The Best Electric Razor

For the past eight months, we’ve been smoothing our faces the “modern” way—with an electric shaver.1 We’ve buzzed, whirred, and clipped a path toward what we hoped would be silken-jawed nirvana. To find the best electric shaver, we recruited a panel of a dozen testers, all with different beard types and shaving habits, to test a dozen of the top brands and models. Along the way, we tried a few outlier shavers that nobody should ever use. We passed the shavers around, learned how they work, discovered what they do best and what they do poorly. And we came to a pretty safe conclusion: The best shaver for most men remains the Braun Series 7 (model 760cc), just as when we first looked at the category two years ago. If that’s not available, the 790ccoffers the same quality shave with a few extra-but-not-important features. When compared to other electric shavers, the only thing that could have dethroned the Braun’s proven design, excellent reliability, and top-end face-clearing abilities was, perhaps, another Braun.

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The Best Electric Shaver

Braun Series 7 Model 760cc

Recently displaced as Braun’s top-of-the-line shaver, this product’s high quality and (now) even lower price make it the best choice for most buyers.

A few weeks before our review was completed, that potential usurper arrived. Now widely available in the US after a months-long preview in Asia and Europe, the Braun Series 9 boosts the shaver maker’s top-end feature set and pricing by claiming to tackle three days of heavy beard growth, with a bumped-up price to match. Knowing we had to test the new Braun—which was anticipated by shaver fans for more than a year—we convinced a friend to visit Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district and purchase one, hand-carrying it back to the US for us. (We were in a rush, because, due to the vagaries of electric shaving, carrying out a genuinely useful multi-person test takes time. More on that in a bit.)

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We found Braun was as good as its marketing, with an important asterisk: The Series 9 sets a standard for performance and speed that most of our testers agreed exceeded every other shaver we tried. But we can’t recommend it as our top pick due to its price. At around $350 at time of writing, the cost of entry for the newest, latest, and greatest is just too high, and most people who shave their facial hair—whether they’re five-o’clock-shadow-by-noon types or light-and-wispy bearded—won’t need all that oomph. For nearly all daily shavers, you can get just as velvety a shave from the Series 7, which currently costs about half as much after a recent $50 price drop, although it is a little slower than the Series 9 (and until December 31, 2015, the Braun Series 7 shavers are even more of a bargain—the company is offering an online coupon, good at many, though not all, major retailers—for an additional $40 off).

 Our months of testing with five men who spent time with every razor and seven others who sampled our stash more casually resulted in remarkable differences of opinion. Not a single one of our testers picked the same shaver that other testers chose as their favorite; the Braun Series 7 wins by total votes distributed among first, second, and third places. When accessories, like cleaning systems, were factored in, the tester preference pool had an even broader variety of views.
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While we believe the Series 7 will please just about anyone who tries it, there are several competent alternatives out there. One of them only costs around $40 at time of writing: the Remington F5-5800, our budget pick. It provides a well-thought-out feature set and credible stubble-leveling results at a genuinely affordable price. None of our testers felt it was on the level of a Braun—but then again, it costs around less than a quarter the price.

All of our top shaver choices are foil style, which means that a bar-shaped cutting mechanism is hidden beneath a thin, perforated metal shell. Our tilt toward foils is intentional, because the other style of shaver—rotary, which uses a series of two, three, or four circular cutting heads, with a spinning blade underneath—doesn’t shave as closely for most men. (Two of our testers switched to foil from their personal rotaries after completing their shaver trials.)

We say this knowing we’re stepping into a decades-old battleground of loyalty, dogma, claim, and counterclaim. So we’ll add that many men can get a great—even a superior—shave with the right rotary, rotaries are often quieter than their foil competitors, and they’re an excellent choice for men who experience skin irritation when using foil shavers. For those men, we’ve made a rotary choice, too, which means a product from a firm that specializes in them, Philips/Norelco. We picked the Shaver 9300. Other companies make rotary shavers, but we don’t recommend them.

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 The bottom line? We’re confident one of the two Brauns or the Remington will please nearly anyone who prefers an electric shaver. But you’ll need to do a little homework, because there are lots of alternatives out there and electric shavers remain remarkably idiosyncratic in their approach to technology and design. Some electric razors are great, and a lot more are not so great. Most men can find one that should work. This story is designed to help you discover which.