Design, usability, clean & general use
In the box with the Sonicare Essence HX6511/01 you get all you need of an electric toothbrush.
Whilst there are extra desirable features I would like to have (quadpacer and pressure sensor), I have to say you could do a lot worse and Sonicare have really thought out what is on offer with this brush.
In fact, they include a couple of really clever extra touches that you would not expect.
There are 2 key parts to the brush, they are the handle and the detachable brush head.
The design of the handle is fairly basic and functional, but it is also chunky and heavy.
If this is your first electric toothbrush you might think that this is what they are all like, but to be honest, the vast majority are not as heavy or as thick as this is.
Compared to a manual toothbrush there is a significant difference.
Part of this heft to the handle has to do with the battery, but more on that shortly.
Despite being bigger in the hand, it is easy to grip onto and there are a couple of contours in the body of the handle that allows the fingers and thumb to naturally grip to.
Where a lot of brush handles are cylindrical or oval shaped, the Essence is a bit more angular. The basic shape is cylindrical but there are flatter edges to the handle that help with the grip. The images best show off what I mean by this.
White in color the smooth touch plastic handle does not have a lot going on.
At the front, there is the Philips Sonicare logo in a silver/grey color and just below that a mint green rubber button. This is the power button that turns the brush on and off. A green LED is also built into the center of this button.
The rest of the handle including the rear is relatively smooth to the touch and free of any other controls.
Normally on an electric toothbrush, there is a recess on the bottom of the brush handle, into which a prong on the top of a charging stand fits, not in this instance, the base of the handle is flat and the whole brush sits upright.
At the top of the brush handle is an opening to which the detachable brush head fits. The brush head screws on, a bit like you would screw a lid onto a bottle. The difference being that the brush head on the Essence has a metal/plastic setup that fits inside the brush handle.
When fitted and screwed into place, the battery inside the brush handle powers the motor and in turn creates a strong vibration that it passed up through the brush head and to the bristles to create movement.
The whole brush handle is sealed with all the tech inside the brush handle. The battery is not user replaceable.
In fact, believe it or not, the brush handle is actually dishwasher safe! So using it in the shower it no problem at all.
Press the power button and that launches the one and only cleaning mode available on this brush.
Delivering up to 31,000 strokes per minute this cleaning mode lasts for 2 minutes and can remove 2x more plaque than a manual brush.
If you’re interested in more cleaning modes, we run through all of those that Sonicare offers in this post.
Built into the handle is a timer, which means that as the brush is powered on, the timer kicks in.
You should brush your teeth for 2 minutes, twice a day. The Essence times the clean and at the end of the 2 minute clean automatically turns the brush handle off to conserve battery power but also make you aware the clean is complete.
Other models have a built-in quadpacer or 30 second timer. For me, this is what the Essence is really missing. The automatic power off is fabulous but more useful would be the 30 second pacer to ensure you and I focus equally on different parts of the mouth.
If this is your first electric toothbrush you will notice the difference, it is very effective at cleaning the teeth. It will improve your oral health.
But for many getting used to an electric toothbrush can take some time.
Sonicare have built in a very clever feature. Called Easy-Start, what it does is for the first 12 brushing sessions is gradually increase the power of the brush. So, the first time you switch the brush on, it is not operating at full power. By a week in the 12 cleans will be complete and you will be at full power. This eases you, and your gums into the extra power the brush delivers.
This is a small, but superb touch that really makes a difference.
The clean provided by this brush is good. Having personally used lots of different brushes, I can’t say the clean offered by the Essence is bad in any way.
Something just to be aware of is that brushing your teeth with a manual toothbrush is different to an electric brush, you need a different technique, so be sure to pay attention to the instructions provided with this brush that explain this.
A common problem across the population is brushing too hard. Bristles of a toothbrush, be that electric or manual need only skim the surface of the teeth. Over time, excessive pressure when brushing can lead to gum recession. Some brushes, normally premium models have a pressure sensor built-in, which alerts you when you are brushing too hard. The Essence does not have such a feature, which in my eyes is a shame.
As brushes go, this brush is an older design and does not boast a lot of the modern tech you see in more expensive brushes, but it still has what you need and performs well.
The brush head, in particular, is the best example of where the technology is a bit dated.
Firstly there is not the range of brush heads for Essence as there is other models. The configuration means that you are limited to the few e-series brush heads that are available. For the most part this is fine, but if you want lots of choice, the Essence is not for you.
You can get a compact version of the brush head supplied and also a sensitive variant.
Because the Essence is the only Sonicare handle to use these heads, the prices of the official heads are also slightly higher than we would like. Cheaper third party options exist.
The heads screw on and off of the handle where newer variants just clip on and off. This also has the effect that the brush is a lot noisier when switched on than most other Sonicare brushes. Normally just a humming sound, the Essence has a more mechanical sound.
Any other electric toothbrush from Sonicare is better. Just bear in mind if you brush your teeth with others sleeping near by.
Something that this brush head does offer, which is less common is the angle to the neck of the brush and head. You will see in the hands on images that the brush head tilts in. This can really help with reaching back teeth and following the gumline. Newer brushes don’t offer this.
Part of the reason the brush is thick and weighty is because of the battery that is built-in.
It is a Nickel Metal Hydride battery. Explained more in the battery section of this review, it is an older technology and subsequently the battery size is larger and heavier than slightly more modern equivalents.
But, to be fair it offers decent performance with 2 weeks battery life, which at this price point is impressive for a rechargeable brush.
There is no battery status bar/icon as such, although the LED on the brush handle does flash post use if the battery is low. You also get 5 bleeps from the brush handle too.
These bleeps kick in when there is about enough brushing time for 3 more cleans left in the battery.
This is yet another small example of where the Sonicare wins for simple well thought out features.
A charging stand is provided. It can take 24 hours to charge the brush handle fully.
Despite being a bit chunky and heavy the Essence performs really well and punches above its price point for the battery life and little extra features it offers.
All of this is backed by a 2 year Philips warranty, which can be extended by 6 months if the brush is registered online.