Panasonic ES8103S Arc3
Men’s Wet/Dry Shaver

Many high-end foil shavers have three or more independent cutting elements, but it isn’t something you see often in products that cost around the fifty dollar mark. In my review of the Arc4 I was impressed by how well the razor performed and the fact that it offered four cutting elements for a Benjamin and some change.

The Arc3 is a step down, losing one blade, but almost half of the asking price. While I consider the Arc4 to be in a class of its own, I think its biggest competition is the younger sibling we see here. For almost half the price, the Arc3 just has to be better than half as good to get a recommendation from me. So let’s see if it does that.

Bobble Head

All these Arc razors from Panasonic have the same basic design – a design which I didn’t like in the Arc4 and still don’t like here. I just don’t like the big head look. Other than that, the Arc3 doesn’t look cheap and the choices of color are tasteful. I even like the amber LED display more than the blue ones from the Arc4. We don’t see enough amber LEDs anymore. It is such a nice color.

In terms of the ergonomics though, there’s nothing really to complain about. It looks pretty comfortable to hold. I just don’t really want to have to look at it.

Wobble Head

The shaver head can pivot side-to-side and up-and-down. Although this has one fewer blade than the Arc4, it’s still the same 30-degree “nano polished” technology. These blades are designed to cut hairs at the base, to provide a really close shave. In the case of the Arc4 people noted how excellent the shave was. While you may need more passes, there is no reason to think that the end result would be any different with the Arc3 if the blades are identical.

While the cutting elements themselves are not also independently free-floating as they are in some higher-end models, the blades are a curved arc shape (hence the name) which makes up for this to an extent with a simpler solution. In other words, the curved blade can do almost as good a job as a free floating straight blade, but costs much less and would be far less prone to failure.

Engine Power

The Arc3 uses the same linear motor technology that made the Arc4 so impressive. This is 1000 CPM (cycles per minute) slower than the Arc4, but it still provides the same sorts of battery life advantages and quiet operation. You could argue that on a per-blade basis this is actually a stronger unit since you have one fewer blade. It may actually be quite a positive tradeoff.

Water Park

The Arc3 provides full washability and wet & dry shaving – a common feature, but one I am glad to have at this price point; especially since with other Arc shavers it appears that wet shaving gives the best results and I have no reason to expect that to change with the Arc3.

Public Opinion

If there is a way to summarize what people think of the Arc3 it would be “better than I was expecting”. For the price, the shaving experience is most likely the best you’ll get, comparatively. Against products from companies like Philips Norelco the Arc3 is a real heavyweight.

People with oily or sensitive skin have found the Arc3 to be a real savior in this market section. I think that the high-quality blades and high CPM motor combine to make something special here. Other shavers around the fifty dollar mark tend to occasionally pluck or pull hairs; to give a shave that’s OK, but not very close. If you are spending that little you sort of have that expectation and the Arc3 definitely both defies and exceeds that.

The Arc4 is a great product, but I’m having a hard time justifying why it should cost almost twice as much as the Arc3. It has all the same core functions and technologies. The Arc4 is just a refinement of the same. If you haven’t shaved with each side by side there’s no way you’ll know that the Arc4 was just that little better.

Thick beards, thin beards – it all seems to work well with the Arc3. Honestly, for me there is no better value-for-money choice.