Phillips Norelco has modernized its previous razor designs with the arcitec 1090, a slim and positively forward-looking razor that fits perfectly in your hand and promises shaving improvements. We happen to have a older Norelco razor of the previous design on hand here, and over the past two weeks have been comparing this latest Norelco arcitec's innovations with its previous generation in a hands-on, or should we say, face-on review. Let's sum up our experience in a few bullet points:
• The arcitec is beautifully designed, and its three lift-and-cut heads are situated on an unusual-looking articulating stalk.
• Each individual head can also tilt forward and back, in an attempt to get the heads to stay in more constant contact with facial contours.
• This thing is loud. It's not deafening, but it's about twice as loud as its predecessor, which makes a pleasantly soft whirring noise. This arcitec is a lot more shrill. It's especially noisy when shaving on the side of your face near your ears.
• Its pop-up trimmer is way too narrow and not as effective as the older models.
• It has a beautiful case into which it fits so perfectly it's like a little coffin especially made for it. But the case takes up more room than the razor by itself would, making it a little less convenient for travelers than previous designs, which just need a small head cover to protect them in your overnight bag.
• To remove whiskers and debris, each rotating head must be lifted individually to shake out the hairs, a lot less convenient than the older model which just popped up the three heads at once with a quick button push.
• A cool-looking blue LED display tells you precisely how many minutes you have left until you need to charge the battery again.
• The arcitec's charger works with electronic induction, similar to the way a lot of electric toothbrushes work, where there's nothing to plug in—you just set it down and it begins charging.
• This is by far the best-looking razor we've ever seen.
Summing up, even though Philips Norelco says these heads are newer/better/more advanced, we didn't notice any improvement in their ability to cut facial hair any closer or more easily. In fact, our old Norelco 9190 XL did a better job of shaving than this arcitec 1090, and that old razor's cutting heads needed replacing about a year ago. Nor was there any difference when shaving difficult areas such as the neck and chin. Those of us here who tried the arcitec were unanimous in our agreement that it's more of a pretty industrial design than an improvement in functionality. Overall, it's a disappointment hardly worth its $240 purchase price. [Amazon]