So, you’re looking to buy a self haircutting system and can’t decide between the two top competitors, Flowbee and Robocut.
Both products have been around for decades with a solid fan base. The Flowbee certainly has had more attention, albeit most of that attention is negative. People love to make fun of these systems, but I think they provide good value.
The people that use them swear they’ve saved thousands of dollars, and I can see why. By doing a little napkin math, if you get a haircut every two months you can save at least $300 a year using a Flowbee or Robocut hair cutter.
But to save the maximum amount of money, you must buy the system that works today, next month, and next year with as little up upkeep as possible. That’s why I wrote this head-to-head, so we can know which one is better.
Want to know what to buy? Read on to find out.
Table of Contents
In-Depth Comparison Table of Flowbee vs Robocut
|Shortest Cut||1/2 Inches||1/2 Inches|
|Hose Length||4 Feet||4 Feet|
|Vacuum ||Sold Separately||Sold Separately|
|Voltage||120v||110 to 220V|
|Dimension||15.5 x 9 x 4.5 "||19 x 12 x 2.8|
The Flowbee Haircutting System Review: Old-School Charm
Right on the box Flowbee advertises their product as a precision haircutting system. It was invented in 1986 by Rick E. Hunts, a Californian carpenter. The device relies on suction to collect hair as it cuts. The main benefit is that you have no hair trimmings around when you’re finished.
Opening the box is a retro experience that I enjoyed. The manufacturer has kept the old-school charm intact. It reminds me of something you’d purchase back in the 80s.
Included items with the Flowbee are exactly what’s stated in the old commercials. You get:
- Vacuum Adapter
- Ten Plastic Spacers
- Blade Oil
- Power Cord
The device doesn’t come with its own suction system. You connect the Flowbee to your vacuum’s hose and you’ll need a vacuum with at least 3 horse power. The haircutter’s performance is directly related to the power output of your vacuum. So, make sure it’s clean and at full operational capacity before you use the Flowbee.
The spacer attachments sort of work like the guards on a clipper. You attach them to the head of the Flowbee and they extend the space between your hair and the blades inside the device.
The spacers range for 1/2-inch to 6-inch. If you have hair longer than 6 inches, you must order more spacers.
The manual details how to use the device, but you can also check how-to videos online to see positioning examples.
The Flowbee isn’t for tricky precision haircuts, like fades. But it can achieve decent layering. The system works more like a bulk cutter, doing most of the work without making a mess. You’ll still need a trimmer to clean up the lines around your neck, ears and sideburns.
It’ll take you about ten minutes to get the hang of using it to cut your own hair, so go slowly. Don’t rush and make sure the cutters are cutting hair. Also, the Flowbee works best with straight hair. Curly or thick hair prove to be more than the Flowbee can handle.
Your pet can enjoy the Flowbee, too. There’s a separate attachment you can buy that combs pet hair as it sucks and cuts. But again, if your dog’s hair is thick or curly, I don’t see this device helping you. It’s perfect for a Golden Retriever and not so great for a Poodle.
Maintaining the Flowbee haircutting system is painless, to a point. Aside from oiling the blades you just pack the device away when you’re done.
Because you can’t sharpen or clean the blades manually, you must buy new blades every six months to a year, which adds to the cost.
Overall, for those that fit the Flowbee’s specifics it’s a great device. You need a decent vacuum, straight hair, and tempered expectations. But it works.
You can potentially save thousands of dollars learning to use a Flowbee. Customers who use the system swear by it. I found consumer reviews that say they’ve had their Flowbee for ten years and counting.
Robocut Haircutting System Review: Quick and Easy
The Robocut haircutting system patent dates to 1984, two years before the Flowbee. Its inventor is Alfred Natrasevschi, a Romanian immigrant with a background in engineering.
He came to America and landed a job at Hewlett Packard. A particular man with a penchant for routine, he hated that barbers could never give him the same haircut twice. He tinkered in the HP labs in his spare time and invented the Robocut.
But unlike the Flowbee, the Robocut didn’t reach a wide audience in the 80s. Maybe because the name isn’t as catchy, and the device itself looks a little like a hairdryer. Or it could have been because Flowbee landed on the airwaves first, and the public wasn’t ready for two vacuum-based haircutting systems at once.
Either way, the Robocut offers similar benefits at a reduced price and has been around longer than Flowbee by two years.
The Robocut is boxed plainly and includes:
- Vacuum Adapter
- Six Plastic Spacers
- Blade Oil
- Power Cord
The instructions state that you can use the Robocut with any vacuum, or you can buy a separate vacuum sold by the Robocut manufacturer. There’s an adapter that fits most vacuum hoses, and if it doesn’t people recommend taping the hose with duct tape to better seal it.
Robocut’s spacer attachment system gives you ample control over your haircut’s length. The spacers cut from 1/4-inch up to 24-inches.
The tube-like spacers connect to the mouth of the device, and notches on the sides work like the guards on a beard trimmer. After a few attempts and you’ll get the hang of using the device.
The system is loud, although not as loud as the Flowbee. Its lightweight chassis is easy to grip and maneuver around your head. The cutting blades are laser-etched. Depending on how much you use the Robocut, they should hold their edge for a year.
I both love and hate that the power cord is near the end of the hose. It doesn’t get in your way when you’re cutting, but it is hard to turn off easily because it’s out of reach.
Another minor downside is that it doesn’t work well on wet hair or thick hair. They designed these vacuum systems for straight, pliable hair that easily combs and lifts.
If you’re cutting thick hair within 1/2-inch, the Robocut should work fine. Thick, long hair I wouldn’t recommend cutting with this device.
