Which is the best Sonicare toothbrush? (November 2014) -
a) Our opinion 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 is an overview of Sonicare models, in an attempt to single out which few seem to make the best choice. (We offer the same type of comparison for Oral-B electrics on this page.)
Our evaluation is a features-based comparison, utilizing model information gathered only from Philips Sonicare websites and publications.
What we've done.
Our goal for this page is to point out (in our opinion) which Sonicare features provide a service and offer value, as opposed to those that are mostly hype.
We then identify which toothbrush models have just them and few extras.
Who will benefit from our Best list?
Our comparison is primarily geared toward what we consider the needs of the "average" electric toothbrush user (the 80% of people in the middle). And for those for whom cost is a reasonably important consideration.
However, even people with special needs should be able to benefit from reading this page. Throughout, we go into enough detail about each model's features that picking out brushes having those that would be important to them should be easy enough to identify.
Which models did we evaluate?
Here's the list of Sonicare models we decided to include in our comparison:
- DiamondClean - Models: HX9362/68 ($220), HX9352/04 ($220), HX9332/05 ($220)
- FlexCare Platinum - Models: HX9170/10 ($200), HX9110/02 ($180)
- FlexCare+ (plus) - Model: HX6921/02 ($150)
- HealthyWhite - Model: HX6731/02 ($120)
- Sonicare for Kids - Model: HX6311/07 ($50)
- Sonicare 2 series plaque control - Model: HX6211/04 ($70)
- EasyClean - Model: HX6511/50 ($90)
- Essence - Model: HX5610/01 ($40)
- PowerUp - Models: HX3631/02 ($15), HX3631/03 ($15), HX3631/06 ($15), HX3631/07 ($15)
Why did we choose these models?
At the time of this writing (November 22, 2014), this was the list of toothbrushes that Sonicare (Phillips Electronics N.V.) displayed on their website as their "latest" products. (Though we do recognize the names of some of these product lines as having been around for quite some time.)
We're under the impression that this list is representative of Sonicare's current toothbrush offering (brushes they currently make, market and sell themselves). We have seen additional models for sale from online retailers but assume they are "discontinued but still available" type products.
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 (November 22, 2014).
We initially thought that these numbers represented the manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP), which they likely do. 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 we evaluated for sale online.
Setting the criteria for our comparison.
For this evaluation, 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 features that the person 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 actually 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 an additional cleansing action that extends beyond where the bristles actually touch. (Yes, beyond.)
- This is something that only a sonic toothbrush can do. This 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 often referred to as "Clean" mode in Sonicare literature.)
Our evaluation determined:
- Yes, has it. - The DiamondClean, FlexCare Platinum, FlexCare+ (plus), HealthyWhite, Sonicare for Kids, Sonicare 2 series, EasyClean and Essence models all feature this mode.
- No, doesn't have it. - The single product line that didn't have this capability was the PowerUp series, so it's off our list.
Additional Sonicare features.
Our pages have 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 offered should be more about substance than hype.
[If you want detailed information and opinion about features (both pros and cons), just use the links to the right.]
There are some features we just never liked.
We've noticed over the years that some of the features that we always thought held little value have not, in fact, been carried forward into newer product lines. Here's an example:
The UV brush-head sanitizer.
Just a few years ago, this was one of Sonicare's newest options. Right now it only comes with one of the FlexCare Platinum brushes. And while this is one of Sonicare's top models, 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 a 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, another one falls 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 FlexCare Platinum with UV Sanitizer off our list. But that still leaves us with 9 models 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. We think Sonicare toothbrushes are great but just for one main reason, their full-power 31,0000 brush-strokes-per-minute brushing action. ("Clean" mode on many 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, 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 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.
Many of the toothbrushes we've selected have features in common. Per the Phillips website, each of them have:
- Chargers that run on 110 - 220 volts (you will, however, need a plug adapter). This capability can be important if you're a world traveler.
- Smartimer (KidTimer) - This is a simple two-minute brushing timer. For some people, having this feature helps them achieve a higher level of brushing discipline.
- The availability of both standard and compact sized brush heads. Depending on your needs, this can be a very important option.
- Easy-start - This feature helps you get used to using your Sonicare, gradually, by slowly ramping up its power over a period of several days.
DiamondClean and original ProResults brush heads.
The toothbrushes in our list make use of different styles of brush heads (different bristle configuration and design). We list the brush head name with each brush's listing.
The Sonicare models that feature snap-on brush head offer a lot of options in which style of replacement head can be chosen. For this reason, we don't place great emphasis on which type of brush head comes with which model. (We discuss brush head options in general, on this page.
The exception to this might be the e-Series brushes (used with the Essence model in our list) which possibly are less efficient brushers.
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 listing below.
