The Best Electric Razor
If I were buying an electric razor, I'd get the Braun Series 7 760cc. After speaking with professional barbers, researching published reviews and literature for over 20 hours, and personally testing the finalists, we think it's the best you can buy and well worth the $175 price tag.
Before we start, a caveat: You’ll likely never get as close a shave with electricity as with a regular blade. (See: our best manual razor guide.) As shaving expert and reviewer Corey Greenberg of ShaveBlog told me: “Electrics are purpose-built to leave stubble, it’s inherent in the design. There is always a gap enforced between the blade and your skin. It can never be as close as a razor.” He’s right, but modern electric razors come close, which will be enough for most men. If you’re prone to nicks, have sensitive skin, or want to shave as quickly as possible, invest in a solid electric razor and you’ll be satisfied with the result.
Foil or rotary?
Your first decision when choosing a razor style is between foil or rotary blades. Foil razors have perforated bars that prop up the hair so the blades just underneath can clip the hair. They get a close shave and are especially good at trimming precision areas, like a goatee. They make a lot of noise, but they’re idiot-proof and, with a good shaver like our pick, they can give a really close shave because the foils (the perforated bars across the head) are thin and let the blades get close to the skin. With these, you shave in an up-down motion, similar to if you were using a true razor. After a few passes with the grain, they can be used against the grain to get every last hair.
Deciding between the two will depend on your facial hair, but we can guarantee that foil shavers will work for almost anyone. Craig Whitely, barber to celebrities and author of TheMensRoom.com says, “Foil lets you follow the growth pattern of the beard.” Rotary shavers, on the other hand, “can yank the hair out.” If you have a beard with thick, strong hair and have never had any issues with ingrown hair, you can get a rotary shaver. That said, we’ll take a sure bet and get a foil shaver.
Do you need Accessories?
Almost every base-model electric razor has a premium version that, once you get past $150 or so, comes with a self-cleaning station. The selling point is that these systems use special fluids that get the blades exceptionally clean and keeps the mechanics lubricated. That means longevity for the machine and a closer shave. There’s plenty of skepticism that this is a superfluous accessory designed to keep you buying replacement cartridges, but it’s certain that electric razors need special attention. To keep them cutting well, the mechanisms need to be clean and lubricated, which is something you can do manually with running water and machine oil. If you don’t mind doing that yourself, you can save some cash and get a razor without a cleaning station and clean, dry, and lubricate it on your own. As with everything regarding electric razors, the cash you spend on a dock goes towards convenience, which, as I’ll explain, is a price worth paying.
That doesn’t mean you need to buy the most expensive option. As Pauper’s Dime noticed, the vital components among different models within a brand’s lineup are all basically the same. “If you look carefully, you will notice that multiple razors at different price points all use the same few interchangeable replaceable heads. This means that the part that actually does the work and the motor in the razor that drives it are identical between these models, and you are only paying more for the fancy chrome exterior.”
A quick shaving primer
There are plenty of online guides to shaving electric, but a few rules make a huge difference. Craig the Barber’s advice:
- Shave with your face dry, which will let the razor cut as close as possible. Don’t wash your face before shaving.
- If you want an especially close shave, get a pre-shave lotion from Jack Black or Lab Series. They let the razor glide over your skin and keep the hairs from gumming up the motor.
- Use the correct technique. With a foil shaver like the Braun, shave with the grain, then against it if you need to get closer. With a rotary, shave in small circles.
- Take care of the razor. For all shavers, replace the screen and blades or the rotary heads yearly, and keep the razor clean between uses. Apply machine oil regularly, too.
The Series 7 760cc has all the strengths of an electric razor with the fewest drawbacks. It’s the best electric razor you can buy right now. The thin screens and blades are precisely shaped to catch short facial hair and cut it close to the skin. It makes around 10,000 micro vibrations per minute, meaning it’ll account for every odd edge on your skin and prop up every hair. The intensity is adjustable according to your skin sensitivity—press the minus sign button and the motor slows a bit, or hit the plus and it’ll go faster to get as close to the skin as possible. Braun says the Series 7 gets up to 50 minutes of use per charge, but reviewers usually get between 60 and 75 minutes of use—we like when a product under-promises and over-delivers. Plus, there’s a two-year warranty to back you up if anything goes awry.
