Which one would we choose?
The Oral-B Smart 1500 is my choice.
Make no mistake, both of these are excellent toothbrushes, which will serve you very well.
However, the 1500 just takes the edge because of the cleaning technology, visible pressure sensor and additional cleaning modes.
- Cleaning/brushing action
- The Oral-B 1500 has a 3D, oscillating, rotating and pulsating cleaning action.
- The Sonicare 4100 has a sonic cleaning action.
- Handle design/colours
- Slight differences in the handle shape and design.
- The 1500 has a small rubber gripped panel around the power button which the 4100 does not have.
- The 1500 has a dimpled texture to the back of the handle compared to the smooth surface of the 4100 from Sonicare.
- The Smart 1500 is available in 4 different color options (navy, light rose, jet white & black) compared with the 2 (white & mint or black & white) of the ProtectiveClean 4100.
- Cleaning modes
- The Sonicare ProtectiveClean has just 1 cleaning mode compared to the 3 modes of the Oral-B Smart 1500.
- Brush heads
- The brush head size and shape are different.
- The Smart 1500 comes with 1 x CrossAction brush head whereas the 4100 comes with 1 x C2 Optimal Plaque Control brush head.
- Pressure sensor
- The 1500 has a visible pressure sensor that the 4100 does not have.
- The 4100 vibrates the brush handle when the sensor is activated. This is something the Oral-B does not do.
- The ProtectiveClean 4100 lasts up to 5 weeks compared to nearly 3 of the 1500.
- Both have a claimed battery life of 2 weeks.
- The 4100 provides more battery charge level feedback than the 1500.
- Other features & technologies
- The 4100 has a brush head replacement reminder system which is part of the Sonicare BrushSync technology.
- Accessories & box contents
- The Sonicare ProtectiveClean charging stand supports 100-240v compared to the 110-130v of the Oral-B stand.
- The Sonicare 4100 is quieter than the 1500.
- The 4100 turns off automatically at the end of the cleaning cycle.
- The 4100 has an ‘EasyStart’ feature.
- The 4100 is the cheaper of the 2 brushes to buy, but costs more to own over the lifetime of the brush.
- The 4100 has a recommended retail price of $69.99 compared to the $79.99 of the Smart 1500.
These differences are explained at length later in this article. However, you might wish to learn more about each brush being compared. To do so, check out our hands-on reviews:
Please note. Every effort is made to ensure the key differences listed are correct, but these differences are subject to change without notice. Products and the box contents can be changed without notice and different variants can exist.
Detailed comparison: what’s the difference between the Oral-B Smart and Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100?
The 2 models being compared here today are what I would consider as lower mid-range brushes. They are not the cheapest brushes but they are far from the most expensive.
In fact, in my mind, both are ideal toothbrushes for the vast majority of users because they have all of the essential features I consider necessary and not lots of unnecessary things.
Because both are so good, it is hard to really say one is better than the other, but the Oral-B does just take the crown and I will explain why as I run through the differences in more detail.
The first and perhaps one of the most significant differences between these models is the cleaning action of the toothbrush.
The Sonicare ProtectiveClean offers a sonic cleaning action, which means the bristles move from side to side in a sweeping motion.
Compare this to the oscillating, rotating and pulsating action of the Oral-B. It does move the bristles side to side, but the circular shape means the cleaning action is rounded. The pulsations are an extra dimension to the brushing process which are essentially vibrations to assist in the cleaning.
This animated gif shows how the sonic and oscillating-rotating motions differ.
Different they are, but both are proven in clinical trials to be effective and have the backing of leading dental professionals and organizations around the world. In fact, both of these toothbrushes have achieved the American Dental Association seal of acceptance.
For lack of a better analogy, it is like choosing between a General Electric or Whirlpool washing machine. Both do the same job but the way the products are implemented and deliver the results are slightly different.
As a consequence of the different cleaning actions, the brush heads supplied with each toothbrush are slightly different too.
The Oral-B Smart 1500 has a small round brush head, whilst the Sonicare has a slightly larger oval/rounded rectangle shaped brush head.
The small round brush head is generally a little easier to position in the mouth, particularly for those who have smaller mouths with crowded teeth.
An Oral-B head tends to clean a single tooth surface at a time, whereas the larger Sonicare brush head tends to cover 2-3 teeth at the same time.
