Usually we take a church-and-state approach to multi-tasking grooming products. Rarely is there a 2-in-1 shampoo-conditioner combo worth your dollar (much less a 3-in-1 with body wash added to the mix). Grooming devices usually fall in line with this rule, too. The best electric shavers focus their efforts on exactly that: giving you a safe, smooth, ingrown-free shave. A beard trimmer tackles the tuff scruff on your face, while a hair clipper can mow through the sheer bulk of hair up top, free of pulling and tugging.
However, there are always exceptions. And the popularity of all-in-one grooming devices is too strong to ignore: Some people want one device that does it all, for any number of reasons. Maybe they rarely do a clean shave, so having an adequate one is good enough, so long as the beard trimming functions are up to snuff. Maybe a guy who buzzes his hair once every June doesn’t want to invest in a full hair clipper — even if it’s inexpensive, it still takes up space, and it makes more sense to just pay for a buzz cut. Unless… unless his multi-groomer can manage the annual task just fine.
As a grooming editor for nearly a decade, I’ve tested just about every device under the sun. I grow out my facial hair, trim and shave it down, and do the same with the hair up top. I’m scruffy all over, in places I’d sometimes rather not be, so I’m doing a degree of detailing all around my person.
Among the many devices I keep in rotation is Philips Norelco’s 21-head Multigroom 9000. I’ve been a longtime fan of this one, noting to both friends and readers that it’s an exceptional multi-tasking groomer that covers the core bases thoroughly. But I’ve heard from many people over the years that Wahl’s Lithium Ion 2.0+ is actually the supreme pick in this field. Admittedly, I was familiar with the device but had never elevated it to full rotation. So I made the space for this one to see if it can dethrone Philips Norelco.
What we're testing:
- Philips Norelco All-in-One Multigroom 9000 (Model: MG7770), $87
- Wahl Lithium Ion 2.0+ (Model: 9864SS), $80
Philips Norelco All-in-One Multigroom 9000 vs. Wahl Lithium Ion 2.0+
To find out which all-in-one groomer is best, I assessed the following key components:
- Range and value of offering: What are the “heads” and functions it offers, and are all of these valuable to the user? Sometimes, more isn’t always more. Practicality matters here.
- Performance of core offering: Beard, shave, hair, detailing, body… how does it perform in each category overall? Also, what kind of power is this thing packing, and do its blades hold up for each task?
- Charge and battery time: Can you tote it for a month without having to worry about battery life? And can it give you enough juice in a pinch, if you’re in a hurry?
- Price and warranty: With all of the above in mind, what does it cost, and how long is its warranty (a key indicator of value and longevity, itself)?
The Winner: Wahl Lithium Ion 2.0+
Wahl squeaks out the win. I was shocked and somewhat humbled. I was so blinded by my loyalty to Philips that I disregarded the ways in which Wahl’s device could win outright.
But, as you’ll see from the overview below, it really does come down to what you want from your all-in-one device. If you want 95-percent trimming and shaving, it’s Wahl all the way. If you want true all-in-one for head — shave, trim, detailing, and body — then go with Philips. Still, it’s Wahl with a capital W for the win. Read on to learn why.
How We Tested Them
Test #1: Range and Value of Offerings
The Philips touts 21 different heads for a truly customizable device. The two that I think are excessive are both fading hair combs. Honestly, you should only use this device as a hair clipper if you’re doing a uniform buzz; if you want a fade, then you’re clearly demanding more than this all-in-one can offer. Either visit the barber or upgrade to an actual hair clipper with all the necessary attachments. That being said, we’re looking at 19 different attachments. Six of them are for beard and stubble, for lengths 1-7mm (one of which offers a sliding 3-7mm grade, should you want one head for the task). There’s an eyebrow guard, two body trimmer guards (3 + 5mm), and four useful hair guards in 4mm increments (4-16mm). There are five different heads: a standard head, T-outliner (for lineups and clean edge work), a foil shaver, nose and ear trimmer and detailing trimmer (great for spot-checking). It all comes in a hard-top storage case.
Wahl deploys the T-outliner on its own. It doubles as the standard head here, which mostly works in its favor as a space saver. (It makes it a less likely device for shaving one’s own head, however). There are also heads for nose and ears, to shave with, and for detailing/spot checking. It offers 12 different guards, from 1.5mm (1/16 inch) to 25mm (1 inch), with the top four designated for hair clipping (they’re all above a half inch, rising in 3mm increments from 16mm (⅝ inch) to 25mm (1 inch). It can all be stowed or toted in the soft, zippered storage case that comes with it.
In terms of offering, I think the match is fairly even. I think Wahl does a better job economizing and offering longer lengths for the hair cutting. However, given what I said about the two excess Philips hair trimming heads (the ones designated for fading hair), I have to stay consistent and say this: If you’re going to cut head hair above a half inch, then you’re entering a new territory and should invest in a proper, standalone hair clipper or simply head to the barber. And because the T-trimmer head on the Wahl is harder to navigate as an all-over dome trimmer, it loses marks in that field (more on that below). So, I find its four largest heads slightly unnecessary for 90-95-percent of buyers.
However, Wahl also puts a heavier focus on the non-scalp-hair trimming, meaning its guards are intended for universal use, and thus offer more intervals across its universal guard range (as opposed to Philips Norelco's designation of guards for each area of the body, in turn offering fewer intervals across more functions). As such, the pendulum swings into Wahl’s corner, because I believe most people using this device will get much more mileage from it around their face, and more length options is always better —especially if you like to give yourself a non-uniform, stylized trim across the mustache and beard. Secondly, that designated T-blade head makes for easy lineups and neckline trimming, whereas you have to add your T-trimmer to the head of the Philips.
