Which one would we choose?
Electric Teeth Verdict:
Everyone’s needs and wants are different, but it is the 4100 that for most is the best choice.
It has all of the essential features of an electric toothbrush, plus a few more for good measure, all at a very reasonable price.
It is not overly complicated, well designed and of course does a fantastic job of cleaning the teeth.
The 5100 offers a couple of extra cleaning modes and a travel case. It is worth the extra spend for those who are often on the go overnight in different locations.
The 6100 has a lot going for it, but the extras it offers are not necessarily must haves or enough to part with the extra cash.
The table below shows the key differences of the 4100 vs 5100 vs 61000 in a visual format, and we describe the key differences between any two brushes in the lists underneath.
|ProtectiveClean 4100||ProtectiveClean 5100||ProtectiveClean 6100|
|Number of Cleaning Modes||1||3||3|
|Cleaning Modes||Clean||Clean, White & Gum Care||Clean, White & Gum Care|
|Cleaning Mode Light/Icon|
|Brushing Intensity Modes|
|Pressure Sensor||Vibrates handle||Vibrates handle||Vibrates handle|
|Battery Life (Days)||14||14||14|
|Battery Charge Light|
|Travel Case Included|
|Number of Brush Head(s) Included||1||1||1|
|Brush Head Included||C2 Optimal Plaque Control||G2 Optimal Gum Care||W DiamondClean|
|BrushSync Brush Head Replacement Reminder|
|BrushSync Mode Pairing|
|Handle Colour||White & Mint – HX6817/01 Black & White – HX6810/50||White & Mint – HX6857/11 Black Gray – HX6850/60||Silver White – HX6877/21 Pastel Pink- HX6876/21 Navy Blue – HX6871/49|
|Warranty||2 years||2 years||2 years|
4100 vs 5100
- The ProtectiveClean 4100 has 1 cleaning mode (Clean) compared to the 3 cleaning modes (Clean, White and Gum Care) of the 5100.
- The 5100 has a cleaning mode button.
- The 5100 has cleaning mode icons and LEDs on the handle.
- The 4100 comes with 1 x C2 Optimal Plaque Control brush head compared to the 1 x G2 Optimal Gum Care brush head with the 5100.
- The 5100 comes with a travel case.
- The 4100 comes in White & Mint and Black & White color options compared to the White & Mint and Black Gray of the 5100
- The 5100 is the more expensive model.
4100 vs 6100
- The ProtectiveClean 4100 has 1 cleaning mode (Clean) compared to the 3 cleaning modes (Clean, White and Gum Care) of the 6100.
- The 6100 has 3 cleaning mode intensities (Low, Medium and High).
- The 6100 has a cleaning mode/intensity button.
- The 6100 has cleaning mode icons and LEDs on the handle.
- The 4100 comes with 1 x C2 Optimal Plaque Control brush head compared to the 1 x W DiamondClean brush head with the 6100.
- The 6100 has BrushSync mode pairing.
- The 6100 comes with a travel case.
- The 4100 comes in White & Mint and Black & White color options compared to the White Silver, Pastel Pink and Navy Blue of the 6100
- The 6100 is the more expensive model.
5100 vs 6100
- The 6100 has 3 cleaning mode intensities (Low, Medium and High).
- The 5100 comes with 1 x G2 Optimal Gum Care brush head compared to the 1 x W DiamondClean brush head with the 6100.
- The 6100 has BrushSync mode pairing.
- The 5100 comes in White & Mint and Black Gray compared to the White Silver, Pastel Pink and Navy Blue of the 6100.
- The 6100 is the more expensive model.
Detailed Comparison: What’s the difference between the Sonicare ProtectiveClean brushes?
As differences go between these electric toothbrushes, the reality is that there are not that many, there are many more similarities.
However, the subtle differences that do exist can potentially make a big difference to you and your experience and 1 brush might better suit you and another.
Whilst there is a summary of the differences above, let me explain these in more detail.
The first thing to be aware of, if you are not already, is that the 6100 is the most premium and feature rich, with the 5100 below that and the 4100 being the base model within the ProtectiveClean family.