For most people, this is not a deal breaker, but may well be something to be considered.
The 4100 comes with a C2 Optimal Plaque Control brush head compared to the CrossAction brush head on the Oral-B Smart 1500. Both clean the teeth well, but clearly noticeable is the fact many of the bristles on the CrossAction brush head are angled.
This angling of the bristles is to help achieve the best clean of the teeth and gums.
Both brands offer a range of different brush heads that have different bristle configurations and styles to achieve different cleaning results. These heads are interchangeable with the handle, so you don’t need to stick with the style of brush head that came supplied in the box.
Both the Sonicare 4100 and the Oral-B 1500 have a fairly typical electric toothbrush look to them. The handles are rounded cylinders with the brush head fitting onto a metal shaft that extends from the motor sealed inside the handle.
They are too very similar in physical size and weight with only very small differences in the physical size of the handle.
Both have a single power button on the front of the handle. But, the 1500 has a silicon/rubber panel around it that provides the main color accent to the handle.
This ovalish shaped panel is available in navy, light rose, jet white and black color.
It contrasts with the gloss white plastic body of the 1500. Although the black variant does have a gloss black plastic rather than white.
Because the 1500 is more glossy it stands out a little more compared to the matt color finish on the 4100.
The 4100 is available in 2 colour options white & mint and black & white. In these color options the handles are white or black in color with the color accent being mint or white. The accent is a small panel around the power button.
The 1500 is the slightly more grippy handle in hand. This is thanks to the larger rubber/silicon panel on the front but also the dimpled texture that runs the length of the back of the brush handle. It is not the most grippy, but more so than the smooth touch plastic of the 4100.
The Sonicare strikes the more premium of the 2 models in my opinion.
Around the neck of the Smart 1500’s brush handle is a clear panel. It runs a full 360 degrees around the handle.
This is a 360 degree visible pressure sensor.
Whilst the 4100 has a pressure sensor too, it is not visible like the 1500’s.
The 360 degree sensor will be lit red when the sensor is activated. It is a bold visual warning that you are brushing too hard.
Both do still slow the brush head movements when activated. You will likely notice the change in sound and brushing sensation.
A feature which the 4100 has, that the 1500 does not, is that the handle is vibrated differently when the sensor is activated. This is a nice touch and the pattern of vibration is different to the standard vibration, so you do notice it.
For some this might actually be considered a better implementation than the visible sensor.
The pressure sensor works on all cleaning modes on both handles.
The 4100 has just 1 mode, clean, compared to the 3 modes of the Oral-B 1500.
The Oral-B has a daily clean mode, sensitive and whitening option.
Most of us don’t need the extra cleaning modes, but they can potentially be useful in particular circumstances. The sensitive mode available on the 1500 will provide a slightly more gentle brushing experience, which some may prefer.
Whilst the extra modes may potentially help achieve different cleaning results, they don’t significantly alter how clean your teeth are after use.
The power of the clean from electric toothbrushes can be off putting for new users, particularly if they are used to a manual brush.
This is where the EasyStart feature of the 4100 really stands out.
Over the first 14 brushing sessions the power of the brush is increased. It starts off by offering a slightly more gentle experience before gradually increasing the power to the maximum available.
In use the Sonicare is the much quieter brush to use. It provides a more audible hum whereas the Oral-B makes a much more mechanical sounding noise.
At the end of a cleaning mode, the Sonicare does too turn itself off automatically, whereas the 1500 continues to operate until you turn it off.
You may prefer one over the other, but I think some of these subtle differences actually make the 4100 a more attractive option for everyday use. It feels ever so slightly more refined. Such slight differences only really show their value in repeated daily use.
Another way in which this is demonstrated is via the BrushSync technology that is built into the 4100.
The handle tracks each individual head attached to the handle (via an RFID chip in the brush head) and alerts you via an LED on the brush handle when it is time to change the head.
Both Oral-B and Sonicare heads have bristles that fade in color and act as reminders to replace the head, but the Sonicare goes one stage further to really make it clear to you that it is time to change.
Whilst the general rule is to replace the head every 3 months, statistics tell us that 42% of people don’t replace their brush head this often. The 4100’s brush head reminder system gives you the prompt to change just when you need it by tracking the number of brushing sessions, brushing time and pressure.
Essentially, if you brush more frequently than most, and do so for longer, it will alert you to replace the head sooner than it might for most because your usage pattern is different.
