NIFTY GADGET: Braun M90 Mobile Shaver

I’ve worn glasses since the 4th grade, and so I’m intimately familiar with all the minor annoyances that come with wearing them. There’s falling asleep in them and waking with a mess of twisted metal on your face. There’s playing sports and the fear of a baseball destroying your glasses. There’s rain: I could never work on one of those Deadliest Catch boats, ‘cos I’d have to stop and clean my glasses every 14 seconds. There’s even being careful what you order at a restaurant, ‘cos you don’t want to accidentally get spaghetti sauce or fried chicken grease on your glasses (even though I usually carry glass wipes, you can be sure that the day I forget it is the day I get kung pao sauce all over my glasses!)

One of the biggest annoyances for glasses wearers is shaving. My vision’s so bad that I can’t shave at a sink without glasses. But if I do wear glasses, there’s a good chance they’ll get covered in shaving cream. I could shave in the shower, but I’d need one of those anti-fog mirrors with magnification. This also takes extra time, something I don’t normally have in the morning. That’s why I became such a fan of electric shavers. No shaving cream is required, so I can shave with glasses on and not make a mess. And if I’m running late… hell, I can shave in the car!

But electric shavers have their own set of problems. The “block and foil” (the bit that actually cuts your beard, and the thin piece of metal that covers it, respectively) need to be replaced every 12-18 months or so. Replacements usually cost $25-$30. It’s not a huge expense, but it’s an annoying one. But the big kick in the ass is the battery: most electric shavers use a very uncommon Ni-Cad battery that must be soldered into the unit. It’s not a matter of just popping in a fresh set of AA batteries. You have to: a) order the battery online, take the shaver apart, take the old battery out, solder the replacement in and then put it all back together again; or b) send the shaver somewhere to have someone else do it.

Most repair shops charge $30-$40 to replace a battery. And since hardly anyone actually repairs things locally these days, you’ll most likely have to ship it somewhere, which is probably another $10. And should you need to replace the block and foil at around the same time the battery dies (a common thing), you’re looking at something like $65 to $80 to replace consumable parts on a shaver that probably only cost $79.95 to begin with. It’s kind of like how you can buy an inkjet printer for $39.99 these days, but replacing the ink cartridges costs $65.

I got a Braun shaver a couple Christmases ago. It works fine… except for the battery. I can get two shaves (barely) before the “low battery” light comes on. I used to be able to use it for a whole week before needing to charge it. Irritated at this, I decided to look for a new shaver, one with user-replaceable batteries. And believe it or not, there don’t appear to be any… except for “mobile shavers” or “travel shavers” – tiny units designed to fit in a glove box or weekend bag with ease. Since I’m a big fan of Braun (except their batteries), I went with the Braun M90:

Photo by Amazon

The shaver takes two AA batteries, which you install by twisting the bottom of the unit and pulling the cover out. A built-in cover swings open to reveal the shaver; the cover also locks the ON\OFF button in place, preventing you from turning it on accidentally. The M90 also features a hair trimmer, seen on the left in the picture (it doesn’t normally stick out like that; Amazon slid it out for the photo). There’s even a nifty brush tucked in to the bottom of the shaver!

There are other models: the M60 doesn’t have the trimmer and has a limited range of colors. There’s also (supposedly) an M30 model, but I can’t find it anywhere except Braun’s site.

So… how is it? After a few weeks, I can say that I like it… a lot! The unit trims my bread well (generally), and seems to get pretty decent battery life. However, like most Braun shavers, this one struggles with neck hair. While it cuts through hair on my cheeks and chin like it’s nothing, the shaver requires multiple passes on my neck. This isn’t a knock on this shaver specifically: all Braun shavers seem to have trouble in this area. I also don’t like the position of the trimmer: being on the side like that, it’s kind of awkward to hold while trying to trim the space between my eyebrows. So far I’ve used my old Braun for this: I may or may not get the hang of the new trimmer one day.

I should add two caveats to this review:

The first is that my beard is thin and very fine, This is probably why the shaver works so well for me. I actually found a video review on YouTube, and the reviewer says that the M90 worked “fairly well” for him, but that he has a very thick beard. So if you’re one of those people who need a weed wacker if you skip a couple of shaving days… then maybe the M90 isn’t for you.

I’d also like to point out that I’m using Eneloop rechargable batteries with the shaver. These AA batteries are “low self discharge” (yes, LSD batteries!) that hold up to 90% of their charge for a year. They can also be recharged up to 1,800 times, possibly making these the last AA batteries I’ll ever buy. And that might be a good thing: the Duracell batteries that came with the shaver lasted less than a week (although those batteries could have been old, so I’m not gonna judge).

There’s just one tiny problem with the M90: Braun doesn’t sell replacement blocks and foils for them. I didn’t try tearing my new shaver apart, but it would appear that the block is actually built-in to the M90, and not at all removable. Braun says that the block should last around 2 years, which means… that I’ll throw it away and get a new one. Which kind of defeats my one attempt at being environmentally-friendly. At least the M90 only runs around $18.95 on Amazon. So I’m going to end up putting as many old shavers in landfills as I did before, but from a consumer point of view, it’ll only cost me $9.47/year instead of $26.65/year like my old Braun shaver. These figures do not include the cost of charging the batteries, but since the M90 uses eneloops and the old one used some other kind of Ni-Cad, I figure that cost would be about the same.

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