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My first Philips shaver, the "Tracer," was a typical shaver from the early 1990's. My parents bought it for me for my 17th birthday and I felt like a man as well as being better than most of my mates who had cheaper, electric foil shavers with straight blades. Like most things from that generation, it was a slim shaver encased in black and had a red stripe from top to toe either side of the unit made entirely of rubber - presumably to aid ease of use and grip when using the product - let me tell you, it may have looked tacky and may have been designed to look like something taken out of a race car, but my "Tracer," model was quite advanced at the time. It was rechargeable and it could be used with a mains cord as well as without the cord, a cleaning brush, a soft travel pouch and a funky two stage flip up hard plastic storage box that held everything including the mains adaptor. It also came with Phillips patented "Double Action Lift and Cut" twin blades and a handy pop-up trimmer.
The Tracer died however after giving 13 years of faithful service and was replaced by this HQ481 model given as a birthday gift from my best friend in 2005. One shaver from Philips set for life is usually what men need and don’t make a fuss about, unless like me, they have to complete two or more jobs requiring another shaver purchase, hence my “travelling Matt,” battery powered Philips HQ40. Since then, now in 2012 my reliable and trusty HQ481 has only just began to show signs of slowing down when used cordless, but it is still a very good model to keep despite considerations of throwing it away.
Nar2’s Quick Skip Product Spec
• HQ481 Micro model with twin rotating, floating “Micro” heads. • Auto voltage selector and side trimmer, power: • 1 hour charge for 30 minutes cordless working time, • 2-pin plug charger curly stretch cord supplied. • Dry cut only with floating heads – non-washable. • Green LED indicator & safety button activation lock. • Compact size= 12.5cm height by 3.5cm length/breadth. • Protection cap, cleaning brush & oil with travel pouch supplied. • Retailed at £24-99 (2005) to £19-99 Argos in 2007. • Price in 2012 average costs £25 to £35, EBay and online suppliers.
Power & Promise
The Philips Rechargeable "Micro Plus," HQ481 stopped production in 2007/8 and Philips were slow to bring out any replacement model, preferring to stick to the triple-head design as opposed to the double-head design, restricting this far more compact design to the AA battery powered only travel version, which lacks the trimmer function and “micro” blades.
Back in 2007 by Argos, it cost around £24-99 before it dropped to £19-99 and was then taken out of production,
Pictures of Philips HQ 481 Micro+ ACT.
HQ40 meets HQ481
completely. Included with this model is a manual book, a mains two pin plugged cord, soft "luxury" travel pouch, head blade protection snap on hat, cleaning brush and…Well that's it. What else do you need? The "luxury" travel case is nothing more than a thick washable cloth zipped bag that houses just the shaver. However closer inspection reveals a handy sewn in extendable flap that allows the mains cord to be stored as well. It's a pity there isn't an individual compartment for the cleaning brush though...It is everything that my "Tracer," shaver had in terms of its slim, easy to use compact design with one most important difference; "Micro Action Lift and Cut," patented blades from Phillips.
I didn't mind the "Double Action, lift and cut," blades on my old Tracer model if I was going to stand all day and go over my face - and similarly, later with the AA battery travel HQ40 Philips, but I find that I have to go over and over the same patch of skin twice to remove any existing fly away stubble. You'll know yourself when you look in the mirror and see a little path of hair looking out at you that you think you know you have shaved - yet it's still there for all to see! You may assume correctly that this could well be the newness of this shaver but when the HQ481 was received as a gift in 2005, it still performs admirably and the blades are still a revelation compared to my old Tracer shaver. The "Micro Action," of the blades on the HQ481 beats cutting time by half compared to the "Double Action," blades on my Tracer model and the battery HQ40; both models are remarkably similar, only consisting of two individual round blades as opposed to the normal standard of three. My skin feels smooth and silky once this shaver has been used but importantly, doesn't need to go over and over unlike the “Lift and Cut,” blades.
Now in hindsight, a shaver at this price won't have Phillips’ later invention of invariably sprung suspension type blades and blade seats. It won't feature the "Reflex," feature that is available on higher priced models made by Phillips and neither can the model be ever used with water. It would be more expensive for any or all of these features to be included - but as a basic shaver that is effectively all in one for my shaving needs, the Philips HQ481 is a fantastic little appliance! The shaver lasts for a 30-minute shaving time though which is fair for the price, I feel the shaver isn't too noisy in use, with only the side trimmer being noisier when actioned.
