Hardware review: King of Shaves Azor 5 razor & AlphaGel

I’ve long been a fan of King of Shaves shaving products.  Originally they just produced excellent shaving oils but, a few years ago, branched out into producing a more complete set of men’s shaving accessories including the Azor razor, then the Azor M and, recently, the Azor 5.  Their main selling point is price.  They are significantly cheaper than other cartridge-based razor products, most notably those from Gillette.

I converse with the owner of King of Shaves on Twitter, Will King.  When the Azor M was released I swapped him a razor and gel for an antibodyMX t-shirt.  When the Azor 5 was released, I didn’t manage to blag a free upgrade but he did say that he’d send me some free blades if I wrote a review, good or bad.  So here you go, Will 🙂

I picked up my Azor 5 and some gel from Tesco.  The first thing to notice is the price, it was over a fiver cheaper than the equivalent offering from Gillette.  The packaging is as nice and shiny as you would expect from a modern product but, as someone who recycles a lot, it did seem like less could have been used without risking damage to the product.  You get the razor handle, 3 blades and a rather severely plain plastic holder.

The original Azor razor handle was quite plasticy and felt a bit flimsy when using it.  The Azor M greatly improved this, it was much heavier as it had metallic elements.  The Azor 5 handle is almost exactly the same, the plastic inserts being a different colour and it having a KoS logo embossed on it.  It’s the same weight, same feel and, importantly, the older Azor M cartridges work just fine with it.

As the “5” suggests, there are 5 blades in each cartridge compared to 4 on the Azor M. However what hasn’t been done is cramming the blades in to the same amount of space.  The spacing between each blade appears to be identical to the Azor M.  As most guys will know, one problem with the early multi-blade razors was that they would clog and jam quite easily, greatly shortening the useful life of the cartridge.

Put to work the Azor 5 performs as well as I would expect from a KoS razor.  Those blades are sharp and have little difficulty in dealing with 1 or 2 day old stubble.  Combined with KoS AlphaGel the shaving experience is smooth and low friction. With a new blade there’s almost no noticeable drag meaning no irritation or razor burn and I love the slightly antiseptic smell of the gel.  My usual shaving interval is somewhere between 1 and 2 weeks, and my stubble is quite thick and heavy.  Faced with that, the Azor 5 does no better than the Azor M; cutting through the longer hair means I had to frequently de-clog the blade.  That has been true of every multi-blade razor I’ve ever used, so it’s not specifically a problem with the Azor 5.

I am not clean shaven, I have a goatee beard and usually sport sideburns.  I found shaping the beard to be trickier and it’s harder to precisely cut the sideburns to an equal length.  The extra blades mean you’re not quite sure where the cutting starts.  An earlier Gillette razor sported a single thicker blade on the rear that made this a lot easier.  People who shave more frequently than I do will probably have less difficulty with this.

Overall this is a great shaving system and excellent value.  The replacement cartridges are much cheaper than the competition and are as sharp and long lasting.  My only slight niggle, and this is very slight, and that is I can’t buy them at my wholesaler, Costco.  I would also like to see the gel available in larger packs.  The size is convenient for my travel bag but I think I’d get better value from a larger sized pack I can leave on the bathroom shelf at home.