Philips Norelco SensoTouch 3D 8900 (1280xcc or 1280x/42) Review by Chris Schuepfer
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Everyone expected computers to evolve and now we have tablets. Few, yours truly included, expected electric shavers to become so high tech, but certain aspects are showing up even here. The Philips 1280x/42 (also called 1280xcc or 8900) is a great example.
Fortunately, the ‘old-fashioned’ virtues – great shave, secure handling, quality manufacturing, and ease of use – are still very much present.
High Tech Features
The 1280x/42 shaver in Philips’ Norelco SensoTouch 3D line (Series 8000) illustrates well how technology is advancing even in the well-developed area of electric shavers. Sure, words like GyroFlex 3D, Skin Glide, and so forth may be for marketing purposes. But they also describe features that exist and provide real value.
The GyroFlex 3D Contour Following system, for example, offers more than just a ’50s Space Age appearance. Philips has tackled that age-old dilemma of creating a mass market shaver tailored to fit a particular person.
Here, each part moves independently, flexing as it goes to follow the contours of your face. The head can flex in 3 ways: the entire shaving head assembly can tilt at any angle. At the same time, the individual shaving heads themselves can move towards the center and the shaving head holders can move out independently.
UltraTrack – Super Lift & Cut
“UltraTrack” could easily be written off as just another consumer product buzzword. But, surprising this old skeptic, it actually does work. 3 specialized shaving tracks work together to catch every hair: channels get the longish hairs and shorter slots work on the medium ones, while holes take care of stubble.
At the same time something Philips calls Super Lift & Cut – a buzzphrase if I ever heard one – actually does what it says. The first of a pair of blades lifts the hairs up so the second can whack it off comfortably below skin level for a close, even shave just like your manual double-blade razor.
AquaTec & SkinGlide
And, to top it off, the AquaTec seal lets you use the shaver in the shower. If you prefer wet shaving with a shaving cream or gel, even when using an electric, you can do that safely. I’m raising my hand enthusiastically here!
If you prefer a dry shave naturally that’s no problem. The low-friction SkinGlide shaving surface takes care not to give you razor burn. Before you know it these guys are going to convince me that the marketing department took their cues from the engineers, contrary to the usual practice.
Display and Controls
Examining the display and controls reveals even more high tech features, ones that made me think shavers are becoming computers.
First, there’s the electronic touch Off-On. Most guys won’t be impressed with this, and they’re probably right. But I’m a sucker for gadgets and I love the way they can make the power button invisible yet avoid accidental starts or stops.
More important for practical purposes is the well-illuminated Power Level/Minutes Remaining indicator right in the middle. The Cleaning Indicator is a little faucet icon.
Back on the practical side, there’s a Blocked Shaving Heads indicator. Fortunately, it has never come on after months of use. There’s also a Replacement Shaving Unit indicator. That, too, has never come on in months of real-world use and with a two year warranty I’m hoping it never does. With my medium-tough beard, I’m betting it won’t.
One other nice feature is the Travel Lock. I never have trouble with my electric shaver turning on by accident in my suitcase. Some, I suppose, might. Maybe it’s the way I pack or just sheer luck. It requires only a 3-second press and you’re fully secure; similarly a 3-second push unlocks it. Cool.
Jet Clean System
Taking care of the 1280x/42 – a must to extend the life to maximum – is easy. The 1280x/42 comes with Philips’ automatic Jet Clean System which serves as a charger too.
It features 3 cleaning programs: an eco program, auto program and a more thorough intensive cleaning program. The cleaning cycle takes about 5 minutes followed by a 2-hour drying cycle. The eco program reduces that drying cycle with 1 hour while the cleaning cycle in the intensive program takes about 30 minutes.
The HQ200 Jet Clean cleaning solution is a mixture of alcohol and oil, so it ought to be inexpensive but – as usual with these clever products – it’s not. Expect to clean and refill the canister about every 2 to 3 weeks if you clean your razor every day.
Still, you can stretch it out a long time by a water rinse after use. One of the reasons I like to use it in the shower is for just that purpose. With a well-sealed unit like this rinsing the heads is safe even if you pop the head off. If you want to clean it without solution or water that’s an option. Philips includes a useful brush for that purpose.
Because the SensoTouch 3D shavers can easily be cleaned manually, the Jet Clean System is not really necessary but it may come in handy occasionally. It deep-cleans and helps preserve the heads in a way that simple rinsing won’t and it’s certainly easier than scrubbing.
If you’re looking for basically the same shaver but without automatic cleaning system, look for the SensoTouch 3D models with /40 in the model name like the 1250x/40, 1280x/40 or 1290x/40. These shavers are less expensive in purchase and the cleaning solution which has to be replaced every few uses does not add to the cost of ownership.
For a more in-depth comparison between the different SensoTouch 3D shavers click here.
To some buyers charging and shaving time will be insignificant; others might see them as decisive. It takes about an hour to charge the 1280x/42 from dead empty to full. At that point, it will deliver about 60 minutes of shave time or 20 days, according to the official specs.
Note, the “days” figure only means that Philips is assuming an average time to shave of about three minutes. If you can shave that fast, great. On average, I would assume at least twice that shaving time but maybe I’m a bit slow.
Keep in mind, however, that these are averages and optimal ones at that. For sure, you’ll typically get that full amount with a new shaver and for some time after that. Over time, it will almost certainly go down. Eventually, there’s no doubt it will; all rechargeable batteries fade to some degree as they’re recharged many times.
One (admittedly minor) annoyance is that the design doesn’t allow for cord-attached shaving. If the battery is dead you have to wait until the unit recharges. That also means you might have to take along the charger on a trip. Bummer. Luckily there’s a quick-charge feature charging the shaver enough in a few minutes to give you enough juice for one modest-length shave.
I said at the outset that the old-fashioned features hadn’t been neglected in the race to appear high tech. When I hold this shaver I can feel that. True, it looks up-to-the-hour contemporary; that GyroFlex head on a thin neck looks almost like something out of the Aliens movies. But the shaver feels secure and has a Goldilocks weight – not too heavy, not too light – and overall is well balanced.
Is the Philips Norelco 1280x/42 the best electric shaver on the market? I don’t know any way to answer that objectively. But I do think there’s a good case to be made that it’s excellent and it’s not just because this model is so high tech. It just gives great shaves.