A Razor Showdown: Gillette Mach3 Turbo vs. Harry’s Winston Razor vs. Dollar Shave Club 4X

In the autumn of 1999 I purchased a Gillette Mach3 razor. Up to that point in my life I had exclusively used an electric razor. I was quickly hooked on the Mach3. Since that time I have used Mach3 or Mach3 Turbo blades (that’s almost 15 years). The cost of razor blades has made me consider exploring a cheaper alternative. Most intriguing to me was a shave club that would send blades to my door. And so I decided to give Harry’s Winston Razor and the Dollar Shave Club 4X Razor a try. I used both of these challenging razors for extended periods of time to give them a fair trial. After a few months I reached my verdict (do you feel the suspense?).

The razor line up (left to right): Harry's Winston, Dollar Shave Club 4X, Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

The razor line up (left to right): Harry’s Winston, Dollar Shave Club 4X, Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

Mach3 Turbo (Grade: A-)
Number of Blades: 3
Price Per Cartridge: ~$2.25
Shaves Per Cartridge: 14-18

The Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

The Gillette Mach3 Turbo.

I started shaving with the Mach3 and transitioned to the Mach3 Turbo. The razor feels like an extension of my hand (15 years of use will do this), so I must admit that I have a bias toward this product. The handle is easy to grip and is relatively lightweight. The cartridge is compact, yet the blades are spaced well apart so residue is easily washed free. When shaving with this razor I rarely cut myself or get razor burn. The Mach3 Turbo gives me a close shave without excessive re-shaving parts of my face. I can also easily shave the tricky areas by my nose and close to my lips.

I can remove all suspense and say at the conclusion of this comparison I chose to stay with my Mach3 Turbo. I discovered I can buy cartridges in bulk at Costco for about ~$2.00 each, which is far better than the usual retail price.

Harry’s Winston Razor (Grade C+)
Number of Blades: 5
Price Per Cartridge: ~$1.88
Shaves Per Cartridge: 8-12

The Harry's Winston Razor.

The Harry’s Winston Razor.

I had high hopes when I ordered my Harry’s razor. In fact, I decided to order the premium Winston handle. The Harry’s Winston looks very sleek; it was the Rolls Royce of my razor test. I will confess that I really hoped it would win because it looked so good. I liked the handle–it is easy to grip and is of an appropriate weight. The blades are very sharp, yet the cartridge feels a bit light. My biggest concerns about this razor were the lack of flexibility of the cartridge, the closeness of the blades, and difficulty skirting the nose. The cartridge flexes because it is plastic, but there is not a spring system or some sort of suspension. Of the three razors it was the most reluctant to fit the contours of my face. The closeness of the five blades in the cartridge mean that residue is quick to get stuck and build up. I had trouble cleaning the cartridge. The placement of the blades in the cartridge also make shaving close to a nose nearly impossible. I also found that I had to shave over areas a few times to get a close shave. This might have contributed to the fact that this was the shortest lived cartridge of the razors I tested (Table 1). I was prone to get nicks and razor burn. I will say that when I shaved very slowly and carefully (about 3 times longer than a usual shave) I got a very close shave from this razor–but that sort of extra time just won’t work in the daily routine.

In the end this goes down as a failed venture. I’m glad I tried it out, but the blades did not live up to their sexy handle.

Dollar Shave Club 4X (Grade: B-)
Number of Blades: 4
Price Per Cartridge: ~$1.50
Shaves Per Cartridge: 9-14

The Dollar Shave Club 4X.

The Dollar Shave Club 4X.

My second shave club attempt was the Dollar Shave Club 4X. The club supplies a free handle, which is nice. I was impressed by the comfort of the handle and the ability of the cartridge to pivot and follow contours. While the handle and razor look cheap aesthetically, they function respectably. The blades are sharp. I found that I had to go over places a few times to get a close shave. I had minimal nicks or razor burn. Shaving around my nose was easier than it had been with Harry’s blades, but not as easy as the Mach3. My 5 o’clock shadow with this razor was the indication to me that it was not giving me as close of a shave as the Mach3.

The gap between this razor and the Mach3 is not large, but it is enough to make me miss my Mach3 when I am using this razor. I would definitely choose this razor over Harry’s based on performance (though Harry’s looks far better).

A comparison of razors with grades.

Table 1. A comparison of three razors.

