Although Braun's foil shavers receive the best reviews overall, most models are only meant for a dry shave -- you can't use them with shaving cream or lotion, or in the shower. If you prefer to wet shave, the Philips Norelco models discussed in our section on the best rotary shavers are worth a serious look. However, most reviewers say that Panasonic wet/dry shavers are a better option still.
Although a few users prefer dry shaves, most comment favorably on the smooth shave they get from grooming during or just after a shower, and those with sensitive skin usually benefit from using a shaving lotion or cream. The versatility of a good wet/dry foil shaver means you can fine-tune the shaving experience to suit your skin and hair type, or to how much time you have for grooming on any particular day.
That may explain why men with sensitive skin flock to Panasonic wet/dry models in hordes. The Panasonic ES-LA63-S (Est. $125) hits the sweet spot where value and performance meet. It's well regarded in professional reviews, and earns plentiful and relatively strong feedback from owners. The Panasonic ES-LA93-K (Est. $180) is the identical razor, except in black (the Panasonic ES-LA63-S is silver) and packaged with a charger/cleaning base. Feedback on the cleaning base is mixed -- as is typical for cleaning bases with most electric shavers; some love it, some hate it, and some say why spend the money either way since the Panasonic shaver is fairly easy to clean. We tend to agree with the last sentiment, but either model is a good choice if you feel otherwise.
In testing, the Panasonic ES-LA63-S/Panasonic ES-LA93-K perform impressively, but also typically finish in second or third place to foil shavers from Braun. The Braun shavers are dry only, however, making the Panasonic shavers a go-to choice for those who will primarily be wet shaving.
Performance is considered to be largely very good. You will need to occasionally go over an area more than once to get things perfectly smooth, reviewers say, but that's acceptable performance for an electric shaver versus a standard razor (and if you want to stick with blade shaving, we cover manual razors in their own report). Jessica Stone at TopTenReviews.com writes that the Panasonic wet/dry razor (the site tests the ES-LA93-K) does a good job tackling facial areas that challenge some models, such as the chin area or jaw line. Shaving is irritation-free, she adds. Tyler Stokes at Electric-Shaver-Guide.com largely agrees, though he adds that, as with most electrics, there may be a little irritation at first, "but within a few tries you should be fine."
These shavers, especially the Panasonic ES-LA63-S, get tons of user reviews. We see more than 1,600 of them for the less expensive, base-less model at Amazon.com, where the wet/dry razor earns a score of 4.3 stars; the pricier ES-LA93-K attracts nearly 790 reviews, and a similar 4.4-star rating. Most users are mostly or completely satisfied. Of those that aren't, complaints run the gamut, but one thing we noted is that battery life between charges isn't tops, and since you can't run the shaver with it plugged in (a terrible idea in the shower, anyway), you'll need to be sure it's topped off sufficiently or you might get stuck without a shaver for a while before you are quite done cutting your stubble. Owners of the ES-LA93-K have added gripes about the cleaning stand, again citing a variety of convenience, operational, and durability issues. Noise is about par for a foil shaver, but that doesn't stop some from being disappointed with that. We also saw comments that the cleaning station in the step up model is noisy in its own right.
On the plus side are some nice design touches that help improve usability. There's a non-slip coating that make the shaver easy to hold on to when wet, and contoured shapes that feel good in your hand. The batteries may not last the longest (about 45 minutes of shave time), but they charge fully in just one hour. Flexible, adjustable heads make it easy to shave hard-to-reach nooks and crannies without causing irritation.
Both of these shavers are part of Panasonic's Arc4 series, indicating that they have four cutting blades. If four blades are great, wouldn't five blades be better? Maybe, or maybe not, but either way, Panasonic also offers Arc5 shavers with five heads.
Reviews are generally good, but with an important caveat. While TopTenReviews.com ranks the Panasonic Arc5 ES-LV61-A (Est. $240) a few notches below the ES-LA93-K. Its performance is actually quite good: "With just stubble, we were able to get a close shave by just passing over the same area once or twice," Stone says. However, some irritation is noted and the large 5-blade head made dealing with a mustache a challenge.
Techlicous.com reaches a similar conclusion with the Panasonic Arc5 ES-LV65-S (Est. $250), which adds a stubble sensor that automatically adjusts motor speed to match your beard density but is otherwise similar. Robert E. Calem likes the Panasonic a bit better than the highly regarded Braun Series 7 shaver despite the fact that "as with other Panasonic shavers, I found that the Arc5's extremely large shaving head made it awkward to use, especially around the edges of my sideburns."
Elsewhere in this report: