Ultrasonic Toothbrush Reviews and the Philips Sonicare 4100
We've been using various versions of the Philips Sonicare for years now and after the switch to the new brush type, they seem to work well. The main pain is that the battery does die after a while. Normally about 5-7 years which is actually not bad although they are not replaceable so the whole thing goes into the trash. Well, I just had two die on me. The first was because it was in a travel bag without a case (not going to make that mistake again) and the motor basically died from the side pressure. And then another just stopped charging.
The other pain is that they have their own power charging system so you have to carry around a bulky little thingy to charge them and then you have to worry about 120V vs 240V and various adapters. They really vary in price from $25 to $200 per toothbrush, so I was really wondering if we couldn't get away with the $25 version (which also is just USB chargeable, but doesn't have all those fancy modes). They seem to make most of their money not surprisingly from brushes, so they are expensive but relatively small.
So off to do some reviews of what the ultrasonic toothbrushes are and whether the cheapest one works just fine the conclusion is that these things seem pretty much like commodities and the prices have really come down. We will probably just get another Philips because we have a bunch of heads and it is a pain in a family to have multiple heads, but if you need just one, here are some more to choose from:
- Bathroomer.org. Got to love a site with that specific mission but it's not clear if they actually tested anything or just read reviews. Basically, they recommend the Emmi-dent Silent Care which vibrates at a whopping 1.5M times a second. Is that even real? Basically, this requires special toothpaste and it's a hefty $240 if you can believe that. We don't need such an expensive thing and the regular ultrasonic seems to work fine in cleaning. Then if you like gimmicks, the Philips Sonicare 9750 is Bluetooth enabled, so you can see where you are brushing. It is a more reasonable 1K pulses per second, so way less super. It has a travel case with a USB plug-in, but I do find that this is kind of bulky compared to a slim case and a separate charging thingy since you don't need to charge if our trip is shorter than two weeks. Finally, the off-brand XFU is only $20, so this shows you don't need to spend a lot for an ultrasonic toothbrush anymore. The good news is the Philips still seems like it is pretty good and a more modest Philips Sonicare 5100 also scored very high but does cost $90. And the Initio is also just $30 and does just as good a job, so the brand means something. And if you don't like being locked into the brush heads, then the AquaSonic comes with 8 brush heads for just $40.
- House and Beyond. Another dedicated site claims to have actually reviewed the toothbrushes. In this review, the AquaSonic came first. Then the Mueller runs a bit faster at 66K strokes per minute vs 40K spm in the Aquasonic. Both are very cheap at $40 and $35
Best choice if you are in the Philips world
They really have a big system of toothbrushes from Philips, but basically on Amazon there look like there are two big lines:
- Philips Sonicare 1000-2000 Series. There are two base models here both with NiMH batteries, the HX3661/04 is the 2100 and the 1100 is HX3641 both listing at $35 and $25 respectively.
- Philips Sonicare 3000-4000 Series. These are also Li-Ion with 14 day life and there is the 4100 with a brush reminder plus 1 mode and 2 intensities and 3100 just 1 mode and 1 intensity. The claim is that the 4100 is 7x more plaque than manual vs 3100 at 3x more because of the higher intensity mode. They both have pressure sensors. These are $45 and $50 respectively list price. These are all USB charged systems by the way so you need a charger, but on the other hand, you don't need a big plug at the back.
From these basic models come escalating prices that seem pretty big for very small features:
- Philips Sonicare ProtectClean. 4300 or HX6809 is $50 (so same price as the 4000 and looks identical except it is using a different exterior handle) and 6100 or HX6877 for $120 and Amazon has a 5300 which is $99. The 6100 recognizes the head you've added and it has 3 intensities not 2 and has 3 modes not 1 that are dependent on the head you put on, but that seem like an awful big price increase but it does recognize the head you have and changes the intensity, so a C2 brush moves to clean, a G2 gum head to Gum Care and W moves to White Mode and it has a travel case. The 6500 is $170, so that's really quite a bit the HX6462 seems to mainly give you a USB enabled travel case.
- Philips Sonicare ExpertClean. There is only one model of the ExpertClean 7300 for $170 as Model HX9710 and its big feature is Bluetooth enabling so you can track how you brush and where you are brushing. Amazon has these as the 7500 series for $190.
- Philips Sonicare DiamondClean. Theere are three versions the Smart HX9903 and the Smart 9300 HX9903/11 at $180, $220 and $330 respectively. Honestly, I didn't even look at them when contemplating paying that much for a toothbrush
- Philips Sonicare Presige 9900. This is their top end system at a whopping $380 list but you can get it for just $330. Right. The main thing is that it adjusts the intensity if you push too hard.
The cheapest system doesn't have many features but does cost $25 which is pretty attractive. I personally don't use a lot of the various features, I just set it to the maximum intensity (my gums are not that sensitive) and leave it there. Even features like reminders to change brush heads aren't that useful, so here are two great places to get them, it does look like the sweet spot is in the low end maybe up to the ProtectClean 4300.
- Philips Sonicare 4100 from Amazon. This is $50 and is model HX3681/23. It comes with a USB charger which is way better than the adapter. It doesn't have a case, but we have lots of extra cases from all the dying systems. The big change is a nice brush and it has a BrushSync that tells you every 3 months to change your brush (which I basically ignore). The 4100 is 1 mode and two intensities and has a pressure sensor if you pressing too hard (not a problem for me). You can still get the one with a dedicated power plug as well at Amazon as the HX6817, but I think the USB base is better particularly for travel.
- Philips HX6229/30 from Costco. These are $99 plus $5 shipping for two. They are two mode and is a one off for Costco. Look at it, it looks pretty comparable to the Philips 4100 with two intensities.
- Philips 2100 from Amazon. This is the $35 and HX3661/04. It is also just a USB Charger without a case. The main difference is that it has two modes compared with the Philips 1100. This is a little slower at 31K brush strokes per minute (as is the 1100). This is also a NiMH battery, so that's a big consideration if you care about the length of time you use it.
- Philips 1100 from Amazon. This is just $25 and is model HX3641/02. It is a USB charger without a case. It only has a single mode and single intensity, so the most basic possible, but does have a QuadPacer so it tells you every 30 seconds to switch the quadrant of brushing
All and all, I would say the Philips 1100 is a hell of a deal if you don't need all these features at $25 and don't mind it has a lower intensity (31Kspm) then the 4100 is probably the best middle of the road one for $50. You probably don't need all these features, but it is just $5 more than the 2100. The more expensive ones, I'm just not sure make that much sense. So I would say it is between the 1100 and the 4100 as the cheapest decent and best value respectively
If you need some the accessories like a travel case, then you probably have to move up a bit to the Sonicare 5100, but when that thing wears out, then you can drop back to the 4100 and save $30 a time (the 5100 is $80).