The Winner Is...
The Panasonic ES8109S 3-blade - barely. Put the Remington blades and cutter (keeping the center blade of the Panasonic) on a Panasonic 13,000 RPM shaver and you would have the World's best electric shaver. The Remington shaved a little closer than the Panasonic and provided a faster shave. However, the difficulty in cleaning, noise and lack of a charging base tipped me to the Panasonic as the final choice.
This is a review of three Panasonic models; ES8243A (4-blade), ES8109S (3-blade) and ES7109, the Remington MS2-390, the Norelco 8260 CC and the Braun Series 5 8995 (8985 & 8975 only differ in displays and cleaning). I have an average beard and have been using electric shavers (foils and rotaries) over 30 years. The models here are no better than any of the other higher quality shavers I've owned. It takes about 10 minutes (no shaver will give you a first-pass close shave) to get to that good dry shave (with or without pre-electric gels/oils) and you do have to put pressure on to get a close shave. This means recharging every 4-5 days. Gels/oils do make the process easier - not faster - and I have reviewed six of them on their Amazon sites.
ES8109S: This 3-blade shaver gives a very close shave, with some work. It does give off a higher pitch `whine', while shaving, that is somewhat annoying, but is not what I would consider noisy. Nor is the cleaning operation noisy. Based upon other reviewers, I was expecting it to sound like a lawn mower, but it is just an occasional buzzing noise as it cleans. The "Arc Foil" design slows shaving (see discussion, below).
ES8243A: I had hoped that the four blades of the Panasonic ES8243A just might be able to give a superior shave. As it turns out, the large four-blade surface is like trying to keep the end of a 2x4 on your face. It makes cutting in the areas where you don't have a lot of skin area (chin, jaw line, upper lip, base of sideburns, etc) more difficult. In fact, I think that the fourth blade in the middle actually interferes with a better shave and these two middle blades are not as good as the primary cutters. The "Arc Foil" design makes it even slower (see discussion, below). Another future problem with the 4-blade system is that you'll want to buy a new shaver when your blades and foil need to be replaced. What kind of an idiot is going to spend 80% of the cost of a new shaver just to get a set of new cutter blades and foil? All in all: the ES8243A 4-blade is a poor value.
ES7109S: The flat design of the foil is a better design than the "Arc Foil" (see below). Unfortunately, this shaver has an under-powered motor and the floating head that cannot be locked.
Panasonic discussion: Panasonic had developed an outstanding shaver line some ten years ago. My old ES8067 still shaves closer than this new "NANO Technology"- a misnomer (marketing gimmick). I think the reason is that Panasonic's older models came with cutting blades with the individual blades having been about half the width of all of Panasonic's newer cutting blades (including replacements). This means more surface area on the newer blades and that means less cutting. Remington has the ideal blades (that Panasonic used to make) and it shows in closer cutting and less time spent doing so. Additionally, these new Panasonic "Arc Foil" shavers have the foil curving AWAY from your face at the ends of the foil, further decreasing exposure to the blades and requiring many more passes to cover the same area. Unfortunately, Panasonic puts their better motor (13,000 RPMs) only on these ill-conceived "Arc Foil" designs. Battery time on the Panasonics is the shortest of all shavers reviewed here. The Panasonic trimmers are so narrow, on all of these models, that you will not be able to trim sideburns with one attempt. You will have to re-position the trimmer to get what you missed. This increases the probability that you will get an uneven sideburn.
The Remington MS2-390 has the blades that the Panasonics should have (and did have years ago): flat foil area (not "Arc Foiled"), good length (25% longer) and ultra thin cutting blades. As a result, closeness of the shave is better and time spent is shorter. This is, however, the loudest (and it is loud) of all shavers and there are no bells and whistles. Using a pre-shave oil/gel will gum up the blades, as with any shaver, but these blades pop off with even the slightest brushing so be prepared to watch them fall into the sink with every cleaning attempt. A charging stand would greatly increase the convenience of this shaver. Remington did a poor job with the details.
The Braun Series 5 8995 tries hard (you can hear noticeable slowing when necessary pressure is applied, like a lawn mower when it reaches thicker grass), but it doesn't get quite as close as the Panasonics or Remington without leaving a stronger burning sensation after the shave. The Braun can also leave burn marks and even cuts (nose and lips) that will bleed. Odd: you would think that, with it getting so close as to actually burn the skin, it would also give a closer shave. I suppose this is proof that shavers cannot "lift" hairs to cut better. Additionally, the design of the handle is inferior, making positioning more difficult. It does have a much wider trimmer and longer battery life between charges, though.
The Norelco 8260 CC: I used this rotary-type of shaver for many years during the 80's. I switched to foil and found I could get a closer shave. This is still the case. Additionally, because of the circular blades, it is somewhat difficult to target certain spots for cleanup. However, this is the quietest shaver.
PS: don't accept the nonsense about giving your face 30 days to adjust, unless you are coming off a blade. If you are accustomed to an electric shaver, you only need a week or two to determine the difference. The only thing magical about 30 days is that you can no longer return it for a refund - what a coincidence!