Once a war only waged amongst disposable razors, the engineering challenge of cramming as many blades as possible onto a razor has taken over electric shavers too. Panasonic’s Arc6 manages to squeeze in six cutting implements to hack and slash away all your stubble in fewer swipes, but does it outperform lesser razors enough to justify its $US400 ($555) price tag?
I absolutely hate shaving, don’t enjoy sporting a beard, and have no interest in pursuing any permanent hair removal solutions. I also find shaving with a disposable razor too messy, and have stuck with electric razors ever since my first few whiskers appeared. A rechargeable model can conveniently be used almost anywhere, but getting as close a shave as possible often requires countless swipes across the face, especially when tackling three or four days of stubble growth.
For the longest time, I’ve stuck with the cheapest electric razors I could find, but last year I finally decided to splurge on a pricier Braun Series 7 model, mostly because I was curious if spending more money would make shaving easier. The upgrade immediately made shaving less of a chore and was definitely worth the $US150 ($208) I spent, but it’s made me wonder if electric razors continue to offer improved performance if you throw even more money at them. The Panasonic Arc6 is more than twice the price of my Braun, but does it make shaving half as arduous?
Fist Impression: Intimidating
When I first pulled the Arc6 out of its box, I had the same impression as when I first saw an epilator: intimidation.
To someone who’s never used an electric razor before, even the foils and exposed blades on my simpler Braun razor would make them hesitant to drag it across their face. But next to the Arc6’s two lifting blades, two titanium-coated stubble-chopping blades, and two finishing blades, the Braun almost looks primitive by comparison.
Turning the razor on and off is a simple one-button affair, and below the power button, you’ll find a status display embedded beneath the razor’s plastic housing. One feature I particularly like is that the power button can only be activated when the razor detects it’s being held, otherwise it automatically enters a locked mode, preventing it from accidentally turning on and draining the battery while bouncing around inside a toiletries bag.
More Flex Than a Yoga Instructor
The blades on an electric razor work best when the shaver is positioned perpendicular to the face, but that’s not always an easy position to maintain given the contours of every face. To make keeping the blades flush against the skin while shaving easier, the Arc6 uses some extreme articulation.
Reminiscent of the ultra-flexible Steadicam camera rigs Hollywood uses, the Arc6’s cutting head sits atop an articulated mechanism that Panasonic claims provides 22 different directions of movement, including shock absorption to help protect both the user’s face and the blades.
There are times when that’s just too much flexibility, so on the back of the Arc6, there’s a sliding lock mechanism that can limit the head’s movement. Sliding it further also pops up a trimmer attachment. As with most electric razors, the Arc6 is designed to mostly tackle short stubble, not longer whiskers, so Panasonic suggests using this trimmer first to clear out a longer beard. That’s a bad idea. The trimmer is maybe useful for squaring off sideburns, but if you procrastinate on shaving as long as I do, I’d instead recommend pairing the Arc6 with a dedicated trimmer for dealing with longer whiskers, like a Philips OneBlade.
A Charging and Cleaning Station I Actually Might Use
I don’t care if you live in a one bedroom apartment or a sprawling billion dollar estate, there’s no such thing as having enough counter space in a bathroom; it will always disappear. I usually never use the counter-hogging charging and cleaning stations that many pricier electric razors ship with, and while the Arc6 can thankfully be purchased on its own without one, the optionally bundled dock might actually be worth keeping around.
Its footprint isn’t terribly gigantic, and it’s got two very useful features going for it.
The most convincing reason to use a dock like this is that it makes cleaning the razor effortless. You just stick it in, press a button, and the dock does the rest. Many companies use the dock as an opportunity to sell overpriced proprietary cleaning cartridges full of detergent that need to be regularly replaced — which is another reason I never used the one that came with my Braun razor.
But the Arc6’s dock features a pop-out tray you just fill with a mix of water and detergent. It’s easy to replenish and clean out as often as needed, although Panasonic does strongly warn against using anything other than its own special razor detergent. These come in little pouches and also serve to lubricate the razor’s cutting head.
The other feature I like about the Arc6’s dock is that it includes a built-in drying fan. It’s not as intense as a blow dryer — a wet razor won’t be dry in a matter of minutes — but it does expedite the drying process, which reduces the risk of mould or other undesirable growths appearing.
Is the dock necessary? I would say no. You can save yourself $US100 ($139) and just grab the Arc6 razor itself. Cleaning it manually is as simple as applying some hand soap to the blades and activating a cleaning mode that increases blade oscillations when you hold down the power button for a couple of seconds, then popping off the blades and giving everything a quick rinse and dry. It’s effortless, cheaper, and space-saving.
But What Does My Face Think?
Despite having an intimidating number of blades, the Arc6 provided one of the gentlest shaves I’ve ever had with an electric razor. My first shave tackled about three days worth of growth, and on some parts of my face, the Arc6 was able to hack away the stubble and leave a relatively smooth patch of skin in just a single pass.
The general idea of having so many blades is that they each focus on different lengths of hair as they sweep across the face, eventually leaving nothing behind. When used more frequently on days with less stubble growth, the Arc6 did an impressive job at leaving smooth skin behind. However, if you want the smoothest results, you’ll still need to spend a few minutes going over some areas again and again to deal with random stragglers. I usually spend about ten minutes on a shave after a couple of days of letting my face run wild, but the Arc6 definitely cut that down quite a bit.
The effectiveness of the Arc6 will diminish as the blades dull over time, but what I liked even more about the razor was the flexibility of the cutting head. My Braun shaver offers movement in just one direction, and it’s rare that I finish a shave without at least a nick on my Adam’s Apple as a result. The Arc6 dealt with this area easily, leaving smooth skin behind and no cuts to deal with afterwards. Like the comfortable ride you’ll get in a $US100 ($139),000+ sedan, the Arc6 makes shaving far more pleasant.
Worth the Splurge?
The $US400 ($555) question (or $US500 ($694) if you want that charging/cleaning dock too) is whether the Panasonic Arc6 is worth the splurge?
It certainly provides the most comfortable electric shave I’ve ever had, but even with a brand new set of sharp blades, I still found myself having to go over the same areas of my face again and again to get every last piece of stubble. That’s one of the drawbacks of using an electric razor, and one that Panasonic hasn’t solved with the Arc6.
Do I think it’s better than the Braun Series 7 I’ve been using for the past year? Absolutely. The Arc6 deals with a few days growth with ease, and its ability to match a face’s contours greatly minimizes the risk of nicks or cuts. Is it a necessary upgrade? You won’t be disappointed with the splurge, but at $US400 ($555), you can probably still spend half that much money and end up with an excellent shave from an electric razor. The Arc6 is expensive, and even more so when you factor in that Panasonic recommends replacing the cutting blades every year or year-and-a-half, depending on use, which will set you back $US115 ($160) each time. Do you need a Rolls Royce? No. Would you enjoy every second of owning one? Yes, and the Arc6 delivers a similarly satisfying experience.
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