Colgate E1 full review

There are two parts to the E1: the brush and the app. The problem with the product is that all of its compelling functionality is contained within the app.

Price & availability

The Colgate E1’s price is a big point in its favour. On sale for £89.95 in the UK and $99.95 in the US, the E1 is one of the least expensive smart toothbrushes currently available – certainly among those with an app of this quality.

But while a high-spec smart toothbrush such as the Oral-B Genius 9000/8000 still has an RPP of £279.99 (and a 4 star review from us), it’s now available to buy from Amazon for £119.99 (or $119.99 in the US), so the difference isn’t as great as it first appears.

You also need to factor in the cost of replacement brush heads. When compared to Sonicare or Oral-B replacements, those for the E1 are quite steeply priced at £15 for a pack of three from the online Colgate shop in the UK and $19 in the US.

The brush heads should be changed every three months for optimum performance, which means that if you follow the guidelines and replace the brush heads as often as you are advised, it will cost you an additional £20 per year per person to use the E1 in the UK, or $25 in the US. As yet, no one makes compatible replacement brush heads – and this is unlikely to happen unless the E1 becomes wildly successful.

At this stage, the E1 is only available to buy through Apple. However, we have to mention that the Colgate E1 is a rebadge of the Kolibree Ara, a connected toothbrush that was launched at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, three years ago from the time of writing.

We reviewed it, giving it 4 stars. (If you’re wondering why there’s a discrepancy in review scores for what is essentially the same product – we looked at the Ara two and a half years ago, when it was the first toothbrush to use smart technology of this kind.)  

Apart from its branding, the Ara is the same toothbrush as the E1. We downloaded and compared the two apps and, again apart from cosmetic differences, they’re the same. They have identical features – the Coach and Coach+ programmes, the games and calendar, even the same ability to accrue Smile Points from good brushing habits – presented in almost the same format.

The Ara is still available to buy from Amazon UK for just £71, almost £19 cheaper than the E1. If you want one, get in there quickly as the site is unlikely to get fresh stock. We’ve noticed that the Ara is no longer available to purchase from Kolibree’s own site. If you press the buy button, a redirection notice appears, pointing the user to the E1.

The Ara is not available to buy in the US.

Toothbrush design

The Colgate E1 doesn’t really look like other connected toothbrushes of the moment. While brands like Oral-B and Sonicare have opted for a liberal number of bells and whistles in their design, the E1 is a model of simplicity.

For a start, it’s all white – apart from the bristles and Colgate logo. Second, the neck and handle are aligned, tapering from a smooth, squared-off end to a compact brushing head. This sounds intentional and stylish but when you compare it to a genuinely design-led brush like the Foreo Issa (which we reviewed here), there’s something about it that feels more budget than contemporary.

The E1 is very light. If you’re used to an electric toothbrush, you’ll notice the low weight of the E1 right away. While this might feel odd in an adult’s hand, it becomes an advantage when given to a child. But while the weight may make it more suitable for kids, it would be much easier to use with some grip on the handle, rather than a perfectly smooth, shiny surface.

The battery life is supposed to be two weeks, although we felt that it ran down faster than a comparable smart toothbrush.  

Performance

We noted above that the design of the E1 is very simple. There’s an On/Off switch and indicator light – and that’s it. This is because the brush itself has no other features. Most high-spec toothbrushes have several brushing modes, for example, gum cleaning, tongue brushing and a sensitive setting. Additionally, the Oral-B has a warning light to alert you if you are pressing too hard with the brush.

Because of the lack of options, and the mild feel of the E1’s sonic vibrations, it’s hard to judge how well the E1 is working. It's not very good on the tongue and gums, for example. After using it, I often reverted to my other electric toothbrush to clean the rest of my mouth. 

App features

The E1 (then the Ara) was the first toothbrush to use AI to collect and analyse data about its users’ brushing habits, which it then feeds back in the form of technique-improving tutorials.

It’s in this arena that the toothbrush excels. The Colgate Connect app is very good – much less glitchy and more user-friendly than the app for the otherwise superior Oral-B 8000/9000 toothbrush.

It’s very easy and quick to set up. You simply plug in the toothbrush and once charged, sync it to the app, which you can download for free.

(Incidentally, the app gives you an option to share data about your brushing habits, which may explain Apple's interest in this product. This means that there's no longer a room in the house where your activities can't be mined for future product development information.)   

There are two coaching programmes. The first is not overly helpful but the excellent Coaching+ provides a 3D dental map and shows you in real-time how long you should be brushing each area. If you move on too quickly or fail to hit the right spot, it’ll correct you. At the end of the session, the app will show you what percentage of coverage you achieved.

The app highlighted the same area that my dentist told me I was neglecting in my brushing, which suggests that it could be very useful for people who need to improve their brushing technique.

Your brushing efforts are logged onto a calendar and there’s also a stats page, which shows your brushing duration, frequency, surface coverage and best and worst-cared-for oral zones.  

There are also challenges and two downloadable games (one rabbit- and one pirate-themed), which may be of interest to younger users.

In addition, the fact that you can use the brush in conjunction with an Apple watch and thus don't have to rely on the mobile version of the app may make it a bit easier to stick with the app's coaching programmes.

Verdict

There are two parts to the E1: the app and the brush itself. As the app is excellent, while the brush design is a bit underwhelming, it is hard to reach an absolute verdict.

It would be better to say that, because the brushing programmes on the app work brilliantly and give genuinely useful feedback, it that is your priority, the E1 is worth buying. If, for example, you have a child who needs help with brushing or if your dentist has told you to brush up on your own dental-care skills, we rate the E1's app as among the best.

The problem is that if you stop using the app, you are left with a very basic electric toothbrush with no features or brushing options.

However, the E1's budget-friendly price means it's a realistic option for the whole family to use –  although expensive replacement brush heads will bring up the cost per use significantly.