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In this report

Best-bet manual razors

When it comes to the smoothest shave, professional review organizations, newspapers, magazines and bloggers are evenly split between the Gillette Fusion (*Est. $11), $3 each for replacement cartridges and the Gillette Mach3 Turbo (*Est. $10 for razor), $2 apiece for replacement cartridges. Overall, the Fusion gets a slight edge over the Mach3 Turbo in the most recent reviews. However, even reviewers who ultimately favor the five-bladed Fusion admit there's not a huge difference between it and the three-bladed Mach3. None of the reviews we found favors the four-bladed Schick Quattro (*Est. $10 for razor), $2 apiece for replacement cartridges.

The manual Fusion is available in several variations: the Fusion Phenom or the Fusion Gamer; both use the same blade cartridge and differ in handle color/design. There's also the Fusion Power Phenom or Fusion Power Gamer, which are the battery versions. Other than the handle and color, there's no difference between the two.

In the most recent and most wide-ranging comparative review we could find, the British consumer publication Which? magazine asked a panel of 48 testers to try out six razors, rating each product for ergonomics and the quality of the shave, taking note of nicks and razor burn.

In a field that included the Gillette Mach3 Turbo, the Gillette Fusion Power and the Schick Quattro (marketed overseas under the Wilkinson Sword brand), Which? magazine's testers preferred the Gillette Fusion Power Stealth (marketed in the U.S. as the Fusion Power Phenom) as the best razor overall. Editors say the powered Fusion "gives an exceptionally close shave." It was the only razor to score five out of five stars in both durability and closeness of shave. The nonpowered Mach3 Turbo is a close second, ranking just behind the Fusion Power in closeness of shave. Unfortunately, the manual version of the Fusion was not tested.  

Which? magazine is the sole reviewer we found that chose the power version of the Fusion as the top pick; editors claim the battery feature "improves razor-glide." Most other reviewers we found dislike the powered versions; many were unable to see a difference in quality of shave or were put off by the vibrating movement. One reviewer even compared the motion to a barber with shaky hands. The Gillette Mach3 also has a power version, but it's rarely tested in reviews.

After Which? magazine, the most extensive comparative review of razors is conducted by the Australian website StrictlyMensBusiness.com, which compares seven razors, including the "big three" manual razors (the Gillette Mach3 Turbo and Fusion, and the Schick Quattro). The top finisher here is the Mach3 Turbo, "a razor that guides even smoother and more effortlessly than its predecessor." The Gillette Fusion is described by the editors as imparting a nice shave, but without enough of a difference to justify the higher price tag.

The Gillette Fusion and Mach3 are clearly favorites among users as well (both men and women). The Mach3 is picked by users on websites such as the ShaveReview.com, The-Vu.com and TheDartmouth.com, while the manual Fusion is well liked in a review at ValetMag.com and in a his-and-hers review on the blog RMS Snowdrop. What's more, numerous shaving message boards are filled with praise for the Gillette Fusion and the Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

A closer shave versus a cheaper price sets the tone for many of the reviews on manual razors, a subjective consideration. Gillette Introduced their five-blade razor in 2006 in spite of skepticism that five blades plus one top blade for trimming was over the top. Critics were slow to warm up to the razor and its price tag. Aside from the razor, the replacement blades cost about $3 each, compared to the Mach3's $2 cartridges.

The oddity of testing manual razors has made its way onto news programs and publications, best exemplified by an amusing report on National Public Radio in which the correspondent shaves one half of his face with the Fusion and the other half with the Schick Quattro, all while on the phone with a Gillette marketing executive. The reporter says the five-blade razor "feels a little bit smoother."

Between the Fusion and the Mach3, the consensus is that while the manual five-blade Fusion razor does seem to shave a bit better, the three-blade Mach3 Turbo is a close second -- plus its replacement blades cost less.

Sources that pick the four-blade Schick Quattro are few, especially when this razor is compared to the Gillette Fusion or Mach3. The top-rated source in Our Sources, Which? magazine, doesn't give a detailed description on the Quattro (which is marketed overseas under the Wilkinson Sword brand), but does say that it left test subjects with the fewest nicks. Editors ding it for durability, however. ShaveReview.com says the Quattro razor is best suited for fine hair.

StrictlyMensBusiness.com -- which compares seven men's razors, including the Schick Quattro -- is even less impressed: "With four closely packed blades and a network of wires connecting them, the Quattro is very easily clogged with hair and shave cream. It regularly skips and can tug on longer hairs, resulting in a rather uncomfortable shave -- especially if you're shaving anything more than a few days growth." This site ranks the Quattro razor in sixth place, with seventh place reserved for the cheap single-blade Bic Classic disposable shaver (*Est. 25 cents each).

The Boston Globe asks six firefighters to use the Mach3 on one side of their faces and the Schick Quattro on the other. The Mach3 was preferred by five of the six men, and the remaining firefighter didn't see any difference between the two shaves. The review did not test the Fusion model.

Shaving-wise, Schick appears to be trapped between a rock and a hard place: The three-blade Gillette Mach3 and the five-blade Fusion are rated higher in performance (and price). For these reasons, we did not include the Schick Quattro in the ConsumerSearch Best Reviewed list.

The Gillette Fusion, Mach3 and Schick Quattro are all marketed toward men. But all over the Internet, women say they've appropriated these shavers as their own. For example, blogger Kaytii Angel of the blog RMS Snowdrop tested the manual Fusion and Quattro's while shaving her legs. Angel admitted that she didn't see much of a difference between the two razors but felt more comfortable using the Fusion's flexible blades around the knee and other curved areas. She ultimately chooses the Fusion as her favorite, and it gets high praise and overall preference from her husband as well. You'll find more information on the female perspective in our report on women's shavers.

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Gillette Mach3 Turbo Razor 2 Count
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from Amazon.com
New: $10.75   
Average Customer Review:  
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Schick Quattro Razor, 1 Razor
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from Amazon.com
New: $15.13 $6.94   
In Stock.
Average Customer Review:  

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