Philips Norelco OneBlade Review

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After three months of head-to-head testing with beard trimmers, electric shavers and conventional razors, the OneBlade is our pick for keeping a stubble-beard at a perfect balance between scruffy and groomed. It might be a good choice as a shaver if you don’t need smooth results, and it does double-duty with body hair attachments.

Featured Product

Philips

OneBlade

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After three months of head-to-head testing with beard trimmers, electric shavers and conventional razors, the OneBlade is our pick for keeping a stubble-beard at a perfect balance between scruffy and groomed. It might be a good choice as a shaver if you don’t need smooth results, and it does double-duty with body hair attachments.

The Philips – OneBlade Face + Body has a unique blade design, one of the only successful new designs since motorized hair clippers were invented. Rather than just making a row of v-shaped shears sliding against each other, Philips took the one-dimensional trimmer concept and made a new blade that cuts on both edges.

These are also much thinner blades than most clippers have, so you can cut very close to the skin without risking scratches from the tips of the blade. This means that you get real contrast between areas you want to look clean and areas where you want to leave some scruff.

The downside to this blade design is that you can’t sharpen the blades. Once they stop cutting effectively, you need to buy a replacement blade unit. They cut well for four months with most hair types.

Like most new electric shavers, the OneBlade is completely waterproof. That makes cleaning easy, and you can shave, trim your beard or groom your body hair in the shower. The Lithium-Ion battery in this upgraded model also lasts for a long time.

Table of contents

What’s included?

The OneBlade Face+Body includes the following pieces:

  • OneBlade handle with upgraded Lithium-Ion battery
  • Three blades
  • 3/64″ (1mm) guide comb
  • 5/64″ (2mm) guide comb
  • 1/8″ (3mm, #1 hair clipper guide equivalent)
  • 3/16″ (5mm, shorter than a #2 equivalent)
  • A separate 1/8″ comb for body hair use
  • An “edge guard” for shaving delicate areas
  • A dual-voltage charger

What is a hybrid electric trimmer?

The Philips – OneBlade is the first successful attempt at an electric device that can be both a good hair trimmer and a good electric razor. These technologies have been around for nearly a century, and the OneBlade is a blend of the two mechanisms that performs both tasks.

The OneBlade is most similar to a hair clipper, but the OneBlade uses razor-thin plates instead of heavy, thick clipper blade plates. This means the edges can still cut close without scratching you with pointed cutting tips.

In many ways the thinness of the blades makes the cutting action of the OneBlade more like an electric shaver, where the distance between the moving blade inside and your skin is determined by a protective foil. The OneBlade doesn’t cut on the flat face of its head, though, just along the two edges.

What about the other OneBlade?

The OneBlade Core, Hybrid and Genesis are a family of innovative single-edge safety razors from a high-profile Austin startup. That OneBlade brand is not directly related to the Philips-Norelco hybrid electric trimmer this review is about. But it’s still a product you should know about if you’re interested in shaving.

This other OneBlade is a company that set out in 2002 to design the perfect razor, and when the Genesis model launched in 2015 it was universally lauded as an excellent shave. Much like a modern multi-blade cartridge razor, OneBlade designed the head to pivot while you’re shaving to maintain the perfect angle with minimal practice required. OneBlade uses a single-edge disposable razor blade that you slide in through a carefully-engineered refill slot.

At $400, the OneBlade – Genesis isn’t for everyone, but the newer Core and Hybrid models swap in Tritan polyester for some of the steel parts, so they’re slightly easier to afford. The specially-made Japanese blades are far less expensive than Mach 3 or Fusion refills, but they’re still 75 cents.

We haven’t reviewed that OneBlade, because it’s the definition of a niche product. If you love heirloom-quality products that push the envelope of design and engineering, it’s worth looking at. But we’ve reviewed double-edge safety razors that also give an excellent shave. They also use common double-edge blades, which are one-third the price even if you buy the fancy brands.

If you’re looking for a close shave that doesn’t require buying $4-a-week cartridges, these razors are all good options; some require more practice, some cost more. The electric OneBlade from Philips takes for granted a different set of needs, which is why we’re writing this review.

