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Hands-on Gear Review
Philips Sonicare Essence Review
Price: $40 List | $19.95 at Amazon
Pros: Inexpensive, good battery life, exceptionally stable
Cons: Not comfortable, large, annoying brush head attachment
Bottom line: Though the design seems a little antiquated, this brush is the least expensive of the bunch
The Sonicare Essence is the lowest end model of its product family. It was the least expensive model of electric toothbrush that we looked at, and was also the lowest scoring throughout the majority of our tests. While this will clean your teeth adequately (as will every other brush we looked at), this brush wasn't very comfortable to use, and had an annual cost that was higher than its counterparts.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Essence uses a side to side oscillating style brush head, and performed similarly to other models that utilize a similar cleaning method. While still above average, this method lacked in our testing when compared to the rotation oscillation method, earning this brush and others a score of 6 out of 10. This model vibrates at what seems to be the standard value of 31,000 movements per minute. To compare cleaning performance, we had a panel of users refrain from brushing for about 16 hours, and then use a plaque disclosing tablet to reveal the accumulated plaque. Scores were determined by comparing the before and after brushing results and seeing where and how much plaque remained.
We evaluated the ability of the brushes to remove surface stains by using a stained eggshell as a substitute for stained teeth. The Essence lacks a specific mode for whitening, so we ran it on its standard mode for a full cycle on a section of shell about the size of a single tooth. This is approximately the same amount of cleaning that would occur on a single tooth over about 4 weeks of brushing. We compared before and after photos across the board to determine scores.
The Essence did surprisingly well in the stain removal test, only falling behind the rotation oscillation style brushes.
This brush scored below average in our series of comfort tests, receiving a 4 out of 10. It was by far the largest toothbrush and the heaviest, but actually was received somewhat favorably when it came to ergonomics.
Most of our panel felt that this model had an acceptable level of comfort when it came to brushing, but the lack of a soft or gentle mode was a disappointment for those with sensitive gums.
This model was exceptionally noisy for a side to side style brush, both on the sound level meter and in the opinion of the testers. We recorded the Essence at 73 dBa, 2" away from the mouth when being used for brushing. This was substantially louder than the other side to side style brushes, and on par with the rotation-oscillation style. Our testers also graded this very poorly, as it was significantly loud the them while in use.
Ease of Use
The Essence scored in the middle of the pack when it came to evaluating its ease of use, meriting a 5 out of 10. Our evaluators felt that visually this brush was so-so, with no major, visually-glaring detractors. This model requires you to screw on and off brush heads, significantly more vexing than the snap on/off method that every other toothbrush we looked at used.
Continuing its pattern of being as bare bones as possible, the Essence lacks cleaning modes, with only the single, standard clean available. While this model does have a two minute timer, it forgoes the quadrant pacing function, leaving it up to the user to ensure evenness in brushing throughout the two minutes. The large size of this toothbrush does make it exceptionally stable off base, standing tall above its competitors even with extreme shaking of the table.
The interface is limited to a simple on/off switch, as there are no other features to actually interface with. When attempting to clean this brush, we found there were a few places where toothpaste gunk would accumulate, including the seam where the 2 plastic body halves met, a small gap around the power button, and the threaded attachment point for the brush head.
We were pleasantly surprised by the duration of the battery life, expecting it to be much shorter due to the bare bones nature of this product. The Essence was subjected to continuous usage and lasted a respectable 134 minutes. It even had a tiny reserve after it died, probably just enough to finish brushing if it ended prematurely. The battery indicator just blinks when the battery is approaching depleted, not really conveying a sense of how close to being totally empty it is, or how much brushing time you have remaining.
This product is one of the most bare-bones models, and is priced accordingly with a low MSRP of $40. This would be an attractive option for those on the tightest of budgets, and offers good value in that it will work acceptably well and you get exactly what you pay for: a low price for the lowest performing model that we tested.
While this is an acceptable toothbrush, we would recommend just spending a little more for some features that we deemed crucial throughout our testing process: quadrant timer, sensitive cleaning mode. Our Best Buy award winner (Oral-B Pro 1000) has an MSRP that is $10 more expensive, but gave a much better performance throughout our testing — definitely enough to justify the increase in cost.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer
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