The Best Rotary Shavers
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When reviewing electric shavers, you will quickly realize that there are two different shaving technologies. Rotary shavers, manufactured mainly by Philips Norelco, provide several advantages over foil shavers. For example, they contour better to the face while shaving, are much quieter, and are slightly better at cutting longer or coarser hairs.
However, most people should select a foil shaver like the Braun Series 7 or Panasonic Arc5 over a rotary shaver, even with these advantages. In most cases, foil shavers offer a closer and more comfortable shave than rotary shavers.
The rotary shavers reviewed and selected by us provide a great shave, but if you are not limited to rotary shavers, see our article on the best electric shavers.
We also have an article on the differences between rotary and foil shavers if you are interested in learning more about the two shaving technologies.
Rotary Shaver Advantages
A rotary shaver will provide a more comfortable shave if you shave every other day or less frequently. We have found that rotary shavers perform much better with 2 or 3-day stubble than most foil shavers. The exception for foil shavers is the Braun Series 9, which provided an excellent shave even with 3-day stubble.
We have found that rotary shavers can contour better around the face and neck than all foil shavers. This is because each shaving element moves independently vs. connected on foil shavers.
Finally, the noise produced by rotary shavers is considerably less than foil shavers.
Performance & Comfort
In terms of shaving performance and comfort, rotary shavers generally do not provide as close of a shave or as comfortable of a shave as foil shavers. However, we believe most people can get a good shave with our top picks.
The Philips Norelco Shaver 9700 and Philips Norelco Shaver 9000 Prestige offer a significant improvement over Philips’ cheap models in terms of rotary shaving performance. Although they may not provide as close a shave as a foil shaver, you won’t end up forever sporting a 5 o’clock shadow either.
Features and Accessories
When buying rotary shavers, we recommend that most people choose a model with a cleaning station. This is because rotary shavers are more challenging to clean than foil shavers, and having a clean shaver is essential to getting a comfortable shave.
These days, most electric shavers have similar features and accessories. Typically, top-tier models include a trimming attachment, a battery indicator, as well as a cleaning station.
BEST ROTARY SHAVER
Philips Norelco Shaver 9700
One of Philips’ most expensive shavers, the Philips Norelco Shaver 9700 offers the best overall shaving performance of any rotary shaver. The included clean & charge station is good, and the shaving head is very flexible. So if you are looking for the best rotary shaver, look no further.
Why did we choose it?
Both the Philips Norelco Shaver 9700 and our upgrade pick, the Philips Norelco Shaver 9000 Prestige, come from the same model line. The Series 9000 line is Philips’ top-of-the-line model that offers the latest features and shave performance.
Even though no rotary shaver can offer the same close shave as our favorite foil shavers, the Norelco Shaver 9700 provides the closest shave of any rotary shaver we have reviewed. The three rotating shaving heads are capable of moving in 8 directions which helps around the neck and jawline.
We’ve found that the Shaver 9700 performs better around the neck and jawline area than cheaper rotary or foil shavers. The space between the jaw line and the neck can be difficult to shave with most shavers. However, the Series 9000 shaving head provided us with the flexibility to shave the area in fewer passes than most electric shavers.
You will appreciate the comfort the Shaver 9700 can provide if you let your stubble grow for multiple days before shaving. Using the Shaver 9700, we were able to shave a three-day beard with little discomfort. Even though it’s still best to shave every day, it’s nice to know it won’t hurt if you skip a day.
A charge and clean station is also included with the Shaver 9700 so that you can enjoy a more comfortable and cleaner shave. Rotary shavers are harder to clean manually than foil shavers, and unless they are kept clean and lubricated after every use, their performance will slowly deteriorate.
Those who do not want to worry about taking apart the shaving head to clean and lubricate it will find the clean and charge station to be an excellent investment.
Shaver 9700 accessories include a travel case and trimmer attachment that can be used around the neck and sideburns. With a full charge, battery life is approximately 50 minutes, and a quick charge option is available.