However, despite being the base model the 4100 offers a lot of fantastic features and more than ticks the boxes for an everyday electric toothbrush.
Starting with the cleaning modes, the brushes offer as follows:
- Gum Care
- Gum Care
As you can see, the 4100 offers just 1 cleaning mode compared to the 3 cleaning modes of the 5100 and 6100.
The Clean mode operates in the exact same way on the 3 models, as White and Gum Care do on the 51 and 6100.
Clean lasts for 2 minutes, White 2 minutes and 30 seconds and Gum Care 3 minutes.
The extra 30 seconds for the White mode are to spend focusing on the front teeth, whilst the extra minute on Gum Care mode is for cleaning and stimulating the gums.
The additional cleaning modes do influence the design of the brush handle slightly.
On the 4100, there is just a single power button, but no icon or LED to symbolise the 1 and only cleaning mode.
With the 5100 and 6100 the brush handles have an extra button below the power button to change the cleaning modes, but also the names of the modes, complete with an LED below that.
Running vertically down the handle, they read, Clean, White, Gum Care with an LED between each.
That LED shines White, when the cleaning mode button has been pressed to select that mode.
Around the power and cleaning mode button on the 5100 and 6100 is a plastic panel to accent the handle and add a design cue.
Setting the 6100 apart from both models is the fact that it has 3 different cleaning intensities.
Controlled by the cleaning mode button, you have 3 intensities, low, medium and high that changes the power and brushing sensation delivered from the brush through each cleaning mode.
Whilst this is by no means essential, it adds an extra dimension to the cleaning experience and allows you to tweak the power to be more appropriate and comfortable for you.
This works for a number of reasons. You might have inflammation or sensitivity and want a more gentle clean or you may share the handle with older children who could benefit from less power delivery to be more gentle on their teeth and gums.
In the box with each brush handle comes a brush head, but each brush comes supplied with a different style of head.
They come with the following:
- 1 x C2 Optimal Plaque Control
- 1 x G2 Optimal Gum Care
- 1 x W DiamondClean
The cut and configuration of the bristles are different on each of these heads to achieve different results.
Each does work best on particular cleaning modes too.
- C2 Optimal Plaque Control
- Works best with ‘Clean’ mode
- Removes up to 7x more plaque
- G2 Optimal Gum Care
- Works best on ‘Gum Care’ mode
- Improves gum health up to 100%
- W DiamondClean
- Works best on ‘White’ mode
- Up to 100% less stains in 7 days
Much more detail is provided in our ultimate Philips Sonicare brush head guide but, you can perhaps see why each brush head comes supplied with each brush and how using the Gum Care brush head is likely to deliver better results when used on the Gum Care mode than others.
Despite being better suited to particular modes all Sonicare brush head can be used on any cleaning mode.
All 3 models have a technology called BrushSync.
What this does is tell you, via an LED on the brush handle when it is time to change or replace your brush head.
Inside the brush head supplied is a small RFID microchip.
When the brush head is fitted to the brush handle, the chip is detected and the warning light will flash 3 times. This acts as confirmation that the handle has detected the head and that the electronics inside the handle will now keep track of it.
As you use the brush head, the handle continues to track how often it has been used.
The handle knows that the brush head should be replaced every 3 months, so once the handle detects that the brush head has been used for this amount of time, the ‘BrushSync’ LED on the brush handle will light up an Amber/Orange color. It is at this point you should fit a new head.
But, it goes further than that.
If it detects you have brushed 3 times a day every day or brushed with more pressure, it will activate the BrushSync alert system sooner, as the bristles will have worn out sooner than the typical 3 month time period.
It will also delay alerting you to replace the brush head. If you used that head just once a day over 3 months, it would not tell you to replace it until it had been used for equivalent to 4 minutes a day for 3 months.
This is just 1 part of the BrushSync feature, the 6100 is the only brush handle in the ProtectiveClean range to offer the BrushSync mode pairing.
Mode pairing matches the brush head and the cleaning mode.
Each head has a mode it works best with, so the handle of the 6100 automatically sets this mode as you fit the brush head.
