Over the years, like many guys, I have used every shaving method for a decent period of time to fully evaluate if it was for me: cartridge razors, disposables, electric, double edge (traditional shaving razors) and even actual straight razors. I actually still greatly enjoy traditional shaving, however the fact remains that it is time consuming for me. I was looking for a quick and convenient way to get a "decent" shave in the morning or while traveling and thought I might revisit electric. I used a Norelco rotary for two years and my face never really liked it--the ingrowns never went away, and there were always missed hairs. I also used a cheap foil razor in the military, and again, my face always felt itchy for a few hours after using it. After many years, I decided to see if technology has improved and take another gamble with an electric. Most manufacturers give a decent guarantee period, so that helped with the decision. I had two factors: One, no rotary. Two, I'm getting a top of the line shaver. That left me with the Panasonic ARC5 and Braun series 9. I chose the Braun because in all the reviews I have read, it seemed to cater to sensitive skin best, and many shavers were amazed at the lack of irritation. Panasonic got higher marks for closeness, but Braun for overall shaving comfort. The model I bought was the 9295 (chrome version w/ cleaning station). Never had a cleaning station so I figured I'll see what that is about.
I found the Braun Series 9 to be exactly what I was looking for. I was blown away at the lack of irritation--I really couldn't believe my face didn't feel itchy or have red spots on it, even during the first few shaves. After a few weeks, the ingrowns are completely gone, so no issues there. I still have to do some creative skin stretching, but I'm also not getting missed hairs like I did with rotary razors. Finally the closeness is impressive, considering the fact that the blades never actually touch your skin. Of course I get a closer shave with a double edge razor, but the Braun gives a very satisfactory shave and its exactly what I wanted out of this razor. I get a good half a day with my skin completely smooth and not until the evening do I start feeling the growth--again, for an electric not bad.
I like the cleaning station as well. I don't consider the refills to be overly expensive (best buy has and excellent price on these actually) as they last about a month, and I'm glad I got the cleaning station as the razor feels brand new every time I use it. Since it also lubricates the head, some residue will remain on the sides of the head, but its a non-issue. I have read reviews that criticize the chrome color of this razor as it is a "finger print magnet." Not sure about this one--I seem to be able to keep mine pretty clean without a whole lot of effort, but I can see if your hands are oily then it would be an issue. While it is made of plastic, it doesn't feel cheap. Also, I have used it with water and shaving cream and both seemed to improve the experience. Most days I just used Lab Series electric pre-shave and I'm good.
As for any dislikes--I'm not the biggest fan of the side trimmer. It works, but feels awkward. Also, I'm not sure how I would like it without the cleaning station, and with the cleaning station it seems like it would be a hassle during travel. Seems like it would require some effort to clean without the station, and I have also read that the cleaning indicator doesn't go away unless its plugged into a cleaning station. I don't know why they would sell a version without one if that's true, but I would definitely recommend getting the cleaning station. Just make sure you have room on your counter to give up for it.
Overall, I am extremely happy with the Braun Series 9. It gives a great shave with zero irritation, and I find it to be extremely convenient and high quality. Yes the price is on the high side, but this is very much an individual perspective and I find it worth its cost. I don't really have another equal point of reference to compare it to as I have never used a Series 7 before (many people upgrading to this one seem to be coming from a series 7), or a high end foil shaver. The rotary was the closest and the experience is night and day. I'll grow a beard before using a rotary again. If you are considering this razor, know that it is quite effective and also probably the most gentle on your skin (this still amazes me). At the end of the day, it IS an electric razor and by the nature of design it will be impossible for it to be as close as a cartridge or double edge razor. However, as far as electrics go, I can't see anything else that is currently being sold topping this one.