Like all kinds of Philishave shavers, the round blades offer the standard "up and down," action and principal use that is required with standard cylindrical foil shavers, or moving the shaver in a circular motion gently over the skin. I guess this is why I have favoured Philips shavers to this day -because I have used other electric foil shavers and still, I find Philips circular motion a lot easier and less of a struggle to use. The heads may lack deep, Reflex contour action that moulds to your face but there is a degree of basic floating fitted to the actual blade heads which makes for a more effective and closer shave. It is also fast and pretty instant too!
The pop up trimmer is welcomed for side burns or any touch up areas such as moustache or beards. To hair, the blades are very sharp - but it won't damage fingers if you brush a finger past the edge. I'm just saying it's sharp because it removed hair from my side burns much more quickly than my old Tracer does - and the mechanisms on both shavers are identical; a flip up button is located just below at the back of the shaver just below the main blade heads. Slide the green located button up and the trimmer pops-up. Simple, and yet it shows 7 years down the line, Phillips haven't changed a thing in this additional cutter. If it ain't broke, don't fix it – and the trimmer never seems to lose its cutting performance.
Quality, Design & Downsides
Initially when I started to use the Philips HQ481, I wasn’t taken with its slippery, silvery coating on the body. Whilst it looks good, it doesn't have a rough surface, and this is because no thought has been given to include any grips on the shaver - neither is it ribbed in anyway for a hand to be able to successfully grip it while it's switched on. I have already dropped this shaver on the floor in my bathroom and luckily it fell on a soft mat at the time, but I wonder how many guys will drop this shaver accidentally on a hard floor in their bathroom and wonder how long it will last? One identifiable screw head holds the shaver together and whilst the shaver looks good, it is lightweight and comparatively cheaper in feel to my old shaver because of the silver coating. For the original price of under £20 however, the quality of this shaver is largely excellent and justified – you won’t ever find a sharp corner on this baby – everything is smooth to the touch and organically designed.
Most men however prefer wet shaving because its healthier for the skin, and to avoid the grey look on skin, it is better to wet shave rather than use an electric shaver. I on the other hand am lucky that I can chop and change whenever I want to, but ultimately prefer using my electric shaver if I'm in a hurry or want to feel as if my face is soft as silk without getting cuts. Like my old shaver, this shaver has an automatic voltage selector. It is rated to work at between 100 to 240 volts. The manual states that the shaver has a worldwide voltage selection and I love the fact that aside from its two-pin plug charger, the shaver changes the voltage automatically without any manual operation.
When it comes to charging, the Philips HQ481 has been well designed even though you’ll definitely have to purchase a 3 pin UK travel shaver plug for charging the shaver. Unlike my Tracer model, the charging light on the shaver just below the main slide up power button (which also has a green button line to push in, to release the button in the first instance) will remain constantly on in it's green colour when charging is taking place and repeatedly flash once charging has completed – this prolongs any excess power that could effectively shorten the battery’s life.
Cleaning the head and blade seats are easy thanks to the flip up head, which comes off as soon as the release button (again like everything else on the shaver, it's a grey button with a green line recess on it) located just below the main head on the front side (remember the back side of the shaver at the top is where the trimmer is).
Push this and the head will come off. Once inside, a handy "S" shape hinge is easy to see. Pick this out by pushing the "S" and the cradle holding the blades will drop out of the main head. Each blade slides out and can be brushed out for any remaining, clogged up hair. The manual states that the heads must be cleaned every 6 months as well as additionally replaced every 2 years. I replaced my original shaver heads and metal covers in 2008 when I happened to see replacement packs in John Lewis at a cost of £6-99. The replacement blades have never been replaced and mirror the excellent performance of the old ones.
A downside internally is revealed the more you get into the bits that hold the shaver blades in – the “S” cradle, shaped like an “S,” hence the name! This is a very thin piece of plastic that carries and locks the 2 blades and their covers into the shaver head assembly/top cap and it is very fragile. If it gets bent in any way, it will crack which loosens the lock action of the blades, therefore stopping one of the blades monetarily. Philips charge up to £25 for an S cradle replacement alone, so you have to careful with the cleaning brush if you need to clean each of the shaver heads. In all the years I’ve owned and used the Philips HQ481, I tend to just blow the dust out of the collected area and then turn the cap around to blow out any excess hair – to avoid breaking the S-Cradle.