on, and you’ll feel the difference in power almost immediately. Compact, solid, and heavy for its diminutive size, this model feels like it means business. The amount of vibration the Peanut put out made all the battery-powered trimmers we tested feel like toys by comparison. It has only one switch, which turns the device on or off, and that switch feels as sturdy and high-quality as the rest of the machine. Underneath the Peanut’s shell (sorry) is a powerful single-speed rotary motor that pairs nicely with the trimmer’s stainless-steel blades to cut through any type of hair.
When it comes to power, our experts told us the corded-versus-cordless comparison is no contest. “A battery is never going to be quite as powerful as you want it to be,” said Paul Huxtable. “Any time I’ve used any home models, the battery-powered ones haven’t been as strong as one with a cord.”
Most professional-grade trimmers or clippers require a screwdriver for basic cleaning or adjustment, but maintaining the Wahl Peanut is easy and tool-free. After you use the trimmer, just pop the blade off with your thumb, brush any hair out of the base where the motor mates with the blade, run the blade under water, dry it off, and then apply blade oil to the whole works. By doing so, your trimmer will last you for years to come.
Wahl covers the Peanut with a one-year warranty. According to our barbers, Paul Huxtable and Ian Smith, chances are good that you won’t need it. If properly maintained, the hardware can last for two or three years of heavy, daily use. For someone who uses a trimmer on themselves perhaps a few times a week for a few minutes at a time, the life expectancy should be greatly extended. That said, if you break any of the Peanut’s accessories or require a new blade outside of Wahl’s warranty period, you’ll find no end of replacement parts online at Amazon or at a number of barber- and salon-specific sites.
When you buy the Peanut, you get a trimmer, a blade guard, a cleaning brush, a bottle of blade oil, and four plastic cutting guides that range from ⅛ inch to ½ inch in length—nothing fancy, but everything you need to get the job done. And if you need to trim nose hair, the blade is small enough that you can ease a corner of it into your nostril to get the job done.
You might find more popular trimmers out there, but most people who have bought a Wahl Peanut seem to be very satisfied with it. On Amazon, the black version of the Peanut currently has a 4½-star overall rating (out of five) across 890 reviews, with 71 percent of those awarding it five stars. A slightly older, white iteration has reviews from 988 people and a 4.6-star overall rating, with 74 percent of those being five-star reviews.
Having used a Peanut over the past few years in the name of long-term testing, I can tell you that it works just as well today as it did the first time I turned it on. But my years with the hardware are nothing next to the time that an Amazon customer who calls himself RibsBrisket4me can attest to: He bought his Peanut in 2007 and then proceeded to use it for seven years until finally buying a new blade for it this past August. And a commenter in the same thread stated that he’d had his Peanut for 15 years! It’s hard to argue with that kind of dependability in a piece of hardware that can be had for under $40.
Long-term test notes
The only complaint I’ve got against this thing is that it can be difficult to clean. But after close to four years, the Peanut still performs as well as it did the day I bought it.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The very thing that makes the Peanut so powerful is also its Achilles’ heel: You have to plug it in. This could be a dealbreaker for people who don’t want the hassle of a power cord. It’s an issue because the cord can wind up around you if you’re using two mirrors to shave the back of your head or neck, not because you’re lacking a place to plug it in. I did a touch-up with the Peanut in a San Francisco International Airport bathroom in between flights and didn’t have any trouble finding a spare outlet.
Note that the Peanut comes with only four different beard guides (3.0 millimeters, 3.8 mm, 6 mm, and 13 mm). This is not exactly what you’d call a cornucopia of options, and it definitely represents a lot less length control than our reader survey indicated that most users want. Additionally, while Paul Huxtable and Ian Smith said that the Peanut’s beard guards were made of far sturdier plastic than the ones that came with most of the trimmers they looked at and tested, both barbers had some concerns about how the guides attach to the trimmer’s body. Holding them in place is a single clip that mates to the back of the trimmer; if the guide isn’t correctly locked in place, you run the risk of its popping off midway through a trim. That’s a grooming nightmare.
But if you can live with those shortcomings, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more powerful, longer-lasting trimmer for the price.
