Which is the best Sonicare toothbrush? (Updated April 2016) -
a) Our take about which Sonicare brushes make the best choice (function and value). b) Which options are the most important to have. c) A comparison of models based on their features.
This page will take you through a comparison of the current Sonicare toothbrush models, in an attempt to single out those few that seem to make the best choice (make a "best-buy"). [We offer the same type of comparison for Oral-B models on this page.]
Our evaluation is features-based, utilizing details collected from Philips Sonicare websites, publications and service representatives.
What we've done is sort through this information so we can share with you which Sonicare features we feel provide service and offer value, as opposed to being mostly hype.
We then identify which toothbrush models have just those features, or at least as few unwanted extras as possible.
Who will benefit from this Best Sonicares list?
Our comparison is geared toward meeting the needs of the "average" powered toothbrush user (the 80% of people in the middle of the bell curve). And for those for whom cost is a reasonably important consideration.
Which models did we evaluate?
Here's the list of models we've included in our comparison:
- DiamondClean - Models: HX9372/04 ($220), HX9362/68 ($220), HX9352/04 ($220), HX9332/05 ($220)
- FlexCare Platinum - Models: HX9172/15 ($200), HX9112/13 ($180), HX9112/12 ($180), HX9110/02 ($180)
- FlexCare+ (plus) - Models: HX6921/04 ($150), HX6921/02 ($150)
- HealthyWhite - Models: HX8918/10 ($130), HX6731/02 ($120)
- HealthyWhite+ - Models: HX8911/02 ($120), HX8918/10 ($130)
- Sonicare 3 series gum health - Model: HX6631/02 ($90)
- Sonicare 2 series plaque control - Models: HX6211/07 ($70), HX6211/28 ($70), HX6211/04 ($70)
- Sonicare for Kids - Model: HX6321/02 ($50)
- Essence+ - Model: HX3211/17 ($40)
- Essence - Models: HX5610/04 ($115), HX5611/01 ($40)
- PowerUp - Models: HX3631/06 ($15), HX3631/07 ($15)
How did we select these models?
At the time of this update (April 3, 2016), the above toothbrushes constituted all of the models that Sonicare (Phillips Electronics N.V.) displayed on their website as their "current" products.
Changes from previous updates.
Those who have utilized this page before may have noticed that some changes in the Sonicare line up have taken place over the past one or two years.
- The biggest new news is the introduction of the Essence+ model (HX3211/17).
The regular Essence has been on our Best list for some years now. However, one draw back of choosing it was that it used an older style (screw-on) brush head. As a big advancement, the Essence+ has been designed to work with Sonicare's line of click-on brushes.
- Another new model, the HealthyWhite+ HX8918/10, has recently been introduced too. Unfortunately, it offers nothing new of any significance.
- The FlexCare Platinum (HX9170/10) has been dropped from Sonicare's product line. This was one of only two models that offered their UV sanitizer (a feature we never cared for anyway).
- Of past note, one of our Best Sonicare picks from 2014, the EasyClean (HX6511/50), was discontinued in 2015. The same year that the HealthyWhite+ and 3 Series Gum Health lines were first introduced.
About the prices we show.
As you can see, we found brushes priced from around $220 all the way down to $15. This information comes directly from the Phillips Electronics website (April 3, 2016).
We have to assume that these numbers represent the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP). But on more than one occasion we found online retailers displaying a higher "listed" price (which makes their discounts look bigger).
Our only point here is that you should definitely compare prices a bit before making a purchase. And yes, we did find all of the models included in our comparison for sale online.
Setting the criteria for our evaluation.
For our comparison, we decided that identifying the "best" Sonicare toothbrushes meant choosing:
- The least expensive models ...
- that feature Sonicare's hallmark 31,000-brush-strokes-per-minute brushing action ...
- and just have those additional features that the buyer either finds especially appealing or convenient.
We set our criteria up this way because we wanted our findings to be a balance between features and price. After all, why buy "more toothbrush" than you really need?
Brushing Action - The most important feature.
You may not be aware of this but the whole reason to buy a Sonicare is because of it's full-power 31,000 brushstrokes-per-minute brushing action.
- Toothbrush bristles vibrating at this rate of speed are able to create a secondary cleansing action that extends beyond where the bristles actually touch. (Yes, beyond.)
- This is something that only a sonic toothbrush can do. And this extra ability is why your dentist made their recommendation to you about buying one.
[This cleaning phenomenon is termed "fluid dynamics." If you'd like to read more about sonic toothbrushes and how they create it, use this link.]
Which models offer this setting?