When I evaluated the razors and their performance I decided to stick with my trusty Mach3. The cost difference is minimal considering the Mach3 cartridges last longer than the challengers, plus Costco has excellent prices on Mach3 Turbo cartridges.

As an aside, a few years ago I accidentally bought counterfeit Mach 3 blades on the internet. It was the worst shaving experience of my life. I still have a few of those counterfeit cartridges (they look so real!), if you want to experience shaving misery let me know.

The Mach3 Turbo is king of the mountain.

The Mach3 Turbo is king of the mountain.

Do you use a razor? What is your favorite model? Do you have any recommendations? Have you had a different experience with these razors?

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31 Comments

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31 responses to “A Razor Showdown: Gillette Mach3 Turbo vs. Harry’s Winston Razor vs. Dollar Shave Club 4X

  1. Anonymous

    I have bought the replacement cartridges at Sam’s Club for the Mach3. It’s as close to affordable as we can get (while also achieving the close shave).

    • Thanks for stopping by. Sounds like we have similar strategies–bulk purchase of Mach3 cartridges.

    • I had one of my Chefs tell me in 2008 that even a disposable razor blade will get 45 -60 shaves he claimed 90 on his. I used Machs all these years and have to say 45 has been achievable ( at times I think got bad blades but got 20-25) the key is you dry it good after each shave. i just got Harrys love the gel done 7 smooth shaves so far. I shave 1 sometimes twice in a day. My last purchase of Mach was at Costco. I am getting 45 no problem and I expect a lot from Harrys just shaved and dried my blade.

  2. I, too, bought what I thought were Mach3s on eBay a few years and know precisely the misery about which you speak.

    Have you tried the 6x “Executive” blades from DSC? …just pulled the trigger on the $9/month plan to see if they can rival the Mach3s.

  3. HKP

    To chime in here – I started using the mach3 in 2005, when I went to college. After 8 years I decided I’ll give something else a try and got a Braun Series 5 electric shaver after seeing my brothers in action. It was great to start with, but I realized I never got as clean a shave as I did with the Mach 3. In any case, what bothered me was the I had to shave against the direction of the hair follicles to get a truly clean shave and this ended up in me getting breakouts and my face looked like a a warzone after 4-5 months of the braun. I then tried to dollar shave club – and I then realized that I had forgotten how to shave with a regular razor – went over too fast and nicked my face pretty much everywhere – now I looked like I had gone through a warzone – in fact a mole I had on the side of my face under my ear got nicked and refused to stop bleeding. I stopped shaving for two days because of the traumatic experience :/

    In any case, I retried it today and I don’t know if my hair follicles have gone haywire from using the Braun or whether the DSC blades are too sharp, but I am calling it quits if it doesn’t work well after the next shave. I noticed I don’t get as close a shave with the DSC razors as well (in addition to losing a pint of blood)

    Now I’m heading back home for a week, where my trusty old mach 3 handle which I bought almost 9 years ago is still lying around, I hope it’ll take me back !!

  4. Anonymous

    Benjamin – Thank you for your well written review. I am a long standing Gillette Sensor Excel user. Having seen the Harry’s and Dollar Shave Club ads, I had considered trying them out. However, like you, I have tried budget alternatives over the years and have always been disappointed. Given your review, I think I will forgo the Harry’s experiment and stick with the Sensor. I may be a relic, but it gets the job done. Thanks

  5. Mike

    Sam’s hasn’t sold Mach 3 Turbo blades in years. I wish they did. Much cheaper. I buy them from eBay to get the best deal. Don’t ask where they come from. My question is….how the HELL are you getting 18 shaves out of a blade? I’m doing fantastic to get 6 or 7. Unless I want to carve my face like a Thanksgiving turkey, that is!

