Are Five Blades Better Than Four?

I tried it this morning, and I have to say it does give one a very close and smooth shave. My problem is that I don't really feel that much difference between the five-blade Fusion and the four- or three- or even two-blade shavers that preceded it.

Horsefeathers! says Gillette. This is the breakthrough men have been waiting for, yes, even clamoring for.

Gillette, a division of Proctor & Gamble, is launching a $100 million campaign to roll out its new product, including advertisements you'll see Sunday if you're watching the Super Bowl on ABC. The company controls 70 percent of the shaving market. Its three-blade Mach 3 has been a best-seller since its debut in 1998.

So why bring out the Fusion?

"Why is Gillette bringing it out? Shaving is a $10 billion industry," said Michele Szynal, spokeswoman for Gillette.

It was only two years ago that Schick introduced the four-blade Quattro to trump the Mach 3. Sales have been brisk, but Schick still claims only about 17 percent of the market.

Fusion is more expensive than the Mach 3, but Gillette believes demand for it and a battery-powered version will be so great that sales should hit $1 billion in just three years. That battery-powered model fits "synergistically" with one other P&G division -- the one that makes Duracell batteries, which fit easily into the Fusion. Get it?

But aside from the pitch from Gillette, do we really need five blades?

"Guys who buy these razors and blades are spending a lot of money for something that really doesn't do much better than the two-bladed shavers," said Dr. Bruce Katz, a dermatologist. "The question is whether they do any better than a three- or four-bladed razor. And from my opinion and from the reports I get from my patients, there really is no difference."

Katz thinks it's kind of a guy thing. "My shaver is bigger than your shaver."

So are five blades on one razor the end of the shaving road? No way, says Gillette's Szynal.

"Our next blockbuster product is already in development."