Shaver manufacturers are engaged in an arms race of sorts, each vying to make their products suitable for the widest range of skin and beard types. Braun's Series 7 shavers dominate the race, thanks to three adjustable shave settings that can handle almost any combination of beard and skin. Overall, users say, the Series 7 shavers -- the Series 7 790cc-4 (Est. $200) , Series 7 760cc-4 (Est. $170) and Series 7 720cc-4 (Est. $180) -- provide a smooth, close shave for even the most sensitive skin. "My face right now feels so shockingly smooth, I'd swear I shaved with a blade this morning," writes one Amazon.com user.
The Braun Series 7 760cc-4 earns particular praise for being able to handle both sensitive skin and a tough, coarse beard that grows in different directions -- about the hardest to handle combination possible. It also receives the highest ranking in tests by a major consumer research organization. The other Series 7 shavers received the same rank by default because of their similarity. Each of the Braun Series 7 shavers has a 10,000 vibrations-per-minute Pulsonic feature, designed to lift hairs so they're more easily cut.
By comparison, two of the Panasonic models discussed in the wet/dry shaver section of this report -- the Panasonic ESLA63S (Est. $175) and the Panasonic ES8243A (Est. $150) -- have vibrating heads that run at 14,000 and 13,000 rpm, respectively. Still, we recommend focusing on how well a shaver actually cuts your beard instead of splitting hairs about rpms -- in which case the Braun Series 7 shavers still come out on top.
Users say that the banana-shaped Braun Series 7 shavers feel better in your hand than their predecessors, which were shaped like a bar of soap. The head tilts slightly inward to give you a better shaving angle, and reviewers like the handle's rubberized outer covering, which makes it easy to maintain a good grip.
Braun promises that its Series 7 shavers will run for about 50 minutes after a 60-minute charging period; our sources say they usually meet, and sometimes exceed, their predicted run time. Reviewers also say that shaving performance doesn't decline when you use the battery instead of a wall outlet; the Series 7's closest competition -- the Panasonic wet/dry shavers mentioned above -- can't be used when plugged in.
Cleaning stands are a common cause of complaint for other shavers, but users and experts report that the Braun Series 7 cleaning base (760cc-4 and 790cc-4 models only) works very well: just drop the shaver in, head down. The base automatically detects which cleaning cycle is needed, then waits for you to press go. If you prefer cleaning your shaver manually, however -- which quite a few of our sources say they do -- you can opt for the Series 7 720s-4, which doesn't come with a cleaning base. Due to a notable drop in price for the Braun Series 7 760cc-4, the 720s-4 actually costs $10 more -- but you'll recoup this in short order by not having to pay for replacement cleaning cartridges.
If we had to single out any single complaint regarding the Braun Series 7 shavers, it's a relatively innocuous but still frustrating one: The included travel case doesn't have room for the shaver's power cord or cleaning base.
Noise may be one of the most subjective measures of any electric shaver's performance. Experts say the Braun Series 7 shavers are a little quieter than other higher-end models; they receive one of the best ratings for noise in tests from a major consumer research organization. A number of users, on the other hand, say these shavers aren't the quietest.
It's unclear how much of the criticism is tied to the cleaning station, which users agree is noisy, instead of the razor. If you want the quietest shave possible, you'll probably want a rotary shaver; the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1250X (Est. $150) is particularly quiet. You can purchase the same shaver with an optional cleaning station, sold as the 1250XCC (Est. $150) .
No cleaning base means not having to buy detergent refills for the Braun 7 Series 760cc-4 (Est. $170) . Replacement blade/foil cassettes, which only need to be replaced every 18 months, cost about $32. The total cost of ownership for a Braun Series 7 shaver with a cleaning stand is estimated at $60 per year; if you buy the 720s-4, which doesn't have a cleaning stand, expect to pay just $32 or so every 12 to 18 months for a replacement cassette. In comparison, the estimated yearly cost of ownership for Panasonic's ES63LA and ES8243A is $70 and $80, respectively.
All three of the Braun Series 7 shavers are backed by a two-year limited warranty (foil and cutter excluded), and they come with a 60-day money-back guarantee, the best that we've encountered. The competing Panasonic shavers have a two-year limited warranty and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Although all three of the Braun Series 7 shavers are essentially similar, the Series 7 760cc-4 stands out as the best value -- especially given its recent drop in price. At the time of this report, we estimate the 760cc-4's street price (including cleaning station) at about $170 -- $10 less than the 720s-4, which doesn't come with a cleaning station. If you're willing to pay about $30 more in street cost for nifty features, the 790cc-4 has a faster cleaning cycle and an upgraded LCD display -- but it's otherwise identical to the 760cc-4.
Although they lack the personalization features of the Braun Series 7 shavers and don't score quite as high in our evaluation, the three Panasonic wet/dry foil shavers are perfectly serviceable alternatives -- especially for men with sensitive skin. Their spring-loaded, flexible heads make it easy to get just the right amount of pressure while shaving, and some users say they've actually reduced the occurrence of shaving-induced acne and ingrown hairs. You'll find all three models in the wet/dry foil shaver section of this report.