  6. Stewie

    I was a Mach 3 Turbo user for years and resisted all notion to “upgrade” to Gillette Fusion as I wasn’t going to buy into the hype when I was already getting what I thought was a pretty good shave every day. Well sure enough, my wife put a Fusion ProGlide Power razor in my Xmas stocking last Xmas and I was stuck with it. I contemplated my options considering that Fusion blades would cost me a fortune, but then I thought what the heck, I’ll give it a try, use up the 3 blades it came with, and toss it if it shaves no better than the Mach 3. I should point out first that I don’t have heavy daily beard growth. My 5 o’clock shadow usually takes 2 days to come in fully. Because of this, its tough for me to shave everyday without getting nicks & cuts. If I wait two days or longer, I can get a baby smooth face shave with the Mach 3. Well, all that changed with the Fusion PP. This thing works like a barbers electric clippers but it shaves incredibly close no matter how much stubble I have. I can use it safely even daily and get a super close shave. If I wait a day or two, its incredible, my face feels like a baby’s bottom, so to speak. I think the combination of the 5 blades and the vibrating head are what do the trick. Because of this, I also find that I’m not working the blade as hard on my face like I do with the Mach 3. I let the razor do the work. So I’m sold on the Fusion PP. To mitigate the costly blades, I try to stretch out the usage, and buy at Costco when they come on sale. Typically I can get 2-3 weeks out of one cartridge if my wife keeps it away from her legs, LOL. But that’s just me, your mileage will vary if you have thicker coarser growth. I don’t want to knock the Mach 3 but if you can get your hands on a Fusion PP, give it a try, you might be surprised.

  7. jzwickeljz

    Thanks for the very useful, well-written review!

  8. Good article, I came from Mach 3 and have been a DSC user for the past year. I do agree that Mach 3 blades are marginally better, but they should be because they are more expensive. Now I shave my whole head and change my blade about every week which costs me $6 per month. Overall I think DSC provides slightly better value while Mach3 a slightly better daily shave experience. If money is a factor the DSC is worth a shot, just change blades slightly more frequently than with your Machs.

  9. Bud

    I had used Mach3 but was looking for something much less expensive. I tried the Personna Matrix3 from the 99c store and liked it. It has a nice metal handel and spring loaded blade. I could get 4 blades or handle and 3 blades for a dollar so i went back and bought $15 worth. That was several years ago and im down to two handles and 4 blades. When im in a hurry i use my old Braun electric but it is not as close a shave as the matrix3. I found your blog after hearing an ad for harrys. Harrys is too much money for me. My wife loves the fusion blades and they are nice but also too expensive. Id like to find another bin full of 25c blades as nice as Matrix3.

  10. Well done review… found it when I was searching for exactly this comparison, as I’ve been using the same Mach 3 for about as long as you have. Will have to check out the blades at Costco, as Wal-Mart really sticks it to you for the Turbo blades (not to mention Fusion), even in buying the larger refill packs.

  11. Ian

    Thanks, I’m on my last mach3 cartridge and considered both of those alternatives. I’ll just stick to what works.

  12. Anonymous

    Hey thebenjamin – I really appreciate your review. My wife bought me a Harry’s Winston Kit for Christmas and I tried it a few times but it just doesn’t stack up to my trusty old Mach 3. The Harry’s shave cream was also a major letdown. I think the big razor companies like Gillette need a good shaking up because the price of replacement blades is ridiculous. I was hoping Harry’s was the answer but came to the conclusion that Harry’s is a great idea with a product that isn’t yet optimized to compete with the big players.

  13. jb

    Thanks for this review. I’m looking at cheaper alternatives to mach3 blades too. I’ve tried those fake M3 blades too. AWFUL!

  14. Rich

    Yup, the good ole Mach 3. I have been using the Mach 3 for at least 10 years now. Tried to save some money by going to DSC after a co-worker raved about them and I am not too thrilled about the product. It is an OK razor, feels nice and weighty in your hands but the shave I got from it was not as smooth as the Mach 3, more like a Mach 3 that was used about 5-6 times, also my 5 o’clock shadow is coming in about 4-5 hours earlier than it used to. Additionally the DSC blades seem to get dull really fast, I can tell the difference by the third shave which was never the case with the M3. Any savings on the blades from DSC will be negated by the frequency you will need to replace the DSC blades. I’m glad I tried the DSC but I will be buying some more M3 blades this weekend.

  15. Thanks for the review, well written and had the sort of information I was looking for. I shaved ten times each week for about fifteen years until business became more lax and I could get by with once per day (and jeans, polos and casual shoes). I use a Mach 3 disposable and like the shave especially compared to what we put ourselves through in the 70’s and 80’s. The DSC and Harry’s options have appeal and I hate forking over the money for Gillette’s products but a close shave with as few passes as possible has to be the priority.

    I’m going to skip the shave club experiment and look harder at how to shave with Gillette products and save as much as possible.

    Oh, for you guys wondering how to get as many shaves as possible from a blade: 1) use good lube (I like Cremo Cream), 2) plenty of water at the start, 3) don’t let your face dry during the shave and 4) clean the razor when you’re finished.

    Shaving and beards were a milestone as a teen but I’ve been tired of shaving for a long, long time.

