If you are thinking about going for the foil electric shaver, then Braun Series 9 and Arc 5 are the absolute best. Both excel in what they are supposed to do – shaving. Yet there are some differences. The German made Braun S9 sticks to the minimalistic “less is more” style while Panasonic bows to the Japanese philosophy “efficiency and functionality.” But let’s take a closer look and see how do they perform when compared to one another.
Pros & Cons
What They Have In Common
Both electric shavers are top of the line products of their respective brands. These two electric shavers have more in common than you might think. Both offer close shave, effortless maneuverability, and come with a similar number of accessories. Here’s a rundown of other important similarities:
- Wet&Dry use
- Cleaning and charging station
- Battery capacity
- Can be used and cleaned under running water
- Both give a smooth and comfortable shave
What Makes Them Different
More crucial than similarities and what usually helps me make a decision is where they differ. Only by understanding what you are giving up can you make an informative decision. Take a look at the main points where these two Series diverge:
- Cutting power (CPM)
- Number of cutting elements
- Handling curly and flat hair
- Shave comfort
- Ease of maintenance and cleaning
They are similar in features but differ mostly in user experience. But before we dive in and start our thorough review, I want to clear the confusion surrounding these models. Both series have had updates, and while older models are being phased out, there are still plenty of them circling.
Panasonic has manufactured its high-end Arc 5 line shavers for years, and numerous different models are circling. Same with Braun Series 9 shavers which were first introduced around 2014 and got updated soon after that.
There are currently four generations of Panasonic Arc 5 shavers and two generations of Braun Series 9:
Panasonic Arc 5
Braun Series 9
Braun S9 has more model numbers than those presented in the table, but the main difference is in color.
Panasonic Arc 5
The main difference between the first and second generation is the charging station. The First generation used detergent cartridges which were not very economical. The second generation introduced detergent sachets that reduced the cleaning costs considerably.
With the third generation, Panasonic introduced the 3D active suspension which means that the head moves back and forth, left and right, up and down. Also, two titanium-coated smooth rollers were added to reduce friction between the shaver and skin. This also means that the third generation is not compatible with the second generation charging station. Soon after the third generation came out, it was upgraded. See the illustration below.
The fourth generation came out two years after the third. A most significant change was the new 5D-active suspension. Like the name implies the heard really moves in all directions. It means that it retains good skin contact while keeping the cutting angle most optimal no matter the area you are shaving. Also new “HyperLift&Cut trimmer” was introduced which should handle longer growth better. And a new smart lock function means that the shaver recognizes when you are holding it and turns on and turns off once you put it down.
Braun Series 9
Braun came out with Series 9 in 2014-2015. It didn’t take them long to upgrade it though which resulted in a lot of confusion. Till this day you can see various Braun models available all claiming to be Series 9. The complexity rises because Braun gave each finish a different model number. So, for example, 9090cc and 9050cc are the same, both come with cleaning station but one is black and the other silver colored.
The main difference between first and second generation is that all models with numbers starting 92XX are wet use compatible. Also, second-generation models cannot be used while charging. Some first generation models supported this feature.
Besides the three main models we mentioned in our table there are actually numerous others but like I told in the beginning the difference between these is mainly cosmetics. From the buyers perspective, it is more important to understand which model is the original and which is the update version than the individual differences between models.
Shaving Quality: Which One Is Better
Let’s start our comparison with the most critical question. Which of the two delivers closer shave. But remember it is not only about closeness. It is also about how fast the shaver cuts hair (cuttings per minute = CPM). This reduces the time and needless passes when shaving. And as most men know, the close and efficient shave is essential, but you want to avoid also razor burn while achieving that.
For sensitive skin and curly beards go with the Braun
Series 9 has four cutting elements run by for motors capable of delivering 10 000 cuttings per minute. This adds up to 40 000 CMP which is a lot less than Arc 5’s 70 000. Braun Series 9 gives exceptionally close shave, but if closeness is you main goal then you should look for the Arc 5.
