Norelco Spectra 8894XL James Bond Edition Electric Razor Review


Okay – this is the-gadgeteer
site, and the Norelco Spectra is certainly a gadget.  So why did I feel
compelled to write a review about, of all things, my razor?  Find out dear

I remember shaving my peach fuzz as a kid, and my
mother warned me not to grow up too fast – I’d eventually have to do it every
day.  Well, as is often the case, mom was right.

I went from blades to electrics and ultimately
back to blades again, never having found that holy grail of the perfect razor. 
And while my search still continues, the Spectra is a
lot closer to my goal than the rest.  I’d like to mention the designers of
should be shot – the photos are hard to see, and nearly
impossible to make out.  Areas that look like links are static photos.  Oh well,
their lack of photos will require yet another 1,000 words…

Special Spectra Features
What is the Spectra, you ask?  I’ll tell
ya.  It is Norelco’s upper level of razor.  To be a
“Spectra,” the rotary razor must have 4 key features:

1) A personal comfort control setting
2) Improved lift and cut technology
3) Conveniently wash the razor clean under the faucet
4) Improved 2 stage cutting system. 

The top of the razor is 3 circular cutting areas
that remind me of a transporter pad.  What’s interesting is that each of the 3
heads is able to shift a bit when you depress it at any point, and that the
entire assembly is also able to pivot.  If you look at the thing you’ll have a
better idea of what I’m saying, but if you can imagine it, put your chin in the
center of the assembly, and the entire assembly will pivot inwards to cup your
chin.  While that’s happening, each of the 3 cutting heads will also cup your
chin at whatever necessary angle.  Nifty!

Alrighty, let’s look
at the personal comfort control setting, one of the key features which prompted
me to write this review.  There’s a knob to the right of the razor, which has 9
“clicks” which go from S for sensitive to N for normal.  When the
knob is rotated, it turns gears which ultimately
turn a shaft in the center of the razor’s face (if you lift the razor’s head,
you will see the shaft directly below the middle.  Above the shaft (when the
head is closed) is another shaft (let’s call it the top) which is attached to a
spring that controls the pressure of each of the 3 rotating cutters.  If you
press the top a bit, you will feel more resistance to the conforming heads –
nifty!  The shaft is ingeniously angled with 3 ramps – turning the shaft causes
a different part of the “ramp” to contact the top, therefore adjusting the
pressure of the spring which is transmitted to the cutter heads.  While I could
feel a difference in the cutter head tension, I did not feel any difference
shaving.  I did, however, adjust the knob from sensitive to normal one click
each day – supposedly normal gives you a faster shave.

Another feature of the shaving system is the lift
and cut technology.  I took the cutter out of the head to really look at this
thing.  The gist of the technology is a relatively dull copper “pre-blade” which
tugs on your whisker.  This causes the hair to lift, and then the spring
effectively falls below the cutter which can then nip your pre-tensioned
whisker.  I did find the shave to be close, but not quite as close as my linear
electric razors, like a Remington or Braun.

The other 2 major features require little
discussion.  The ability to lift the main head and rinse the assembly is a major
boon, and the grooved/slotted cutters look like they shouldn’t work, but they
apparently work quite well – this razor cuts much faster and more equally than
any other electric I’ve owned.

I should mention Norelco expects you to have an
adjustment period, and essentially warns you will experience some nasty
discomfort the first 2 or 3 weeks until you have the best shaves of your life. 
While life wasn’t as bad as they warned, I did have some discomfort the first
couple of weeks, particularly when I would step into the shower and feel like my
face was a bit raw.  Unlike a blade, these things are intended to be used when
your face is dry, and I don’t like waiting until after I’m out of the shower –
that can take another 10 minutes or so – no good.

A typical shave with the Norelco takes me 2 to 3
minutes, which I think is a bit faster than my pre-Norelco days.  I would also
like to point out the razor hits tough spots quite well – the cleft by my upper
lip no longer has me looking like the fuhrer, and my
neck hairs are cut fairly well.

In contrast to the Norelco, I had used blades for
my neck, in conjunction with my expensive linear razors.  I feel the
linears did shave closer, particularly when I would
check my checks with the back of my hand against the grain.  But as I don’t
generally have business associates check the closeness of my shave, I opt for
the speed and comfort of the Norelco razor.

As I am a gadgeteer
and must get the best at all costs, I opted for the “James Bond edition.”  Based
upon how poorly the last film did, I’m not sure how desirable a James Bond model
of anything would be, but I do know I bought the absolute best Norelco has to
offer – features include the best battery they have (I believe lithium ion
polymer – maybe I can swap it into my ipaq?) 
Features also include a polymer display (big deal, looks
) and 100 minutes of shaving on a 1 hour charge (now that’s
impressive – we’re talking about 1 months’ worth) – in fact, I’ve been using my
razor for some 3 weeks on the original charge, and it still says I have 45
minutes left.  Stepping down to the 8890 model gives you 70 minutes of shaving
time, I believe nickel metal hydride batteries, and a nicer looking silver razor
(versus the “exquisitely enhanced lacquer finish on
the James Bond model” – which is basically a navy blue/black).  You can keep
stepping backwards in model numbers which basically cut the shaving time a bit,
and change the finish.  Also, going lower limits your display a bit – you go
from full readouts to bar graphs to nothing.

Price?  Norelco says up
to $249 for the James Bond model. 
Gary says about $160 on e-bay,
and a tad lower at (drum roll) –
Wal-Mart.  I did not have time to comparison shop
all the models and prices – basically, use your judgment – I think I paid about
$25 more for the top model than the one right below it – if it didn’t say
Norelco’s best I wouldn’t have bought it – but it did and I did, as usual…when
you consider how many times you’ll use this, you’ll see that your cost per shave
is less than $1/day if you use it for 1 year (actually,
for 1 year the cost should be about .50/day – far cheaper than the cost of
shaving cream and those whacky Gillette triple

There is definitely a learning curve for your face with the Norelco.  I once
tried a different version about 10 years ago and returned it for ripping my face
apart.  The Spectra had a smooth transition from my linear electric/blades, and
I feel it gives me a more comfortable shave in far less time, and a more
complete shave – the tough neck and upper lip regions are no match for these


Price: $249

Works well
Very fast complete shave
Nifty display
Rinses under tap
100 minutes (30 shaves) per 1 hour charge


Bulky case/charger
Not as close as a linear razor


Product Information

  • Works well
  • Very fast complete shave
  • Quiet
  • Nifty display
  • Rinses under tap
  • 100 minutes (30 shaves) per 1 hour charge
  • Bulky case/charger
  • Not as close as a linear razor
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