Although some all-in-one clipper sets like the Wahl All-in-One can trim nose hair, dedicated nose and ear hair trimmers are much more popular. These small, lightweight devices use rotating cutting blades set inside guards, which keep you from nicking the inside of your nose or ears.
We focus primarily on their nose hair trimming performance because that's the most popular use for these tiny trimmers -- but they have similar operating characteristics when trimming ear hair, and some men even use them for detailing facial hair.
Of all the models we evaluated, the undisputed top performer is the Panasonic ER-GN30-K (Est. $15) . It's powerful to use, but comfortable; it won't nick the inside of your nose (or ears), although you may have to make a couple of passes to get every hair. Still, this trimmer seems to work faster than the competition, and it's also very quiet -- a major bonus when it comes to trimming ear hair.
By comparison, users say the next-best Panasonic model -- the ER430K (Est. $20) -- starts out quiet, but gets noisy after you remove the cutting unit for cleaning. It gives you a nick-free trim, though, and has the added bonus of a built-in vacuum that owners say works very well to suck up the cut hairs. So if dealing with the trimmings from inside your nose bothers you, choose this model (although you'll still have to rinse out the hair collection chamber periodically).
Still, if quiet performance is your highest priority, the Panasonic ER-GN30-K just can't be beat -- and it's also tops for those who want to be able to trim hair from different angles. Many other trimmers, including the ER430K, only work at one set angle -- for the ER430K, that angle is 60 degrees.
Both trimmers run for a reasonably long time on a single AA battery and can be used either wet or dry, then rinsed clean. They also have some quality-control problems -- not surprising when dealing with such small, inexpensive gadgets. In last year's report, the biggest quality-control problems actually belonged to the top-performing Panasonic ER-GN30-K; some users received lemons that stopped working in just a few months.
That said, those complaints seem to have eased off in 2014. Although you'll still find the occasional dud in either model, you can usually expect a couple years of use. These are generally considered throwaway units, so once the blades on either model wear out, most users just toss it and buy another.