I haven’t done a product review in a while, but about six months ago, I had to replace my electric shaver. So I decided it’s time to share my findings. After much research, I decided to go with the Philips 9000 Series S9551/31. I am a fan of Philips electric shavers and have had two of them in the past. I find they are great for travelling and overall versatility. They typically do a great job of neck hair that’s growing in all different directions! I was disappointed with the lifespan of my second one compared to the first. It only lasted four years compared to the ten years I got previously. That said, I like the rotary shaver style, and reviews I read suggest the problem may have been just with that particular model, so I’m willing to give them another try.
So let’s dig into why I chose the S9551/31, and what I think of it after using it for six months. First, though, I have a question for you:
Have you used the Philips 9000 series? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. If you haven’t, what kind of shaver do you use and why? Let me know in the comments at the end of this article.
This article is entirely my own experience. I bought this shaver from the Shaver Shop’s eBay store while it was on sale and paid for it myself, no part of it was free or subsidised. That said, many of the links included in this review are affiliate links, including the one above. I get a small commission if you click them and make a purchase. For more information on the commissions I get, check out this page. I hope that you’ll use these links anytime you need to shop on any of these websites! These small commissions help me to keep travelling so I can write and film more travel guides for you. I would never recommend anything I don’t or would not personally use!
- RRP (AUD): $549
- Common price range (AUD): $399-$499
- The price I paid (AUD): $399
- Weight: Approx 150g
- Weight in case: Approx 230g
- Price comparison on eBay.
- Best price: Typically on eBay, especially if you can combine a sale with an eBay coupon.
Why I chose the Philips 9000 Series S9551/31
This model isn’t cheap. It’s part of Philips flagship series and is the second model from the top. So it needs to be pretty impressive to justify the price tag of $549 RRP Australian. Here’s why I ultimately decided to go with it:
- I like the Philips rotary shaver style.
- Typically good at coping with thick, coarse beard hair like mine.
- Typically good at getting neck hairs that are growing in different directions.
- Suitable for both wet and dry shaving.
- The SmartClick Beard Styler attachment comes with it. A number of the 9000 Series shavers have the SmartClick Precision Trimmer instead. I keep a short-trimmed beard rather than a smooth shave, so this is important.
- This particular model has variable speed shaving, and I thought the slower speed might be helpful for the irritation I experience on my neck sometimes.
- Travel case included.
- Lithium battery, so there is consistent power until it goes flat rather than slowly losing power as the battery dies.
There were a couple of concerns I had with this model. The number one concern I had was that none of the 9000 Series shavers has a pop-out trimmer built in like my last shavers. After some research, it turns out that none of the current generations of wet and dry shavers from Philips includes a pop-out trimmer. Dropping that feature was almost a deal-breaker for me, and I was seriously considering saving $300-$400 to drop down to a 1000 Series shaver that still has the pop-out trimmer. My reasoning for this is that the built-in trimmer is more valuable than the wet/dry shaving or any of the other upgrades that come with the 9000 Series.
If anyone from Philips is reading this, take note, this is a big deal if this one little feature that was on my previous model Philips wet/dry shaver, the SensoTouch 3D RQ 1295, is enough to make me seriously consider not spending that amount of money on your products.
My second concern was that the cleaner uses cleaning cartridges rather than being refillable. Taking this approach seems like an attempt to force you into purchasing Philips cleaning cartridges instead of any other suitable cleaner, and it also seems wasteful. I get the business logic for them, but it does alienate the consumer.
My previous shaver died without warning, it would not charge anymore, so after two weeks of trying to settle on a solution, it was time to give up and get a new one. It took five days to arrive from the Shaver Shop, so by the time I got it, my beard was getting somewhat overgrown as you saw in the photo earlier.
Getting it out of the box, the first thing I noticed was just how big the charger and cleaning station is. It seems way overkill. My old Philips SensoTouch 3D RQ 1295 cleaning and charging station was significantly more compact. That said, I appreciate the fact that I don’t need to take a travel charger with me anymore and can now plug the charger cable directly into the shaver. Plus one point for convenience while travelling. If you are considering this one though, make sure to check the station will fit on your shelves. Due to the height, it only just fits between ours.
The shaver itself is a similar size and shape to previous generations, however, the controls feel out-dated and cheap compared to my old SensoTouch 3D. The build quality otherwise is sturdy, and it feels good to hold.
The SmartClick Beard Styler is identical to the one that came with my SensoTouch 3D, and the charge cable is the same as well. So the only other item of note is the travel case. The case is a very snug fit, and due to the corners the zip has to go around, I find it is somewhat difficult to open and close properly. That said, it is much sturdier and provides more protection for the shaver than the previous generation did.