Related: Philips Norelco Series 9000 Review
Philips Norelco Shaver 9000 Prestige
The Philips Norelco Shaver 9000 Prestige takes everything that makes the Shaver 9700 our top pick and improves it. The 9000 Prestige’s build quality is among the most impressive we have seen in any electric shaver. Furthermore, the shaving performance has been slightly improved and is competitive with that of the Braun Series 5 or Series 7. Unfortunately, Philips decided not to offer a 9000 Prestige model with a cleaning station.
Why did we choose it?
In 2018, Philips introduced an upgraded model to its Shaver 9000 line, the Shaver 9000 Prestige. Even though the design of the shaver hasn’t changed, the materials have been upgraded to a brushed aluminum finish. As far as looks are concerned, the Prestige models are some of the most visually appealing available.
While the design of the Prestige shaver appears similar to the Shaver 9300 or Shaver 9700 models, a number of improvements have been made.
The Prestige models come with upgraded shaving heads, which are more comfortable than those on the Norelco 9700. They have an anti-friction coating on the outside that makes them glide more smoothly and reduces irritation. Using a new cutting design within the shaving head, the hairs are less likely to pull when being cut. Combining these two changes creates a shave that is more comfortable than any rotary shaver yet.
Although the Prestige models demonstrate measurable improvements in shaving comfort, we didn’t see the same improvements in shaving performance. The closeness of the shave was about the same, and while shaving a two- or three-day stubble may be more comfortable, any longer is not recommended.
The Norelco Shaver 9000 Prestige includes a travel case and beard trimmer attachment. We think the most notable thing about the Norelco Shaver 9000 Prestige is what it does not include.
Even though it is the most expensive model in the Norelco range, this model does not come with a clean and charge station. This seems odd since both competitors in the same price range, the Braun Series 9 and Panasonic Arc5, include them.
While you can clean the shaver manually, it feels like a task that shouldn’t be necessary for the best model Philips makes. Battery life is similar to that of the Norelco 9700 model with approximately 50 minutes on a full charge and a quick charge option is available.
So why did we still choose the Philips Norelco Shaver 9000 Prestige as our upgrade pick?
Simply put, the Shaver 9000 Prestige delivers the closest and most comfortable shave of any rotary shaver we have reviewed. If you know you are looking for a rotary shaver and want the best on the market, this is your choice.
BUDGET ROTARY SHAVER
Philips Norelco Shaver 3800
For less than $100 you can get a strong shave with the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800. Even though the 3800 can be an excellent entry-level electric shaver, its closeness and performance are significantly lower than the 9700 and 9000 Prestige models. If you have a thin beard or want a shaver to take to the gym, this might be the shaver for you.
If the Shaver 9000 is out of your price range, the Philips Norelco Shaver 3800 offers many of the traditional rotary shaver advantages at a lower price. The Norelco 3800 replaces our old budget pick, the Norelco Shaver 4500. The design has been updated and it feels more premium. The well-designed LED battery indicator and charging stand make this shaver stand out amongst others in this price range.
With the Norelco 3800, the shaving head can be moved in five directions, compared to the Shaver 9000’s eight directions. As a result of the reduced amount of movement each shaving head is capable of, you must pass over the same area multiple times at slightly different angles. Some people may find that this results in a rougher shave but using shaving cream with the Norelco 3800 can make shaving more comfortable.
As you use the shaver, you may notice more tugging and pulling than with the Shaver 9000. In our experience, shaving every day can help reduce this feeling and improve comfort. If you shave every few days or so, then we don’t recommend the Norelco 3800.
The Norelco Shaver 3800 works in both wet and dry conditions and has a battery life of about 50 minutes. Like the other Norelco shavers, a 5-minute quick charge is available to provide enough power for 1 shave. A charging stand is included that makes it convenient to charge it between uses. The Norelco Shaver 3800 has a pop-up trimmer, which we prefer to the attachments on higher-end models. There is no cleaning station, so we recommend rinsing the shaver after each shave and lubricating it every month or so.
The Norelco 3800 punches above its weight in appearance and included accessories. If you have a thin beard or typically shave every day and are looking to spend under $100 than the Norelco Shaver 3800 is what you are looking for.
If you want to save some money, the Norelco Shaver 3500 is the same as the Shaver 3800 without the charging stand. Since the price difference is usually minimal, the Shaver 3800 is our pick for a budget rotary shaver.