I'm a bit of a shave geek. It sometimes feels like I've tried just about every razor on the market, and I'm always in search of a smoother shave. Recently, I was given the opportunity to review the Gillette Fusion ProGlide Razor, and it proved to be one of the best shaves ever I've had at home. Upon reading that review, a reader suggested that I give the Schick Hydro 5 Razor a whirl to see how it stacks up. Needless to say, I was impressed. It's a worthy challenger, and a great value.
For those who have used the Gillette Fusion or even the Mach 3, you'll be familiar with the Schick's "paintbrush" style head. Like the Fusion, the Hydro 5 features a 5 blade cutting surface and a trimmer function. On the Fusion, the trimmer is a single blade on the backside of the cartridge—while the Hydro 5's lubricating strip clicks out of the way to allow the shaving surface to get closer in tight spaces. Both razors have a section of rubber fins, which come in front of the blade, to help lift hairs and channel off shaving cream. On each razor, the blades are followed by a lubricating strip. I still think lubrication should come before the blades, but a great shave cream renders these strips virtually useless anyway. The blades on the Hydro are a bit farther apart than they are on the Fusion, and each of the Hydro's blades has a "skin guard" bar, designed to help smooth the skin between blades.
The handle on the Schick Hydro 5 looks a little sleeker than the Fusion, and it feels more refined. I will note, however, that the grip on the Fusion is easier to hold onto with slick shaving cream. Still, the Hydro has a bit more heft and better balance than the Fusion manual razor, and felt better in my hand. The Fusion also comes in a powered version, while the Hydro does not—they might sound gimmicky, but the high-frequency vibrations of the powered razor do make a difference. The Hydro also comes in a 3 blade version sans trimmer.
In comparing the two, I will say that I give the Fusion ProGlide a bit of an advantage—the Hydro 5 didn't shave quite as close as the Fusion, although it came in a very close second. On the first pass, the Hydro 5 slid over my face effortlessly, but it also didn't seem to take off much of my beard either. The second pass seemed to be where the shaving really began. Both razors gave me a close shave with no irritation.
In terms of comfort during the shave, I'd actually give the edge to the Hydro—there was almost no drag. I did have to go over the area an extra pass, though, so it's really a toss-up here. The end result for both was a close shave with very little razor burn or irritation.
Both razors were fairly easy to maneuver around the curves of my face, and both were easy to hold on to. I liked the weight and balance of the Hydro, but preferred the grip of the Fusion. The head of each razor is quite large, which makes it hard to reach tight spaces like the corners of the mouth and under the nose—but both razors address this issue with the addition of a trimmer feature. On the Schick Hydro 5, there's not an extra blade, but instead the top of the head snaps out of the way of the shaving surface. This allows that top blade to get right up under the nose. On the Gillette Fusion ProGlide, the trimmer is on the backside of the blade. I like the way it's executed of this feature on the Fusion better, because the design makes it a little easier to see where you're trimming—especially when maneuvering around facial hair.
The cartridges on each razor were easy enough to eject, but the Hydro's heads took me a moment or so to figure out how to install properly, and they felt a little cheap. Overall, the Fusion cartridge feels more solid than the Hydro.
Cost is where the Schick Hydro 5 Razor clearly beats the Gillette Fusion ProGlide. The Hydro 5 handle is a few bucks cheaper than the Fusion ProGlide, but I've found the Hydro 5 cartridges online for nearly half the cost of the ones for Fusion ProGlide—that's enough to make some choose one over the other. While I enjoyed the Fusion a little more than the Hydro, the latter gives the Fusion a run for its money—especially when you consider the savings.
Both razors will give you a great shave, and I can highly recommend both—the Gillette Fusion ProGlide wins for closeness and overall design, but the Schick Hydro 5 is the clear winner for value and aesthetics. Choose the one that fits your budget and style, because either way, you'll end up with a good shave.