There are times when choosing an electric shaver from so many choices is a pain. Probably that’s most of the time. Then there are those golden moments when you simply can’t go wrong.
When deciding between one of the Norelco Series 9000 models – see official Press Release here – this is definitely one of those moments.
|Clean&Charge Station||SmartClean||SmartClean Pro|
|Cleaning Cartridge|| JC30x |
x= number of cartridges
| JC30x |
x= number of cartridges
|Battery Level Indicator||5 levels||numeric %|
|Charging Time||1 hr||1 hr|
|Cordless Shaving||up to 50 min||up to 50 min|
|Quick Charge||5 min||5 min|
|Shaving With Cord|
|Replace Shaving Head Indicator|
|Shaving Head Replacement||SH90||SH90|
|Where to Buy?||Best Price||Best Price|
Basic Design & Features
I can’t always say I’ve been thrilled with an electric shaver. Sure, there are tons of good ones on the market. But the cost – and the negatives – sometimes make it a thankless task to choose one model.
In the case of selecting, say, the Norelco S9721 over the Norelco S9311, it’s a joy. There’s just no way to miss. The overwhelming reason it’s both easy and tough is that they have so much in common.
The body is the same size: roughly 3.1″ x 2.2″ x 6.2″. They weigh the same. They sport the same overall shape and look – the now familiar tapering, three-headed bar that looks as much like a space bug as a shaver. The coloring is slightly different between the two models but they both look manly.
The explanation for the similarity is no mystery. They are the same shaver, more or less. The shaver itself is a nearly identical unit. Most of the differences lie in the shaver’s display and some on the cleaning unit.
Before I get to the differences, though, please indulge me for a minute to outline the similarities. They’re innovative enough that, even though they’re incorporated in both models, they’re worth explaining briefly.
You’ll notice on both models the same three speed settings: slow, medium, fast. That slow setting works well for guys with sensitive skin.
Each one is ergonomically well designed. Each lays out the On-Off, speed setting, and other controls within your thumb’s reach. Both have a number of helpful indicators. The head pops off or on the same way on each shaver.
Likewise, you’ll notice the same digital interface. It’s not the most complex of all the available shavers on the market. But it’s one of the best designed, chiefly because it’s so easy to follow. There are a couple of differences I’ll describe later.
Sure, you can look at the foil pattern on the three heads and see a complex pattern. Around the rim is a series of angled slots that are great at tackling longer hair. The inner portion of the disc helps get the shorter ones, as well as picking everything up that might be lying flat, such as those on the neck.
Even so, it’s what happens under that cover that really seals the deal.
Inside is an entirely new blade design. Philips calls it V-Track, but they look more U-shaped to me. Semantics aside, they whirl around and whack whiskers with much more ease than even the already-good SensoTouch 3D models.
Naturally, that would be a disaster if all they did was clamp, grab, and pull. Fortunately, by stellar design and equally good manufacturing, they’re sharp and extremely precise. The tolerances between the blade and foil head leave no room for error, and there isn’t any.
If that all sounds like a sales pitch from Philips, all you have to do is look at the real-world results. Review after review tells the same story. Both the 9300 and 9700 give a close, irritation-free shave in a very short amount of time.
It’s close and comfortable because of the fine blade and foil system I just outlined. It can do the third – get you finished fast – because of a highly mobile head movement system.
The head is designed and built in “layers”. The bottommost components tilt forward and backward, the middle layer left and right. A ring atop that teeter-totters left and right, but at a 90 degree angle to the middle section.
The combination allows each head to independently move in any of eight different directions – something Philips labeled Contour Detect Technology. On top of that, the head assembly as a whole swivels. Just watch the excellent video below to see the blade and foil system in action.
The net effect is to provide one of the most mobile electric shaver heads around. Considering the competition – chiefly Braun and Panasonic, both of whom make excellent shavers – that’s a pretty nifty accomplishment. That might sound like hyperbole – I’d certainly be skeptical – until you use the thing. Then you find that it really does get everywhere.
It’s rare, in fact unprecedented so far as I know, to be able to do one, or at most two passes, along the underside of the jaw line and get a clean shave there. It’s equally unknown to do that without irritation.
