Both Chinese companies offer great value, but also come up short in certain respects.

Honor finally has made its way to the U.S. with the recently announced (and available Jan. 31) Honor 5X, a solid $199 phone that shows us why people elsewhere around the world are excited by the devices sold under this Huawei sub-brand. But this inexpensive unlocked phone market is getting crowded, as evidenced by OnePlus getting into the game late last year with the OnePlus X.

Both phones offer exceptional hardware for the price, and a few higher-end features that you wouldn't expect — but of course they each have their drawbacks as well. Let's put the Honor 5X and OnePlus X head-to-head and see how they compare.

Two impressive pieces of hardware

Not knowing the prices of these two phones ahead of time, you'd be hard-pressed to correctly guess that the Honor 5X retails for just $199, and the OnePlus X $249. The Honor 5X has a nice metal exterior with just a little bit of flair, and it flows smoothly into a full pane of glass on the front without any gaps or sharp edges. Its curved back is pretty ergonomic for its size, but the small bits of plastic on the top and bottom definitely take away from the experience. The OnePlus X potentially bests the Honor 5X with a solid piece of glass on both sides of the phone and a wonderfully-crafted metal frame that feels much nicer than the Honor's, though the flat back makes it a bit tougher to hold and lets it slide around when placed on flat surfaces.

Comparable hardware, with each phone edging out just slightly in some areas

The Honor 5X offers a bigger screen at 5.5-inches than the OnePlus X's 5 inches, but both come in at the same 1080p resolution and are quite comparable in terms of quality. The Honor 5X's IPS LCD display is a bit more muted than the OnePlus X's AMOLED panel, but the overall brightness on the Honor is higher. You'll be happy with either one of these displays at this price, but the Honor 5X does come up short with a complete lack of oleophobic coating, meaning you may have to stick with the pre-installed screen protector to spare yourself from a life of screen smudges.

The Honor 5X's Snapdragon 616 and 2GB of RAM are a notable step down from the Snapdragon 801 and 3GB of RAM in the OnePlus X, but the 3000 mAh battery in the 5X will definitely offer you more longevity than the 2525 mAh in its competitor. Both phones offer dual-SIM capability as well as SD card slots, with the one big hardware differentiator being the Honor 5X's one-touch fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone — that's a big deal for both security and convenience.

As expected, both phones have cut some corners in the hardware department. You won't get NFC on either phone, or 5GHz and 802.11ac Wi-Fi, or USB-C connectors, or Quick Charge support, or an option for more than 16GB of internal storage. Those are all to be expected, but the OnePlus X has cut an additional corner in that it doesn't properly support AT&T's radio bands — so it's really only well-suited to use on T-Mobile, and that's a downside for many.

For a complete spec comparison, feast your eyes below.

Category Honor 5X OnePlus X
Operating System Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
EMUI 3.1
Android 5.1.1 Lollipop
OxygenOS
Display 5.5-inch 1920x1080
(401 ppi)
IPS LCD
5-inch 1920x1080
(441 ppi)
AMOLED
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 616 octa-core @ 1.5 GHz
Adreno 405 GPU
Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core @ 2.3 GHz
Adreno 330 GPU
Storage 16GB
MicroSD card up to 128GB
16GB
MicroSD card up to 128GB
SIM Dual SIM slots Dual SIM slots or single SIM + MicroSD card
RAM 2GB 3GB
Rear Camera 13MP, f/2.0
1080p resolution video
Slow Motion: 720p at 120fps
SmartImage 3.0 image processor
13MP ISOCELL 3M2 CMOS, f/2.2
1080p resolution video
Slow Motion: 720p at 120fps
Front Camera 5MP, f/2.4 8MP OV8858, f/2.4
Connectivity 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.1 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio
Fingerprint sensor Yes No
Battery 3000 mAh 2525 mAh
Charging Micro USB
5V/1A charger included
Micro USB
5V/2A charger included
LED notification light Yes, multicolor Yes, multicolor
Dimensions 151.3 x 76.3 x 8.15 mm 140 x 69 x 6.9 mm
Weight 158 g 138 g (Onyx)
160 g (Ceramic)

Comparable cameras

Honor 5X and OnePlus X

The minimum quality expected from a budget phone's camera has gone up in the past year, and both of these phones are great examples of what you can get without laying down a lot of cash. In terms of specs you're getting a 13MP sensor from both phones, along with relatively quick f/2.0 (Honor 5X) and f/2.2 (OnePlus X) lenses and similar capabilities such as 120fps slow-motion video.

Both can quickly take a solid photo, but the Honor 5X offers a better overall experience

In terms of software the Honor 5X has a much easier to use interface, with simple controls but also a second level of settings to help you tweak everything. The OnePlus X has just added a manual mode, but the automatic mode leaves something to be desired. The OnePlus X's Clear Image and HDR modes are pretty poor as well, and unfortunately really only work to make your images worse — something needs fixing there.

Both phones can quickly launch the camera and snap a picture in a handful of seconds, and you won't be disappointed by the end results of either one in most situations. After fully reviewing both phones we think the Honor 5X has a slight advantage in overall quality, though. While you'll be hard-pressed to take a nice photo in low light situations with either phone, the Honor 5X offers better dynamic range and clarity in good lighting conditions. The OnePlus X too often took washed-out photos and couldn't brighten up scenes enough.

When it comes to selfies, the Honor 5X also takes a slight lead here. Though its 5MP camera is smaller than the 8MP on the OnePlus X, the Honor 5X takes smoother and more accurate photos with its front-facing camera.

Software on different paths

Honor 5X and OnePlus X

Up to this point these two phones actually have a lot in common, with each one edging out in some small areas. But when it comes to software, the Honor 5X and OnePlus X are on different paths. Our longstanding issues with EMUI are well chronicled, and though the Honor 5X definitely has the best (and least broken) version of EMUI to date, that isn't exactly the best mark by which we should measure software. Looks aside (we can definitely appreciate what's been done there), EMUI is still far too aggressive with monitoring notifications, shutting down apps in the background and restricting phone performance to eke out every little bit of battery life.

This is the best EMUI version yet, but OxygenOS still bests it

On the opposite end of the spectrum, after a short history with using Cyanogen for its software OnePlus has chosen to go in-house with its so-called OxygenOS, a clean and simple take on Android that we quite enjoy. Currently built on Android 5.1.1, the latest software on the OnePlus X is smooth and has just a handful of additions that are useful and stay out of the way if you don't want them. You get some pre-installed apps, customizable quick settings and a few visual changes to the lock screen and launcher, and that's it. OxygenOS has struck a really nice balance between adding functionality and keeping Android running as expected.

Beyond the functional and visual differences, the OnePlus X is a clear step above the Honor 5X in terms of outright performance. As noted earlier it has more power inside to work with, but the differences in daily performance are quite large over the Honor 5X. Whereas apps can stutter and scrolling can slow down on a regular basis on the Honor 5X, the OnePlus X performs like a phone twice its price in every respect. It's hard to say just how much of that performance lag can be pinned on the EMUI customizations, but in the end it doesn't matter — the OnePlus X is just downright faster in every respect.

Bottom line

Honor 5X and OnePlus X

The Honor 5X offers a pretty great value compared to any phone, with a metal body, good screen, capable camera and a fingerprint sensor. And while those looking for a phone around the $200 price are bound to be extra sensitive to spending any additional money, it's also going to be worth considering the extra $50 for the OnePlus X. While it doesn't offer a fingerprint sensor and comes with a slightly smaller display, the software and performance on the OnePlus X make it a good option over the Honor 5X for the right person, and you still get great hardware and a crisp display in the same package.