What the best men's shavers have

  • A respected brand name. Experts say that when it comes to men's shavers, you really do get what you pay for -- brand-name products from Braun, Philips Norelco or Panasonic tend to provide a closer, more comfortable shave; they also last longer.
  • A pop-out trimmer. Most electric shavers come with a trimmer for dealing with longer hairs or shaping sideburns.
  • A money-back guarantee of at least 30 days. It takes about that long for your skin and hair to adjust to the new shaver, so you'll want to be able to try it out for nearly the full trial period.
  • A two-year warranty. Two years is the industry standard for shaver warranties. Also, check to see whether the foil and blades, or shaving head and cutters, are excluded from the warranty. This isn't uncommon, but it's a good thing to know about up front.
  • Rapid charging. The best shavers reach full charge in 60 to 90 minutes, although the first charge might take longer.
  • A quick-charge feature. There's nothing worse than being stuck with only half your face (or head) shaved. The best shavers can recover enough juice to complete your shave after just three to five minutes of charging.
  • Ample shaving time. A shaver should offer at least 45 minutes of shaving time from a full battery charge.

Know before you go: Foil versus rotary shavers

Common reasons you might choose a rotary shaver include:

Noise is a deal-breaker. Rotary shavers tend to be quieter than foil models.

You like to go a while between shaves. Experts say that rotary models may handle longer hairs better than foil models do.

You have a hard time shaving along contours. Many say that the multiple, independently rotating shaving heads on a rotary model do a better job of handling difficult contours (like the chin and neck) than foil models do.

You're used to rotary models. If you're already used to the circular motions of shaving with a rotary electric razor, you might not want to teach yourself the long, straight strokes required of a foil shaver.

Common reasons for selecting foil models include:

A close shave is of the utmost importance. Experts say that, in general, foil shavers get you a little closer to the feel of shaving with a blade. In addition, experts recommend shaving against the direction of your hair growth when you're using a foil shaver.

You're used to shaving with a disposable razor. The long, straight strokes of a foil shaver resemble the same movements you'd make with a disposable razor.

You need an electric shaver with wet/dry capabilities. If you know you have very sensitive skin or that dry shaving can irritate your skin, experts recommend trying a wet/dry model that allows you to shave with cream or lotion.

Value expectations: The dollars and cents of it

In theory, electric shavers are less expensive in the long run than constantly replacing disposable razors. But is that really true? According to figures published at Razorpedia.com, shaving with disposable razors will cost you about $111 a year. The electric shavers in this report range from $100 to $250, so in a perfect world they'd pay for themselves after a year or two of not having to buy disposable razors.

However, you must factor in the cost of maintaining your electric shaver. Yearly upkeep typically costs between $50 and $80 to replace the cutting blades and foils. That means you'd need to keep an electric shaver anywhere from two to four years to break even with the cost of disposable razors. If you have a cleaning station for your shaver, the cost of cleaning cartridges -- anywhere from about $40 a year to a whopping estimated cost of $180 a year for the Philips Norelco Shaver 8900's Jet Clean cartridges -- may keep you from breaking even at all.

We're excluding battery-powered travel shavers from this figure; at about $20 apiece they're so inexpensive that it makes sense to buy a new shaver every year instead of replacing the blades.

The bottom line? We've taken the cost of ownership into account when earmarking the best electric shavers in this report. Despite their initially high price tags, the Braun Series 7 shavers (Est. $200 to $300) have one of the lowest costs of ownership -- $27 to $40 per year if you don't need refill cartridges for a cleaning stand -- which makes them a smart investment overall.

What's to come

With the rise of USB-charged portable gadgets, it was only a matter of time until a USB-chargeable electric shaver became available too. The ShaveTech (Est. $30) is about the size of a deck of playing cards and can be recharged from any USB port; it provides about 30 minutes of shave time between charges.

Reviewers say the ShaveTech's single shaving foil gets the job done, but its small size means it's very slow -- so it may be best for short trips and quick touch-ups before meetings. You can read more about the ShaveTech USB-powered razor in a review from David Kelly, About.com's expert on business travel.

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