Oral-B Genius X full review
Oral-B isn’t the first company to claim to have packed artificial intelligence into a toothbrush - and like most of the others, it’s really stretching the term to get away with it - but Genius X is still one of the first smart toothbrushes that does feel, well, smart.
Taking advantage of data recorded from the brushing habits of thousands of people it's capable of giving you surprisingly accurate real-time feedback on where you’re brushing - and how well - but like most smart brushes I have my doubts about how long most users will keep using the app's features.
I first saw the brush at MWC 2019, where we gave it one of our Best in Show Awards, but I've now been using the brush daily for a couple weeks to properly test it out.
Price and availability
The Genius X is out now in the UK, but it's not coming to the US until September 2019.
In the UK the RRP is £339.99, but like most electric toothbrushes that price is misleading. Within less than a month on sale the Genius X dropped to £129.99 on Amazon, with a limited 'Luxe Edition' for £169.99, featuring a slightly different design and some extra brush heads.
Speaking of brush heads, the brush will use any of the existing Oral-B heads, so there's no need to worry about compatibility. There are a few different varieties of head for different purposes, and they'll generally cost you £10 for a pack of four. Since you should change heads every three months, that's a year's supply for a single user.
The Genius X costs a little more than you'd currently pay for Oral-B's previous smart flagship, the Genius 9000, which is currently £99.99 on Amazon, and is close to the current price of the Philips flagship, the Sonicare 6100 - that's on Amazon at £119.99 right now, though doesn't have any smart features.
Keep an eye on our round-up of electric toothbrush deals if you want to pick up any of them - or older models - for less.
Smart toothbrushes have been around for a few years, but Oral-B seems to have a fairly good claim to having made the smartest one yet.
The Genius X doesn’t really have proper AI of course - despite what the packaging would have you believe - but instead Oral-B has used machine learning to train the brush - or to be more precise, the accompanying app - on thousands of users’ diverse brushing styles. It's important to know that it won't learn and improve based on your brushing though: the machine learning was done in Oral-B's labs, so it isn't using any AI to learn from how you brush.
Instead, the idea is that no matter how you hold the brush, which order you brush in, or how you angle your head, the Genius X will still be able to tell which region of your mouth you’re brushing at any given time, using a combination of internal gyroscopes and the app’s algorithm.
Other brushes like the Kolibree Ara can already do this, and up until now Oral-B was lagging behind - the previous Genius brushes all required you to prop up your phone to use its camera to monitor your brushing - but none are as accurate and responsive as the Genius X seems to be.
No matter how I move the brush or my head around, it quickly catches where it is and updates the on-screen graphic, flashing white in the relevant part of the mouth map (split into six zones, with no distinction between the inside and outside of teeth), and eventually turning that area solid white once you've brushed it enough. It does get it wrong occasionally - it seemed to particularly struggle with the top of my mouth for some reason - but this has been infrequent, and a slight adjustment in my technique tends to quickly let it catch up.
What’s most impressive is that unlike the Kolibree and other rivals, the app doesn’t tell you which part of your mouth to brush when (giving it a helping hand in figuring out where your brush is likely to be), but instead is entirely reacting to your behaviour, figuring it out purely thanks to gyroscopic data and machine learning smarts.
At the end of each brushing session you’ll get a score based on how long you brushed for, how consistently you covered every part of your mouth, and whether you used too much pressure, along with tips on how to do better next time. You can also track how consistently and regularly you brush, and separately log your flossing and mouthwash habits, and set reminders to brush, floss, or even change brush heads
The brush syncs to your phone over Bluetooth, but this process isn't without its irritations. I found that if the Oral-B app was still in my phone's memory from when I last used it, it wouldn't sync to the brush - so had to get into the habit of opening the app in order to close it and clear it from my phone's RAM, then open it again to trigger a sync with the brush.
The main concern I have with the smart features is something common to all smart brushes: the novelty wears off. While I've reviewed and owned previous app-enabled brushes, I tend to only use the app for the first few weeks or so before I stop bothering to grab my phone every time I want to brush my teeth, and I'm not convinced that Oral-B has improved the experience enough to really elevate the smart support above being a gimmick that you'll bore of.
One potential irritation worth being aware of is that the app isn't particularly well-suited to multiple users. If you turn off the automatic syncing then it is possible to share the brush, as long as each user has their own Oral-B account and always uses the brush while signed into it - but it means you won't be able to sync up your offline brushing sessions, for fear of them syncing into the wrong person's account.
If you don't want to brush with the app open then it works much like any other high-end electric brush, buzzing every 30 seconds to let you know to move onto the next area of your mouth. There are also dedicated brushing modes for gum care, sensitive teeth, whitening, tongue brushing, and more. The brush will also store up to 30 sessions offline and sync them up when you next connect to the app.
The brushing action feels a little more aggressive than in the Philips Sonicare devices, but that does vary depending on mode and brush head, and of course personal preference comes in here. I prefer the feel of the Sonicare, but you may be the opposite - and if you're used to an Oral-B brush then this will feel very familiar.
Design is hardly the most essential part of a toothbrush, but it's still worth discussing. The Genius X comes in a choice of three colours: black, rose gold with white, or anthracite grey with black.
The handle looks much the same as previous Oral-B brushes, which is a slight shame - it's a chunky design that now looks outdated compared to the latest Philips Sonicare brush handles, which are generally much more sleek and modern looking. This does at least include a fancy light-up ring at the top of the handle, which you can set to a colour of your choice through the app.
The included travel case comes with a charging port and its own power cable, so battery life isn't too much of a concern, as you can charge while you travel. There's also a USB port, but this isn't for charging the case itself, but is rather pass-through power so that you can charge your phone or another gadget through the brush case.
That might sound a bit odd, but makes more sense when you consider that the case includes a little stand where you can prop up your phone while you brush - but since you need to use the app in portrait mode, and would have to charge in landscape because of the cable, it's not quite as smooth as it sounds.
If you don't want to take the (admittedly bulky) travel case with you, the Genius X lasted for roughly two weeks of brushing twice a day in my testing, so should be good for even a long holiday. Bear in mind though that this will obviously be different if multiple people are sharing the handle, and that battery life does tend to degrade over time.
Smart toothbrushes tend to over-promise and under-deliver, and to some extent the same is true with the Genius X. To bill this as AI-driven is really pushing it, especially since it doesn't learn as it goes.
Still, tracking is more accurate than any other smart brush I've tested so far, with feedback at the end that really is useful - all in the sort of premium package you’d expect from a brush at this level. The average user will probably stop bothering with the smart features eventually anyway - but even if you do, at least you're still getting a top quality electric brush with a range of options and modes.