The Schick Hydro 5 Sense Energize is our favorite overall style with its high-quality shave combined with a low friction glide. The five blades provide a nice close shave, and the skin guards, moisturizing pods, and flexible shock-absorbing head help reduce friction and irritation. The moisturizing pods above the blades can flip away for more precise trimming, and the handle has a comfortable heft and a rubberized grip for confident control. The Schick Hydro 5 series of shavers are available in a Hydrate and Sensitive version in addition to the Energize version that we tested, each with a slightly different blend of oils and extracts in the moisturizing pod. Combined with a reasonable price tag compared to other modern 5-blade designs, we highly recommend this model for most people.
After several shaves, we didn't find many significant drawbacks with this model. Like any 5-blade design, hair and grime could get caught up between the blades or in the moisturizing pods, and users with more sensitive skin could experience some irritation. Overall, the smooth glide, high-quality shave, and comfortable handle make this our favorite overall model that we'd recommend.
Shavers unhappy with modern multi-blade cartridge designs should consider a double edge safety razor. This style has a double-sided blade that screws into a metal head, allowing you to shave with just a single edge. The Bevel Safety is the model we'd recommend for most people interested in this design. The head geometry and blade sharpness are forgiving enough for inexperienced shavers, and the comfortable weighted handle provides enough control and precision for more advanced users. Like with any safety razor, the standard blade that comes with the product can be switched out for other blades with different hardnesses or sharpnesses to suit your personal preference. The standard blade that comes with the Bevel provides a nice blend of shave quality and smooth glide with minimal irritation compared to most we have tried.
For anyone considering transitioning away from from a modern multi-blade cartridge, we recommend taking it slowly. These double-edge blades require a slightly different shaving technique than cartridge styles, and less experienced users could find it easier to cut themselves with this style of razor if they work too quickly or use too much pressure. However, the Bevel's comfortably weighted handle helps to provide confident control, allowing our testers to avoid any such mistakes. The included blades are forgiving enough to give a smooth, close shave without much irritation or fear of nicks or cuts. While the handle is a little smoother than we'd like, the overall comfort and control are ideal for both beginner and experienced shavers.
With another classic design that has been on the market for several years, the Schick Quattro Titanium has a 4-blade system that glides smoothly and provides a close, comfortable shave. The simple design includes an ergonomic handle with a comfortable heft and a rubberized grip and a 4-blade cartridge that is a nice compromise between older 3-blade systems and modern 5-blade models. We think that the Quattro shaves as well as anything on the market, and does so with a reasonable price tag that is much more affordable than most modern multi-blade designs.
One of the only downsides of the Schick Quattro Titanium is that the closely spaced blades and wireframe can catch and trap hairs and grime a little easier than 3-blade models or even 5-blade models with more generously spaced blades. We were able to mitigate this by rinsing the blades more frequently in between shaving strokes. Overall, this was one of our favorite models, and the affordable price makes it more attainable.
If two or three blades are good, then four or five blades must be better, right? Not necessarily. As the shaving industry keeps adding additional blades to their cartridges, the Gillette Mach3 3D holds steady with its classic 3-blade design. The Mach3 provides a clean, close shave at a reasonably affordable price, and its three blades seem to irritate the skin slightly less than today's 5-blade designs. The blade configuration is also a little more spaced out, making them easier to keep clean and clear of debris compared to more closely-spaced 4- or 5-blade designs. We tested the Mach3 3D version, but there are other handle designs available with the same interchangeable blade cartridges.
After completing our testing, we are unable to find any noteworthy downsides with the Mach3. While it may not shave quite as aggressively as most modern 5-blade models, any differences in shave quality are hardly noticeable. The simple, classic design has gone through some cosmetic iterations through the years, but the blade design has remained mostly unchanged. For anyone confused by all of the fancy marketing campaigns with modern multi-blade cartridges, the Mach3 is a classic model at a reasonable price that continues to get the job done.
The BIC Flex 4 Sensitive Hybrid blurs the line between a simple disposable product and a modern multi-blade cartridge design. The ergonomic handle has a comfortable, lightweight heft and provides a confident grip for precise control. The replaceable 4-blade cartridge provides a good shave quality similar to refillable cartridges and is much better than most other disposable options.