Best Offering: Wahl
Wahl economizes its guards and heads better. It takes a gamble by putting greater emphasis on all-purpose guards instead of assigning them into categories, and thus its most functional guards offer a greater number of intervals for the scruff, beard and perimeter work.
Test #2: Performance of Core Offerings
If you’re going to buy either device for specific tasks (hair, beard, body, detailing, shave), then here’s which one wins in those respective categories. (The nose/ear trimmer is good on both devices; no need to score or compare.)
Trimming Head Hair: Philips
Don’t use these devices for more than a uniform buzz. I’d be remiss to advise otherwise. Philips takes the lead here because its standard head makes for a more comfortable and ergo-friendly shave than the Wahl. Though the Wahl offers more options in length, Philips’ dedicated head-hair guards offer a wider comb for those hairs, which is also appreciated.
Trimming Facial Hair: Wahl
This is technically the main category here, since most of us will use this device most often on our mugs. I said it above and I’ll repeat it with brevity here: Wahl economizes its device smartly and gambles more heavily on the face as opposed to the rest of your body — which is smart, because if you’re only going to use it quarterly on your chest or once a year on your head, you should put much more weight on this category.
Close Shaving: Wahl
Philips’ shaver feels more like a detailer. I like that for small spot checks — like if I snip the bridge between my mustache and beard, and want to carefully get those hairs down to the skin. It navigates small spots better and that might be what you want in this all-in-one device. However, Wahl's feels more like an actual shaving head. It’s wider and can be swapped in for fast full-face cleanups, or even sub-beard-neckline cleanups. For that reason, it takes the category.
Both devices have a terrific detailing head (a tiny tooth of a clipper for spot checking; I like to use it to soften the edges of my mustache or snip at strays after I trim). However, because Philips’ shaver is small and works well as a detail shaver (again, like for the space between the mustache and beard, or anywhere you want it), I think the edge goes to them in this category.
Body Grooming: Philips
Because ergonomics matter so much in this department, I’m a big advocate of a dedicated body groomer. (Panasonic makes my favorite by a mile, by the way). You can easily shave your own backside with that body-designed device, but neither of these trimmers is trying to do that (and rightfully so). That being said, for the same reason Philips wins in the head-buzzing category, it also wins here. Its device and standard head are just softer around the sensitive parts of the body, and its dedicated body grooming guards carefully gather and comb the unruly hairs for an even shearing; they’re reinforced so that these uncooperative hairs fall into place.
Blades and Cutting: Philips
With two rows of blades cutting alongside one another, this device mows through hairs and in turn sharpens itself. (The Wahl does the same, for the record.) It is worth mentioning the quality of Philips’ guards, too; they’re all reinforced, and you can feel the difference between them as opposed to Wahl’s somewhat flimsy plastic guards. That can make the most minute but important difference in terms of a clean pass on the first attempt (and the longevity of the device itself).
Best Overall Core Performance: Philips
It almost feels unfair to declare a winner here, because Wahl seems to lean into the fact that its best use case is for beard and shave — and it wins those two categories (arguably the biggest in this head-to-head). However, if we’re looking at which device is the better all-in-one, then Philips gets the W because of its outstanding detailing abilities, ergo-friendly body and dome duties, and overall terrific trimming prowess (even if Wahl edges it out in that last one).
Test #3: Charge Time and Battery
This one is fairly straightforward and requires three measurements. Which device holds a longer charge? Which device charges faster (compared to its charge hold)? And how much juice can you get on a quick charge?
But here’s the thing: Both devices can sustain a 6-hour run time on a 1-hour charge. (And both devices can stay unplugged for months without needing a re-up if you don’t charge between trims.) Secondly, both will get you a quick 5-6 minute juice on one minute of charge, should you need it in a pinch. So how do you declare a winner here? Again, it comes down to tiny details: Philips’ device allows you to use it while it charges, while Wahl’s does not.
Best Charge and Battery: Philips
Both devices harness lithium ion power to deliver long run times on short charges. But Philips’ ability to trim while charging gives it the win.
Test #4: Price and Warranty
Wahl’s device costs $80 dollars and comes with a 5-year warranty, compared to Philips’ device costing $100 and offering a 2-year warranty. While the value for cost might come down to what you demand for the device, the warranty alone make Wahl’s purchase a much surer bet.
Best Price and Warranty: Wahl
A 5-year warranty and less expensive device — while winning two core performance categories, no less — means that this one is quite a bargain.
Why the Wahl Lithium Ion 2.0+ Ultimately Wins
Don’t mistake me: I love the Philips Norelco Multigroom 9000. It has been good to me for years, and my opinion of it will not change. But, I primarily use it on my face — particularly for detailing tasks — and otherwise rely on a dedicated body groomer and hair clipper for those respective jobs. However, now that I’ve given myself a closer look at “the Wahl of it all," I’m realizing something new: Most of you want a dedicated device for your face that periodically does something different. And, if that thing is primarily an electric shaver, then it defaults also to Wahl's Lithium Ion 2.0+ . If that thing is buzzing your head or trimming your chest, then it defaults to Philips. I just think that the vast majority will be trimming and shaving, even if that narrows the scope of a multi-groom device.
While the Philips wins out on its ability to operate while charging, the Wahl can still do whatever you need it to do on a 60-second charge, and its warranty is 2.5 times as much, all for a few dollars less. I recommend them both, wholeheartedly — neither is a bad option — but Wahl wins by a hair.