I don't like shaving. In fact, I don't really know anybody that does. It's messy. It's time consuming. It's sometimes painful. I started using an electric shaver a while back, but I've still never been happy with it. The new Norelco 9700 gives me hope.
Norelco just announced a new flagship shaver as well as several updates to its grooming line. It's the first addition to the new 9000 series, and it looks a lot like the most recent addition to the 8000 series. I recently added the Norelco to my morning routine and have to admit that it works pretty damn well -- here's why.
What's especially noteworthy about this razor is that it uses a new type of blade. Norelco calls it V-Track Precision Technology. Instead of being equipped with flat blades, the blades are v-shaped so that they cut closer to the skin. Norelco says the new blades cut 30 per cent closer than other electric shavers which, to be honest, sounds a bit like a made up number. However, compared to both my older, cheaper Remington shaver and even the newer, goofier Gillette razor, the Norelco 9700 did indeed offer a closer shave. Irritation and nicks weren't an issue for me, either.
The other two major changes seem less like technological upgrades and more like bullet points in a marketing strategy: For one, there's the so-called Contour Detect Technology. This is an upgrade to the system that allows the device's three shaving heads to move around. They now move in eight different directions. How that's better than the GyroFlex 3D contour-following system on the Norelco 8000 series is beyond me, but it was a comfortable shave. Like many new electric shavers on the market, Norelco's new shaver is waterproof, so I used shaving cream in the shower which definitely helped with the smoothness factor.
Now for the part of the experience I wasn't so sold on. The third new aspect of the razor is a new cleaning system, which also serves as a stand for the shaver. I'm going to be perfectly blunt: When the shaver is plugged into the stand, it looks like a weird sex toy. However, I wouldn't recommend ever plugging the shaver into the stand. Because the stand is a piece of crap.
It's a basic design problem. The mechanism that holds the shaver in place is poorly designed, and I came very close to breaking it completely before I got it to work correctly. The issue became so frustrating and unintuitive that I actually had to read the instruction manual, and if you're anything like me, you avoid reading instruction manuals at all costs. I did learn, however, that the whole cleaning process takes 10 minutes, plus an extra four hours for drying, which seems… excessive.
Then, things got messy. I had to wrangle with a massive cartridge full of chemicals that helps cleans the shaver. I'm not a fan of things that require cartridges in general, since they mean you have to spend a potentially infinite sum of money to keep your gadget working, but that's another rant for another day. The problem with the Norelco cartridge is that there's no seal. If the stand gets jostled at all, the cleaning solution will spill everywhere, including all over the clothes you're supposed to wear out on your date. The upside, I guess, is that it smells wonderful. I usually use cologne for that kind of thing, though.
A couple more little observations: The shaver comes with a beard trimmer attachment. It's super easy to swap out the parts, too. You just pull off the one thing, and push the other thing on. The charging situation is slightly less convenient. It's possible to plug the shaver directly into the wall and skip the big cleaning stand bonanza, but you're sort of screwed if you lose the proprietary adaptor that comes with the shaver (would a Micro USB port be too much to ask?). Keeping track of the right charger is an issue you would have with other shavers, too.
This is all to say that it's a real pleasure to use the Norelco sleek new shaver. I actually enjoyed using it -- which is saying a lot given my aforementioned hatred towards shaving. While other electric shavers have let me down over the years, this one seems pretty promising based on my (admittedly pretty limited) experience with it. For an even safer bet you may want to try out one of these.
The Norelco 9700 goes on sale October 1. The company also plans to offer the shaver all by itself. I'd recommend taking that route, unless you like mopping up puddles of barber shop-scented juice. It's not as fun as it sounds.
Pictures: Nick Stango