The BIC Flex 4 Sensitive Hybrid doesn't have as smooth a glide as more expensive refillable cartridges with larger skin guards and hydrating strips. The BIC provides a good quality shave but left our skin feeling a bit more irritated than with other products. Still, the BIC offers a good quality shave at an affordable price, and the hybrid disposable design makes it convenient for travelers or anyone on the go.
The Godfather Stonehenge from Vikings Blade is another top-quality double edge safety razor that we'd highly recommend to more experienced shavers. The heavy-duty handle is nicely weighted and has a comfortable ergonomic shape and textured grip, providing plenty of control to let the blade gently glide across your face. Using the standard Mild blades from Vikings Blade, we found the shave quality to be slightly better than with the Bevel Safety, but also less forgiving than the Bevel, requiring a more confident hand for a comfortably smooth shave. The Stonehenge model that we tested has a classic weathered finish that looks and feels like a heavy-duty tool.
Like with any safety razor, the shaving technique with The Godfather may take some practice and getting used to for those transitioning from a modern multi-blade design. While this provided a great close shave, we found a little more irritation than with other blades and needed to take a little more care and attention to prevent minor nicks or cuts. Experienced shavers or anyone looking to transition away from a multi-blade cartridge who is willing to trade some patience for a great shave should check out this model.
The Gillette Fusion5 Power takes the modern 5-blade design to the next level with battery-operated electronic micro pulses, which the manufacturer claims will reduce friction and increase glide. Whether that is true or just a placebo effect, we did enjoy the shave quality and smooth glide provided by this shaver. The skin guard designed to stretch the skin helps enhance the shave quality, and a few small gaps between the blades and the skin guards help reduce the buildup of hair and grime.
While we enjoyed the Gillette's shave quality, we did experience a bit more skin irritation than with other products. The hydrating strip on top of the cartridge is less substantial than other 5-blade models and seemed to dry out more quickly than most. The handle has a nice textured grip, but is lighter and feels less balanced and ergonomic than others. This is a good option for those wanting a close shave, but we think other products balance shave quality and skin comfort a little better.
Thanks to its clean and sleek aesthetics and high-quality 5-blade system, the Harry's Razor 2X helps shake things among the major shaving brands. This model provides a very nice shave and is enhanced by the rubber handle that has a comfortable heft and an ergonomic shape.
The Harry's Razor provided us a close shave, similar to most modern 5-blade designs, but didn't glide as smoothly as most others. We felt more friction than most, as it seemed to drag rather than glide across the face of our lead tester. Although we still achieved a comfortable shave without much irritation, the actual shaving process wasn't as comfortable and effortless as other tools.
The Solimo 5-Blade MotionSphere is a modern 5-blade design and an affordable price tag. This model has a 3-dimensional pivoting head to adjust to the contours of your face, and a comfortable handle that has a nice weight and an excellent rubber grip. The replacement cartridges are also less expensive than most major brands.
Unfortunately, the MotionSphere had one of the more inferior shave qualities in our testing. The blades didn't glide across our face very smoothly and required noticeably more strokes to cut through all of the hair to achieve a suitable shave. These extra strokes and the increased drag left our face more irritated than with most other products. This design is very affordable, but we think you can get a better quality and more comfortable shave with another option.
The Gillette Sensor3 Smooth Shave Disposable is a classic disposable design with three blades and an ergonomic and lightweight handle. The shave quality is pretty good, and the product's simplicity makes it one of the most affordable options in our lineup.
Although the Sensor3 provided a pretty good shave quality, it doesn't glide as smoothly as most modern cartridge styles and can cause a bit more irritation with its less robust skin guards. While most people might prefer a refillable cartridge style or safety razor for their daily shaving, this model makes a great option to throw in your travel kit with its simple design and affordable price.
Why You Should Trust Us
This in-depth review is brought to you by Nick Bruckbauer. Nick enthusiastically shares with readers his expertise across a wide range of home and outdoor products. With coarse, dark hair and soft, sensitive skin, Nick has also been on a lifelong journey to optimize his shaving ritual to mitigate his constant struggle with bumps, irritation, and frequent ingrown hairs. Recognizing that shavers with different skin and hair types may have different shaving needs and priorities, he is armed with a meticulous awareness of how different tools and products have different capabilities and weaknesses and how they would impact the overall shaving experience.
