Finishing close to the back of the group, the Sonicare Essence is far from our favorite toothbrush. This model isn't very comfortable and didn't deliver a distinguishing performance in our cleaning test, though it does have a solid battery life and is quite easy to use. It is the least expensive toothbrush of the group, but it isn't that much more expensive for a much better toothbrush. Additionally, the replacement brush heads for this tend to be a bit pricier than other models, so you may not even end up saving that much — or any — money in the long run.
Philips Sonicare Essence Review
Pros: Inexpensive, good battery life
Cons: Not comfortable, large, annoying brush head attachment
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
This toothbrush finished right behind the Colgate E1 and the Oral-B Pro 5000. This brush is less comfortable to use than both of these and cleaned worse than the Pro 5000 in our tests. However, it does have the best battery life of this group and costs quite a bit less than either of those other brushes.
To test out these toothbrushes, we looked at dozens and dozens of different electric toothbrushes, then picked out the most promising to purchase and test head-to-head. We split our testing process into four weighted rating metrics, with the Essence's results described below.
Our most important metric — Comfort — is responsible for 40% of the total score for each toothbrush. We based this score on how comfortable to use our panel of judges found the Essence to be, how loud it is, and if there is a sensor to alert you if you are brushing too hard. The Essence didn't do that well, meriting a 4 out of 10.
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 panel also agreed that this brush seemed like one of the loudest, both for the person brushing and for other people in the same room.
This brush also lacks a built-in pressure sensor. Additionally, it is by far the largest toothbrush and the heaviest, making it quite a bit more cumbersome to hold compared to the other models.
Worth 30% of the total score for each electric toothbrush, our cleaning test came next in terms of significance. 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. The Essence did alright, earning a 6 out of 10 for its less than stellar showing.
Most of our testers did a passable job at removing plaque from the easier to reach places, but most people definitely missed spots in the hard to reach areas.
This noticeably included teeth towards the back of the mouth, with most of our testers' molars still showing residual plaque after brushing with the Sonicare Essence.
Ease of Use
For our next metric, worth one-fifth of the total score, we graded and judged how convenient and easy to use each brush is. We focused on the user interface, ease of cleaning, and the presence of a timer, as well as additional brush head storage to determine scores. The Essence actually did very well, earning a 7 out of 10 for its great performance.
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 an 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.
Our evaluators felt that visually this brush was so-so, with no major, visually-glaring detractors. However, it is a little more effort to swap brush heads with their screw-on attachment system than the click-on system favored by most other models.
For our last test, we evaluated the battery life of each electric toothbrush. This constituted the residual 10% of the final score for each product, with the Essence again doing quite well, earning a 7 out of 10. We ran each brush for a full cleaning cycle each day to simulate normal use, awarding scores based on how many days each product lasted.
This toothbrush lasted for a whopping 29 days on a full charge, making it more than reasonable to travel with this brush and leave the charger behind for all but the longest trips.
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, such as a quadrant timer. Some much better brushes only cost a little bit more and might even save you some money in the long run with less expensive and more readily available replacement brush heads.
— David Wise and Austin Palmer