Wet or dry? That’s the question men have faced since the invention of the electric shaver. For years, I used Braun electric shavers, but they weren’t waterproof and I got tired of buying refills for the cleaning base, so I switched to the vibrating Gillettes a year ago. They’re good, reliable shavers – but they’re also a little… boring.
I thought about getting a new, waterproof Braun, or a Panasonic, but I saw the Philips Norelco RQ1090 in the Virgin Atlantic inflight catalogue, and made yet another impulse purchase.
The 1090 is supposed to be the top of the line model in the already high-end arcitec series. But it’s not. There are in fact, so many different variants of the same basic model, that Philips very kindly included a cheat sheet in the box.
On Amazon, you’ll find yet more model numbers with various suffixes – 1090X, XD, XCC, etc. I did a little research (I’m that thorough) and they all have the same guts, the only differences being the displays (base models have a basic on/off/battery charge indicator, mid-models have a row of LEDs and top models have a numeric display), accessories, and finishes.
I knew I wasn’t getting the Jet Clean base, but I was miffed that the Power Pod travel charger/storage case wasn’t included. It’s $80 if you want to get the Power Pod separately, and you can only purchase one directly from Philips. So what do you get for your $200? Not much – there’s the shaver, a little plastic cap, a charging stand, an itsy-bitsy brush (that I’ve already lost) and inexplicably, not one but two AC adapters.
The Braun shavers were heavy and solid, but it sometimes felt like I was shaving with a brick. The 1090 is more ergonomically shaped, and lighter. The 109X models even have carbon fiber side plates.
Performance-wise, I’m glad to report that the 1090 gives a very close shave, almost on par with wet shaving, and better than the Braun shavers I’ve used before. With the Braun shavers, getting a good shave sometimes involved mashing the shaver against my face, and I got a fair number of nicks that way. If you’re used to conventional shavers, it might take a while to get used to the triple-headed design of the arcitec shavers. The individual heads flex to follow the shape of your face, but it feels odd at first. Because the user guide recommends shaving in a circular motion, and the surface area of the heads is so large, it doesn’t feel very precise. I found that the best method was to go over the same area a few times, quickly, in a motion not dissimilar to buffing a car or shoe. Good thing then, that the 1090 is very comfortable – no pinching, and no nicks – so far. There’s also a trimmer for sideburns and touchups. The 1090 is relatively quiet, compared to the Braun. The 1090 sort of whirs, while the Braun shavers I had buzzed very loudly. The same is true of my Braun Triumph and Philips Sonicare toothbrushes, so maybe they use the same motors for toothbrushes and shavers… or something.
Cleaning up is a breeze. Just flick open the heads and run under hot water. It’s not mentioned in the user guide if the entire unit is waterproof, so that you can shave in the shower. I’d assume not, because they also advise against wet shaving.
Philips recommends that you change the head unit every two years. You just pop the whole thing off and plug in a new one.
One thing I’m wary about is the construction of the shaver – sure, it’s made in Holland – European quality and all that. But the neck and head are made of a brittle feeling plastic, and I’ve managed to accidentally detach the shaving head more than once.
Even worse – the plastic cap that you slip over the heads to protect them, gouges the soft plastic that the head unit is made of. Over time, the plastic wears down so that the cap doesn’t even fit tightly any more. In light of this, the omission of a hard storage case is simply ridiculous, but then again, I guess that’s what the two-year worldwide guarantee is there for. Battery life is impeccable – 65 minutes, or two weeks of normal use when fully charged. It takes about an hour to charge fully, and if you’re in a hurry, a five-minute ‘Quick Charge’ mode gives you enough juice for one shave.
I like the Philips Norelco 1090. It’s quiet and comfortable and shaves well. Just make sure you know exactly which model and what accessories you’re getting when you make your purchase.
What I Like: Smooth, clean, comfortable shave; quiet; ergonomic design; easy to maintain; long battery life; cool looks; real carbon fiber.
What Could Be Improved: Storage case not included; protective cap scratches head unit.
Price: £155/about $225 on Virgin Atlantic – don’t buy it there. You don’t get the Power Pod.
$224 at Amazon.com, with Power Pod storage case/travel charger. $40 Amazon.com voucher with purchase of $139 worth of select Philips products in the Health and Personal Care department until 31 May 2009.