A final similarity lies in the precision trimmer. Because of the head design it can’t be integrated into the body. That’s a minor inconvenience but it’s more than made up for by the superior performance. Unlike so many built-in trimmers, this thing you’ll actually want to use.
One, admittedly minor, difference is in the display. The 9700 features a battery level indicator that can’t be beat. It features large, easy-to-read numbers. Rather than just a hard-to-read light bar, it actually shows a number from 0-100%.
Even so, there’s a low-level battery indicator, as well. Besides lighting up it also blinks. Normally, I’m annoyed by blinking lights on shavers. Here, it’s an advantage. You’re never going to fail to see it when it’s needed.
Sadly, the 9300 lacks that helpful number display. It relies on the more-common bar display – in this case 5 levels. If you’re not terribly interested in knowing accurately how much shaving time you’ve got left, it’s not a big drawback. If you travel a lot, it might matter more.
Both do show the same Replacement indicator that is supposed to tell you when to get a new blade set (SH90). In my experience, it’s not terribly helpful.
You expect companies to be fairly conservative there. They have an incentive to sell you new ones, after all. But usability / lifetime of cutting components varies so much from one person to the next.
It depends on how tolerant you are to dullness. It varies with frequency of use, cleaning frequency and method, and other variables. Without measuring the actual blade sharpness somehow, they’re stuck with doing it via number of uses or total shaving time. Neither can be more than an estimate. So, the idea is pretty useless. Still, it does no harm and it’s not annoying when lit. Easy to ignore.
The SmartClean System – the “holding tub” / charging stand that comes with your electric shaver – is another source of difference between the 9300 and 9700 models. Whether it’s major or minor depends mostly on your point of view. Below is a short video showing you how the system works.
Each model’s stand provides an easy-to-use and thorough cleaning and drying cycle for the shaver. The cartridge (JC30x) (with x = number of cartridges) is large, efficient, and long-lasting. In part, that’s due to a dual-filter that keeps whiskers from polluting the cleaning solution.
Both systems have the same drawbacks, though.
They’re too big at the base, requiring an unfortunate amount of counter space. For a lot of guys, that’s not going to be important. But if you live in an apartment where bathroom counter space is at a premium, it’s something to consider.
More importantly, they’re not the most stable units around. A modest amount of finger pressure on the top, especially with the shaver in place, can cause it to tip backward. You can let go without hurting anything. But by that time you’ve probably spilled out a regrettable quantity of cleaning fluid inside the base.
The differences merit, in Philips’ view, a difference in name. I’m not convinced. One is called the Smart Clean (S9311/84) and the other the Smart Clean Pro (S9721/84). The latter name is gibberish but the distinction is real.
Both provide a Charging indicator, Cleaning indicator, Drying indicator, and tell you when it’s Cartridge Replacement time. They have the same controls. The Pro unit adds a Progress bar showing the progress of cleaning and drying cycle.
If you’re really insistent on knowing just how far along in the cycle your cleaning system has reached, that last feature might be important. I can’t imagine it being looked at very often, though. Who checks over their cleaner for an hour or more? Moreover, if you’re in a hurry, you’re most likely going to clean the shaver by hand, or not at all.
They also both have the same odd, four-hour drying time. I haven’t been able to figure out why it would take a system that draws up to 9 watts so long to dry the head of a razor. Frankly, it can air dry quicker than that. But there it is.
Apart from that, charging the shavers work the same. There are 2 ways to charge – via the power cord provided in the package or via the SmartClean stand.
Both shavers require the same charge time – 1 hour to get 50 minutes of cordless shave time – along with the same quick charge ability. Charge the shaver for five minutes and you get enough power for one shave. Strangely, neither unit will work with the recharging cord plugged into the shaver.
Minor differences aside, the Norelco 9300 and the Norelco 9700 are the same shaver. Whether the substantial price difference is justified is a purely personal decision. If you absolutely want to see the exact battery level, and value a progress bar on the cleaning stand, opt for the 9721. Otherwise, save yourself some cash and get the same great shave from the 9311.