I was born with my father’s beard growing genes, and I have to shave minimum once a day if I am maintaining smooth skin. While I keep a short-trimmed beard on my face, I keep my neck clean-shaven. So that means I shave every morning. With that in mind, it doesn’t take long to get a good sense of how this shaver performs with frequent use on coarse, thick facial hair.
The rotary blades have received a few upgrades and now flex in more directions than ever before and are meant to cut closer than ever before. If I’m honest, I didn’t notice a significant improvement over the SensoTouch 3D. I suspect that once it gets so short, you really can’t get a whole lot shorter without starting to take off layers of skin as well. It does, however, do a great job of dealing with my wild neck hair that grows every direction and keeping the skin smooth. I have no complaints at all and really, nothing but praise for how well it shaves.
Regarding the missing pop-out beard trimmer though, that is another story. I am disappointed that it isn’t there almost every time I shave. Sometimes you just want to tidy up the edges a little without switching the shaving head to the beard styler. Or perhaps there are a few hairs that the regular shaving head just won’t pick up. Usually, I’d pop out the beard trimmer, and it would take those suckers off. Now, I have to switch to the beard styler or keep going over them, again and again, trying different angles to get the regular shaving head to lift them. Then there’s the time that you’ve finished shaving, and you realise an hour or so later that the beard styler missed a couple of hairs and you want to get them the right length. Now you have to put the beard styler attachment back on again. I find this is also extremely inconvenient when I’m travelling because it also forces you to take the beard styler for those times when you need to touch something up. In the past, I’d just use the pop-out beard trimmer and let my beard grow unless there was a reason to keep it trimmed (like a wedding). This adds weight and volume to your packing. Honestly, I’m amazed at how convenient the pop-out beard trimmer was, and how inconvenient it is to have it no longer. I sincerely hope Philips brings it back in a future model.
The beard styler
The beard styler attachment isn’t anything special. It is identical to the previous generation and cuts just as well (or not since it jams frequently). It has five height settings and is necessary when you want to tidy up your edges, sideburns or any hairs that are unusually long.
Variable speed settings
Regarding the variable speed settings, I found that to be a worthwhile addition. My neck doesn’t get as irritated when I use the slowest speed setting. I also notice that the blades pinch my skin less-often compared to the higher speeds. So that gets a big tick from me. On the flip side, I find the top speed is much better for using the beard styler as it doesn’t get clogged up so quickly. It powers on through the thickest of beards (or at least, through mine).
Controls and display
I mentioned in my first impression that the buttons have a cheap feel to them. They are ok as far as buttons go, but because the SensoTouch 3D had the single on/off control using a pressure sensitive panel integrated with a display. The 9000 Series has gone back to old-fashioned buttons. They do the job fine, but you don’t feel like you are using the latest and greatest tech. The display has also gone back a step to just showing 5 bars to indicate the battery level rather than estimated minutes remaining. You have to jump up to the one model above this to get that feature now.
The battery gives an estimated shaving time of 50 minutes. There is a 10-minute reduction from the SensoTouch 3D’s 60 minutes. I find this surprising since it is a similar size and doesn’t have the flip-out beard trimmer. I thought it may have been associated with the variable speeds, but the lower models without that feature also quote the same battery life. So the decreased time is a little disappointing, especially when travelling for longer periods of time. It means that if I’m going to be away for more than two and a half weeks, I need to take the charger to be safe, where I could get away with at least three weeks on the SensoTouch 3D. That adds weight and volume when travelling, unfortunately, a big deal when Australian airlines restrict you to 7kg carry-on bags. Even so, most trips come in shorter than that, so it’s still a great travel shaver.
After six months of use, I’ve found that it is maintaining pretty consistent battery life. I rarely use the quick charge function, as the battery lasts for about two full shaves after it warns me that it is running low. That’s more than enough time to forget to charge it the first time and then plug it in after the next time I shave and get reminded that the battery is low.
The SmartClean Plus charger and cleaning station
As I mentioned earlier, this thing is tall. Unlike previous models where it was only the full height when the shaver was in place, this one plugs into the bottom of the shaver. Since the shaver sits upside down, the station incorporates a section that runs up behind the shaver, hooks over the top of it, and when in use, is pushed down. So sitting at 25.5cm high, it is significantly taller when not in use, and just a couple of cms higher when in use.
The weird charging mechanism also makes it a little more complex to use. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve put my shaver in and forgotten to push down the charging socket. The old model charged on contact. I also can’t tell you the number of times I’ve tried to take the shaver out, forgetting to release the charging socket and almost sent the whole thing flying off the bench. Perhaps this is in part because I’m so used to the old system, so it might not be as much of an adjustment to someone who hasn’t used the older model. I’d think by now though that I might have adjusted.