As the most important criteria of our comparison, we took a look at all of the models in our list to make sure that each one offered it. (The 31,0000 strokes-per-minute setting is most commonly referred to as "Clean" mode in Sonicare manuals and literature.)
Our evaluation determined:
- Yes, has it. - The DiamondClean, FlexCare Platinum, FlexCare+ (plus), HealthyWhite, HealthyWhite+ (plus), Sonicare 2 series, Sonicare 3 series gum health, Sonicare for Kids, Essence+ and Essence models all feature this mode.
- No, doesn't have it. - The PowerUp model doesn't have this capability, so it's off our list. (The top speed on a PowerUp brush is only 15,000 strokes-per-minute.)
Additional Sonicare features.
Our website has always expressed a fairly strong opinion about which Sonicare features have value and which ones not so much.
We're probably too critical in many ways, but we have a high regard for sonic toothbrushes in general, and Sonicare in particular, and just feel that the features they offer should be more about substance than hype.
[If you want additional information about a particular feature (both pros and cons), use the buttons to the right.]
There are some features we just never liked.
We've noticed over the years that some of the features we thought held little value have not, in fact, been carried forward into newer product lines. Here's one example:
The UV brush-head sanitizer.
Just a few years ago this was one of Sonicare's newest options. Right now, it only comes on one of the FlexCare Platinum models (HX9172/15). And while these are some of Sonicare's highest-end brushes, this feature doesn't seem to have been carried over into the newer DiamondClean product line.
We'd take that as evidence that consumers generally didn't find it to be an especially important feature or good value. We had always stated on our pages that we saw no purpose for it. We based our opinion on that of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) whose website states that toothbrush sterilization holds little benefit.
So, two more models fall off our list.
Since one of our core comparison criteria was not to include brushes that featured unneeded options, we'll go ahead and scratch the two FlexCare Platinum models with UV Sanitizer off our list. But that still leaves us with 19 other Sonicares to choose from.
Brushing modes - What's the purpose?
You couldn't have found a website that has less faith in the importance of the various (and ever changing on each new model) Sonicare brushing modes.
Just one mode is what most people need.
We do think Sonicare toothbrushes are great and important products but just for one main reason, their full-power 31,0000 brush-strokes-per-minute brushing action. (This is labeled as "Clean" mode on almost all models.)
Yes, we'll concede that a few people may have special circumstances (like the need for a "sensitive" mode). But for the vast majority users, the best, most effective, most efficient brushing mode they can use is the full-power one.
- This is the mode that was used to establish the benefits of using sonic toothbrushes in scientific research.
- This is the mode that Sonicare invented and has built its reputation on.
(We spend a lot of time documenting the basis of this position here.)
We'd also suggest that 6 months or so out, even those people who originally enjoyed the novelty (yes, novelty) of having more than one brushing mode to choose from have long since forgotten that these options even exist, much less how to activate them.
In light of the above, it's pretty easy to dismiss the importance of buying a Sonicare model that features a lot of brushing modes.
What you need to know about the models in our Best-Sonicare list.
The toothbrushes remaining in our comparison have some features in common. For example, per the Phillips website each of them have:
DiamondClean and original ProResults brush heads.
The toothbrushes in our list come packaged with a number of different styles of brush heads (different bristle configuration, design and size). We list the specific brush head(s) provided (type and quantity) with each brush's listing below.
Important - Most Sonicare models utilize click-on (snap-on) brush heads. And they are universally interchangeable among many different toothbrush models.
That means you have a lot of options to choose from when buying replacement heads. And for this reason, we don't place great emphasis on which type comes with which model.
The exception to the above are the Essence and PowerUp lines, which each use their own specific type of head. (We make note of all of this below. We explain Sonicare brush head options in general, on this page.)
The models in our list have one of two types of rechargeable batteries, either NiMH or lithium ion. We make note of this with each brush's listing below.
- Lithium ion batteries offer some advantages. Due to their smaller size, the bodies of models that have them tend to be lighter and sleeker. Additionally, the nature of these batteries offers recharging and performance advantages.
- Philips Sonicare seems to suggest that their models that have lithium ion batteries can go longer between charges (3 weeks vs. just 2).
To us, battery type wouldn't be an insignificant consideration. But if a particular model met our needs in all other ways, we'd let this one slip by. This page discusses the subject of battery options in greater detail.
Our Best-Sonicare list.
With the explanation of the criteria we've set for what makes the best type of Sonicare now out of the way, we can go ahead and just cut to the chase.
The brushes we've identified as good picks are listed below and arranged from least to most expensive.
Consider the cheapest and then work your way up.
In light of the criteria we've set, as you read through each brush's description it should be obvious to you why we've included it.