When we consider the ability to cut flat-lying and curly hair Braun has the better design out of the two. HyperLift & Cut trimmer coupled with the Direct & Cut trimmer that was introduced in the Series 9 seems to handle better those stubborn flat hairs. Arc 5 may have one cutting element more, but if you think about it, 4 out of the 5 cutting elements are still foils.
Panasonic Arc 5
For a fast and efficient shave go with the arc 5
With its 14 000 CPM motor (cuttings per minute) and five cutting elements, it has the fastest motor of all the electric shavers available as well as the highest number of cutting elements of these two. But all those cutting movements also generate a lot of heat. This causes the foil to get warm. It will not get scalding hot, but it can be noticeable. Some men dislike the sensation and out of the two Arc 5 is more prone to this. Panasonic Arc 5 also has a curved head hence the name Arc. This provides more intimate contact with the skin when shaving. The aggressive bevel grind of 30º adds to the overall efficiency of this electric shaver. All these features make the Arc5 series one of the closest shaving electric shaver available.
Wet & Dry Use
Wet shaving is something that can be rather enjoyable. Trying out different shaving creams and soaps can add variety to the otherwise mundane task of shaving. Add to this all the different shaving brushes, and you got yourself a hobby.
But this isn’t just about trying out new things. Proper pre-shave preparation coupled with good lather reduces razor burn and provides a closer shave. This was something that used to be a major benefit of traditional shaving with straight and safety razors. But with the new electric shavers, you can also enjoy these benefits because both the latest Braun S9 and Panasonic Arc 5 models support wet use.
Can be used with shaving creams and gels but the cleaning afterward is tedious even with C&C station
Braun S9 second generation models (all models with 92XX) support wet use. All these models can be used in a shower or bath, and they are water resistant up to 5 m. The main issue is cleaning afterwards, unfortunately. You have to thoroughly clean the shaver under water before you can put it inside the cleaning station. Sort of neglects the whole purpose of the cleaning station in my view. Brauns interpretation of wet use it seems is very literal.
Panasonic Arc 5
Panasonic models are easier to clean so if you want to wet shave, go with the Arc 5 models
Panasonic Arc 5 models since the second generation all support wet use. You can use them under a shower or in the bath. They are more convenient to use because after finishing your shave with shaving cream/gel, just toss the shaver inside the cleaning station. You don’t have to rinse it under water before you do it.
Build quality and ergonomics
Braun S9 and Panasonic Arc 5 are the cream of the crop when we discuss different electric shavers. For the price tag, it is surprising that only Panasonic Arc 5 latest models have an aluminum outer casing. While Braun S9 models have a quality feel about them, it can’t beat the solid feel of metal. Regrettably latest Arc 5 models are hard to come by, and if you manage to grab one, it usually means higher price tag.
If its design and ergonomics you are looking for go with Braun S9
Braun is German made and has a long history of beautiful industrial design. Before there was Apple, there was Braun! Sadly our current age of mass production and high competition has had its toll on Brauns design. While they stick to clean design bordering minimalism and excellent ergonomics you can’t shake the feeling that the plastic (yes, it is made out of plastic!) will fall apart in a few years’ time. From a purely aesthetic point of view, I like Braun design more, and the shaving head is less bulky, but the quality of materials is lacking as well as the chromed version is a fingerprint magnet.
Panasonic Arc 5
For those who value sturdiness above else go with the Arc 5
Panasonic Arc 5 third and fourth generation have a housing made out of aluminum. This makes it much sturdier and also it just feels better in your hand. The design language in the first and the second generation were something too futuristic for my taste. There is a fine line between looking cutting edge yet being minimalistic and just being too Star Wars. Panasonic made a move to the right direction with its third generation electric shaver, and its latest 4th gen looks stunning. When it comes down to ergonomics, I have to give that one to Braun. Arc 5 head is rather big, and while you get used to it, it is still bothersome to handle in tight spaces
Cleaning & Maintenance
When we discuss cleaning and maintenance, we have to consider the following aspects. How easy it is to clean the shaver without cleaning station because not all models come with C&C station. How easy it is to clean the shaver with the cleaning station. If operating the cleaning station is confusing or takes too much time then you will be better off without it. Also, what are the costs running the station, will it do its job and what are the overall maintenance costs over time.
