After spending 51 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 for most people.
If you want a reliable tool that can cut thick hair down to stubble—and you don’t mind wrangling a cord—we recommend the Wahl Peanut. This inexpensive and powerful trimmer was our pick in a previous edition of this guide, and it beat everything we tested it against in 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 lighter, smaller, and more maneuverable than other tank-like pro trimmers, but it’s built well enough to last for years—a claim backed up by plenty of user reviews.
If you prefer a trimmer with incremental length controls, we suggest the Panasonic ER-0-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 four years of reporting and updating this guide, we’ve considered about 80 pieces of hardware and tested 40 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. In 2016, we found a total of nine new trimmers that met our criteria. Of those, we thought only three were worth calling in for hands-on testing, adhering to the barbers’ exacting test standards:
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 each 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.
Two years ago, 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.
The survey included questions on price, brand, battery life expectations, whether and how you’d use beard guards or other attachments, and other user interface details. 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 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.
To narrow the field of dozens of tools available, we 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). Some finalists 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.
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—our adjustable pick for 2014—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:
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.
With its powerful motor, sharp and near-professional-level blades, long-lasting battery life, and excellent selection of sturdy beard guides, the Wahl Lithium Ion all-in-one trimmer is for the third year in a row our pick for the best beard trimmer for most people.
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. 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 facial 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 of any trimmer (with one exception—the Walker & Company Bevel trimmer—a competitor that’s had ongoing supply problems, costs three times more, and lacks beard guides).
After hours of testing with professional barbers and more than three years 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, for the price, consistently offering an even trim with or without a beard guard—a feat that many of the more expensive trimmers we tested had difficulty with. 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. The pricey Bevel trimmer was able to match the Lithium Ion in the area of cutting clean lines without tugging at our facial hair. But again, it costs far more and lacks the versatility that our inexpensive Wahl pick provides.
In our one-pass trimming test, the Wahl also provided the second-closest cut of my beard among the battery-powered devices I tried. The Bevel trimmer cut the closest; the Wahl Lithium Ion Beard & Stubble and the Panasonic ER-GB60-K came in third and fourth. 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. We asked Steve Yde, Wahl’s Vice President of Marketing, what makes the company’s blades so superior to most of their competitors. His answer: Wahl uses harder steel and forges their blades individually instead of stamping them out of a sheet of metal like most of their consumer-grade competitors do. The company owns over 100 patents on their blade technology alone, and for decades, Wahl has used a proprietary steel blend that contains a higher amount of carbon than their competitors’ steels.
“Other people are doing what is called stamp-blades,” Yde explains. “You take a giant press and stamp out the teeth and then whack the teeth or grind the teeth in order to make them sharper, like grinding a blade. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s cost efficient. It looks really well put together. But the problem is that the steel that you need to use to do that, even a 420 or 430—any of the 400 series steels—are much softer than with a lower Rockwell hardness than the high carbon steels that we use.” Unfortunately, as Yde is quick to admit, there’s a catch: high carbon steel, while hard and capable of holding a long-lasting edge, oxidizes quickly, which can lead to premature rust. Wahl encourages their customers to clean and oil the blades of their trimmer after every use.
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.
There’s not a lot of in-depth beard-trimmer reviews from trusted editorial sources 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.
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 two years ago. I have no complaints: Everything is working as well as it did when we first tested this model. I’ve yet to see any rust on its blades, either—but then, I clean and oil it, as Wahl suggests, after every use.
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…
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 two years ago, 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. Two years later, it’s still our favorite corded trimmer, due to its low cost, power, portability and ease of maintenance.
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. Take most any 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 almost all of 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 988 reviews, with 71 percent of those awarding it five stars. A slightly older, white iteration has reviews from 1,210 people and a 4.5-star overall rating, with 73 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 around $40.
The only complaint I’ve got against this thing is that it can be difficult to clean. But after close to five years, the Peanut still performs as well as it did the day I bought it.
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.
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 we’ve found 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. Unlike many of the trimmers with adjustable guides we talk about in this guide’s competition section, 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. 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 it offers less power and weaker battery life than our main pick, 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 3.9-star rating (out of five) across 45 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.)
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 can command is largely a non-issue.
After months of use, the ER-GB60-K is still going strong. Being able to run it under water to clean it after a trim is awesome. The blades show no signs of rust after oiling regularly, and it works as well as the day I broke it out of the box. However, I notice that sometimes, trimming with the ER-GB60-K results in ingrown hairs, especially on my cheeks, where I tend to keep my beard a bit shorter.
