Unlike many electric shavers, the Panasonic Vortex ES8109S foil shaver can be used dry or wet, with shaving cream or lotion, as well as in the shower. This shaver is a particular favorite with testers who have sensitive skin and fine beards. It's often compared to the Braun Series 7 line, although the latter doesn't allow wet shaves and can cost about $100 more (the best-reviewed Braun Series 7 760cc-4).
Most users who compare this shaver to the Braun Series 7 760 (Est. $170) say they prefer the Panasonic's convex shaving head to the Braun's straighter style. Some also say they notice a difference between the Panasonic's 13,000 rpm vibrating feature, as opposed to the Braun's 10,000 rpm vibration. (The Braun Series 7 has quite a few supporters, too, and our sources give it the best reviews overall.) The biggest complaint we found from users was the "trouble spots" underneath the chin and neck that are hard to get at with the Panasonic ES8109S.
'Very good shaving performance,' write the editors of Consumer, the New Zealand equivalent to ConsumerReports.org. The same reviewer says that the Panasonic ES8109S is easy to use, and he likes that he can take it into the shower for a wet shave; a number of users say this feature is great when you're in a rush or want to shave in the steam. Hundreds of Amazon.com users agree with Consumer's evaluation, saying the Panasonic ES8109S gives a great shave, both wet and dry. One tester for another expert review source, who has fine hair and normal skin, says the ES8109 is the best shaver of those he evaluated.
The Panasonic ES8109S includes a cleaning/charging base that uses a special, detergent-based cleaning solution to wash and dry the razor. The shaver comes with a five-minute quick-charge feature, and a full charge takes an hour; however, users wish you could use the shaver while it's charging. The tilting head, which can be adjusted to your preferred angle, is a bigger hit, and reviewers say the ES8109S feels comfortable in their hands.
The editors of Consumer relay that their testers consider the Panasonic's Vortex cleaning station to be fiddly and messy; another expert reviewer describes it as a 'very wasteful gimmick' and writes that it's "much simpler to just clean under a running tap with a little liquid soap." Users seem to prefer this method as well, although they report using the cleaning station once every week or two, which helps the detergent solution last longer. They also say they like the indicator light that tells you when it's time to give the ES8109S a rinse under running water.
The Panasonic ES8109S is not invulnerable to the complaints about durability -- mostly battery issues -- that plague most of the Panasonic shavers we evaluated. Owners say they love this shaver when it works, but they say it's prone to suddenly "dying" within the first year or two of use.
Experts and users say the Panasonic ES8109S falls below the competition in one area: noise. It earned only middle-of-the-road scores for shaving noise in one set of expert tests -- lower than for other models tested -- and some users also say that the cleaning cycle can be loud.
Overall, opinions are mixed. We found a few comments that both the cleaning cycle and the shaving experience itself are quieter for the Panasonic ES8109 than for the Braun 7 series. But others say the Panasonic is loud. "Not annoyingly so, but it's a very high frequency pulsating noise," writes one Amazon.com reviewer, adding that you may hear the cleaning system buzzing from the next room. He says that you get used to the shaver's noise after about 30 seconds of shaving, but its after-effects make normal sound seem distorted for about a minute after he's done shaving.
Panasonic backs this wet/dry electric shaver with a 30-day, money-back guarantee and a two-year warranty. You're supposed to replace the foil once a year and the blades every two years; you can buy a blade/foil combination for about $50 (and sometimes less). We found a few comments that the blades seem to need replacing more frequently; one user said the shave quality became unacceptable after six months.
Cleaning cartridges last for a month or so and cost about $4 each, although some users say they only use the cleaner when the razor needs to charge (every week or two), which cuts down on buying cleaning cartridges.
Although the Panasonic ES8109S receives plenty of attention from expert sources like ConsumerReports.org, Choice magazine (the Australian equivalent of ConsumerReports.org) and Consumer (New Zealand's version of the same), more than 500 Amazon.com user reviews, mostly positive, cement its standing as the best-reviewed wet/dry foil shaver.
Editors of ConsumerReports.org test and compare 14 foil and rotary shavers, including the Panasonic Vortex ES8109S, for performance, noise level and ease of use. Testers say traditional razors provide a closer shave, but electric razors don't tend to nick skin, and they can be used without soap and water.
Review: Electric Razor Ratings, Editors of Consumer Reports, As of June 2012
2. Choice magazine
Choice magazine, Australia's equivalent to ConsumerReports.org, tests 12 electric shavers for men, including the Panasonic ES8109. Shavers are evaluated on effectiveness, ergonomics and ease of cleaning.
Review: Men's Shavers Review, Editors of Choice magazine, Aug. 2011
3. Consumer magazine
Consumer is the New Zealand version of ConsumerReports.org. The editors of consumer asked four men who routinely use electric shavers to try several new models, including the Panasonic ES8109. They say the shaver is very good but the cleaning station is fiddly and messy.
Review: Electric Shavers: Our Picks, Editors of Consumer, Aug. 26, 2011
More than 500 owners post comments about the Panasonic Vortex HydraClean ES8109S on Amazon.com. Most are positive, giving it an overall rating of 4.3 stars out of 5. They like this shaver's shaving performance and say it's convenient to use and clean. Many compare it directly to the Braun Series 7 line, and most say the Panasonic's contoured flexible head works better than the Braun's, which is also flexible, but straight. However, we found a few comments from users who dislike the Vortex, including some who say it isn't very durable.
Review: Panasonic ES8109S Vortex Wet/Dry Shaver, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of June 2012