Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Andis BGRC Hair Clipper Review: First Impressions

When you get into the habit of doing something twice a week all year round, two years in a row, and plan to do it for the foreseeable future, things might start to get mundane. Shaving my head, oddly, is not one of those things.

I've been shaving my head for two years now and am on my fourth hair clipper. The first was a $20 big box store brand, the second was soon my Oster Fast Feed, one year later I got the Oster Classic 76, and a bit over a year later, I now have an Andis BGRC. It's become a hobby and, dare I say, fun-ish. Let me get something straight though: I'm good at shaving my head, possibly other heads, not at cutting or styling hair.

What caught my eye with the Andis BGRC Professional Hair Clipper was that it was relatively new and advertised as better than "similar clippers". With the hair clipper market being not so big, I believe the Oster Classic 76 is one of the main competitors. But that didn't sell me alone. I won't lie, when I first got my Oster Classic 76, I had a bit of buyer's remorse.

The Classic 76 was big, round, loud, had vents that blew air in my face, and was a bit on the high maintenance side. Owners are supposed to open up the clipper on a regular basis, remove and add new grease, as well as oil a separate tab regularly. Over a year later, I haven't done anything but oil the tab because of how little I use it (~5 minutes twice a week). Still, it got me curious and I started searching for alternatives soon after I first bought it. That's when I came across the Andis BGRC, which didn't appear to require as much maintenance, had no vents, and was newer. However, I held off until just last week.
Andis BGRC Unboxing

Placed in the US$ 115 (I paid CAD$ 115 plus tax) price range, the Andis BGRC should be targeted towards professionals and more heavy duty users. The base is also supposedly removable, allowing it to be converted to a portable, battery powered unit like the Andis BGR+  for about US$ 200. I'm not completely clear on the details, so do some research if you're interested in the battery powered unit.

Included in the box were the clipper in a plastic bag with a power cord attached, a bottle of clipper oil, and one additional blade. The #1 blade was attached to the clipper and the #000 was in the box.
Close-up of Spare Blade in Box
Like the Oster Classic 76 (US$ 125 on Amazon at time of writing), the blade mounting system is a snap on system and not a screw on system like the Oster Fast Feed. This makes for easy swapping, and it also means that the primary blade height can not be adjusted with a lever on the go like the Fast Feed. Being a user of only the #000 blade, I have no issue with this and enjoy the modular system.

Unlike the Oster Classic 76, the two blades that come with this unit (size #000 and #1) are partly made of ceramic from the Andis Ceramic Edge line. What I've heard is that ceramic blades stay sharper longer, but are more brittle than steel so may chip easier -- don't quote me on either. The BGRC is also smaller than the Classic 76 by about 1" when I put both of my clippers side by side.

For clarification and disclosure, I have only used the Andis BGRC once so far because I bought them a week ago. I'll try to do another follow-up review down the line. Here are my first impressions. See the follow-up linked at the bottom of the page.

Andis BGRC Hair Clipper Overview

My first cut went extremely well. The hair came right off and maybe it was the brand new sharp blade, but the BGRC appeared to cut a lot more hair than my Classic 76. By cutting more, I mean it missed fewer hairs, and I could see fewer long, uncut hairs after a first pass. However, I definitely felt more resistance. Whereas my Classic 76 usually glides over my scalp, the BGRC felt like it was gripping the skin more and I felt like I had to go slower. It could be that it's a brand new clipper and I'm not as used to it as the Oster clippers that I've used for well over a year now.

There was no pulling and it really felt like the BGRC cut closer than both my Fast Feed and Classic 76. If you've read my other review, you'd know that I use the lowest/closest setting (should be the equivalent of a #000) on the Fast Feed and a #000 blade on the Classic 76. Theoretically, they should cut to the same length. Was it the ceramic blade or the fresh, new, and sharp blade? I don't know, but I'm impressed. 
Oster Classic 76 Blade Close-up
Andis BGRC Blade Close-up
Check out the side by side pictures of the Classic 76 and BGRC blades. It kind of looks like the BGRC blade sits a little closer to the edge of the bottom blade and maybe a bit shorter. I haven't measured it, so I can't be sure. The resistance and feeling just reminded me of when I tried a #0000 (0.25mm) blade with my Fast Feed. That one also missed fewer hairs, but left me with some razor burn.

Body Design: Handling
The BGRC utilizes a square-ish, angled body unlike the round Classic 76. I remember the first few times I used the 76, it was very difficult to orient the clipper and blade properly. Its larger size compared to the Fast Feed that I was previously used to didn't help either. With the BGRC, I didn't have these issues and it felt like a heavier Fast Feed, essentially. Good handling, good small size, and easy to orient.
Oster Classic 76 and Andis BGRC Blades Side-by-Side
Body Design: Nitpicking
Only one thing is annoying me right now: the big transformer or block at the plug. My bathroom plug is right between a mirror and a shelf, so it's a bit tight to fit that block in there. Neither the Oster Classic 76 nor Fast Feed use a transformer.

So far, I've only oiled the blade and brushed hair out. After skimming the instructions, I did not notice a need to open the unit up and grease or lube anything inside. I could be wrong.

What do I think so far?
After one whole cut, I am very impressed. The only concern I have going forward is the reliability of the machine. I spent half this post complaining about how high maintenance and old the Classic 76 is, but that thing has a track record. There are musings I've found from barbers who've seen Classic 76 clippers around for 20-30 years. Google shows that there are a few websites that sell individual parts to the machine too. YouTube has videos of how to take apart and maintain the clipper. It's a reliable piece with a long history. I've got my fingers crossed for the BGRC -- not just because I blew over $120 on it.

Head Shaving: How I do it
Shaving My Own Head with Clippers
Household Power Use: Fan, Hair Clippers, Paper Shredder
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