So, if you were using a C2 Optimum Plaque Control brush head on the clean mode and you fit the W DiamondClean, the brush will automatically switch the cleaning mode to White, so it is already set up for the best results when you switch the brush on.
I don’t believe it is a feature we are all crying out for, but as things go, it is a nice addition and makes further use of the microchip in the brush head.
There are just a couple of difference left to explain.
Both the 5100 and 6100 come supplied with a travel case, the 4100 does not.
Plastic in construction, it is hinged on the left side with a clip on the right to securely fasten it closed.
Inside it holds the brush handle and up to 2 brush heads.
It protects the handle and the heads from accidental damage and activation.
The final major difference between these 3 models is the color of the brush handles.
All 3 models can be purchased in different color choices. Technically their features and performance are the same, just the color of the handle that differs.
Those choices and the official Sonicare part codes are listed below:
- White & Mint – HX6817/01
- Black & White – HX6810/50
- White & Mint – HX6857/11
- Black Gray – HX6850/60
- Silver White – HX6877/21
- Pastel Pink- HX6876/21
- Navy Blue – HX6871/49
With the main differences between each now explained, I think it is worth highlighting some of the ways in which they are similar that I have not already mentioned.
The design of the brush handles are very similar. Yes, the 5100 and 6100 have a bit more going on because of the additional cleaning modes and brushing intensities, but they are of a rounded design, with a smooth to the touch paint finish.
Not too slippery in hand, none have extra rubber grips like some other brushes do.
All have a motor built in that can deliver up to 62,000 movements (31,000 brush strokes) per minute that is powered from a Lithium-Ion battery built into the handle.
The non-removable battery gives at least 2 weeks usage or so Sonicare claim. The reality of the situation is things are much more positive.
Some variance in the battery life will come as a result of the different cleaning modes that run for longer and brushing intensities, but I achieved 20 days on the 3 minute long Gum Care mode and 37 with the 2 minute long Clean mode. That is quite a bit longer than 2 weeks.
All models come with a charging stand, that has a prong on the top that fits into the base of the brush handle. Sitting upright on the stand, the power adapter connects to a US socket and the brush can take up to 24 hours to charge fully.
The stand itself supports voltages of 100-240v, meaning if you travel with the charging stand you need only a plug adapter rather than a voltage adapter.
When in need of a charge, all give feedback through the LED mounted on the front of the brush handle.
A solid Green LED means a full battery.
A flashing Green LED means a medium battery.
A flashing Amber LED and three beeps means a low battery.
A flashing Amber LED and five beeps means no brushing sessions left, you need to charge the toothbrush.
Additional features built into the handle include a pressure sensor, that vibrates through the handle and changes the brushing sensation to alert you to the fact you are brushing too hard.
A timer and quadpacer are present to encourage you to brush for the right amount of time and evenly.
Providing you allow the brush to come to the end of the cleaning cycle, the brushes will turn themselves off to signal the end of the clean and conserve battery life.
An EasyStart feature is built in and switched on from the moment you unbox the brush.
This increases the power of the brush mode over the first 14 brushing sessions to ease new users into the increased power the brush delivers.
Solid and well constructed the handles are, they are designed to resist water, so a rinse under the tap to wash off toothpaste and saliva is absolutely fine.
Whilst high standards of manufacturing are achieved by Sonicare, the nature of the product does mean that there is the potential for things to go wrong.
A 2 year warranty is provided as standard, but this can be extended by 6 months if you register the rush online.
Does one clean better than the other?
Potentially yes, but for the most part, there is no difference between how these 3 clean.
Ok, so the answer to this question is a bit more difficult to answer and I will explain why.
All 3 models have an internal motor that can offer up to 31,000 brush strokes per minute.
The 4100 offers just 1 cleaning mode (Clean), compared to the 3 modes (Clean, White and Gum Care) available on the 5100 and 6100.
Each cleaning mode has a different running time and uses the power of the motor in different ways to achieve the final result.
Clean lasts for 2 minutes, White for 2 minutes and 30 seconds, whilst Gum Care lasts for 3 minutes.
The 6100 is the only brush to have the ability to change the power of each cleaning mode between 3 intensity settings, Low, Medium and High. This therefore changes the way in which the brush cleans and its effectiveness, but does allow you to change the power to something you are comfortable with.
