Philips Norelco
Beard & Head Trimmer

You can’t turn anywhere to get away from the giant presence that is Philips Norelco in the hair trimming business. They basically saturate the breadth of the mid-range with their products and it’s fair to say that by now the company knows how to make a trimmer that sells.

This Series 5100 beard and head trimmer sits in the middle of a lot of things, mainly the price range. For a mere fifty bucks you could be the owner of this beard trimming system. The question is, do you want to own it? Let’s see what old PN is offering today.

Chrome Cutters

I have to admit that I’m a little bit like a magpie. A lot of people who like gadgets and electrical stuff will say they like “shiny things”, but I literally like shiny things. The 5100 is therefore ten points ahead of the game right out of the gate, because it’s 90% shiny with just a few black accents.

The shape of the 5100 on the other hand is not so interesting or attractive, but it does look both functional and attractive. If I were handing out scores (I’m not) this would get, I don’t know, three out of five Oreos overall for presentation.

It’s Dynamic

Everything has to have some sort of gimmick to entice us to part with our hard-earned cash. In the case of the 5100 that gimmick is the Dynamic Beard Guide System. Note the capitals are from Philips themselves. Despite sounding like a military targeting system, all it really is are features that help to feed your beard hairs into the trimmer and prevent long hairs from sticking out from your newly trimmed beard.

Philips says their guidance system means true one-pass trimming. The three combs give you a grand total of three lengths – 3-day stubble, short beard, and long beard. There is no fine adjustment to be found here. You can have one of those three lengths and like it, comrade.

Wait, wait. I’m just kidding. There are in fact seventeen precision length settings. I will admit though that this is not the most I’ve seen. Some higher-end models boast as much as 40 increments and even comparably-priced trimmers don’t often go this low. You can use the nifty zoom wheel to dial between 0.4 -7mm in 0.2mm increments. The next range bracket is from 7-13mm.

The blades are a good quality self-sharpening steel. Double-sharpened so that they cut with every oscillation. Despite all the extra sharpness, the blade tips are rounded so that there is less irritation than would usually occur.

Practical Magic

Day-to-day practicality is very important for a grooming product. If using it is a hassle and if you constantly have to do tedious maintenance on it, that doesn’t make for a good product experience.

Washing the 5100 is pretty simple. It’s completely waterproof, so all you have to do is hold it under water.

In terms of battery life the news is surprisingly good at this price point. Thank goodness there is no NiMH battery in sight here. This is a lithium-ion battery and it provides a superb 70 minutes of operation. To top it all off, you can use it while plugged in and charging. Full marks for practicality, then.

The Swing Vote

The word on the street (or at least on the product feedback pages) is that in practice the 5100 is every bit as good as it promises to be. In terms of trimming performance it’s all good. The only real complaints are that the machine is a bit loud for its size and that the head is just too big for trimming awkward spots.

The biggest issue is the fact that this is an excellent beard trimmer, but not a very good head trimmer. Since I am reviewing stuff here primarily as facial hair products, that’ not a deal-breaker, but Philips Norelco advertises this as a head shaver as well. Based on what people are saying, it falls short on the second part of the promise.

The People’s Champion

As long as you don’t intend to shave your head as well, I find it very hard to fault the 5100 in any way. If fifty bucks is exactly what you have in your pocket and you need a good trimmer for your beard, this is a fantastic way to spend it.