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. Despite the emergence of pricier, even more advanced models -- including Braun's own series 9 -- Braun's Series 7 shavers continue to get the lion's share of recommendations thanks to their near unbeatable combination of performance and value.
Experts are equally enamored with two models in the 7 series -- the Braun Series 7 760cc (Est. $160) and the Braun Series 7 790cc (Est. $175). Performance is identical, they say, with the key differences being cost and features.
The step-up Series 7 790cc is a little more expensive ($10 to $20 on average, depending on the retailer and available promotions/sales). Alexander George at TheSweethome.com notes that the 790cc adds an LED readout that displays both the "hygiene" state of the razor and the battery level (the 760cc only displays the latter) and a quick clean cycle that will clean the razor head in 25 seconds rather than the normal 3 minutes -- albeit less thoroughly. There's also a color difference -- black for the 760cc vs. a metallic look for the 790cc shaver (the stand for both models is black, however). George doesn't think that the extra features are worth the step up cost. "We say save the extra cash," he recommends. Shane Roberts at Gizmodo largely concurs: "While I personally own the 790cc, the 760cc is significantly cheaper, and the differences are negligible."
What do users say? They love both models nearly equally. For example the 760cc and the 790cc both rate 4.5 stars at Amazon.com. Though it's worth noting that while the 790cc attracts almost 4,800 reviews, the 760cc garners "only" about 1,000. That's still more than enough of a track record to confidently say that regardless of which model you choose, you are very likely to be satisfied.
The Braun Series 7 earns particular praise for being able to handle both sensitive skin and a tough, coarse beard that grows in different directions -- about the toughest skin/hair combination possible. It also receives the highest ranking in tests by a major consumer research organization.
The banana-shaped Braun Series 7 electric shavers feel better in your hand than their predecessors, which were shaped like a bar of soap, owners say. 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.
Cleaning stands are a weak point for other shaver models, but users and experts report that the Braun Series 7 cleaning base that comes with the 760cc and 790cc shavers works very well. The base requires a Braun Clean and Renew Cartridge (Est. $23 for three); each cartridge lasts for about a month.
Noise is an issue for some. George notes that it's the most common complaint about the Series 7 shavers, though an independent test rates it as very good in this department -- no worse than rotary shavers that some hold to be a touch quieter.
Braun also offers a step-down model in the series, the Braun Series 7 720s (Est. $165). Performance should be identical to the aforementioned 760cc and 790cc -- in fact, one large testing organization rates it identically based on its test of the 760cc. The big difference is that the 720s lacks the cleaning base. Some owners say that's actually a plus as they prefer to clean their shaver manually, and that cuts out the cost of the cleaning cartridges that the cleaning base requires. Not all agree, including TheSweethome.com's George: "The 720s means you'll be rinsing and applying machine oil to the razor yourself—no thank you," he says. In addition, while ongoing costs will be less, the 720s is actually priced similarly to the top of the line Series 7 790cc.
If you don't need the vibrating Pulsonic feature or are just on a tight budget, the Braun Series 5 5090cc (Est. $150) retains the Series 7's three customizable settings, flexible head and flexible foils to give you a close, contoured shave. It also comes with a cleaning station. We couldn't find expert feedback at any of the review sites we consider to be the most credible, but user feedback is reasonably strong -- 4.3 stars following more than 1,000 reviews at Amazon.com. We did see a few complaints from users that this Series 5 razor doesn't perform as well as earlier razors from Braun and other makers. Also, the cleaning station doesn't have a drying function like that of the Series 7, so the cleaning process can take several hours.
At the other end of the spectrum is Braun's top of the line Series 9, including the Braun Series 9 9090cc (Est. $380). It feature's Braun's most advanced cutting system, dubbed SyncroSonic, that delivers 40,000 cutting actions per minute plus special cutters to deal with "problem" hairs, such as those that lay flat to the face or that are growing in different directions. However, its price is as spectacular as its performance, leading some to question its value. "The new Series 9 is a big advance, a better shaver, but at an astronomical price that only the earliest of early adopters, true have-the-best mega-shoppers, and possibly steel-wool bearded lumberjacks-with-trust funds might consider," TheSweethome.com opines.
If you have very sensitive skin, you might also want to check out the Braun CoolTec line of shavers. These foil shavers can also be used for either a wet shave (with shaving cream or lotion) or dry shave too, but their most notable feature is a cooling aluminum bar that neutralizes the heat that inevitably develops as you shave.
Professional reviews from reliable sources are limited, but we found two at Men's Journal of the top of the line Braun CT5cc CoolTec Men's Shaving System (Est. $135). First off, Matt Bell tries out the CT5cc and likes what he feels: "It was one of the first times we got through a full electric shave without having to take a cool-down break," writes Matt Bell for the Men's Journal website. However, in a comparative review that included three other shavers, the CT5cc finishes toward the back of the pack. Jeff Foss, in the other Men's Journal roundup, calls it a worthy option for those who have sensitive skin, but it's not so cool for others: "But the additional tech adds more weight and noise: The CT5cc was the loudest and least maneuverable of the group," he says.
Consumer reviewers are good, just not quite as good as we see with the Braun 7 series shavers -- 4 stars at Amazon.com following more than 650 reviews. Still, most say they find the CoolTec's cooling technology refreshing, soothing or both -- so if you struggle with sensitive skin and irritation even from the top-rated shavers, the Braun CoolTec line may be worth a look.
Regardless of which Braun shaver you choose, it will be backed by a good warranty -- the two-year limited warranty (foil and cutter excluded as those are wear items that need to be replaced periodically) is typical among top brand shavers, but the 60-day money-back guarantee is the best we've encountered.
So, the bottom line here is that if you want a foil shaver for dry shaving, Braun shavers are the best bet. However, if you want a wet/dry shaver that can be used in the shower, a battery shaver for travel, or a rotary shaver, models from other brands bubble up to the top. See those sections for more information.