A pick for fine length control
We learned from our reader survey that some guys want a lot of control over the length of their facial hair—but they also want to avoid dealing with a ton of interchangeable beard guides to get that control. Unfortunately, most adjustable beard guides are made of plastic flexible enough to bend in use, leaving you with varying beard lengths. That’s not cool.
But one of the trimmers we tested proved to have an adjustable beard guide that wasn’t as terrible as all of the others: the Panasonic ER-GB60-K. It comes with two trimmer guards that you can adjust to cut at lengths between 0.5 and 20 millimeters for a total of 39 different length settings. Its cutting power is mediocre when compared against that of the high-quality blades and motors of the Wahl Lithium Ion and Peanut trimmers, but no other tool can match its blend of fine stubble-length adjustment and ease of use—features that 59 percent of the readers we surveyed said they wanted. If you’re interested in picking this trimmer up, know that it’s more suitable for people who have more nuanced facial hair (not thicker beards) and who want as much control as they can get over the length.
Let’s talk about the good things first. Like last year’s pick, the Braun cruZer 6, the Panasonic ER-GB60-K stands apart because its beard guides don’t feel as if they’ll bend or break at the slightest touch. The plastic isn’t as strong as that used in our Wahl picks, but it’s certainly a step up from what we’ve seen in the rest of the adjustable-guide-equipped hardware we considered. And the Panasonic’s guides feel even stronger than the guides of the Braun. The beard guides click solidly into place on the trimmer’s body, and at no time during testing did we worry that we might remove either of the guides accidentally.
You can adjust the trimming level of an attached beard guide using one hand, thanks to the ER-GB60-K’s thumbwheel. And in our tests, the whole setup was easier to clean of hair and other debris than the competition, owing to a channel in the back of the ER-GB60-K that runs water through its internal mechanism and blades.
The ER-GB60-K is better for nuanced facial-hair styles, but next to our main pick it offers less power and weaker battery life, so it isn’t as good for managing thick beards. In terms of the fine adjustments on the guide settings, however, it stands unmatched in comparison with the Wahl.
The first of the ER-GB60-K’s two beard guides allows adjustments at roughly 0.5-millimeter increments from 0.5 mm to 10 mm in length, while the second provides for lengths between 11 mm and 20 mm, making for a total of 39 settings. By contrast, our previous pick in this category, the Braun cruZer 6, provides only 12 settings.
The Panasonic trimmer’s chunky 7.1-by-2.0-by-1.6-inch size, its 6-ounce weight, and its textured, rubberized bottom casing make it comfortable to use, wet or dry. We never felt like we were going to drop it, and angling its blades into the spots we needed to trim never seemed awkward.
After charging the trimmer for an hour, you get a 50-minute run time. That allows for a good number of uses before you need to recharge, but it’s about 60 minutes shy of what our main pick can manage. If you forget to juice it up, though, you can also use it while it’s plugged into its charger.
I wasn’t able to find any reliable reviews for the ER-GB60-K, which isn’t all that surprising, as it’s a relatively new piece of hardware. On Amazon it currently has a 4.6-star rating (out of five) across 90 customer reviews (just try to look beyond the detailed review of how it does with “butt and pubic” hair, and you’ll be fine). Note too that the ER-GB60-K’s more expensive body-hair-trimming sibling model, the ER-GB80-S, which performed almost identically for us as a beard trimmer, earned a nod as a 2015 Men’s Health Grooming Awards winner (we cover the ER-GB80-S in detail in This year’s competition below.)
Flaws but not dealbreakers
In our tests, the blades of the Panasonic ER-GB60-K simply could not measure up to those that accompany the Wahl products featured in this guide. The ER-GB60-K tugged at my beard and mustache hair a lot less than the Braun cruZer 6 did, but I can’t remember the last time that either the Wahl Lithium Ion or the Wahl Peanut tugged my hair instead of cutting it; having your hair tugged instead of cut makes for an inconsistent trim. We also discovered that the ER-GB60-K’s blade was too large to use for trimming nose or ear hair, but that’s a small complaint, as this is a piece of hardware designed to wrangle your beard and not all of the other weird patches of hair on your body. Ultimately, even with its inferior blades, the Panasonic model is still the best trimmer that we could find for anyone who wants granular length control.
