If all you want is a set of clippers that cuts hair well without costing an arm and a leg, the Best Reviewed Wahl Chrome Pro (Est. $25) stands out as a great value. Contrary to its name, the Chrome Pro's clippers are actually built for consumer use. When Dave Alexander, About.com's guide to men's hair, tested the Chrome Pro clippers in a high-volume barbershop setting, he found that their carbon-steel blades "provided a smooth cut and the clippers ran cool and quiet."
Although a few users disagree with Alexander's assessment of operating temperature -- for example, one posting to Amazon.com says the body of the clipper began getting extremely hot after 10 minutes of use -- most agree that the clipper cuts smoothly and well.
It's also ideal for beginners; it's not so fast or powerful that it'll get away from you. Alexander was less complimentary, however, about the Chrome Pro's slew of accessories -- nine guide combs, multiple trim guides, styling combs, scissors, hair clips and a flimsy cape, plus maintenance supplies.
The comb guards are a particular weak spot. Although they do offer more versatility than the stock combs that come with most clippers -- ranging from 1/16 inch to 1 inch in length -- users say the clipper gets a lot louder when used with the long combs, and Alexander describes the guide combs as "among the cheapest and flimsiest I've encountered in over two decades of cutting hair." He warns that they don't seem to fit on the clipper solidly, and if they pop off, you may end up with a bald spot.
The clipper itself, however, remains a favorite with home hair cutters -- and you can always dispose of any accessories you don't want or need. We did find some concerns about the motor burning out, but the Chrome Pro comes with a five-year warranty.
Although the Chrome Pro is our Best Reviewed model -- combining good clipper performance with an established track record -- we have our eye on the Philips Norelco Headgroom Easy Reach 180 Pro (Est. $70) as a possible front-runner in the years to come. The Headgroom (model QC5580/40) is the latest iteration in a long line of clippers that feature the same pivoting head, which swings through a full 180 degrees of motion.
While this feature isn't much use for trimming other peoples' hair, it's priceless when it comes to trimming the back and sides of your own head. "It makes cutting hair in the back a cinch," writes Jason Chen in a GQ magazine review of one of the older versions.
Like the Chrome Pro, the Headgroom is easy to use. In addition to the pivoting head, it also has a rechargeable battery for corded/cordless operation (the Chrome Pro is corded only) and it's lighter than the Chrome Pro. The Headgroom also comes with a balder attachment to shave your head right down to the skin. Users say the balder is good but not good enough to permanently replace a real
Although the Headgroom is very promising and earns positive feedback from users, it doesn't have much of a track record yet. We also found a few comments that said the guide combs are a weak point. Reviewers say the combs and their locking mechanism feel flimsy. One user complains that they can break when dropped. He called Philips and was told he couldn't purchase a replacement.
The Wahl Chrome Pro also does a better job of handling long hair than the Headgroom -- the Chrome Pro's guide combs range up to an inch long, while the longest setting on the Philips Norelco Headgroom's adjustable combs is 15 mm, or just over half an inch. The Headgroom also comes with a cleaning brush, but it doesn't have a carrying or storage case -- a minor disappointment for some. It comes with a two-year warranty.
For even more versatility, the Wahl All-in-One Lithium Ion Trimmer (Est. $40) can groom every hair from your head to your toes. This versatility, paired with a rechargeable battery, makes it a great choice for travel. For home use, though, the All-in-One is a definite case of "jack of all trades, master of none." "Too many attachments. They tried to do too much," writes one user at Drugstore.com. Although users say the clipping head works well, they complain that it's narrow and too loud and that the guide combs are too sharp. You also have to get the All-in-One at just the right angle for it to clip well.
The All-in-One comes with a wealth of attachments -- including swappable heads for clipping the hair on your head, trimming your beard, detailing and shaving, plus seven guide combs and a T-blade -- but the carry case meant to contain them is a disappointment. Users say it's not big enough to hold everything neatly, and it's so light that it's prone to sliding off a table at the slightest touch.
Interestingly, one of the All-in-One's highest points is the nose and ear hair trimmer, which reviewers say works very quickly. "It's noisy but not objectionable in your ear, about the same or less noise level as my rotary trimmer," writes one user at Amazon.com. A five-year warranty is another perk, and you might need it. We found several reports of blades that rust, despite being properly dried and oiled after washing; others complain that the rechargeable battery stops holding its charge within about a year.