- Lithium-ion batteries offer some advantages. Due to their smaller size, the bodies of models that have them tend to be smaller. 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 chargings (3 weeks vs. 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 all of the above out of the way, we can now just cut to the chase.
Step 1 - We've cut out the chaff.
For our Best list we've selected Sonicare toothbrush models that offer full-power (31,000 strokes per minute) brushing mode and the least number of superfluous options.
We've listed them from least to most expensive.
Step 2 - Consider the cheapest, and then work your way up.
With each of the toothbrushes we show, we've listed it's pluses but also tell you reasons why you might not like it. If those reasons hold true for you, 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 you an answer.
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 currently 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 Sonicare. 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 information. We can't imagine that you can't find these models for around the amount we show, or less.
Sonicare Essence HX5610/01
#1 - The Sonicare Essence (HX5610/01) - $40.
This is a bare-bones Sonicare. It's basically an old design that just happens to still be sold. It doesn't have any options or features. It just vibrates like a Sonicare should.
Things to know about the Essence:
Comments: If you're looking to buy a Sonicare but don't want to spend any more money than you absolutely have to, then this is the brush for you. It's not as glamorous as the other models but it creates the same full-power brushing action, although you're severely limited on replacement brush head selection.
Take note -
From this point on, all of the remaining models in our Best list feature snap-on style brush heads.
#2 - The Sonicare for Kids (HX6311/07) - $50.
Even though this model is marketed as a "kids" toothbrush, it is a full-powered Sonicare.
Things to know about the Sonicare for Kids:
Sonicare For Kids HX6311/07
- The design on this model looks like it's a kid's brush. But its "paint job" is really just a sticker you choose and then apply. So, if you're an adult and are considering the For Kids, you could just leave it off.
- Replacement brush heads: For Kids line (Standard and Compact).
For adult use, the DiamondClean (Standard and Compact), ProResults (Standard) and InterCare (Standard) heads are compatible with this model. (This is as many brush head options as with any Sonicare.)
- This brush features KidTimer (a variant of Smartimer) and Kidpacer (a variant of QuadPacer). For adults considering this brush, these features can make choosing this brush a bit quirky. For example, both make sound sequences that cannot be turned off. You can read more about these options here.
- Unlike any other brush in our list, this one has a high and low power mode.
There can be special situations (use with very young, debilitate or impaired persons) where a lower vibrational frequency is all that can be tolerated. If so, this brush provides a relatively inexpensive way by which this determination can be made. And, of course if need be, permanently operated at this lower setting.
- Operating time after charging: - "Up to" 3 weeks. (Lithium-ion battery.)
- More details about the Sonicare For Kids.
Comments: The stickers and sound issues do make this a "kids" brush. But for adults that can get past that, features-wise this brush (because it has the two-speed option) surpasses even the EasyClean below, for only about 1/2 the price.
Sonicare 2 Series HX6211/04
#3 - The Sonicare 2 Series Plaque Control (HX6211/04) - $70.
This is a "sleeker," more refined alternative to the heftier Essence model.
Things to know about the Sonicare 2 Series:
Comments: When compared to the Essence above, you're basically buying a smaller, easier to hold brush, which is nice.
You also get the advantage of more convenient, easier to clean around, snap-on brush heads. And a wider range of styles of replacement brushes to choose from.
If you're willing to consider a non-Sonicare model, open this box.
Sonicare EasyClean HX6511/50
#4 - The Sonicare EasyClean (HX6511/50) - $90.
This is the sleekest of the "inexpensive" Sonicare toothbrushes.
Things to know about the EasyClean:
- Replacement brush heads: DiamondClean (Standard and Compact), ProResults (Standard), InterCare (Standard) .
- Operating time after charging: - "Up to" 3 weeks. (Lithium-ion battery.)
- It has Sonicare's QuadPacer feature.
- More details about the EasyClean.
Comments: This is our Best list's "high-end" model and it would seem to make a pretty reasonable choice.
- It has a smaller, sleeker styling that's similar to that of the more expensive Sonicare lines. This simply makes the brush easier to hold and use, which is nice.
- It has a lithium-ion battery, which is generally a plus for us.
- It offers as much choice in brush head options as any Sonicare toothbrush.
- It has Smartimer and QuadPacer, which helps some people achieve better brushing discipline.
- What it doesn't have is all of the additional brushing modes that we think most people don't need or use anyway.
What about the other Sonicare models?
The other brushes in our original list were HealthyWhite, FlexCare+ (plus), FlexCare Platinum and DiamondClean models.
Why they didn't make our list.
The problem with these brushes is the whole issue about "multiple brushing modes" now comes into play (discussed 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 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, it's possible that a feature that you feel is vital isn't found on any of the models we've suggested. If so, you're obviously just going to have to buy one of those models that has it. (Features lists of current Sonicare models.)
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, 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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