A Close Shave

Or: My review of the Panasonic ES8228S

I have been looking for a good shaver at a good price for the better part of a year, ever since my trusty old Norelco 6737X finally gave up the ghost after more than seven years.

Since the Norelco broke I have been managing with a “Microforce by Shavepro”, a tiny shaver originally intended for traveling use. It has served me well; the results are not stellar, but what can you expect for a shaver that cost $14? I was looking for something decent that didn’t cost the Earth.

In the thirty-five-odd that I have been shaving, I have gone through many shavers. Most of them have been foil shavers. My favorite was a cheap little Remington that lasted about five years. While the Norelco was the most reliable, buying it was a mistake; it was not particularly good for my face, and I had decided early on that the replacement would be neither a rotary shaver nor a Norelco. Since the vast majority of shavers in the stores was either one or the other, this restricted my options somewhat.

When it comes to smoothness, wet-shaving (i.e.,with a razor) has always given the best results, but it has always left my face too sore to shave on a daily basis; so I generally use an electric for day-to-day, “good-enough-for-Government-work” shaving, taking out the razor for Sundays and important occasions. My current razor of choice is a Gillette Fusion, but I have a whole bunch of Gillette and other Cartridge shavers from bygone years littering my bathroom cabinet. The price of the cartridges is ridiculous – blades for the Fusion work out to about $4 apiece.

Last month, I spotted this deal from NewEgg. With a RRP of $250 (who actually pays RRP? Nobody, I suspect) and a normal store price of $150, NewEgg was offering $30 off their normal price of $110. At $80 with free 3-day delivery, it seemed like a deal, so after reading a TON of reviews I went ahead and placed the order last Wednesday. There is also a $15 mail-in rebate, which will bring the price down to $65, though I am not counting on it.

To my surprise and delight, the UPS man dropped it off on Friday afternoon — a day earlier than expected. Nicely done, NewEgg! The shipping box was enormous, but that was because it was used to ship three products to the retailer. Sadly for me, there was only one was inside…

What the heck is "NANOTECH", anyway?

The product box was larger and heavier than expected, but given what is inside, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The box is covered with larger-than-life pictures of the shaver, along with lots of the predictable marketing fluff.

After opening the box, the first thing I did was to take out the shaver and “perve” over it for a moment; this is the only shaver I have ever seen which has wood trim. It was also bigger than I expected.

The second thing I did was to rummage through the rest of the stuff in the box, which included:

  • A cleaning/charging base (the wall charger plugs into this, or directly into the shaver).
  • A wall-charger with an odd-shaped plug that fits the shaver, the base… and nothing else on God’s Green Earth. Way to go, Panasonic — let’s hear it for proprietary connectors!
  • A plastic protective cap that goes over the foil/blade assembly.
  • A cleaning cartridge containing what looks like dishwasher detergent (but probably isn’t).
  • A multi-lingual manual with ten pages per language. And yes, you need to read it; the base has several different permutations of “clean”, “charge” and “dry”.
  • A zipped leatherette pouch. Very nice, but I would venture that the zip was badly positioned; I would expect to be able to charge the shaver with the pouch almost zipped closed, but I supposed that is too much to ask for.

I put the cap on the shaver, plugged it in and left it in to charge. To my surprise, this only took about an hour, which is quite impressive. The manufacturers claim that you can get fourteen shaves out of a full charge, and a five-minute quick-charge is supposed to provide enough juice for a single shave, which seems reasonable. Rummaging through the box, I also found:

The base: 4″ wide, 6″ deep and 6″ tall, and contains a tank that you fill with tap water. The cartridge fits in the bottom and the water is used to turn the detergent into a cleaning solution. It is supposed to last for 1-2 months; the detergent cartridges retail for about $5 apiece. At $30+ per year, this seems on the expensive side, but you don’t need to use it every time; the shaver has a built-in cleaning mode that is good enough for day-to-day use.

Digression time: A word to the wise; to the average guy, the base makes for a wonderful piece of functional sculpture. If you are a single guy, this is fine; plant it, plug it in and enjoy. If, however, you are sharing a bathroom with a female of the species, prepare for battle or compromise; she will probably consider it an eyesore that that takes up half of her vanity. In her eyes, that space would be better used for… well, a bunch of  items that most men cannot readily identify. And so your monstrosity will need to be relegated to a cupboard somewhere it cannot be seen. Fools will choose battle; veterans of such campaigns will know that the bathroom is hers, and you only enter that hallowed ground at her pleasure… Digression over; let’s take a closer look at the shaver, shall we?

  • 13,000CPM (13KHz!) motor: This makes it high-pitched — more of a hum than a buzz. It is also rather louder in use than I had expected, but faster and noisier is often better. Stop giggling in the back, you…
  • Pop-up trimmer.
  • Cleaning mode: Press and hold the power button to engage “turbo mode” (an extra-fast mode used for cleaning).
  • Floating heads, with a switch that locks them into position.
  • Charge percentage readout.
  • Wet and Dry use.

The first use — a dry-shave with a little baby oil to smooth things along — resulted in an “OK” shave. Not great, just OK. Not quite as good as a blade, but better than the Norelco — and every other electric shaver I have ever owned. What was surprising was how comfortable my face felt afterward. No soreness, and so little discomfort that several times during the day I found myself checking my face, convinced that I had forgotten to shave.

At the end of the shave — which was longer than expected — the charge readout had dropped from 100% to 90%, which suggests that either that my definition of a “shave” is not the same as Panasonic’s, or that their power claims are exaggerated, not that they would ever do that…

Sunday rolled around, and for the first time in ages my trusty old Fusion stayed in the cabinet. This time I took the new shaver into the shower, dabbed some shower gel on my face and went to town.

What… a… difference.

As smooth and close as anything that the razor could do, but without the discomfort and soreness that I am so used to. One thing that I noticed is that when shaving difficult areas such as the neck, you get better results if you lock down the floating heads and use lots of pressure.

Seven hours later, as I write this, it still feels smooth. The only negative thing that I can say is that the charge readout had dropped from 90% to 70%. This is not necessarily a disaster; since it only goes in 10% increments. Also, it is early days, and the battery may need several cycles to get up to speed..

Summing up, first the good points:

  • Two year Warranty! In a world where warranties are heading down to one year (and in some cases, 90 days), this is a welcome change.
  • Very smooth shave.
  • Gorgeous looking — one reviewer referred to this as “The Lexus of shavers”, and they weren’t wrong. The wood burl finish did not hurt, either.

Now for the bad news:

  • The box boasts “One-pass shaving”. That’s an outrageous lie. Or marketing (which is often the same thing). This is not a fault or a criticism; they just shouldn’t make claims like this. Perhaps it is just the way God made my face – I need multiple passes even with a five-blade Gillette Contour…
  • One sheet of paper contains a price-list of parts. Some are quite reasonable, such as the plastic cap ($0.72) and the base ($40) — while others such as the blades ($26) and foil ($40) are ridiculous, particularly given that they recommend changing the blades every year and the foil every two. Fortunately these items can be purchased elsewhere for at least 30% less, which alleviates the pain somewhat.
  • The back of that same piece of paper contains a “30-day Quality Satisfaction Guarantee”. This is interesting because elsewhere in the package is _another_ piece of paper that exhorts you to “STICK WITH IT” (and yes, it’s in capitals) for 30 days. Hmmmmm…

Bottom line: After a month of daily use, I have found it to be an able and enjoyable way to keep my face soft and smooth in a rough, hard world. Her Ladyship concurs.

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