    I’ll pay for a good shave but don’t want to over pay – and I really don’t want to have a lot of razor burn from fighting through the shave.

  16. DrWilCut

    I too tried Harry’s Truman set. Cool looking but only get 6-7 shaves without blade dragging on my chin-it hurts! I have had great luck with Cremo cream and Shick Extreme 3 razors. Light and comfortable, close shave, and last about 2 weeks. And the price is right at Walmart

  17. josh

    I keep hearing about Harrys on podcasts and internet ads, sounds like a load of marketing hype then. I was considering a straight razor but don’t know the best brands, no hurry though, I’ve got loads of gilette less. Harrys have their advertisers ramming it down your throat that competing brands are crap when it appears they’re not.

    I was always happy with gilettes, bulk buying gilette fusions, just as cheap as harrys. When the blade goes dull I just run it backwards up my forearm to sharpen it between strokes. I’ve made a blade last months doing this.

  18. Anonymous

    I have both—-much prefer Gillette—buy blades on ebay. Use Harry when I can’t find the Gillette. One problem—the soft plastic handle of gillette eventually gets sticky. Mine is now wrapped in tape.

  19. Harry... no relation to the razor company

    Shaving is a personal preference issue. There are many factors, such as coarseness of beard, how well you treat your razor, and lather used. Up until Christmas, I used a Mach 3, have for many years. Received Harry’s starter set as a gift… I believe I have a coarse beard, have used Edge shaving cream with my Mach 3 and Harry’s razor, and shave every day only throughly rinsing the razor when I am done. My preference? Harry’s razor. After 3 weeks, still getting a close shave with Harry’s razor. In the late 50s, Schick advertised on tv 30 days of shaves per blade, don’t see that claim any more. My COSTCO doesn’t offer the deal mentioned by other raters….

  20. WP

    Well, we DO have to say that initially, the shave received with this razor was better than with the Fusion and we WERE going to purchase refills, HOWEVER . . .

    3 days after initial use?

    The darn thing BROKE !!!

    NEVER, have I EVER had a Fusion break

    Sticking with the Fusion

  21. MR. BIG RED

    Great Article, and I too am sticking with my Mach 3. I’ve been using the razor since it debuted. I’ve had a beard since 1977, so I routinely just do the neck area and cheeks. I would estimate that I get approximately 30 shaves per cartridge. I pair this razor with Neutrogena Shave Cream, which was all I could obtain on a European trip. I found it to give a closer shave than Edge Gel for Sensitive Skin.

    I recently started researching the various razors and came upon your article. With all respect, I would simply like to add that Harry’s blades are from Germany, and Dollar Shave Club’s blades are from Korea. I really do not know where Gillette’s Mach 3 hail from. Thanks again for your in-depth review.

    Kind regards,

    MR. BIG RED
    New York, NY

  22. MR. BIG RED

    Sorry, I forgot…..I shave 2-3 times a week myself, and a hot-towel, straight edged shave at my barber’s on Saturdays. Thank you.

    All the best,

    MR. BIG RED
    New York, NY

  23. It is so funny that men forgot how our fathers, their fathers and their fathers used to shave :) Using a double.-edged razor is just perfect.

    In the mornig I love the 15-20 minutes gentleman’s ritual of preparing my skin with hot water/towel, applying a good preshave cream and let it work while I prepare the lather with my beautiful shaving brush.

    After applying, I use my corresponding saftety razor (both brush and razor are in a great crhome design) and when ready shaved I put a cold towel on my skin befor aplying a great after shave balm.

    This short manly ritual in the morning is a great way to give yourself some relaxing time just for you. The scent f the great products is like a short aroma therapy. When leaving the bathroom, I feel freah and ready to go out there and start the day with energy.

    Regards,

    Rob

    http://robvanlinda.de

  24. I too hoped that Harry’s would be the new razor I would use. I have used Mach 3 for about 10 years. I get my blades at Costco or Target online (about $2.00 per blade) I’ve never had an issue and just assumed everyone got about 25 shaves per blade as I do.

    I just tried Harry’s. I see so much advertising I wanted to see what the hubbub was about. Very nice look and feel but the blade lasted 4 (yes 4!) shaves before pulling. The price? $2.00 per blade..same as I get my Mach 3. I probably could have forced 2-3 more shaves out of Harry’s blade but it would have hurt. So for the same price I get 6x more shaving from the Mach 3.

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