Straddling the boundary between cleaning choice and quality brush performance, the well-priced Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 ($69.95) is a decent option for those on a budget. It includes three cleaning modes and a hard travel case for portability.
This toothbrush can detect when you fit a new brush head thanks to the BrushSync technology, which lets the 5100 track use and warn you when it’s time to replace the head. To keep prices down, the Protectiveclean 5100 lacks the intelligent auto mode selection of its bigger brother, the Protectiveclean 6100. Performance and maximum power from both brushes are the same, so if you don’t mind fewer features the Protectiveclean 5100 is a better-value alternative to its high-priced stablemate.
- Three cleaning modes including standard, whitening and gum care
- BrushSync lets you know when it’s time to change the brush head
- Pressure sensor and QuadPacer timer
Brush power and type: Sonic brush with 62,000 brush movements per minute
Brush modes: Clean, White and Gum Care
Provided accessories: Wireless charger and travel case
BrushSync is Philips’ smart toothbrush technology. At its best, the system can read a chip in a toothbrush head and choose the right brush mode automatically. Unfortunately, the Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 doesn’t support this mode, and only supports BrushSync Replacement Reminder. When it’s time to replace the brush head (after around three months), an LED lights up on the front of the brush. That’s certainly easier than looking at the bristles on a brush to see how worn they are. Replacement brushes cost around $25 for two, although the price depends on the type of brush head that you buy.
Although the Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 doesn’t have automatic mode selection, it does have three brushing modes, each of which should be paired with the right brush head. The Clean mode is a standard 2-minute mode, with a QuadPacer timer that buzzes every 30 seconds to prompt you to change quadrant in your mouth, and it should be used with the C2 or C3 Optimal Plaque Control brushes.
The White mode should be used with the W2 or W3 Optimal White brush head and gives you the same two-minute timer for cleaning, followed by two 15-second timers so that you can focus on polishing your front teeth.
Finally, the Gum Care mode is designed for use with the G2 or G3 Optimal Gum Care brushes (one of these is in the box), which gives you the two-minute cleaning timer followed by an additional minute of gentle massage for tackling your gums.
The more expensive Sonicare Protectiveclean 6100 has adjustable intensity settings, with three modes to choose from, but the 5100 runs at full power (62,000 brush movements per minute). For most people that will be alright, as you’ll get better cleaning results on full intensity, but if you do have sensitive teeth, you may be better with the 6100 so that you can dial down the intensity.
It’s nice to see a pressure sensor in this model. If you press too hard the brush vibrates to let you know it’s time to ease off. This soon trained us to brush with just the right amount of pressure
To help you get used to the brush, the Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 comes with EasyStart turned on, which slowly increases the power over the first 14 uses. If you’ve had a sonic brush before and want to dive in on full power, you can disable this feature
Although this brush is one of Philips’ most expensive, you don’t get a lot in the way of accessories, with just a standard wireless charger and a basic hard plastic travel case that can hold the handle and two brushes. That’s enough space for the provided G2 Optimal Gum Care brush and the W2 Optimal White brush included in the box.
Philips is a touch mean on the accessory front, especially considering that Oral-B tends to give a lot more away with its premium brushes.
On a full charge, the Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 should last around two weeks, although that depends on the modes you use and how often.
Design and build
- Well built with a nice feel to the brush handle
- Small charging stand that’s easy to carry
- Simple controls
Philips has got a knack for making smart, simple toothbrushes and the Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 is no exception. The soft-touch plastic feels great in the hand and the finish tells you that this is a premium toothbrush.
We slightly prefer the black model to the white one, although the black version ships with a white brush head: you can buy black replacement brushes if you want a better finish, or just opt for the white handle version instead.
The charging stand is neat and small, so if you do want to take it with you, it will fit in a bag. The build quality of the travel case is really basic, and is a simple plastic box. It’s a shame, as the older DiamondClean brush had a really nice travel case that could also charge the brush via a USB cable.
The provided brush heads are neatly designed to curve around teeth and push bristles into gaps. With the W2 head, the outer bristles help pull out debris, but there’s a more solid green core that’s designed to polish your teeth to help whiten them.
- Very quiet to use
- Effortlessly pulls out debris and polishes stains away
- Leaves teeth feeling clean and fresh
As powerful as the top-end Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 6100, the 5100 has the same ability to clean. Loading up our test teeth with beetroot and green leaves, the toothbrush managed to neatly pull out the debris and polish away the stains using the provided W2 brush head. We used this brush head rather than the G2, as the manual recommends the W2 or C2 for clinical trials and tests
We stuck with the two-minute cycle for the main cleaning, turning the brush off when the third minute for gum cleaning would have kicked in.
Moving on to ourselves, the cleaning performance was just as good. You can feel the power of the brush at work, scrubbing away at your teeth. After brushing, we found that our mouth was clean and refreshed and that our teeth not only felt clean but were free of stains. The gum cleaning mode is good, but we have a slight preference for the regular cleaning brush and whitening head.
As with all sonic toothbrushes, the Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 is very quiet, and we measured it at a peak of 71.1dB at ear level with the brush in our mouth. That’s a little louder than some sonic models, but that extra sound is due to the power in the handle.
The Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 is the joint top most powerful sonic electric toothbrush with the more expensive 6100. That means that the cleaning performance is just as good between the two brushes. The choice comes down to features.
It’s a bit of shame that the 5100’s BrushSync technology doesn’t automatically select the mode, although doing this manually is easy enough. The biggest departure between the two is that the 5100 doesn’t have adjustable intensity, so those with more delicate mouths and sensitive teeth may prefer the 6100. We love the BrushSync Notification to let us know when it’s time to change the brush head, as it removes the guesswork.
The array of accessories in the box is a little stingy, particularly not having a decent travel case with charging, but this is something that applies to all of Philips’ range.
Provided that you’re happy to run the brush at full power, the Philips Sonicare Protectiveclean 5100 is a top brush and better value than the 6100. If you want a sonic brush, it’s a great choice. If you prefer an oscillating model (or have no preference), the Oral-B Genius Pro 8000 is an excellent choice: it cleans as well, ships with more brush heads and has a travel case that charges.
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