How we tested the OneBlade

Our resident shaving enthusiast gave his straight and safety razors a break for almost six months while he tested beard oil, beard trimmers and electric razors. The OneBlade was part of our lineup of beard trimmers, but it’s unique enough that we felt it deserved a separate review.

Closeness

In the course of his time with all the different shaving products, our tester would compare different devices back to back, even taking extra passes after a shave to see if leftover stubble could be picked up by a superior device. That gives a relative ranking of better or worse when comparing minute differences between similar shavers, but we needed a real scale to show differences between trimmers, shavers and razors.

Putting our tester’s face under a microscope or trying to measure hairs with a micrometer is impractical. We came up with an easier and more relatable way to compare the OneBlade with other shavers: We can compare the feel of the leftover stubble after shaving with these devices based on the time it takes to get similar stubble feel from hair that grows out after a smooth blade shave. Hair growth rates aren’t universal, of course, so this isn’t a measurement that will translate to another person, but it’s one way to evaluate differences between shaving methods.

The OneBlade leaves about the same amount of stubble as our tester can feel after 18 hours of growth. A good beard trimmer like the Wahl will only trim down to something like 48-hour stubble, while a top-class electric razor like the Panasonic can get almost as close as a blade shave, usually about the same difference as five-hour growth.

The variability in this kind of measurement is high. If you take your time and learn the growth patterns in your hair you’ll get a better shave with any method than when you’re rushing.

A Much Closer Shave: Parker - 99R

Our testers think this eye-catching and easy-to-use safety razor is the best way to get a close shave. The OneBlade is basically impossible to nick yourself with, but a good safety razor like the Parker will reward patient practice.

If you’re using a waterproof shaver like the OneBlade, making a wet shave part of your morning routine can also take closeness to another level by ensuring that the hairs are standing up as straight as possible. We covered the essentials of wet shave gear in our shaving brush review and shaving cream review.

Ingrown hairs and razor bumps

A problem with ingrown hairs after shaving, often called razor bumps, has the clinical name pseudofolliculitis barbae. This condition primarily affects curly hair. If it’s shaved below the skin, the sharpened point on a curled or bent hair can start growing out under the skin and cause inflammation, infection or even scarring.

Razor bumps are a much, much bigger problem than just discomfort. It’s not an isolated problem, either: The American Osteopathic College of Dermatology says this condition affects about 60% of African-American men, but it can be a problem for anyone with curly hair.

Alternatives to shaving like depilatory “shaving powder” or other forms of hair removal seem drastic, but when the alternative is scarred-over bumps it’s no wonder people will try extreme measures.

Keeping pores clean is one way to prevent infections, so a clean razor, good preparation routines and post-shave can help, but keeping the hair from curling under the skin is the only way to fully prevent bumps.

Shaving methodShaving ClosenessEasy to Clean?Causes Bumps?
Trimmer or clipper~0.5 mmNoNo
OneBlade~0.2 mmYesNo
Electric shaverCloseNoDepends on technique
Single-blade razorDepends on techniqueYesDepends on technique
Multi-blade razorBaby-bottomYesYes
Straight razorBaby-bottomYesYes

Our tester is fortunate not to suffer from ingrown hairs — if anything, his problem is the opposite, with hair growth patterns that are tricky to cut close. But we checked hundreds of reviews from a half-dozen retailers and other sources to see if there were any reports of ingrown hair problems the way there are with razors.

We couldn’t find any account of razor bumps from using the OneBlade. Irritation, yes, but not bumps. This seems to be as close as you can shave without risking razor bumps. In comparison, many rotary-type and foil shavers can be almost as bad for ingrown hairs as a blade-shave is.

If you’ve got curly hair, it’s probably on the thicker side, too, so you may need to replace the OneBlade heads more frequently than other folks. Philips recommends a replacement every four months.

Irritation

Unlike razor bumps, irritation is a fairly easy problem to solve. The OneBlade gives a fairly irritation-free shave, relative to other methods, but you’ll still need to get used to it. Shaving close with the OneBlade requires going against the grain and laying the blade head flat against your skin, so if you’re pushing too hard you can still get redness.

If you’ve got skin that’s especially prone to razor burn, the OneBlade can be used wet. We tried with the winning products from our shaving cream review, and the slickness of a dense lather definitely helped the OneBlade glide more smoothly. You could also use a light oil for similar results, though clean-up isn’t as easy that way.