Weighing almost as much as the trimmer itself does, the ER-GB60-K’s power adapter is comically large, making it less than ideal for travel. But because the ER-GB60-K can run for 50 minutes per charge, it should provide enough juice for grooming during all but the lengthiest of excursions. The nylon travel case that the ER-GB60-K comes with is a joke, too, as it’s barely large enough to hold the trimmer with one beard guide attached; you can forget about stuffing in the trimmer’s charger, its second beard guide, or its blade oil. We would have been less annoyed if Panasonic hadn’t bothered to include a case at all.
Then there’s the price. Depending on where you buy the ER-GB60-K, it can cost close to three times as much as our main or corded Wahl picks do—devices we love for their proven power and durability. But we think of the premium you’ll pay for the Panasonic trimmer as something of a convenience tax: On the ER-GB60-K, you’ll have no screwing around with a dozen beard guides or attachments. It’s also easy to use and easy to clean. Given how important not having to futz with a gazillion beard guides proved to be to the readers who took our survey last year, we believe that the higher price this Panasonic tool commands is largely a nonissue.
How we picked and tested
Thanks to the guidance we received from the experts at Victory Barber & Brand last year, we felt comfortable with moving forward, unsupervised, to select and test new hardware for this update to our guide.
Beard trimmers are a slow-moving category. New hardware doesn’t come out often. Trimmers that work well stay on sale for years before they disappear from the market. As such, having spent so much time in 2014 looking for trimmers to test, we discovered few new ones that met our exacting standards this year. Our research team was able to uncover a total of 12 new trimmers. Of those, we thought only five were worth calling in for hands-on testing:
- Panasonic ER-GB60-K
- Panasonic ER-GB80-S
- Wahl Beard & Body
- Wahl Chrome Pro Complete Haircutting Kit
- Wahl Lithium Ion Pro
We spent close to two months using these trimmers multiple times per week to see how well they dealt with balding, how they trimmed with the beard guides on and off, and how they did quick touch-ups in easy-to-screw-up areas like along the lip and jawline. We also looked at each trimmer’s construction, the quality of the blades, whether the trimmer was designed with user ergonomics in mind, how long the device could go between charges, and how much of a pain it was to clean and maintain.
Once again, my face served as our testing ground. The only major difference this year was that all of the damage done to my beard was by my own hand.
Last year, before researching hardware to test or hunting down experts, we put together an online poll asking our readers what they wanted from a beard trimmer. Everybody’s face is different, after all, and everyone has an opinion on what kind of tools keep it looking its best.
The survey included questions on the following points:
- If you prefer a battery-powered or corded trimmer
- How much you’d spend on a beard trimmer
- If you’d buy a trimmer powered by nonrechargeable batteries
- If brand recognition matters
- Whether a charge-level indicator is important
- If you’d pay more for a battery-powered trimmer with a longer run time
- What you use a beard trimmer for (facial hair, body hair, your head, and so on)
- Whether you want variable speeds
- If you want interchangeable beard guards or guides, or a single, adjustable guard or guide
- What guide length settings you want
- If you want accessories such as a nose- or ear-hair trimmer, shaving attachment, body-hair trimming head, or storage pouch
- What blade type you prefer
- Whether you’d pay more for replaceable blades
- If you’d do basic blade maintenance to prolong the life of the trimmer
- How much run time a battery-powered trimmer should get from a full charge
- How long a beard trimmer should last before you need a new one
Over the eight days we ran the survey, more than 550 readers submitted responses to our questions. That wasn’t a large enough sample group to provide scientific-level data, but the survey results did give us a sense of what to look for in a good trimmer.
We then found that a lot of sites and publications wrote about trimmers, but not much of what we encountered was terribly useful. Men’s Journal, for example, talked about six different trimmers made by Braun, Conair, Norelco, Panasonic, Remington, and Wahl, but the roundup focused heavily on features while ignoring the hardware’s performance. The same can be said of the AskMen article we saw, which talked about six different trimmers in general terms, but didn’t test any of them. MaleGroomings placed one trimmer at the top of the pile but also failed to talk about any hands-on testing.
