Philips SensoTouch 2D vs 3D

The Philips Norelco electric shaver line now contains a large array of models. One main separation, though, is between the SensoTouch 2D units and the SensoTouch 3D offerings. At first blush they look very similar. When you see how much less expensive the 2D models are you might wonder why anyone would opt for the 3D. Is the difference just marketing hype?

As it happens, there are real – and potentially important – differences between the SensoTouch 2D and 3D models. That boils down to two basic design differences. To help you narrow down the options, here’s an overview of them.

Head Movement

One big difference, possibly the most important one, is the way the heads can move on a SensoTouch 2D model – such as the 1160x – versus a SensoTouch 3D unit like the 1280x.

So what does Philips mean when it uses the terms 2D and 3D? It’s simple. As the name suggests, it comes down to the range of motions possible to the heads – and therefore how closely the shaver can track the contours of your particular face, jaw line, and neck. The 2D head can flex in two ways, the 3D in three ways.

SensoTouch 2D Movement

The Gyroflex 2D shaving head assembly – the part that sits atop that narrow neck attached to the body you hold – can tilt at any angle. That is, you can push the whole shaving unit and it will move up or down no matter where you push along the rim. That gives it the ability to follow the curves of your face whether you happen to be round-faced or gaunt, puffy cheeked or more hollow looking.

At the same time, the individual shaving heads themselves can move (though not completely unrestricted). If you press the head coverings down at their mutual center you can see that easily. The inner portion of their circles will dip toward that center. That motion gives them more flexibility in following the contours of your face and jaw.

SensoTouch 3D Movement

By comparison, the SensoTouch 3D models have an additional way to move. They can perform both the movement styles of the 2D – head assembly tilt and individual tilting shaving heads toward the center – but here the shaving head holders can also move OUT independently. That is, if you press an individual head covering on the outer rim it will dip down AWAY from the center.

Obviously, that adds yet one more direction to let the 3D track your face, jaw, and the curves of your neck even better. Whether it improves much the shaver’s ability to satisfy the ultimate goal – a close, smooth, non-irritating shave with minimal time and effort – is a little harder to answer.

Clearly, it depends in part on the shape of your face. If you have a Cary Grant-style chin dimple or the gaunt planes of a GQ model, it might help a lot. You need all the flexibility you can get. If you have a more roundish face it might do very little.

Every face is unique. How well the SensoTouch 2D performs versus the SensoTouch 3D is dependent on a lot of factors. That thought leads us to…

Blade/Covering Design

Another major difference lies in the design of the rotary blade system coverings. All SensoTouch shavers use the Super Lift & Cut design. The rotary blades and covering lift the hair and whack it off as close to the skin as an electric can get. But the 3D design incorporates something the company calls UltraTrack. It’s designed to get more types of hair.

With the UltraTrack, the covering includes three specialized shaving tracks: channels – longer, wider openings – designed to cut longish beard hair, say the sort you might get after not shaving for a week. The cover also houses slots to make short work of normal hairs. Finally, holes work on the shortest ones.

The 2D models lack the channels of the UltraTrack design. They feature DualPrecision shaving heads with one shaving track that has slots to shave normal hairs and holes to shave say half-day-old short stubble.

Still, if you shave regularly, that design difference probably won’t have any effect on the quality of your shave. Remember, both use the same sharp blades. On the downside, keep in mind that the blades of any model from either subset need to be replaced after about a year.


Fortunately, most of the other key elements to a close, smooth, non-irritating shave are the same between the 2D and the 3D models. True, the body is a little different. But the difference is pretty minor and which you like better will depend on your hand size and body preference.

As mentioned, both lines use Super Lift & Cut. Both feature low-friction SkinGlide. Both support wet shaving thanks to the Aquatec Seal technology. And both offer a trimmer – the 3D has an integrated one while the 2D offers a click-on trimmer.

So, in the final analysis, which shaver is better for you – a SensoTouch 2D model or a SensoTouch 3D? If you need every bit of flexibility you can get and want the extra shaving tracks the 3D offers, the 3D might be a must. Otherwise, you can save big by going with a 2D model.


  1. Roger Nation says

    Excellent explanation of the differences. Best I have read.

    I purchased a Norelco Powertouch PT 730 in Sept. 2013, and was very happy with it. However the ‘Sensotouch’ styling had always impressed me,so in late December 2013 I indulged and purchased a 2D, specifically the 1160X from Kohl’s. After a $30 mail-in rebate, the 1160X cost me the unbelieveable low price of $39.99. This obviously ‘saved’ a-lot of money over buying a 3D model which I was also considering.

    I now use each Razor on alternate weeks and really can’t decide which one I prefer, except the 2D does seem to follow the contours of the face a little more easily, and I really do like its styling. For the record I do not have a beard and shave everyday.

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