Maintenance is easy, and you can remove the blades to sharpen them or replace them, which adds to the longevity and value of the Robocut.
Another great addition is the two-year unconditional warranty. Online reviews mention that the manufacturer is responsive, and will replace any part within those two years, no questions asked.
Robocut vs Flowbee: What’s Similar?
They both work like this: The head of the device sucks hair into the plastic spacers and a rotating blade cuts it to an approximate length. They require minimal set up, just some minor assembly. But the best part about both systems is they have no clean up. The devices suck up and deposit your hair clippings into the vacuum’s basin.
Vacuum Not Included
Both the Flowbee and Robocut require a vacuum to use. The systems operate under the same principle. You connect the hose attached to the haircutter to the vacuum. Therefore, the cutting ability is directly linked to the power output of your vacuum. For the best possible cut, make sure to clean your vacuum, and that it is at least 3 horsepower. Robocut sells a specific suction device for their unit, but it increases the price.
Neither the Flowbee nor the Robocut have maintainable cutting parts. That means you must order new blades once they lose their edge. Customers report that the blades last a long time. Some even say they haven’t changed the blades in years. Both systems come with a tube of blade oil. I suggest you use it. Blade oil extends the life of the cutting parts.
Neither product runs quietly. The combo of the device’s motor, cutting blades, and vacuum causes a racket. It’s comparable to vacuuming a room, with the added mulching sound of the blades and the whirring pitch of the motor. I don’t recommend operating the devices while your children sleep or in the presence of an easily spooked dog.
Groom Your Dog
Speaking of dogs, you can use the Robocut and Flowbee on your canine companion if he can tolerate the noise. Both devices can trim your dog’s hair so long as it isn’t too thick. Also, the hair must be clean and contain no matts, as they’ll interfere with the cutting blades. There’s a separate attachment you can connect to the Flowbee that combs your dog’s coat as it cuts
No Wet Hair
Neither system works on wet hair. Because of the vacuum power required to properly suck wet hair, neither system should be used on hair that’s dripping wet or damp. Plus, the cutting blades aren’t stainless steel, and will rust if exposed to water. Add to this the fact you can’t clean them easily, and you’re looking at lots of complications. Just don’t do it.
Great Customer Support
Both companies believe in their products. The patent holders for both Flowbee and Robocut actively read the customer reviews and forums. They care about their product’s image and fight against the gimmick stigma that follows suction-based haircutting systems around like a bad smell. If you have a problem, you can bet on both companies solving it for you in a timely manner.
What are the Differences between Robocut and Flowbee?
The attachment systems operate differently. Flowbee’s plastic attachments are stackable rectangular sleeves that fit onto the front of the device. They suck hair in and flatten it to the shape of the cutting system. To adjust the length, you remove a plastic stack or add one.
The Robocut’s attachment system uses stackable plastic cylindrical sleeves. But you can adjust the sleeves when they’re on the device. Notches on the sides of the Robocut let you set depth on the fly. You can’t do that with the Flowbee. The Robocut has a wider range of cutting depths than the Flowbee, with a minimum of 1/4-inch and a maximum of 24-inches.
The Flowbee looks like a removable shower head, and the Robocut reminds me of a hairdryer. Neither is necessarily better than the other. But customer preference could you’re your decision. I find the Flowbee works better for the back of the head, as it has more reach. The Robocut, on the other hand, offers greater precision for the sides of your head and bangs because you have better visibility and more control over its motions.
The Robocut’s power cord snakes down through the vacuum hose, so it’s not in the way while you’re cutting. The Flowbee’s power cord unfortunately plugs into the back of the cutting head, near the motor. This hinders your movements, and you must move it out of your way constantly. You get used to it after a few tries, but it’s important to keep in mind. The Robocut doesn’t have this problem. You only worry about the hose, cutting your distractions in half.
Holding the two items in each hand, it’s clear the Flowbee has a better build quality, and it sounds beefier than the Robocut. I don’t know the motor’s specs, but the Flowbee sounds like it runs at a higher capacity than the Robocut. This makes sense, too, just looking at the two systems side by side. The housing on the Flowbee is bigger. The Robocut has a plastic feel and seems hollow in the center. When I turn it on, the dual blades don’t sound as sturdy as the Flowbee’s multi-blade design.
And the Winner Is?
I think both devices have their advantages. How you plan to use the device matters more than the haircutting system’s flaws.
But I argue the Flowbee is a better device overall. The build quality is surprisingly sturdy, and the cutting teeth more reliable. From the moment I opened the box I felt like the manufacturer put more effort into the product.
The Robocut is perfect for the right customer. If you plan to cut hair over 6-inches long, then the Robocut is the product you want. It works slightly better on thicker hair too, and you don’t need a comb attachment to cut your dog’s hair.
The ergonomics of the Flowbee are better designed for the do-it-yourselfer. The shower-head style allows you to reach the back of your head without straining. Plus, I think Flowbee‘s plastic spacer system cuts hair more accurately than the Robocut.
Not a Gimmick
With the battle over and the winner declared, it’s important to keep in mind that no matter which haircutting system you choose, you’ll save money.
Although people see the Flowbee and Robocut as novelty items, the truth is the complete opposite. Both devices not only work but can last you years.
The technology behind the vacuum haircutting systems is simple and effective. You can cut the bulk of your hair without one trace of hair clippings on the floor or on your shirt. It’s ingenious, even if it dates to the 80s.
The Flowbee has a three-decade reputation for being a well built, durable device. If you’re considering buying one, I think you should. You may end up witnessing man land on Mars before spending another dollar on your barber.