But more importantly, with each description we've also stated reasons why you might not like that brush. And if those reasons hold true for you, just skip past it and move on down the list to the next "best" model.
If you have a question about something you see on our page, or Sonicare models in particular, leave a comment at the bottom of this page and we'll see if we can get an answer for you.
You may have an out if you've made a poor choice.
Philips Sonicare has traditionally offered a 90-day money-back guarantee with their toothbrushes, allowing you to return yours if you're unsatisfied with it.
On the Philips website we see this guarantee worded as: "If within 90 days of your original retail purchase you are not satisfied with your product, we will refund your money."
Obviously, we don't speak for Philips. So if having this option is important to you, you should contact them or read the packaging of the product you're considering before making your purchase, just to make sure you have all of the details straight.
Double check brush features before you buy.
We've gone to a lot of effort in compiling this information to make sure we got everything right. But beyond our control, features and options can change.
Before you buy, do us a favor and just double check what we say against the packaging or description of the actual product you plan to buy. We don't want you to be disappointed.
The best Sonicare toothbrushes - From cheapest to more expensive.
Here are our choices, with comments about why you might or might not like each of them.
As explained above, the prices we show are based on Sonicare/Phillips MSRP information. We can't imagine that you won't be able to find these models for about the amount we show, or less.
Sonicare Essence HX5611/01
#1 - The Sonicare Essence: HX5610/04 ($115), HX5611/01 ($40).
(Price Sonicares at Walmart.com.)
This is a bare-bones Sonicare. It's basically an old design that just happens to still be sold. It doesn't really have any options or features (other than a brushing timer and EasyStart). It just vibrates like a Sonicare should.
- The HX5610/04 package contains two Essence toothbrushes, two brush heads and a travel case. The HX5611/01 contains one toothbrush and one brush head. If you do the math, the pricing difference ($115 vs. $40) doesn't make a lot of sense, at least to us.
- In previous updates we've reported that the HX5611/01 came with a travel case too. Now it doesn't. So take note of what is included with the package you buy, it may vary (new vs. old stock).
Things to know about the Essence:
- It's body is big to hold (probably in part due to the fact that it has the NiMH style of battery) and it's a little bit noisier than other models. As compared to the sleeker, more-modern Sonicare designs, this unit does seem a bit old fashioned.
- Replacement brush heads: e-Series, which do come in Standard and Compact sizes. However, those are the only options you have.
These heads screw-on rather than snap in place (the only model in our Best list to use this type). This design tends to accumulate gunk and makes the brush slightly less convenient to use if it's shared. [More details.]
Possibly e-Series heads are less efficient brushers.
- Operating time after charging: - "Up to" 2 weeks (NiMH battery).
- More detailed information about the Essence.
Comments: The Essence isn't as glamorous a brush as the more modern Sonicares but it creates the same full-power brushing action as they do. And that means if you're looking for a way to spend as little money as possible, this brush can make an OK selection.
The main problem is that you're severely limited on style of replacement brush head. And for that reason, the Essence+ really makes the better choice (with no increase in cost).
From this point on:
- All of the models below use Sonicare's interchangeable, snap-on style brush heads.
The range of brush heads includes: DiamondClean (standard & compact sizes), Adaptive Clean (standard & compact sizes), Intercare (standard), ProResults (standard & compact sizes), ProResults Plaque Control (standard), ProResults Gum Health (standard), Sensitive (standard), Simply Clean (standard & compact sizes) and For Kids (standard & compact sizes).
!! This is an important point because despite what type your brush came with originally, you can switch to any other (style or size) head. That makes for a lot of options. (More information about brush heads.)
#2 - The Sonicare Essence+: HX3211/17 ($40).
(Price Sonicares at Walmart.com.)
This model is basically just the older Essence brush but redesigned so it can be used with click-on style brush heads.
Things to know about the Essence+:
Comments: The fact that the Essence+ uses click-on brush heads makes this model a very attractive choice. It's cheap, a full-fledged Sonicare, just not as stylish as the newer designs.
#3 - The Sonicare For Kids: (HX6321/02) - $50.
(Price Sonicares at Walmart.com.)
This is a "kids" toothbrush. But for people who can overlook that fact, this is a way of getting a modern, full-fledged (31,000 brush-strokes-per-minute) Sonicare at a low price.
Sonicare For Kids HX6321/02
Things to know about the Sonicare For Kids:
- Everything about this brush is geared toward children, which tends to limit its appeal to most adults.