Check out our article on BrushSync technology for a detailed explanation of how it works, but it is all centered around an RFID chip that is built into the toothbrush head.
Coming to the last of the differences now.
Both toothbrushes have rechargeable batteries inside the handle. Both use Lithium-Ion batteries and both have a claimed life of 2 weeks on a single charge.
The 1500 achieves around 20 days, but the 4100 has achieved up to 5 weeks in my hands-on testing. This is significantly longer than the claimed battery life and that of the 5100.
On top of this, the battery status icon on the 4100 gives a little more feedback on the remaining charge via a changing color to the LED. You don’t get so much feedback with the 1500.
And last but not least the charging stand with the 4100 supports 100-240v, compared to the 110-130v of the Oral-B stand. It is a small difference, but if travelling internationally with the Sonicare charger you need only a plug adapter, with the Oral-B you need a voltage adapter too.
Does one clean better than the other?
Yes, the clinical evidence would suggest so. The Oral-B is generally considered to offer the best clean of the teeth and gums.
However, in truth, the difference is very slight.
In reality, for most people, it is better to worry about perfecting your brushing routine than it is which brush you pick.
If you focus more on ensuring you are brushing with the correct technique twice a day for 2 minutes each time, you will likely gain the biggest benefit to your oral health than simply selecting between these 2 toothbrushes.
If you asked the respective brands directly, they would each suggest their model does.
Studies have shown that the rotating-oscillating technology, as used by Oral-B generally speaking, has the edge here.
This is because the smaller brush head size and the motion it has resulted in greater improvements of users oral health than a Sonicare model.
This is however under clinical study conditions and in real-world use, both offer an excellent clean.
I personally prefer the Oral-B cleaning action, but do happily use Sonicare toothbrushes too.
Why I feel this way is because I tend to come away with my teeth feeling cleaner after use. This is likely more a psychological (mental) feeling than reality.
The cleaning action or Oral-B is a bit more of an aggressive clean or so it feels, but the Sonicare is by no means bad. In fact, one of the appeals of Sonicare is how gentle it is. It feels softer on the teeth and gums, but it is still clinically proven as being effective.
Let me be clear, that in daily use the real difference in the cleaning performance is going to be negligible. If one of these is to be your first electric toothbrush, either will offer significant benefits compared to a manual brush.
Is one better priced than the other?
The Sonicare ProtectiveClean has the lowest retail price at $69.99 compared to the $79.99 of the Smart 1500.
But, when you factor in the cost of replacement brush heads over the life of the brush, despite the lower purchase price, the actual total ownership cost is more expensive. Therefore the Oral-B Smart 1500 is the more cost effective model.
Although both models have a recommended selling price, the reality is that both sell below these.
Of course, these are subject to change and vary from one retailer to another, typically the 4100 costs around $50 to buy compared to the $65 of the Smart 1500.
That $15 saving on the 4100 is soon lost when you factor in the cost of replacement brush heads.
Sonicare heads are more expensive. This isn’t helped by the smart technology that is built into the brush heads which invariably affects the cost a little.
A typical Oral-B head will cost around $5 each compared to the $8 of Sonicare.
Based on 1 user over a 3 year period, the Smart 1500 works out at $120 or $0.11 per day compared to the $138 or $0.13 per day to own.
Admittedly it is not a huge difference in price, but if you are on a budget the Oral-B is the more affordable option.
Please note that all prices quoted are approximates and will vary based on location, supplier and time of purchase. These figures were correct at the time of writing and should not be relied upon as hard fact, but used as a guide during your decision process.
I can happily recommend either of these brushes and would use either myself quite happily.
Both do a great job of cleaning the teeth and offer the essential features of an electric toothbrush.
Neither are terribly overpriced and bogged down with unnecessary extras.
But, when deciding between them, it is the Smart 1500 that takes the edge for me, just.
The reason being, the cleaning action, visible pressure sensor and additional cleaning modes.
Together I believe these make for a package that is fractionally better suited to most people.
Another small win is the slightly lower cost of ownership over the lifetime of the brush.
I do wish the battery life was as good on the 1500 as it is on the 4100.
Do you own or have you used the Sonicare 4100 or the Smart 1500?
Are there certain features that you really like or dislike?
Let us know what you think about this brush and let others who may well be considering purchasing one know your opinions before they do.