Braun makes three models of the Series 7, and we like the 760cc the best because it has every important feature of the 790cc, but usually costs $20 or so less. We spoke with Braun to confirm and there are two differences between the 790cc and 760cc. The 790cc’s LED screen has a readout for both the razor’s hygiene and battery levels, while the 760cc only reads the battery, and the 790cc has an option for a “Quick Clean” — the dock will kind of clean it in 25 seconds instead of the normal three-minute cycle that the 790cc and 760cc use. That, and the 790cc comes in “Noble Metal” while the 760cc comes only in black. Consumer Reports even used the 760cc to test in the 790cc’s stead (subscription required). We say save the extra cash.
The 760cc (and the 790cc) come with a dock that charges the razor, cleans it with alcohol, and keeps the mechanics lubricated. Braun says that cleaning a razor in this way is ten times more hygienic than simply running the razor and the pop-off foil under the sink faucet (which you can also do). When the station is plugged in, simply set the Series 7 in position and press “clean.” It runs the blade in the solution for a few minutes and comes out clean and lemon-scented. If you’re traveling, the plug for the station fits in the bottom of the razor itself. The alcohol has the benefit of driving water away from the blades, keeping them sharper for the life of the blade.
Cost of ownership
Sound expensive? Learn to wet shave and $100 will last you a decade. If you want a quick shave without nicks, be ready to pay extra for going electric.
Who else likes it
Every publication that has tested it lauds the Series 7. Most reviewed the flagship 790cc, but every mechanical quality in that model applies to the 760cc as well. Again, the only difference is $20, the color, a hygiene meter on the handle, and the quick-clean option.
Consumer Reports (subscription required) tested electric razors by giving testers time with a test unit and had reviewers gauge their shaves’ closeness by comparing the feel to sandpaper. Consumer Reports ended up giving the 790cc an 80 out of 100, the highest score in the test. Its strengths included a long battery life, thorough cleaning system, and machinery that consistently gave users a close shave. They have a video of their testing.
Pauper’s Dime, which has the most comprehensive evaluation of electric shaving we’ve found, picks the Series 7 (specifically the 760cc) as their favorite foil shaver. They say of it, “For the foil razor lovers out there or those with very sensitive skin, look no further. This is certainly the best foil razor ever made.” It’s powerful, good looking, and effective.” They lade the Series 7 with every superlative.
Apartment Therapy put the Series 7 790cc through their Tech Test Lab Review and issued it a “Strong Recommend.” They said, “The 790cc is priced at the top end of electric shavers, but considering it performs so well, it embodies the axiom of ‘you get what you pay for,’ and in the long run should save users money compared to the cumulative cost of disposable cartridge razors.”
Esquire named it among their list of “15 Grooming Products Worth Splurging On.” This one has micro-vibrations (10,000 strong) and a special function that captures-matted down hair while the head adjusts to the contours of your face,” says Matthew Bell. “Also, it’s easy to clean and charges up fully in just five minutes.”
Wired selected the Series 7 as the Editor’s Pick for their roundup on electric razors. Steven Leckart said of the Braun, “Although the three-head business end boasts a relatively small surface area, the oscillating middle head delivers 10,000 vibrations per minute. Translation: It’s just as effective as a bottle of Nair.”
Craig the Barber also says the Braun Series 7 is his pick. “You can’t go wrong with it,” he says, adding that especially for those with “curly hair, go for the Braun.”
On Amazon, the 760cc sits at 4.5 out of 5 stars with just under 300 reviews.
Gizmodo’s conclusion was the only test anomaly, which put the Series 7 in fourth place out of four electric razors. Author Andrew Tarantola said that “shaving the neck was a nightmare. It was like the last three hairs remaining somehow always fell outside the realm of the shaver’s ability—needing five or six passes to finally capture.” Tarantola’s top pick was a rotary model, which makes sense. He has coarse hair and rotary razors perform better for those who have thicker hair.
The most common complaint for the Series 7 is that the thing is really loud, much more so than your barber’s clippers. But this is an issue you’ll run into with most electric razors, and for the performance you get from the Series 7, it’s an acceptable trade-off. Just don’t shave in the library.
Among credible reviewers, Norelco and Braun are the top electric razor brands. “I’ve had clients who have used razors outside of Braun and Norelco and not been impressed,” says Craig the Barber. We’ll address brands besides those two, but the biggest competitor to the Series 7 is the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D. It’s comparable to the Series 7 in all the important criteria: it offers a close shave, similar pricing, and a good battery life. The difference is that the SensoTouch is a rotary razor while the Braun is the foil.
