Is a rotary shaver best for you?
Rotary razors are popular with lots of men, but experts say that the nature of your face and beard play a large role in determining whether one is right for you. We noted some of the advantages of rotary shavers in the introduction to this report, but experts say they have some significant drawbacks for some users. Where foil shavers, such as the (Est. $215), are an appropriate choice for almost any face, the nature of your beard can dictate your level of happiness with a rotary shaver. Dan Koeppel at TheSweethome.com notes that those with thick, strong beards, and without a history of ingrown hair, will find the slightly quieter operation and contour-following ability of a rotary to be an appropriate choice, but others may be significantly less pleased.
If you determine that a rotary shaver is what you want, Philips Norelco is far and away the category leader; no other brand makes the cut, so to speak, in expert and user reviews.
The current top of the line model is the (Est. $300), but we recommend bypassing that shaver and opting for the step-down (Est. $200) instead. It's roughly $100 cheaper and is spec for spec identical except for one feature. The 9700 includes an advanced progress display that shows the battery life remaining as a percentage rather than the five-level indicator in the 9300. That and some minor cosmetic differences are pretty much it. The shaving system and self-cleaning system are otherwise identical, and so should be performance.
Expert reviews of these shavers are slim, at least at the sites we consider to be most credible. Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo tries out the 9700 and says that it "gave me the closest shave of my life." At Moo.Review, Ben Atkins agrees that "the shaver cuts incredibly close." He adds, however, that there's a learning curve to getting that close shave; among other things, "it required a steady hand and intense concentration for your upper lip and going close to your sideburns," he says. And while TheSweethome.com's Koppel isn't a fan of rotary shavers in general, he says that if a rotary shaver is right for you, the 9300 "offers an impressive blend of technology and performance."
According to Estes, the key to the closeness of the shave is a change in the Philips Norelco blade technology. The company has replaced the older flat blades with V-shaped ones that are said to cut 30 percent closer. While Estes wonders a little about the accuracy of that claim, he concedes that the 9700 provided a closer shave, and one without nicks or skin irritation. He also appreciates that the shaver is waterproof, adding "I used shaving cream in the shower which definitely helped with the smoothness factor." If you are most interested in a wet/dry shaver, the Philips Norelco is one to consider, but first check out some other choices in our section on wet/dry shavers.
But while Estes is pretty pleased with the Philips Norelco shaver's performance, he does take a pretty healthy shot at the SmartClean stand and recommends against even using it (it's not required for charging the Philips Norelco 9000 series shavers). He says that the stand is poorly designed, un-intuitive to use (at least for those who like to avoid reading manuals at all costs), that it's prone to spilling the cleaning solution if jostled, and that drying time is "excessive." Atkins concurs regarding drying time, adding that in his tests, it took almost four hours.
User reviews for the Philips Norelco 9000 series are more limited than we see for some of the more popular foil razors, but with more than 900 posted for the Shaver 9300 at Amazon.com alone, there is more than enough feedback to gauge user satisfaction. Overall, it is decent; the Philips Norelco Shaver 9300 earns a 3.9-star rating at Amazon.com. Elsewhere, though feedback is less, satisfaction is even higher -- for example, a 4.5-star rating at BestBuy.com following nearly 200 reviews, with 92 percent giving it a recommendation.
A cheap rotary razor
Those looking to spend less for a rotary shaver -- or any shaver for that matter -- might also want to consider the (Est. $65). It's a big step down in performance and features compared to the Series 9000 shavers, however. It uses older style lift and cut blades (not the V blades found in the Philips top-of-the line shavers) and uses a floating rather than a pivoting head. There's no cleaning function, not a huge loss according to some feedback, and no charging stand. Like all Philips Norelco rotary models, this is a wet/dry shaver.
Among experts, we found a hands-on review at ShaverCheck.com, where Ovidiu Nicolae gives it props -- and a 4.5 star rating -- for its "great performance for the price." That said, it's best for those that shave daily. "If you shave every 2 to 3 days or more you may experience some difficulties in getting a very close shave," Nicolae says. He also adds that while the materials used look to be something less than premium, the build quality is actually pretty good, and that the shaver "feels very light and comfortable to hold."