Braun’s top of the line electric shaver, the Series 9, is better than ever for 2017. In fact, the innovations in the Series 9’s shaving head make it superior to our former Best Shaver pick, the Panasonic Arc5 ES-LV65S.
I came to that conclusion after spending a month shaving with a review sample of the top-of-the-line Series 9 model 9290cc (from $267.13 on Amazon), pitting it against one-, two- and three-day beards. For comparison’s sake, I also drew against on my years of experience with Braun’s prior-best Series 7 model and the Panasonic LV65-S. The updated Braun Series 9 is the best electric shaver. Here’s why.
Look and feel
Ergonomic and design updates in the Series 9 are obvious at first glance. The Series 9 manages to look more streamlined than either the Panasonic or the Braun Series 7. Although its head is larger than any of Braun’s prior designs — it contains four cutting elements versus the Series 7’s three — the size difference is well camouflaged by the 9’s overall shape.
This is especially obvious in a side-by-side comparison with the LV65-S, whose head looks disproportionately, even weirdly, large. To be sure, Panasonic stuffed more into its shaving head, thanks to five cutting elements, the most we’ve ever seen in an electric shaver. But one fewer cutting element hasn’t created any disadvantage for the Series 9, which is just as efficient at slicing away facial hair as the LV65-S and superior to the Series 7.
In my hand, the Series 9 feels well balanced and comfortable. It’s slightly easier to hold than the Series 7, with a better placed, integrated thumb rest. The Series 9 is dramatically superior to the Pansonic LV65-S in this area. The large head on the Panasonic model makes it feel unbalanced and awkward to use, a problem made worse by the placement of the power button: exactly where my thumb naturally rests on the shaver. By comparison, Braun places a thumb rest there and puts the power button in a lower position on both the Series 9 and the Series 7.
A new style of LED display on the Series 9 shows the same information as the Series 7 and the LV65-S, including remaining battery power and whether the head requires cleaning. The display remains dark and out of sight most times. It lights up when the shaver is powered on or placed in its cleaning/charging machine. I prefer the display on the Series 7, which is always lit and ready to inform at a glance.
Blade design and operation
Like the first-generation Series 9, the updated model’s shaving head contains four cutting elements (shown above). These include two blades on the edges that are hidden beneath foils; a “direct & cut” trimmer in the center that straightens and slices hairs growing in different directions; and a “hyperlift & cut” trimmer, also centered, that lifts and slices flat-lying hairs. A non-cutting element, the “protective skinguard,” adjoins the direct & cut trimmer and smoothes the skin to help achieve a closer shave.
By contrast, the Series 7 (shown below) contains three cutting elements, including two blades beneath foils, an “ActiveLift” trimmer that captures flat-lying hairs and a Protective SkinGuard surrounding the trimmer. The Panasonic LV65-S contains four cutting elements: two blades at each edge, two more adjacent to those, and a trimmer in the center.
Functionally, the Series 9 is much improved from the Series 7. The reconfigured head pivots and flexes in 10 directions, whereas the Series 7 head only moves in eight directions. Braun refers to them as “10-D” and “8-D” heads, respectively.
Moreover, both trimmers are entirely new. The Hyperlift & Cut trimmer is half as thick as Series 7’s ActiveLift trimmer and patterned to capture hairs from two directions rather than one. The Direct & Cut trimmer, which also captures hairs from two directions, has half the slope of the ActiveLift trimmer and a new structure that makes it 2.6 times faster at guiding, directing and cutting hairs, according to Braun.
The Hyperlift & Cut trimmer has also been updated for the refreshed Series 9. It’s been coated with titanium, which makes it more durable than the Hyperlift & Cut trimmer on earlier iterations of the shaving head.
The Series 9’s sonic technology has also received a significant upgrade. It vibrates the head side to side at 40,000 times per second, adding a cross-cutting motion to the head’s forward and backward rotation. This is a huge increase from the Series 7’s 10,000 microvibrations per second and the Panasonic’s 14,000. More microvibrations should translate to more efficient slicing and dicing of stubble. I certainly did find the Series 9 ate my facial hair more quickly than did the Series 7, though not necessarily faster than the Panasonic.
Hands on with the Braun Series 9
A shaver’s performance varies widely from person to person because everyone’s facial hair is unique. Nevertheless, Braun claims the Series 9 is the most efficient shaver in the world, and it validates that claim with scientific studies.
In my experience, the Series 9’s refinements really do translate to a cleaner shave with fewer strokes across the face, regardless of stubble length, compared with Braun’s earlier best performer, the Series 7. Not surprisingly, I noticed the greatest advantage when shaving a one- or two-day beard growth.
The Series 9 is quieter than the Series 7, roughly comparable to shavers I’ve tried from Panasonic and other brands such as Philips Norelco.
Overall, I’d gauge the Series 9’s performance as comparable to that of the LV65-S. Yet it’s hard to pinpoint which design change in the Series 9 is responsible for the better performance.
One other selling point for the Series 9 is Braun’s Clean & Charge Station, a machine that can be used to scrub and lubricate the shaving head and top off the battery after each use. This is not an offering unique to Braun. Panasonic and Norelco both offer similar accessories, too.
But the device that comes with the Series 9 is a design downgrade from the one that comes with the Series 7, in my opinion, simply because it’s less convenient to use. Its rear-facing orifice requires you to turn the machine around every time a new cleaning fluid cartridge must be replaced, normally about once a month. The machine that comes with the Series 7 reloads cartridges from the front, which I prefer.
The bottom line
The new Braun Series 9 model 9290cc (from $267.13 on Amazon) shaves as fast and closely as our former top pick, the Panasonic LV65-S, and it’s easier to use and hold, making it our new choice for the best electric shaver.
[Image credit: Robert Calem/Techlicious]