As we mentioned, the drawback to rotary shavers is that the rotors can yank out hair, which can cause ingrown hair. Again, if you have an absolutely problem-free beard, you can get away with the quieter SensoTouch. If that’s you, another selling point is that the Norelco can be used wet, meaning while you’re in the shower, or using shaving cream. We’re not sold on that benefit—electric razor shaving, unlike wet shaving, is best done with a dry face.
We’d get a foil Braun Series 7 because the SensoTouch’s few advantages over a foil razor don’t supersede the possible disadvantage of ingrown hairs. However, if you have thick beard hair and have absolutely no history of issues with ingrown hairs or sensitive skin, you can get the SensoTouch 3D 1250X. We say skip the cleaning setup since it has a sealed head that, unlike a foil setup, can be cleaned easily with a faucet.
Within Braun’s big lineup of electric razors, the Series 7 760cc is our favorite, but you have options. Basically, a higher price means less upkeep within the Series 7 range—with the 790cc and 760cc, you get the aforementioned dock that cleans and charges the razor. The 720s means you’ll be rinsing and applying machine oil to the razor yourself—no thank you.
Another major competitor to Braun and Norelco is Panasonic, which has an enormous electric razor lineup. Their four- and five-blade models with second motors can hit prices of $500. We’re not ready to pay that much for performance that’s not as well ranked as the Series 7. The best Panasonic option is the Arc4. But even the $300 ESLA93-K didn’t beat the Series 7 according to Consumer Reports.
A step down
If you’re looking to trim while traveling or if you don’t need to shave every day, you can kind of get away with spending less than three figures on a razor. You won’t get the close shave of the Braun Series 7, but if you really can’t spend that much, we recommend a Panasonic Arc 3 for $80. Unlike their much more expensive options, this model has a solid cost-to-performance ratio.
All our research indicates that with shavers, you get what you pay for. If you must go cheap, definitely don’t bother with anything under $70.
The Arc 3, though, is a solid option. It has a pivoting head that houses blades attached to a motor that can hit 13,000 rpm—the Braun Series 7 has 10,000 “micro-vibrations” per minute, for comparison. In cleaning mode, the motor goes up to 17,000 rpm to shake off all the hair and water.
Unfortunately, there are few reviews of electric razors in the under-$100 price range. To pick this, I went by the generally flattering reviews of the more expensive Panasonics like the Arc 4 and looked at customer reception to the Arc 3—on Amazon, the Arc 3 has nearly 1,300 user reviews averaging out to 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Another benefit is that, if you need to get an electric shaver quickly, you can get this one at Target for $80.
Another close competitor in the budget realm is Norelco’s line of PowerTouch rotary razors. Pauper’s Dime really likes the PowerTouch AT830, but they note that its ability to shave wet is a major benefit. As mentioned, it’s just better to shave dry when using electric. Aside from that, when going budget, we’re less inclined to risk using a cheaper rotary shaver that may tug on hair.
In the end, we’d say that if you plan on going electric with any frequency, splurge and get the Braun Series 7.
Wrapping it up
If you’re looking to get an electric razor for daily use, spend the cash on the Braun Series 7 760cc. It’s the closest shave you’ll get without a blade, you can use it on any type of beard, and it’ll work reliably for years. After trying them all and reading all the literature, it’s what I use.
Top Electric Razors, Consumer Reports, April, 2013"80/100; Recommended."
The Best Guide to Buying an Electric Shaver , Pauper's Dime"This is a very technologically advanced razor designed to give a close shave, even when hairs aren’t standing up using their Pulsonic micro-vibration technology. They have put in significant engineering effort to get the most out of a foil shaver, and you won’t be disappointed. This is the best foil razor on the market. If you’ve been thinking about buying a foil razor, just buy a Braun Series 7. They are so good that they’re hard to critique!"
The Best Electric Shaver, Apartment Therapy, October 11, 2012,"During several test shaves I felt nary a pull, tug, or even the suggestion of pain while trimming down my face. What was most notable compared to other electric shavers I've tried in the past was the 790cc didn't require multiple drive-bys to finish off all the hairs; most sections required no more than two passes, including those annoying flat hairs on the neck, to leave what felt like a nearly-razor shave smooth finish."
"This one has micro-vibrations (10,000 strong) and a special function that captures-matted down hair while the head adjusts to the contours of your face. Also, it's easy to clean and charges up fully in just five minutes."
Blade Runners, Wired, July 26, 2011,"Braun advertises up to 50 minutes per charge from this foil shaver, but we regularly got more than 75. Although the three-head business end boasts a relatively small surface area, the oscillating middle head delivers 10,000 vibrations per minute."
Originally published: May 8, 2013