At that point, we started hunting online for hardware to test. If a trimmer was still for sale but no longer featured on its manufacturer’s website, we eliminated it from our list of potential candidates. We also cut any trimmer with an overall rating of less than 3½ stars out of five, any cordless tool without a lithium-ion battery, and anything with an abnormal number of user complaints (especially about build quality or about blades that pulled hair or jammed). By the end of this elimination process, we had 27 different devices left. Sweethome editor Harry Sawyers and I then debated, kicking another 17 pieces of hardware off the list. Some of the models we discarded were rebranded versions of other gear in our pool, some were products from a single manufacturer with redundant features, and others seemed gimmicky, looked cheap, or came from an unknown brand or mystery company. This research was valuable, at least, in that it allowed us to get a feel for what was popular and which brands performed well.
To get an informed opinion on which of our 10 remaining pieces of hardware were the best, in 2014 we turned to the experts at Victory Barber & Brand, an old-school barbershop located in Victoria, British Columbia.
Paul Huxtable has been cutting men’s hair, grooming beards, and dishing out straight-razor shaves for more than a decade. His apprentice, Ian “Sugar” Smith, has been barbering for only a few years but is just as passionate about his trade as Huxtable is. Both barbers have beards, and both were willing to spend a few weeks getting to know our test trimmers. During that time, they’d use the trimmers on themselves at home, on each other while at work, and sometimes on their customers. The goal of their tests was not to find a piece of hardware that could work in a high-volume, professional environment, but to identify a great piece of hardware that would be great for most guys to use at home.
We agreed that the best way to get the ball rolling would be to have a sit-down with Huxtable to suss out whether we should remove any more of the remaining 10 trimmers from the running—and it was a massacre.
For an hour before the barber shop opened one morning, Huxtable knocked holes in the ergonomics, build quality, and blade orientation of most of the trimmers I brought him. He tentatively tried trimmers on his arm hair, his neck, and my mustache line. We dismissed anything that pulled hair instead of cutting it, or anything that proved unable to shear down the hair on a forearm within a millimeter of being flush to the skin in one pass.
We also discovered that multistep all-in-one locking beard guides are largely crap. With the exception of the guards accompanying the Braun cruZer 6 beard&head, all of the adjustable beard guards we looked at and tested were made of flimsy, bendable plastic. Huxtable explained that while using flexible plastics in the adjustable beard guards was likely necessary to make them less prone to breaking, it left the hardware too malleable for even cutting. The point of a beard guard, he explained to me, is to pull each hair taut so that the trimmer can cut it to a uniform length. If the guard is too flexible, you’ll end up trimming your beard unevenly or ruining it if the guard bends too far or breaks.
Huxtable also said that most of the trimmers allowed for too much length. “Any time you try to use a guard beyond half an inch,” he explained, “you’re just ripping hair. There’s just not enough tension on the hair, so it looks like rats chewed your face instead of getting an even cut.” His suggestion for guys who keep their beards trimmed to longer than half an inch? Book an appointment with a barber who can use his fingers, a comb, and scissors to do the job properly.
By the end of our meeting, Huxtable had cut the size of our hardware pool down to four tools that he felt were worth playing with for a few weeks: the Wahl Peanut (last year’s top pick of this guide), the Braun cruZer 6 beard&head, the Wahl Lithium Ion, and the Wahl Lithium Ion Beard & Stubble. We also decided to include the Andis T-Outliner Professional Trimmer in the group of finalists for consideration, but as both Huxtable and Smith use that hardware for hours at a time on a daily basis, we saw no need for them to do any specific tests with it.
During their time with the trimmers, the barbers considered the following criteria:
- How much hair could each trimmer remove in a single pass? How many passes did it take to remove all of the hair in the test area?
- How close did each trimmer trim?
- Is it easy to use in hard-to-reach areas, like under the nose?
- How clean were the lines the trimmer made?
- Did the trimmer’s blades catch more hairs than they cut?