With so many different products and confusing marketing jargon, it can be discouraging to try to understand today's grooming marketplace. After scouring the market, we bought the most promising and popular products to bring in for our side-by-side testing. We tested 3-, 4-, and 5-blade cartridge designs, simple disposable styles, and traditional double-edge safety razors. We put each product to the test through several shaves, using the same skin preparation routine and shaving gel each time. With the double edge safety razors that we tested, we took our shaving routine up a notch by adding a high-quality shave soap and using a badger hair shaving brush to complete the traditional shaving ritual. Throughout the testing process, we even compared products directly against each other by shaving one half of our face with different products simultaneously. With our in-depth analysis, we aim to help you find the right product for your shaving needs.
Analysis and Test Results
A lot more goes into a comfortable, high-quality shave than just the blade quality of your preferred tool. To find the best razor, we evaluated each product across a series of five performance metrics, including shave quality, glide and comfort, handle ergonomics, build quality and durability, and ease of cleaning and blade replacement. We recommend taking note of the high performers in whichever metrics you prioritize for your personal needs.
For our first performance metric, we rated each product's shave quality simply by evaluating how well and how easily the blades cut our hair, and how smooth our face was after shaving. The potential tradeoff with a close shave is that sharper blades with a more aggressive cut can lead to increased skin irritation, bumps, or ingrown hairs. We assess those side effects further in our glide and comfort ratings, but for now, we'll only focus on shave closeness and quality.
A number of 5-blade cartridge designs tied for our top ranking, with very similar and almost indistinguishable shave qualities. The Schick Hydro 5 Sense Energize, the Gillette Fusion5 Power, and the Harry's Razor 2X all provided close, smooth shaves with ease. What separated their overall rankings was their smoothness and glide, which we'll get into later, but each of these left our face feeling smooth and fresh.
Similarly, the Schick Quattro Titanium provided an excellent shave quality and is our favorite 4-blade design and one that we'd highly recommend with its affordable price and excellent value. The Quattro has similar shave quality as its 5-blade competitors, but slightly less irritation due to having one less blade.
Both of the double edge safety razors we tested - the Bevel and the Vikings Blade The Godfather - also provided a close, high-quality shave. The Vikings Blade The Godfather model gets the nod here with a slightly more aggressive blade that shaved a bit more closely than the Bevel. The Bevel is still the model we'd recommend for most people, though, since it balances a nice shave with a slightly less harsh glide across the skin.
Glide and Comfort
While most shaving tools will do a decent job of closely trimming your hair, what separates the highest performing products from the pack is how smoothly they glide and how comfortably they leave your skin afterward. Sometimes, the additional blades in modern designs that help achieve a smooth, close shave can also stretch and tug at your skin and make it feel depleted. Products that pull or tug at the skin too much can also lead to bumps and ingrown hairs.
Standing out in this metric were two Schick products; the 5-blade Hydro 5 Sense Energize and the 4-blade Quattro Titanium. Both models glide smoothly across the skin with less irritation than others and do an excellent job of balancing a close shave with reduced tugging and irritation.
The Harry's Razor 2X, the Gillette Mach3 3D, and the Gillette Fusion 5 Power all do a reasonable job at balancing comfort with a high-quality shave, but have a little more friction and don't seem to glide quite as smoothly as the Schick models.
The Bevel Safety also stands out in this metric for its smooth, comfortable glide that makes it a good option for those who are inexperienced with a double-edge safety model who are looking to transition. This type of tool requires a little more patience and finesse than modern multi-blade cartridges, but the Bevel model has a mild enough blade to balance a close shave with a smooth glide and limited irritation. The Vikings Blade model provides a slightly closer shave but has a higher potential to leave the skin feeling raw and irritated.
Any tool is only as useful as the person operating it, and razors are no different. It doesn't matter how well the blades work if you don't have confident, precise control over them. A product's handle ergonomics is an essential piece of the shaving experience. A handle with a curved, ergonomic shape, some kind of textured grip, and a little bit of an added weight tend to allow you to operate the most efficiently.