Compared to a good electric shaver, the OneBlade is about equivalent in terms of irritation. It’s much less irritating than a zero-gapped clipper blade, which can actually scratch your skin if you’re not careful.

One trimmer for face and body hair

If you need a close trim on body hair (whether for swimming, cycling or personal comfort) you may have considered an electric shaver for a smoother result. If you use a foil shaver for body hair, though, you’re probably not going to want to use it anywhere else. Even if you can clean it with antiseptic.

The Face + Body version of the Philips – OneBlade comes with two spare blades, and along with a set of stubble and short beard combs it also has two comb attachments specifically to help you with trimming body hair. This means that you can keep your body-grooming attachments totally separate from your face-grooming attachments, but you get the same close trim everywhere.

Most guys who try “man-scaping” are just looking for clean results without risking nicks in sensitive areas, and that’s where OneBlade excels. In our testing, we didn’t find a way to get nicks in sensitive areas — you still need to pay attention, but it’s a safe grooming tool. It also pulls less on thin body hair than foil shavers do.

If you need totally-smooth results like you would get from a razor, or if your hair is especially tough, the OneBlade might not be good enough. Our favorite body hair grooming tool overall is still the Bodygroom trimmer and shaver, also from Philips. Check out our review of body hair trimmers for all the details.

The Bodygroom will shave closer than the OneBlade, and tickles a little bit less. The trimmer side of the Bodygroom will also handle thick, dense hair better. It’s a bigger, more expensive and more complicated tool, though.

Charging and battery life

The OneBlade charger and battery system are very good. We tested the upgraded Face + Body version, which has a Lithium-Ion battery rated by the manufacturer for 60 minutes of use. In our tests it ran for three hours with no load.

Compared with other older Philips nickel-metal hydride batteries, and all but the very biggest beard trimmer batteries, that’s a great result. It also charges more quickly than budget-priced cordless trimmers, and the charger is dual-voltage for international use with a converter.

Your biggest problem might be losing track of the charger, since you can probably go for two weeks of daily use without needing it.

Maintenance costs

ProductBlade Life (shaves)Cost Per ReplacementBattery Life (years)Cost to Own, Six Years Total
Philips - OneBlade Face and Body100123.5$246
Shavers
Panasonic Arc3 ES-LT3N-K400653$356
Philips - Bodygroom360153.5$119
Gillette - Fusion63.56N/A$1,133
Feather DE Safety Razor30.24N/A$181
Trimmers
Panasonic ER-GB370K80015 (Sharpening)3$53
Remington - PG602580015 (Sharpening)1$38
Wahl - PowerPro 968680015 (Sharpening)N/A$60

If you think about every purchase as an investment, you’re probably wondering about the replacement blade costs for the OneBlade. As you might expect, the blades can only be purchased from Philips/Norelco, and they’re not exactly cheap.

Given a three-year expected battery life and four months of blade life, using the OneBlade every day for six years (which includes buying a replacement unit after three and a half years) will cost you almost $250 total. That’s about $100 less than a premium electric shaver, and less than a quarter the cost of buying new Gillette five-blade razor cartridges every week.

The long-term cost of the OneBlade shouldn’t scare you off if it does what you need, since this is a unique combination of trimmer and shaver. But blades for a double-edge safety razor are still by far the most economical way to shave at less than 25 cents for a premium blade.

What we loved about the OneBlade

The Philips Norelco OneBlade is a design that’s going to be best in a very specific set of uses.

The first ideal use-case is for people who can’t use a razor. Mostly that’s if you’re worried about razor bumps. If you want a closer shave than hair clippers can provide, but not the closeness of a good foil shaver, the OneBlade is nearly perfect. Its blades don’t last as long as clipper blades, but they’re not as expensive as shaver foils.

The other case it’s perfect for is maintaining stubble. With the short 1mm comb in the Face + Body kit, you can keep some slightly-scruffy face fuzz at a consistent length, but still clean up around the edges easily with the bare blade. All this with one tool.

Some argue that the perfect stubble-beard still involved shaving close below the jawline just in case someone wants to caress or nuzzle you there, but the OneBlade does a great job at keeping up appearances.