If you are looking Braun S9 electric shavers, you should go with a model that comes with cleaning station (CC)
Braun S9 shavers are hard to clean without the cleaning station. This is because the blades and foils cannot be separated from one another – they come as one unit called cassette. So removing hairs inside and between the blades manually is not possible. The cleaning station itself works reasonably well. Changing the cleaning cartridges is an easy and straightforward task that doesn’t take long to do. You should replace the cleaning cartridge every 6-8 weeks. But if you use your C&C station only a few times a week and apply these tricks you can make it last a lot longer. The cassette should be replaced every 18 months. Costs related to cleaning and maintenance are considerable if you compare it to traditional shaving. But compared to each other they are almost the same.
Panasonic Arc 5
Arc 5 models are easier to clean because you can access the cutting blades. This makes the cleaning station optional
Panasonic Arc 5 can be cleaned relatively easy without the cleaning station. This is because you can remove the foils independently so that you are able to remove the hairs that get stuck inside the foil and between the cutting blades. Also, Panasonic Arc5 models have sonic vibration cleaning feature which essentially means that the razor vibrates vigorously and by doing this gets rid of loose hair. Truth to be told you can achieve the same effect when you just turn on your shaver while cleaning. This is actually what Braun recommends doing when you clean its shavers. So this feature is mostly marketing gimmick by Panasonic. With the third generation appeared the cleaning sachets which are considerably more affordable than the previous cartridges. It is recommended to use one cleaning sachet per month. Compared to cartridges they are more annoying to use.
Accessories and Battery
When it comes down to accessories both companies provide pretty much similar set. You get the shaver, power cord, a brush and if you bought the models with the c&c station then also that and a starting cartridge/sachet. Both series are also equipped with Lithium-Ion batteries that have the same capacity.
The S9 quick charge function is a handy feature should you be in a hurry. In 5 minutes you have enough for one shave
Most models come with a travel pouch. I wouldn’t call power cord an accessory as it is an essential item without which you can not use the shaver. Some models come with a charging station and have a CC behind the model number. Newer S (solo models, without the cleaning and charging station) models come with a charging stand. What makes Braun S9 stand out is the quick power charge option. This has the benefit of charging your electric shaver in 5 minutes enough to provide one shave. The charging stand is a nice addition to the second generation models. This takes less space than the C&C station and looks much more elegant in your bathroom than just keeping the shaver plugged to the power socket. Average charging time with all of these charging alternatives is around 60 minutes. When fully loaded it provides about 50 minutes of shaving time. So you get around 10-15 shaves once fully charged.
Panasonic Arc 5
Arc 5 lacks the quick charge function, unfortunately. But the protective cap is a nice extra accessory that protects the foil
Like Braun S9, all Arc5 models come with a travel pouch. There is one additional accessory also. This simple yet useful addition is the protective cap. While you rarely use it at home, this comes handy when traveling. The outer foil can be damaged (highly unlikely when in travel pouch) if you don’t pay attention where you toss the shaver if in a hurry. To avoid this use the protective cap. When it comes to charging you have the standard AC power cord and also some models come with the charging station. There is no charging stand nor quick charge function. Charging is similar to Braun S9. It takes around one hour to fully charge the shaver which will provide depending on how long you usually shave approximately 10 to 15 shaves.
5 cutting elements
14 000 CPM motor
Active shaving sensor
Sonic vibration cleaning
Shaver head can be locked
Charging and cleaning station
Charging time 1h
Smooth rollers – reduces friction
Both electric shavers are top notch. It is hard to recommend one over another because the two are neck and neck in providing the closest and most efficient shave.
If it is shaving speed, you appreciate then Panasonic Arc5 might present most value to you. But if you have sensitive skin or flat lying curly beard then Braun Series 9 might be better for you.