The standout performer in this category is the Vikings Blade The Godfather Stonehenge with a heavily weighted metal handle with a nicely curved shape and textured grooves for added grip. The handle inspires confidence in the task at hand, and its heavier weight allows you to use a gentle grip pressure and still achieve a close shave. This product is much heavier than anything else in our lineup and gives the perception that it's built to last a long time.
Next is the Schick Hydro 5 Sense Energize with our favorite handle for a refillable cartridge design. The handle feels slightly heavier than most other cartridge designs and has a soft rubberized texture to provide a confident no-slip grip. The upper moisturizing pods also flip away to allow more control and precision for trimming around sensitive areas like below your nose.
The Solimo 5-Blade Motionsphere and the Schick Quattro Titanium both earn an honorable mention in this category, thanks to their simple handle designs with a nicely curved shape and large rubber inserts. They both also include an additional single precision trimming blade for edging along beards or sideburns.
Build Quality and Durability
In this metric, we evaluated the overall build quality of each product, including the handle materials, the initial blade quality, and the connection points between the handles and the blades or cartridges. We won't go into blade sharpness or long-term durability, since there are so many variables like hair and skin coarseness, shaving cream type, and rinsing and storing habits that can vary from person to person. We focus on each model's initial quality and durability for a handful of shaves throughout our testing period.
Leading the way in this metric are the two safety razors in our lineup, the Bevel Safety, and the Vikings Blade The Godfather Stonehenge. The Bevel is constructed with a chromium-plated solid brass handle, while the Godfather Stonehenge is made from 304L stainless steel. Both products have a heavy-duty heft to them and inspire confidence in their durability. Both also are designed to use easily replaceable double-edge blades that are typically affordable and can be mixed and matched to suit your skin and hair type.
Next up is the Harry's Razor 2X. This model has an aesthetically pleasing design that is sleeker and simpler than most other refillable cartridge designs. The ergonomic rubber handle is available in several colors, and the interface between the handle and the blade cartridge is engaged with a simple click that is much easier than other models. This product feels well-engineered and well constructed and seems higher-end than most other cartridge designs.
Finally, the two Schick models in our lineup — the Hydro 5 Sense Energize and the Quattro Titanium — both have above average build quality. Their handles have more heft to them than most other products and have simpler designs with fewer angles or grooves that could eventually collect dirt and grime. Both also provide an outstanding balance between shave quality and a smooth, comfortable glide.
Ease of Cleaning and Blade Replacement
Though perhaps not as crucial as other performance metrics, a product's ease of cleaning and blade replacement are a critical element to its longevity and continued shave quality. Models that are difficult to rinse, easily get jammed up with hair and grime, or trap moisture can cause the blades to rust or wear prematurely, which all tend to quickly diminish the shave quality and comfort. Designs with nicely spaced blades that are easily rinsed and dried tend to last longer. Similarly, once it does come time to change to a new blade, most products have a simple button to pop the old cartridge out and a new one in, but some operate a little easier than others.
Our favorite product in this performance metric is the Gillette Mach3 3D. With only three blades that are nicely spaced out, the Mach3 allows you to quickly rinse away hair and grime much easier than with most modern 5-blade designs. This helps keeps the blades clean and dry between shaves, which will help optimize its lifespan. When it comes time for a new cartridge, making a change is more straightforward than most with a quick and easy click into place.
The Gillette Sensor3 Disposable has a similar 3-blade design as the Mach3 that does an excellent job of preventing grime from building up between the blades. When the Sensor3's edges have gone through their usable lifespan, simply discard the entire disposable handle and blade and replace it with a new one.
Most 5-blade cartridges struggle in this metric because their blades are so tightly packed together, making it easy for hair, shaving cream, or moisture to get trapped between the blades. The Gillette Fusion5 Power does better than most 5-blade models in this area, with larger gaps above and below the set of five blades that allow you to rinse out trapped debris a bit easier. Similar to the Mach3, the Fusion5 blade cartridge can be changed with a simple push of a button and a click into place.
The shaving marketplace is filled with many similar-looking competing products. It can be daunting to sort through the nice to figure out which product is right for you. We hope that our extensive head-to-head tests and attention to detail have helped you understand your options and little better, and choose the product that best suits your individual shaving needs.
— Nick Bruckbauer