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The best rotary electric shavers for all budgets

Although reviewers say the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1280XCC (Est. $250) shaves beautifully, users balk at its high price and resent having to haul the charging stand -- which doesn't fit into the shaver's carry pouch -- every time they travel. The charging stand's Jet Clean feature is a universal hit; the 1280XCC's tendency to spill hair clippings everywhere is not.

The Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1250X (Est. $150) draws similar complaints about the charging stand, and a number of users say it doesn't hold a charge so well -- usually the fault of the charging stand for not providing a good charge in the first place. Still, one expert reviewer from Electric-Shaver-Guide.com liked its performance so much that he used it to tidy up "trouble spots" that other shavers had missed.

The Philips Norelco 1250X isn't flawless -- like most rotary shavers it struggles with very coarse hair, and users say it's not the gentlest on necks. Still, users say the 1250X shaves most beard types very well and very quietly, too, making it the best combination of value and performance in a rotary shaver. It's also a wet/dry shaver -- you can use it with shaving cream or lotion without a problem -- just like the Philips Norelco 1280XCC.

The same shaver is available with a Jet Clean stand, sold as the 1250XCC (Est. $150) . Users say this Jet Clean stand works just as well as the 1280XCC's, though it has only a single two-hour cleaning cycle and tends to spill cleaning solution when handled.

If you can get your hands on it, the Philips Norelco 8240XL (Est. $160) is almost as good as either the 1250X or the 1280XCC. This model was discontinued in 2012 but, at the time of this report, it's still available from some retailers -- so it'll be a great deal up until it's gone.

No louder than a whisper

Rotary shavers are almost always gentler on your ears than foil shavers, and these three Philips Norelco models all live up to that promise. Users say the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1250X, in particular, is so quiet it sounds like a cell phone vibrating.

An expert pegs the Philips 1280XCC as noisy but says the sound level isn't a deal-breaker; users are a little milder, saying simply that "it does not sound like a weed whacker." By way of comparison, the most popular phrase for describing one top Panasonic wet/dry foil shaver is "buzz saw."

Costly upkeep, warranty issues

Upkeep for most of the Philips models is relatively simple: Replace the cutting heads (Est. $50) once a year; if you have the 1280XCC or 1250XCC a pack of six Jet Clean cartridges, each of which should last for about 15 cleanings, costs approximately $45. If you use the Jet Clean system every day, that works out to a yearly cost of about $180 in refill cartridges alone. That said, some users save money by stretching the time between Jet Cleanings.

Philips models are covered by a generous 45-day money-back guarantee and a full two-year warranty. However, Amazon.com users post a fair number of complaints -- regarding the 1250X and 1250XCC in particular -- that they had problems with their Philips Norelco shaver suddenly going dead during the warranty period. They say that Philips customer service wasn't always able to help; often, the necessary parts were backordered with no estimated time of arrival.

If you have the money to spend, the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1280XCC gives an excellent shave. However, design complaints, the high price and the relatively high cost of ownership keep us from designating the 1280XCC as best reviewed. Instead, we've selected the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1250X -- which gives a near-identical shave for $100 less -- as the best combination of shaving excellence and value.

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Philips Norelco Speed-XL 8240 Men's Shaving System
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Philips Norelco 1250X/46 SensoTouch 3D Electric Razor, Frustration Free Packaging
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New: $199.99 $179.95   
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Philips Norelco 1280XCC SensoTouch 3D Electric Razor
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New: $349.99 $208.99   
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