Rotary shavers use rotating circular blades -- usually three of them -- mounted on a shaving head to lift and trim facial hair. Because each blade on a rotary shaver swivels independently, these shavers may do a better job than foil shavers at following the contours of your face and neck. Reviewers also say that rotary shavers tend to be quieter than foil shavers.
The only non-Philips rotary shaver that makes a blip on our radar is the Remington SR9130 (*Est. $80). A number of users say the SR9130 isn't great for coarse beards, but one expert tester picks the SR9130 because it shaved easily through two or three days of coarse beard growth. This shaver ultimately receives good rankings across the board from a major consumer magazine, and the user consensus is that it works very well on fine to regular beards, although some say the relatively large head and rotary blades can make it challenging to shave detail areas, such as right below your nose.
The Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1280XCC (*Est. $280) draws the most praise for giving a smooth, clean shave in just a few passes, although users balk at its high price. The SensoTouch 3D 1250X (*Est. $150 to $190) earns the top spot among rotary shavers in one expert test, but a reviewer with Electric-Shaver-Guide.com says the 1250X struggles to cut through his thick beard. Users say that it shaves well on the face but may not do as well on the neck, especially if you have coarse hair.
Finally, reviewers say the Philips Norelco Nivea for Men HS8420 (*Est. $65) will "tear up your face" if you use it dry, but that you'll get a close, irritation-free shave if you use a light touch and plenty of lotion, cream or gel. And the HS8420 dispenses soothing Nivea for Men lotion at the push of a button while you shave.
Although the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1280XCC shaves beautifully, users don't like having to haul the "flimsy, bulky" charging stand along when they travel, especially because it doesn't fit in the shaver's carry pouch. They also say that hair clippings tend to spill out of the shaver. Owners don't have much to say about the Jet Clean cleaning stand for this model, but they seem to like it.
The 1250X (*Est. $150 to $190) draws similar complaints about the charging stand, and a number of users say their Philips 1250X doesn't hold a charge well. In some cases, Philips customer service identifies the charging stand itself as the problem. Users like the optional Jet Clean stand that comes with this shaver (sold, shaver included, as the 1250XCC (*Est. $190). They say it cleans very well, although downsides are a single, two-hour cleaning cycle and a tendency to spill cleaning solution when you handle the stand.
Users say the relatively simple SR9130 looks and feels good in your hand, and there's no charging stand to haul along; just plug the shaver into the wall to charge. No cleaning stand is needed either -- just open the shaving head's flip-top and rinse the blades under running water.
As luxurious as the concept of a lotion-dispensing shaver may be, users say the Philips Nivea for Men HS8420 feels and looks "plasticky," and it takes a whopping eight hours to charge -- if you get it positioned just right in the charging stand -- as opposed to a one hour charging time for the other Philips shavers, and 90 minutes for the Remington SR9130.
Reviews indicate that rotary shavers tend to be quieter than foil models, and the Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 1250X is a prime example; users say it's so quiet, it sounds like a cell phone vibrating. The Nivea for Men HS8420 is also "whisper quiet," in the words of one reviewer. 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." Reviewers uniformly agree that the Remington SR9130 is whisper-quiet, too. So quiet, in fact, that one user says "you have no sound feedback as to when it's actually trimming hairs."
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. Cleaning heads are a little cheaper -- about $30 -- for the Philips Nivea for Men HS8420, but users complain that at $20 each, lotion refills are too pricy.
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 -- about the 1250X and 1250XCC in particular -- that they had problems with the 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.
The Remington SR9130 comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee and it, too, comes with a two-year warranty, but the shaver heads and cutters are excluded. Expect to spend about $30 for a new head and blade assembly every year, and the manufacturer recommends using their spray cleaner/lubricant (*Est. $4 for a 3.8-oz. bottle) twice a year.
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. That honor goes to the Remington SR9130, which at about $80 costs much less, yet it still shaves all but the coarsest hair smoothly and quietly.
The SR9130 provides excellent value, won't dump trimmings all over you and doesn't force you to pack a flimsy charging stand when you travel with it, experts and reviewers say. The one caveat is that we couldn't find any mention of wet/dry capability for the SR9130, so if wet/dry shaving is important to you, the Philips SensoTouch 3D 1250X (*Est. $150 to $190) is a worthy runner-up that still provides a pretty good value, and it can handle shaving creams and lotions.