If you’ve got thick beard growth and like the look of close-cropped 3/16″ of growth, but not more, the OneBlade has a set of length attachments that will help you keep it there and clean up the edges.

If any of these situations describe your needs for facial hair grooming and you also trim your body hair, the OneBlade is a great do-it-all purchase. The fact that you can keep your armpit blade separate from your face blade is a great benefit of the replaceable blade design.

What we didn’t like about the OneBlade

The consequence is that the OneBlade is also missing some qualities of both systems.

If you have thick hair, the blade may not have enough mass or motor power to cut well. This is more of a problem when trimming or cutting off longer hairs than when shaving. The blades are also disposable, unlike clipper blades which can be sharpened.

If you’re looking for a smooth shave, you’re also going to be disappointed by the OneBlade. Compared to a foil-type shaver, it’s just not possible to get that close. Electric shavers often use a lift-and-cut mechanism to pull hairs into the cutting edge.

At the very least, shavers allow you to press the protective foil into your skin, so stubby hairs pop through holes to be trimmed off right at the base. To get this close with the OneBlade, you’d have to press the row of cutting teeth into your skin — something Philips prevents with plastic guard teeth.

Electric shavers are already a compromise compared to the bare blades on a manual straight razor or safety razor, which cut with no protective gap or guard between the blade and your skin.

Other versions of the OneBlade

We tested the mid-tier “Face + Body” kit; it has a much better battery and more attachments than the base model. For $15 more, we think that’s a great deal, but spending around $40 more on the OneBlade – Pro isn’t quite as compelling.

The Pro features an adjustable guide attachment with a 10mm length, which brings it up to par with the rest of the trimmers we tested for mid-length beards, but the attachment isn’t as wide or sturdy as the guides bigger trimmers like the Panasonic have.

The Pro doesn’t come with the spare guides or blades that you can dedicate to body-hair use, which dampens our enthusiasm for it. You can buy those separately for about $30; you can’t buy a longer guide comb for the base OneBlade.

Alternatives to the OneBlade

ProductPriceShaving Closeness: Hours of GrowthWaterproof?Safe for Sensitive Areas?Battery Life in Minutes
Philips - OneBlade Face + Body$$18YesYes177
Panasonic - Arc3$$$$5YesYes100
Panasonic - Cordless Trimmer$48YesNo98
Philips - Bodygroom$$$12YesYes128
Wahl - PowerPro$30NoNoN/A
Remington - Cordless Trimmer$60NoNo87

If you’re looking for a trimmer that will help you with a beard longer than 3/16″, the Panasonic or Wahl trimmers from our beard trimmer review will give you the length guides you need.

The OneBlade is also not a good pick if you need a smooth-feeling shave. Our safety razor review has great picks for close shaves: The Feather – Popular DE safety razor is a good choice if you need a closer shave than the OneBlade offers but you want to minimize irritation. An even closer shave can be had with a straight razor, though they aren’t for the faint of heart.

If it’s the time-saving of a dry shave you want, the Panasonic and Braun shavers that won our electric razor review are also a good way to get a smoother shave than the OneBlade can achieve.

The bottom line

If you just need to be technically clean-shaven but you’re not worried about the prickly feeling of stubble, the OneBlade is cheaper than an electric shaver and just as easy to use. If your hair is light enough, you’ll actually look clean-shaven; it’s a much closer shave than other trimmers.

If you’re interested in cultivating the look of stubble, this trimmer is ideal. The included length guides will help you grow out a tiny bit more fuzz in specific areas, and the bare blade will keep your neck and cheeks looking clean.

If you’re looking for a body hair trimmer, the OneBlade isn’t strong enough for everyone’s hair, but for most it will do a great job.

Philips - OneBlade Face + Body

The OneBlade Face + Body works very well for shaving down to a clean-but-prickly shadow. The comb attachments are great for maintaining a shorter beard or moustache. If you're into man-scaping, this model comes with a spare blade and comb just for that purpose.

Daniel Jackson, Writer

Daniel is a Canadian farm boy who grew up to be a nerd with a literature degree and too many hobbies to count. He emigrated from Canada to California in 2013, and now writes for Your Best Digs full-time. Daniel remains unapologetic about Canadian spelling, serial commas, and the destruction of expensive travel mugs.

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