The Wahl Lithium Ion Total Beard costs about the same as our main Wahl pick and, like the Wahl Lithium Ion, it comes with a powerful lithium ion battery, near-professional grade blades and a number of beard guides. We liked that the Total Beard’s chunky handle makes it a little bit easier to navigate your face with. We felt that it cut just as well as our winner did, making it a tough call as to whether it should replace the Wahl Lithium Ion as a top pick. Fortunately, Wahl made the choice easy for us. In early November, we were told by Wahl’s PR representative that the Total Beard was being recalled, as Wahl wasn’t happy with the trimmer’s battery life. You may still be able to find it in stores, but for the time being, pass.
The Brio Beardscape is a solid, good-looking piece of hardware. Unlike the other trimmers that we’ve reviewed, the Beardscape comes with a set of sharp ceramic blades that make clean, concise cuts. We liked the fact that its built-in display provides rpm information as well as the trimmer’s current charge level. But as sharp and rust-proof as its ceramic blades appear to be, they’re prone to chipping or breaking if you drop them. Both propositions are a poor return on your investment. We had no durability issues with our test unit. But I’ve had experience with ceramic blades in the past—they can hold an incredible edge, but they’re just too fragile to make them a smart long-term investment.
There’s been a lot of hype surrounding the Walker and Company Bevel Trimmer over the past few years. We were finally able to get our hands on one. Its heavy metal and rubber chassis feels solid and expensive (which it is). It comes with a replaceable lithium-ion battery that provides four to five hours of power. If you happen to run out of juice, the trimmer can run while it’s plugged into the wall and charging, too. It’s easily the most powerful battery-powered trimmer we’ve tested since we began curating this guide. Its stamped steel blades, which are covered in a proprietary oil and dirt-repellent coating, seem incredibly sharp, replaceable, and easy to clean. I had no trouble trimming, touching up, or completely cutting off my beard with the Bevel. In two months of testing it, I’ve yet to feel a single tug at my beard. But there are a few things that keep us from recommending it.
First, at close to $200, the Bevel is significantly more expensive than any of our picks. Its performance is admirable, but not so much that we can look past the trimmer’s high cost. Second, supply chain problems have plagued the Bevel since it was first introduced online. Walker and Company CEO Tristan Walker told me this issue would clear up by the holidays. At the time of writing, the Bevel’s homepage still advertised the trimmer as available for pre-order only, with no guarantee that it would be delivered in time for Christmas. It doesn’t matter how good it is if you can’t get your hands on it, so we can’t recommend the Bevel to anyone. Finally, and this is huge: the Bevel currently doesn’t come with an option to attach a beard guide. For most men, that’s a dealbreaker. I’ve spent several years schooling myself on how to trim without the aid of a beard guide, so I can tell you it’s a pain in the ass. Doing so is time-consuming and difficult to master. Tristan mentioned to me that we can expect to see beard guides for the Bevel in early 2017, but that doesn’t help anyone right now.
Regardless of how powerful the Bevel might be, we can’t recommend this trimmer until these issues are remedied.
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.
The Panasonic ER-GB80-S has the same blades, battery life, body design, and number of trimming levels as our Panasonic pick does. But it also comes with a body-hair grooming guide and a built-in detailing blade for cleaning up difficult areas such as along the lip line. Unfortunately, the body-hair guide is made of flimsy plastic, and the detailing blade pulled on my mustache and at the hair along my neckline. Given that the ER-GB80-S costs considerably more than the ER-GB60-K, we can’t recommend it.
We can’t recommend the Wahl Beard & Body. Like our main pick, 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.) To be blunt, this trimmer simply doesn’t seem to be of the same quality as our main picks.
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. 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. We believe you should give both of these options a pass.
The Andis T-Outliner is a corded, professional-grade trimmer that’s built like a tank. 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. 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 called a number of trimmers by Philips Norelco: 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. They all 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 adjusts the guide length on all of the hardware mentioned above, 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.
The BT9285/41 BeardTrimmer 9100. 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 Philips Norelco hardware does, 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.”
Paul Huxtable and Ian Smith liked the Remington MB4040’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. The Remington’s guard was too flimsy and poorly designed to trust.
The Conair for Men 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. The iStubble’s length controls are 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. Additionally, its beard guide was yet again too flimsy for our liking.
We are still awaiting full availability of the much-anticipated Walker & Company Bevel trimmer. The company claims it will also be introducing attachable beard guides for the Bevel in early 2017. Despite the Bevel’s high price, it’s too powerful, cuts too clean and has too much hype surrounding it for us to ignore it. As such, we’ll let you know as soon as we’re able to get our hands on the trimmer’s new attachments and take them for a spin.
It’s also worth noting that Panasonic will be introducing a new trimmer in the near future: the ER-GB70-S. We’d love to be able to give you a more concrete timeframe than this, but the trimmer’s release has been delayed several times, according to Panasonic’s PR team. Panasonic says the ER-GB70-S isn’t a replacement for our current adjustable pick but rather an addition to the same line.
(Photos by Michael Hession.)
Originally published: December 7, 2016