- Could you use the trimmer to approximate a shave in a pinch?
- How many attachments or beard guides does the trimmer come with, and are the attachments useful?
- Are any interchangeable heads easy to swap out?
- Can the blade produce a long, well-defined trimmed edge to a beard?
- Is the blade width short enough to detail a mustache and under the lip?
- Can you easily get a single stray hair with it?
- Is it comfortable to use and hold?
- Does it require oil? Do you need tools to open it up for regular cleaning and maintenance?
I left the barbers to tinker with the hardware for two weeks. During that time, I also used each of the trimmers at home, with the same test criteria in mind. After the two weeks had passed, I returned to the shop to collect the barbers’ impressions of each piece of gear and to lend a hand in the final round of testing. In order to get a feel for how each trimmer would deal with thick, coarse facial hair, I let Huxtable cut off my beard. (I’m still kind of emotional about it.) He took a single pass with each trimmer on the sides of my face to see which tool was capable of cutting the closest without tearing or pulling the hair.
This year’s competition
The Braun cruZer 6 beard&head was our previous pick for a beard trimmer that offers granular length control. But this year we kicked it to the curb in favor of the Panasonic ER-GB60-K, as the Braun’s blades did not cut as cleanly as the Panasonic’s did. Additionally, the Braun comes with only 12 length settings, in contrast to the 39 that you get with the Panasonic. What’s more, you can wash out the Panasonic hardware under a tap, whereas with the Braun trimmer you need to do some brushing and oiling after every use. No thanks.
As we mentioned earlier in this guide, the Panasonic ER-GB80-S comes from the same line of trimmers as the Panasonic ER-GB60-K. In addition to being washable and offering the same blades, battery life, body design, and number of trimming levels as our Panasonic pick does, the ER-GB80-S comes with a plastic body-hair grooming guide and a built-in detailing blade for cleaning up difficult areas such as along the lip line. Both of these items sound like they’d be nice add-ons, but in reality they’re not. The plastic of the body-hair guide feels cheap in comparison with the stuff that Panasonic used to make the trimmer’s beard guides. The detailing blade is flawed as well: During testing, I found that it pulled on my mustache hair and at the hair along my neckline much more frequently than the main blades did. Given the quality of these additional features and the fact that the ER-GB80-S costs considerably more than the ER-GB60-K yet offers an identical main-blade trimming experience, we can’t recommend it.
As much as we liked the Wahl Lithium Ion and the Wahl Peanut, we can’t recommend the Wahl Beard & Body. Although it can run for up to three hours at a time on a single charge and allows you to top it off with a one-minute jolt of electricity for three minutes of run time, we didn’t think that it did anything it was designed for as well as the older Wahl hardware we currently recommend. Like the Wahl Lithium Ion all-in-one, the Beard & Body comes with a wide variety of attachments, including a foil shaver head (which provides a terrible shave), four beard guides and eight hair-clipper guides (which feel weaker than those that come with the Lithium Ion or the Peanut), a beard comb, a cleaning brush, a charger storage stand, and a carry case. To be blunt, this trimmer simply doesn’t seem to be of the same quality as our main picks.
Given the popularity of professional-grade hardware like the Andis T-Outliner, we thought we should stay on the lookout for other barber-grade hardware that might please our readers. To that end, we checked out the Wahl Chrome Pro Complete Haircutting Kit and the Wahl Lithium Ion Pro—corded and lithium-ion-powered devices, respectively. While we found that both models worked well for balding and other general haircutting duties, the wide, sharp blades on both pieces of hardware were simply too large to trim facial hair effectively. Things got even more awkward once we attached beard guides to either of the clippers: Even though the guides were undeniably sturdier than anything we could find on a conventional beard trimmer, the added length of the guides made trimming under the nose or doing a touch-up along the lip line just about impossible. And while the Lithium Ion Pro comes in a kit that includes a smaller, more nimble touch-up trimmer, we found that it often tugged at facial hair instead of trimming. One more problem: Just as with the Andis T-Outliner (which we looked at last year), you need to take these professional-grade clippers apart with tools in order to properly clean and oil their blades. Given how miserably they work as beard trimmers, we believe you should give both of these options a pass.
