Gillette Mach3 vs. Sensor


Apr 24, 2003 (Updated Mar 16, 2004)


The Bottom Line The Gillette Mach3 Turbo shaves better than the Sensor Excel. With cryogenic treatment, it becomes inexpensive.

(does this review appear off topic? I agree with you. But for better or worse, Epinions deleted the appropriate category when they downsized the site three years ago, and since then twenty Mach3-related reviews have landed here in the "Foil vs. Rotary" section. If that bothers you, please submit feedback to epinions.)


Purpose

To see if the Mach3 is much better than my trusty Sensor Excel. I was skeptical how much difference I could see among the Sensor Excel, Mach3 original, and Mach3 Turbo. In particular, between the Mach3 original and Turbo, the only notable improvement seems to be a Teflon coating.


Evolution of Gillette Shaving Products

Trac II:
-introduced in 1971
-double blade

Atra:
-introduced in 1977
-pivoting head

Atra Plus:
-introduced in 1985
-lube strip

Sensor:
-introduced in 1990
-spring-mounted blades
-black finish
-$.75/cartridge

Sensor Excel:
-introduced in 1993
-identical and compatible with Sensor original, plus
-rubber grippy fins that pull skin taut
-grey finish
-$1.00/cartridge

Mach3:
-introduced in 1998
-triple spring-mounted blades
-blue-colored indicator on the lube strip
-blades formed from thinner gauge metal
-hard coating ("diamond-like carbon") on cutting edges for reduced friction
-wedge-shaped instead of bevel-shaped cutting edges
-loading mechanism is foolproof and more secure
-easy-to-rinse design
-off-center pivot provides uniform shaving pressure
-rubberized handle with rubber ridges
-black and silver finish
-$1.50/cartridge, $5.50/handle

Mach3 Turbo:
-introduced in 2002
-identical and compatible with Mach3 original, plus
-Teflon coated blades
-improved, green-colored lube strip
-10 small (instead of 5 large) rubber grippy fins
-more metal ridges on the handle
-grey and grey finish
-$2.00/cartridge, handle free in mail

Mach3 G-Force, Champion:
-introduced in 2003
-identical and compatible with Mach3 original, except handle is colored Cool Blue, Charcoal, Red, or Red/Black

Sensor3:
-introduced in 2003
-disposable
-similar to the Sensor Excel, but with 3rd blade
-uses some new patents that apply to manufacturing but not performance
-$1.25/razor in 4 or 8 packs

Mach3 M3Power:
-introduced in 2004
-battery-powered vibrating handle
-improved process for teflon coating the blades
-improved substrate for the lube strip
-$2.50/cartridge, $14.99/razor retail


Approach

I tested Sensor Excel, Mach3 original, and Mach3 Turbo side-by-side. I also tested cryogenically tempered razor blades. The "cryo" razor blades are off-the-shelf razor blades which have spent several hours/days in a freezer at minus-300 degrees. I don't know metallurgy, but the published literature says that at low temperature, the carbides present in steel precipitate from alloy, causing steel to permanently become stronger and more resistant to wear. Tempering strengthens metal by 'quenching', or cooling it. Normal tempering quenches metal from red-hot to room temperature. Cryo tempering quenches metal from red-hot to -300F. Cryo tempering is often used to treat cutting tools like saws and drill bits that wear down.

Cryo razor blades are supposed to last 4x as long as regular razor blades, which sounds suspicious. But in my case, buying cryo razor blades on the Internet cost less than buying untreated blades from WalMart. So, I saw no big downside to trying the cryo blades.


Setup

Equipment: Sensor handle. Mach3 original handle. Mach3 Turbo handle
Untreated blades: Sensor Excel. Mach3 Turbo.
Cryo-treated blades: Mach3 original. Mach3 Turbo.
Other: Aveeno shaving gel. Moderately hard water ~110F.

Cryo treated parts were obtained from GreatRazors.com.


Experiment

For the first part, I shaved the right side of my face with a Sensor Excel blade, while shaving the left side of my face with Mach3 Turbo. I shaved immediately after showering. I did not use aftershave.

For the second part, I shaved the right side of my face with with cryo-treated Mach3 Turbo, while shaving the left side of my face with cryo-treated Mach3 original.

I got mixed results from the Mach3 original blade, so I contacted the vendor at greatrazors.com and said "this blade seems like it wasn't treated." They immediately mailed me a replacement, no questions asked, and I restarted that test.

Results

The Mach3 Turbo gave me a closer and more comfortable shave than Sensor Excel. The first time I used it I thought, "Wow, this is the best shave I have ever had." Both Excel/Turbo blades lasted the same length of time -- one great shave, two good shaves, and about four okay shaves.

Shaving with the Mach3 took a couple days to get used to. The angle is different. The pivoting head limits the force you can apply.

I am happy that that Mach3 rinses very easily. Usually after shaving I have to whack-whack the Sensor to get all the stubble out, and even then, a lot of crud gradually builds up on the handle. The Mach3 rinses clean with a single shake, and after a month of use, I don't see any crud building up on the handle.

The Mach3 works in a single stroke. One problem with the Sensor is it needs a couple of strokes to scrape lingering stray hairs, especially if you haven't shaved in a couple of days. The progressive-tilt of the Mach3 blades is supposed to help it shave in one stroke. Looking at stuble that rinses out, it seems the Mach3 cuts each hair multiple times, while the Sensor tends to cut each hair only once. This is not a significant improvement if you shave more often.

Some have complained that the shape of the Mach3 makes it impossible to shave whiskers right under your nose, but I find those claims difficult to accept -- geometrically the distance from the first blade to the top of the cartridge is the same (2.5 millimeters) for the Mach3 and the Sensor. I think the angle made people think they couldn't shave right under their nose, but actually they could.

On the other hand, the Mach3 does have trouble shaving areas under my neck. The large size of the cartridge makes it hard for it to shave near my Adam's apple. I found a work-around -- I just shave without stretching my neck out. But it took a couple days to figure that out.

The Mach3 original and Turbo are very similar. Both gave me equally close shaves. I did find the Turbo more comfortable, though. Either the Teflon coating or the new lube strip makes the Turbo glide more smoothly than the original.

The Mach3 original and Turbo handles have minor cosmetic differences. Construction-wise, they are the same weight, shape, and material. The extra ridges on the Turbo handle won't improve your shave. But I do like the appearance of the Turbo more than the original handle.

The most exciting result I found was with the cryo-treatment. The cryo-treated blades lasted much longer than untreated blades (even accounting for the one-side-of-my-face thing). I got 2 great shaves, 5 good shaves, and 14 okay shaves from the cryo blades (after dividing by 2). This is great -- a cryo-treated Mach3 Turbo costs less to use than an untreated Sensor Excel. The aloe-strip though does not last as long as a blade.


Conclusion

I find the Mach3 gives a better shave than the Sensor Excel. The Mach3 Turbo gives a more comfortable shave than both. The Mach3 is very expensive to use. With cryo-treatment, however, the cost per shave becomes inexpensive for any blade. The old Mach3 handle works as well as the new Turbo handle.


Recommendation

Mach3 works great. I recommend Mach3 Turbo blades, but use whichever handle (original, turbo, g-force) you prefer. To reduce cost I also recommend cryo-treated blades from greatrazors.com.

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