Therefore, in theory, if you used the ‘Clean’ mode on all 3 brushes, making no change to the default intensity on the 6100, then the cleaning experience they deliver would be identical.
It can be argued that the 5100 and 6100 can offer a better Gum Care and Whitening focused cleans over and above the 4100 because of the extra modes they have.
So if you want whiter teeth, you might not get quite such good results with the 4100 as you would with the 5100 and 6100, but this is harder to prove in the real world.
All 3 brushes accept different brush heads. Different styles of brush heads can achieve different results. We cover brush heads in more detail in our post on sonicare brush heads.
A W DiamondClean head used on the cleaning mode might not be as effective as when used on the ‘White’ mode.
To achieve the best possible results, using the most appropriate brush head for the cleaning mode and sticking to the default cleaning settings and power is the best course of action.
No clinical studies or comparisons have been made and I would believe the possible differences or improvements between each to be clinically insignificant.
The reality is, there are many other variables that come into play and affect how well the brushes clean more than the cleaning modes or brushing intensity.
Those cleaning modes and intensities are in part about your cleaning experience, the sensation and comfort of brushing more than how well it cleans.
Whilst technically there might be some difference between the models only possible to observe under a clinical trial, bigger factors that influence how well a brush cleans is the way in which the brush is used and how frequently.
If you brush twice a day for 2 minutes everyday and use the right technique with any of the electric toothbrush models discussed here, the results are likely to be significantly better than someone who only brushes once a day or with the wrong technique.
You may get better or worse results than a friend, as your teeth and previous oral health is different.
So, with all this said, whilst there might be the potential for a better clean from 1 brush over another if you are trying to achieve a particular result, for the average user, the clean offered by the standard ‘clean’ mode is identical.
Is one better priced than the other?
Yes, the ProtectiveClean 4100 is the cheapest.
The 5100 is more expensive and the 6100 the most expensive.
The suggested sale prices are $69.99, $89.99 and $129.99.
However, actual selling prices are a little cheaper at around $50, $80 and $110.
Given that each brush offers more features as you climb up through the range it is not unsurprising that the cost increases too.
Influencing my verdict slightly is the price. Both the 4100 and 5100 represent good value, the 6100 is still not overpriced, but slightly harder to justify given what it offers and how many want such features.
Conclusion & which one should I buy?
The Sonicare ProtectiveClean 4100 is the brush to go for.
It offers a brilliant all round package.
Most importantly, it cleans the teeth really well.
It looks and feels good in the hand, is simple to use and has a excellent battery life.
It is not bogged down with unnecessary features, but comes with essential elements like a timer and pacer.
The automatic power off, EasyStart and pressure sensor all add to the experience and make it more enjoyable without overcomplicating daily use.
I don’t know your precise needs and wants, so some assumptions have to be made.
However, based on several years of feedback and conversation with readers, I am convinced for many the 4100 will be an excellent buy.
Frequent travellers will gain value from the 5100 that comes with the travel case and extra cleaning modes.
Whilst the range topping 6100 has unique elements too it, their importance is harder to justify. It is still a solid brush and relatively good value, I do believe most will prefer to opt for other models that offer more or less in the box.
To find out more about any of these brushes why not click the relevant links below to be taken to the manufacturer’s website, to our hands on written reviews which include video or to one of our recommended outlets to purchase one at the best price possible.
On reading this you may have found that 1 or none of these brushes are right for you.
There are many other brushes from Sonicare and other brands like Oral-B.
Ultimately, whatever brush you decide upon, it is you who needs to make the decision; but do so based on which is best for your needs or the end user, if you are purchasing on behalf of somebody else.
Only pay the price you are happy with and do not be led into buying something if it is not right.
Hopefully I have presented the facts and made the whole decision process that little bit easier.
If you found this useful, have any thoughts and opinions from going through this choice process yourself of have used either brush and want to comment, please do using the comments section below; what you have to say could be of real benefit to somebody else.
*Please note any prices stated below were correct at the time of writing and may have changed by the time you come to buy. We always recommend checking the prices of several retailers before you make a purchase