The old competition
The Andis T-Outliner is a corded, professional-grade trimmer that’s built like a tank. At the moment it has a 4½-star Amazon rating (out of five) from more than 1,000 customers. Pro barbers like the guys at Victory Barber & Brand rely on it for its unparalleled cutting power and bulletproof durability. But in order to clean and oil it, which you should do frequently, you need to use a screwdriver to take it apart. In addition, its thick, sharp, and strong blades sometimes need adjusting—and that also requires opening the toolbox. The whole point of having a trimmer at home is that it’s supposed to be more convenient than nipping out to the barber’s to have your beard tinkered with. Convenient isn’t a word that comes to mind with the Andis.
The Wahl Lithium Ion Beard & Stubble has a built-in adjustable guard that you keep locked into place with a button on the back of the trimmer’s body. Paul Huxtable thought it felt good in the hand, and its strong motor and high-quality blade allowed it to take third place in our single-pass beard-trimming test behind our main pick and the AC-powered Wahl Peanut. Unfortunately, its built-in beard guide, while made of tougher plastic than those seen on trimmers from Philips Norelco and Remington, seemed structurally weak, leading us to fear that we could easily break it if we dropped or bent it while trimming.
We looked at a number of trimmers made by Philips Norelco, as the brand’s hardware offers a number of the features—a long-lasting battery, a built-in adjustable beard guide, and low-maintenance blades—that most people would want. After considering the models the company currently offers, we called in the QT4070/41 BeardTrimmer 7300 (which comes with a built-in vacuum), the QG3330/60 Multigroom 3100, the QT4014/42 BeardTrimmer 3500, and the QG3364/42 Multigroom 5100. Unfortunately, despite the company’s good reputation for men’s grooming hardware and its positive online reviews, these models failed to impress our barbers. All of the Philips Norelco products we tried came with beard guides, which, while offering a respectable number of length-adjustment options, felt too cheap to be worth trusting.
We also took issue with the click wheel that serves to adjust the guide length on all of the abovementioned hardware with the exception of the QG3330/60 and the QG3364/42. In theory, the click wheel is a great idea, as it’s supposed to allow you to make adjustments to the guide height with a flick of your thumb. But in practice, it wasn’t so great: After two weeks of use, the mechanism was still stiff and easy to jam up with beard clippings. The latter problem wouldn’t be so bad if the tool offered any way to remove and clean all that stuff, but it doesn’t. Also, the wheel became slightly harder to turn with wet hands—a problem when we tried using it in the bathroom. We didn’t encounter any of these issues while testing the Panasonic ER-GB60-K.
Oh, and then there was the BT9285/41 BeardTrimmer 9100, Philips Norelco’s latest hotness. This fully washable model comes with a built-in detailing blade, as well as a laser. (Yes, a laser-guided beard trimmer.) It draws a line of light on your face to, in theory, ensure that you’re cutting straight when edging out your beard, mustache, or goatee. Sounds great, right? Well, it isn’t. The BT9285/41 uses the same style of cheap plastic beard guides as the rest of the awkwardly named Philips Norelco series seems to, and it makes use of that same uncleanable thumbwheel that I talked about earlier. On top of that, it has a one-to-one charging ratio: You charge it for an hour to get an hour’s worth of use out of it. No doubt this hit in battery performance is due to the inclusion of a laser as a hardware feature.
Let’s talk about that. A laser. On your face. Near your eyes. The first time I attempted to use the BT9285/41, I inadvertently flashed the trimmer’s spring-loaded, retractable laser into my eye. This resulted in my enjoying a squiggly image burn of the light in my vision for the next few hours. Regardless, I didn’t find that the laser was actually helpful in keeping my cuts clean or even; since it gives only a rough estimate of where you’re about to trim, it isn’t really useful. Paul Huxtable pointed out that the laser is designed to be oriented in only one direction—and it’s the wrong direction, if you’re going for as close a trim as possible. “The laser thing seems ridiculous. It’s a gimmick,” said Huxtable. “I would never suggest this to anyone.”
