Last month, you were introduced to the Panasonic ER-GB40-S wet/dry trimmer right here in this column. As with many of the introductory articles that appear in this column, there is usually an air of optimism. In fact, this sense of optimism was only heightened by the discovery that Men’s Health magazine gave this trimmer one of their Grooming Awards for 2013, which is, presumably, based on something. Based on my findings, however, I would bestow upon this device little more than scorn.
When testing anything, the optimism comes easily. Every time the UPS truck shows up at the door, it’s like Santa coming down the chimney, but without the Reindeer and all the festive wrapping paper. I will openly admit to getting excited when carefully opening the packages, inspecting the contents and making note of my first impressions. There’s something particularly heady about the inherent potential of all that gets tested for this column. Every single thing I test could be the greatest thing ever. This trimmer, however, has fallen short in almost every category.
We’ll start with the positive. There’s no two ways about it, this thing is really good looking. The handsome blue and silver plastic body has a curvy, almost seductive shape which fits comfortably in the hand and hints at a pleasant user-experience. Where the various individual panels meet, the gaps between are nearly imperceptible. The knurling on the comb-height adjuster is sharp, and the the detents click into place authoritatively. Superficially, at least, this trimmer promised to be a winner. Then reality sets in.
The first thing I noticed was the long initial charge time. Charging anything as small as this trimmer for 23 hours seems excessive. Even the regular charge time is quite long: 15 hours. These lengthy charge times wouldn’t be a problem if this thing actually held a charge, but it doesn’t. Despite being fuzzy from head to toe, I don’t do a lot of trimming of that fuzz, and the amount of time that goes by between trims has left this trimmer’s battery almost flat every time I’ve wanted to use it. Leaving it on the charge 24 hours per day, I suppose, is an option, but it’s not one in which I plan on indulging. The other option is to plan any trim jobs 15 hours in advance, which, to me, seems somewhat unrealistic. I don’t think I should have to pencil in a date with my trimmer.
Once the trimmer is fully charged, the surprisingly slow and quiet buzz that it makes hints at a weak motor, and when the trimming gets going, that hint becomes reality. Embarking on an epic trim job is not advisable with this trimmer. The owner’s manual states that a full 15 hour charge should supply “enough power for approximately 50 minutes of use.” A full charge may make it possible for the trimmer to run for 50 minutes, but it certainly will not make it trim for that long. Every time I’ve used it, the challenge of tidying up my beard has proven to be too much of a challenge. After just a few minutes, the trimmer gets bogged down and the trimming grinds to a groaning halt.
The results of this test, I must confess, are a bit shocking to me. The Panasonic electric shaver (model # ES-LV81-K $599.99) I tested last year was the first thing I’d ever awarded 5 stars to. In fact, it performed so well, that I switched to it from conventional blades for all my shaving needs and I have used it everyday ever since. Maybe this is a fluke, or maybe it’s a case of you get what you pay for. Maybe if it had cost $600, it would have performed much better.
**Full disclosure: This trimmer was provided at no cost for the purpose of testing/reviewing. To think otherwise would be unrealistic.