What we're buying: Philips OneBlade shaver

It's not the closest shave, but it may be the most effortless.

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Mat Smith, Engadget
Mat Smith, Engadget

Men don't get much when it comes to the bathroom-gadget oeuvre, and Engadget usually deals in two kinds of them: established devices given a new twist, and extreme futuristic-use cases for the future of our bathroom -- typically aimed at women. Not so in this week's IRL.

Bureau Chief Mat Smith's recommendation is for our more... hirsute readers. It's an electric shaver/beard trimmer from Philips. Don't roll your eyes so quickly because things are a little different this time, and for the scruff-loving, sensitive (skinned) Mat, it's game-changing. Calm down with the hyperbole, Mathew.

Mat Smith

Mat Smith
Bureau Chief, UK

Terrible shavers, the OneBlade is for you. I wouldn't tally many man-points in regard to either my shaving prowess or the amount of facial hair I'm able to make. I can't grow a proper beard, and my sensitive face doesn't respond well to repeated close shaves, wet, dry or otherwise.

The OneBlade, which sounds like a weapon from fantasy lore, doesn't look like other electric shavers. It doesn't look like a beard trimmer and couldn't look more different than the company's standard Philishave range. It's like a Bic razor in its ultimate, electrified form.

I make that comparison because of the blade-sized cutter at the end of the shaver. This apparently moves (more like vibrates) at 200 times a second, offering the appropriate amount of snip to chop at facial hair. I might be wrong; it seems to cut at the edges, even if the flat side of the razor looks like it might be able to cut things. Because these very obvious edges are where the action happens, it makes it easier to... sculpt your facial hair, if that's your thing. For me, and probably most of the prospective OneBlade customer base, it ensured lots of control around sensitive areas, like the lip, while also being able to cut literal swathes through flat areas, like my cheeks.

Vaguely blonde facial hair, like mine, combined with long-sighted eyes, means I need all the help I can get shaving, and the OneBlade worked perfectly. I could glide around, and it never got caught up on a stray whisker, nor did it irritate my skin. And this was the case even when using it without gel, water or anything. In fact, in my first three months (Philips advises a blade change every four months) it hasn't tugged on my facial hair once.

philips oneblade

As a working professional (aren't we all?), I jumped ahead of the basic model, opting for the Pro edition, with an adjustable dial comb. This offers a bigger degree of control when it comes to facial-hair topiary, but I also found using the comb, compared to the blade as-is, takes a few more laps across my chin and hairier regions. Not that I care: It's painless and effortless. As even Philips notes, however, it won't shave as closely as a traditional blade, but I don't mind.

I really want to stress the painless experience shaving has turned into. Compared to wet shaves, those flat rotational Philishave razors and the rest, this is the best shaver I've ever owned. It's not even a competition. I've already convinced two friends and one colleague to take the plunge. No complaints from them either.

The most basic model still comes with a trio of "stubble" combs, and while you get more length with the Pro model, the cheapest model -- which comes with combs at 1-, 3- and 5-mm settings -- probably would've been completely fine. All the OneBlade models can be rinsed under the tap and are also rechargeable.

It isn't, however, for everyone. As I've already noted, for anyone who's really into closer shaves, you might have to stick with your multi-blade Gillette for now.

For interested parties, there's also a body blade you can use for all-over manscaping, but I'm afraid I haven't tested that particular accessory. Just be aware that there is an option -- and that you probably shouldn't use the face blade... elsewhere.

Intrigued? Well, don't buy one immediately: Shop around for a bargain (either at your local drug stores or on Amazon) as discounts on the model -- typically with a couple of spare blades thrown in -- seem to happen a lot.

"IRL" is a recurring column in which the Engadget staff run down what they're buying, using, playing and streaming.

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