We also considered the Remington MB4040. Paul Huxtable and Ian Smith liked the Remington’s blades, as they proved strong, sharp, and easy to clean and oil. But once again, what could have been a great trimmer was brought down by the quality of the accompanying guards. Like those that come with the Philips Norelco trimmers and the Wahl Lithium Ion Beard & Stubble, the Remington’s guard was simply too flimsy and poorly designed to trust. But if you don’t plan on using the trimmer with a guard, you might, according to Huxtable, want to give it a go.
Finally, we took the Conair for Men i-Stubble for a spin. It won a Men’s Health Grooming Award back in 2011, and currently it has a four-star rating (out of five) resulting from 644 reviews on Amazon. The i-Stubble features a floating trimmer head that’s designed to juke and jive as you run it over the contours of your face and head. I found that it was able to trim almost as closely as the Wahl Peanut could (although it did pull at the hair it was cutting a few times). But in the end, we let it go due to fears over its longevity. You manage the iStubble’s length controls with a pair of digital buttons: Push one, and it moves the trimmer head up or down. A cool feature, but in Huxtable’s opinion, using a motor to move the trimmer head and beard guide instead of just doing it yourself is one more thing that can go wrong. What’s more, the iStubble’s beard guide was yet again too flimsy for our liking.
What to look forward to
We look forward to testing the new Bevel Trimmer, which has several design details focused on trimming curly or coarse hair. The Bevel Trimmer is available for preorder; we plan to test one when it becomes available. In the meantime, if you’re looking for something that can handle curly hair or coarse hair, our expert Craig the Barber says that the Wahl Peanut, our corded pick, is a good choice.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
A Cheap and Convenient Illusion of Youth, Epinions, May 26, 2011"The longer cord plus the smaller size makes it easier to maneuver the Peanut all around the head. The increasing heat from the plastic may cause some alarm, but the instructions reassure users that this is perfectly normal."
The Peanut Gets it Done!---Update, Amazon.com, October 14, 2007–August 2014"the Peanut continues to amaze. It cuts just as good as the day I bought it in 2007. No pulled hairs, the white blade guards still snap on firmly and I am still on the original blade! A drop of mineral oil every now and then is the only maintenance I've done. Finally a quality product that works and lasts. Bravo Wahl Bravo!!!!"
Wahl: Peanut Trimmers, The Men's Room"The WAHL Peanut may not look like much, but it packs a whole lot of power in it’s tiny frame. Picture the strength of professional barber trimmers at half the size. It comes with 4 comb guards for easy trimming, oil and a small brush. The blade design allows for a variety of choices ranging from a close shave to hard line detailing. And the best part, it takes up very little room when traveling or storing at home. The WAHL Peanut w/ cord performed the best for me, and it will last you forever!"
LOVE my peanuts!!!, Amazon.com, January 22, 2008"I am a professional hairstylist and I have been using the Peanut clippers for quite a few years now and love them! I used to use a standard size clipper for the hair and these little guys for edging and trimming, beards & mustaches.....but when my reg clippers gave out I had no choice but to use these little guys for a whole haircut...the rest is history. Because of the fact that they are so small, they take up little to no room at my station which is small and tight for space, also....they get a close precise cut...as long as your blade is sharp. While I agree that the cost of the raplacement blades is a little expensive, I will say that I can use the same blade for 6 months to a year depending on how many cuts I do, without having to replace one.....thats what the oil is for. All in all I LOVE these little guys and this is one of the best prices I have found....that incldes my beauty supply places!"
- A Review of the Wahl All-In-One Lithium Ion Trimmer, About.com, December 16, 2014 ,
- Review: Wahl Lithium Ion All In One Trimmer, TechCrunch, July 2, 2009 ,
- Braun Cruzer 6 Beard & Head Trimmer Review, Beard Guide ,
- Braun Cruzer 6 Beard and Head Trimmer Review, Beards.net, May 3, 2013 ,
- 12 Beard Trimmers That Give Good Buzz, Men's Journal, August 9, 2012 ,
- What's the best electric beard trimmer?, Badger & Blade, November 27, 2012
Originally published: January 27, 2016