That includes the way it looks (although you can just leave the decorative stickers off), and the way its brushing timer (which you can't turn off) functions and sounds. If you're an adult and considering this brush, you really must use the link below to learn more about it so to make sure you want to put up with these features.
- It has a brushing timer (KidTimer) and features a QuadPacer-type function (KidPacer).
- Syncs via Bluetooth to a brushing app on your smartphone.
- Replacement brush heads: The full range of universally interchangeable snap-on heads listed above. (Confirmed by a phone call to Sonicare on 8/1/2016.)
If an adult chooses to use this brush with either of its stock brush heads, they will find the For Kids Standard brush to be "smallish" (about the same size of the DiamondClean, which is one of the smaller adult brush heads). The For Kids Compact sized head in comparison would be significantly smaller. Both heads have softer bristles than their adult-sized counterparts.
- More detailed information about the Sonicare For Kids.
#4 - The Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control: HX6211/04, HX6211/07, HX6211/28 - $70.
Sonicare 2 Series HX6211/04
(Price Sonicares at Walmart.com.)
This is a "sleeker," more refined alternative to the heftier Essence and Essence+ models. (The HX6211/04, HX6211/07 and HX6211/28 only vary by their respective colors Sky Blue, Black and Ultra Coral.)
Things to know about the Sonicare 2 Series:
- Replacement brush heads: The full range of universally interchangeable snap-on heads listed above.
- Features Sonicare's Smartimer but not their QuadPacer function.
- Operating time after charging: - "Up to" 2 weeks. (NiMH battery.)
- More detailed information about the Sonicare 2 Series.
Comments: When compared to the Essence and Essence+ above, you're basically buying a smaller, easier to hold brush, which is nice.
As compared to the regular Essence, you also get the advantage of more convenient, easier to clean around, snap-on brush heads. Not to mention the big range of brush head styles to choose from when buying replacements.
If you're willing to consider a non-Sonicare model, open these drop-down boxes.
Sonicare 3 Series HX6631/02
#5 - The Sonicare 3 Series Gum Health (HX6631/02) - $90.
(Price Sonicares at Walmart.com.)
This is our Best list's "high-end" model.
Things to know about the 3 Series:
- Replacement brush heads: The full range of universally interchangeable snap-on heads listed above for the Series 2.
- Operating time after charging: - "Up to" 3 weeks. (Lithium-ion battery.)
- It has Sonicare's QuadPacer and Smartimer features.
- More detailed information about the Series 3.
As compared to the 2 Series:
What you don't get with these cheaper Sonicare models.
With the Sonicare line, buying a higher priced toothbrush doesn't equate with getting a more efficient/effective brushing action. But keep in mind that with the lower end models we list above, you're not buying a Rolls-Royce.
The more expensive Sonicares do offer some refinements that may be important to you. Here are two we have noticed:
- Body style - The bodies/handles of the more expensive models tend to be thinner and sleeker, although not by much. We personally found the 2 and 3 Series models easier to hold. In part because they had some rubberized sections that gave a little grip.
If you want to test for yourself we've noticed two retailers (Bed, Bath & Beyond and Target) who typically have different Sonicare models (as well as other brands of electrics) on display so you can pick them up and hold them (although the display items don't actually work.)
- Noise level - With such a large range of products to compare, we contacted Sonicare support about this issue. They stated that "all Sonicare units have noise difference." Their recommendation was that the "newer" models like the DiamondClean and FlexCare Platinum are the quietest, and specifically as compared to the highest end model in our list (the 3 Series).
(We take issue with the use of the term "newer" here. It seems that "more expensive" is really the proper comparison point for this particular group of brushes, and we're assuming all Sonicares in general. We say this because we're under the impression that the 3 Series is a more recent model than the DiamondClean.)
What about the other Sonicare models?
The other brushes in our original list were the HealthyWhite, HealthyWhite+, FlexCare+ (plus), FlexCare Platinum and DiamondClean models.
Why they didn't make our list.
With this group of models, the whole issue about multiple brushing modes comes into play (as explained above). And a fundamental criteria of our comparison was not to pick brushes that featured what we consider unneeded options.
That's why these models didn't make our Best Sonicares list. It wasn't because they're not good brushes, they are. They're just not, in our opinion, best buys.
You may feel differently.
Of course, you may have noticed some Sonicare feature that you feel is vital that's not offered on any of the brushes we've suggested. If so, you're obviously just going to have to buy one of the models that does.
Which one would you buy in that case? Just like above, we think that the least expensive model that has all of the features that you want and as few extras as possible, is always the best choice.
[Philips and Sonicare are registered trademarks of Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V. Easy-start and QuadPacer are registered trademarks of Philips Oral HealthCare, Inc.]
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