I was concerned about the cleaning cartridges, but I’ll admit, they are convenient, and it is possible to refill them if you are creative. The only thing is, to change them out, you press a button on the station, and it lifts the entire thing up another 5.5 cms making it stand at 31cm high. That means you have to be doing this somewhere with enough clearance.
One thing I particularly like about this new system though is that you don’t have to be quite as careful when you move the station. The station has a small pump that enters the cartridge through a little hole on top, so there is much less surface area for spillage to occur. The old model easily spilt large amounts during movement between shelves and so on. This one handles a little bit more tilt before leaking, and it doesn’t leak as much.
On to the actual cleaning process. The buttons are now soft-touch, so there is no physical button to press, and it is a single function only. The previous model had actual buttons and both a regular and economy mode. I never used the economy mode, so this doesn’t matter to me, and the new soft-touch buttons are great. I have noticed though that for some reason, the shaver will not charge while it is cleaning. The old model did, but the new one doesn’t. It also won’t automatically recharge after cleaning is complete unless you physically touch the cleaning button to take it out of cleaning mode. Only then will it start charging. I find this to be counterintuitive. On the plus side though, while cleaning, it doesn’t raise and lower the shaver into the cleaning fluid like it used to. Instead, it now sprays cleaning liquid up into the shaver which means no motor noise. The noise from the pump, jets and the shaver rotation is much quieter, translating into happy vibes, if like me, you put it on to clean before going to bed. 🙂
In regards to charging, it takes one hour for a full charge and does a quick-charge for one shave in one minute. It doesn’t matter whether you plug the shaver into the cleaning station or directly into the charger, the speed is the same. No changes in regards to time compared to the older models.
I never take the cleaning station travelling, so ease of manual cleaning is essential. In the previous model, the shaving head opened up for rinsing or brushing out, and each part inside popped out for washing. In the new model, they have simplified the head slightly. Now the entire blade component comes away making it much quicker for a simple clean. However, the blades themselves are locked down with a unique mechanism. The shaver comes with a key for undoing this mechanism. I have since figured out that it is possible to release and redo it without the key, but it can be a challenge to line everything up correctly. The key primarily helps with the alignment and application of pressure. So it is still possible to pull everything apart for a decent manual clean while you are on the road. It could take a little bit of time fiddling to get it all back together though if you didn’t bring the key.
- Very effective shaving head.
- Compact unit for travel.
- Sturdy travel case.
- Quiet cleaning unit.
- Can plug the charger directly into the shaver without needing an additional charging unit.
- The variable speed settings are helpful for sensitive skin.
- Battery life is sufficient for two weeks of travel without charging.
- Simplified blade unit for quick manual cleaning.
- No built-in beard trimmer.
- Have to take the beard styler attachment with you when you travel.
- Shorter battery life than past models.
- Controls feel cheap.
- Cleaning unit is extremely tall.
- Complex blade mounting system that is fiddly to use without the key.
I’d give this shaver a 3.5 out of 5.
This shaver is a challenge to rate. For all the features and inclusions it has, the Philips 9000 Series S9551/31 electric shaver does a great job, and it does serve it’s purpose very well. In addition, the battery does last well on a single charge, and it makes a great travel shaver in addition to home shaver. So in that respect, I love this shaver and recommend it if you want a single shaver for all purposes. If you have sensitive skin, then I suggest it even more.
At the same time though, in many ways, it is inferior to its predecessor, the SensoTouch 3D. I am highly disappointed by the lack of pop-out beard trimmer, reduced battery life, and cheap feeling controls.
In spite of that, I still feel like it is the best available option on the market right now in electric shavers that are both wet and dry compatible. The negatives are not the be all and end all. Some new features help to bring this shaver back up to the top of the pack. The variable speeds and ability to plug it directly into a charging cable are the main two, though I must admit I do appreciate the much quieter cleaning station. Then, of course, there is the rotary cutting style unique to Philips which has been improved on and continues to deliver the best cut, in my opinion.
Where to buy
You can pick these shavers up from most Shaver Shop stores or online. I got mine from their eBay store, and I’d definitely recommend checking there first because you can often get a better price, particularly if eBay has a coupon code available at the time you are ordering (or if you wait for one). Ordering from eBay also gives you the ability to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points, Virgin Velocity points or Acorns Found Money.
If you have used the Philips 9000 series, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it, and if you haven’t, I’d be interested to know kind of shaver you use and why? Particularly when it comes to travelling. Let me know in the comments below.