Two very different kinds of affordable flagships enter the fray.

OnePlus and Honor have always been rivals, but this year sees the two brands going head-to-head more directly than ever before. With the OnePlus 5, the company focuses on high-end specs, including a ridiculous 8GB of RAM, alongside a new dual camera setup. And the Honor 9 builds on its predecessor with a few meaningful upgrades of its own, including a beautifully curved glass back panel and an enhanced dual camera system.

Both phones hover either side of the £400 mark — the OnePlus 5 starts at £449, while the Honor 9 undercuts it at £379. So how do these two shape up? Let's dive in with a first comparison, a day into using these two handsets side by side.

Category Honor 9 OnePlus 5
Operating System Android 7.0
EMUI 5.1
Android 7.1.1
OxygenOS 4.5
Display 5.15-inch 1080p IPS LCD
Gorilla Glass 3
5.5-inch Optic AMOLED
Gorilla Glass 5
CPU Huawei Kirin 960 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
RAM 4GB or 6GB 6GB or 8GB
Internal Storage 64 or 128GB 64 or 128GB
microSD Yes (Hybrid slot) No
Battery 3,200 mAh 3,300 mAh
Quick charging 9V / 2A Dash Charge
Rear camera 12MP (RGB) + 20MP (monochrome), f/2.2 16MP (f/1.7) + 20MP (f/2.6, telephoto)
Front camera 8MP, f/2.0 16MP, f/2.0
Water resistance No No
Dimensions 147.3 x 70.9 x 7.45 mm
155 g
154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
153 g

The front faces of both phones are pretty similar, with swappable capacitive keys flanking a fingerprint scanner, which doubles as your home button. But aside from that, the physical similarities are few and far between. The design of the OnePlus 5 could be described as generic. In photos it looks a little bit iPhone-esque, on account of the antennae bands and dual camera placement. But the in-hand feel is completely different from Apple's: Whether you get it in grey or black, the OnePlus 5's metal shell is slim, light, and just a little bit slippery.

OnePlus is svelte but generic. Honor is striking but slippery.

The Honor 9, on the other hand, is slippery in a different way. The smaller size and curved back panel make it less slick in the hand, but like its predecessor, it's prone to sliding its way across (and eventually off) flat surfaces. Honor 9 owners may prefer to use the bundled plastic shell case to mitigate this issue. (While there are many OnePlus 5 cases available, none are bundled with the phone.

From a purely aesthetic perspective, the Honor 9 is clearly the prettier of the two phones. The OnePlus 5, slim and svelte as it is, can't match the wow factor of Honor's 15-layer glass back rear.

As for the hardware on the inside, the contrast is between the latest high-end specs from either Huawei or Qualcomm. The OnePlus 5 packs the just-released Snapdragon 835, along with 6 or 8 GB of RAM depending on which model you pick up. The 835 is based on new, efficient 10nm manufacturing process, whereas the Kirin 960 chip inside the Honor 9 uses an older 16nm process, paired with 4 or 6 GB of RAM. Performance in both phones is fantastic, with the OnePlus 5 having an ever-so-slight advantage in touch response.

Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5

OnePlus's Snapdragon 835 is a generation ahead, but its performance lead isn't enormous.

The OnePlus 5 also has a theoretical lead in gaming performance, thanks to its more capable GPU and more efficient manufacturing process. In practice, though, we haven't noticed a huge difference between the two, even in high-end titles like Asphalt Nitro. (We're also not losing any sleep over 4GB of RAM versus 6, or 6GB versus 8.)

It's also a dead heat in terms of battery life. Both the Honor 9 and OnePlus 5 manage a full day comfortably, with around 4.5 hours of screen-on time on a heavy day's use. The more tangible advantage for the OnePlus 5 isn't how long the battery lasts, but how quickly you can refill it — OnePlus's Dash Charge is still the quickest way to recharge a smartphone battery, running rings around the 9V / 2A quick charging supported by the Honor 9.

Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5

These two phones are worlds apart in terms of their software experience. EMUI 5.1 is very much a traditional "skin" of Android, replacing much fo the UI and offering a loadout of customized apps from the Huawei mothership. The latest version of EMUI is based on Android 7.0 Nougat, with a clean blue-and-white visual style running through Huawei's own apps, and system elements like the lock screen and notification shade. Elsewhere, other bits of the interface can be skinned thanks to a wealth of themes available through a bundled app.

OxygenOS and EMUI couldn't be any more different.

Handy features from Huawei include the ability to lock apps behind a fingerprint or pattern, and run multiple instances of chat/social apps like Facebook, WhatsApp and WeChat through EMUI's "twin app" capability.

OnePlus's OxygenOS takes a much more barebones approach to Android, building on stock Android 7.1.1 with a handful of useful tweaks and features. OnePlus's launcher has an iPhone-style widget shelf, but otherwise mirrors the look of the Google Pixel launcher, with a vertical swipe revealing the app drawer. OnePlus is also big on customization, with endless gestures and shortcuts waiting to be discovered in the Settings app. These include double-tap to wake, raise to wake, ambient display, as well as a number of swipe gestures to control your music, or quickly get to the camera app.

It's also possible to change up the way OxygenOS looks, with three base themes that can be tweaked to your liking through accent colors.

Cameras

Two very different dual camera configs.

Both devices include dual cameras on the back, but there are vast differences in how the cameras are implemented, which means image quality also differs greatly. On the Honor 9, you basically get the Huawei P10 camera, minus OIS and the Leica camera app. That means a 12MP RGB sensor (1.25-micron pixels) plus a 20MP black and white sensor (1-micron pixels) behind f/2.2 lenses.

Like other Huawei phones, the monochrome camera captures fine detail, while the RGB sensor fills out color detail. And the results are pretty decent across the board, with areas of strength including dynamic range and capture speed. In well-lit scenes, the Honor 9 does a better job than the OnePlus 5 of bringing out fine detail, though colors are a bit subdued.

By comparison, OnePlus's camera exposes images more evenly, with more vibrant colors, but seems to be more sensitive to hand motion in daylight shots.

Paradoxially, though, Honor's camera is weaker in low light. In darker scenes, the OnePlus's f/1.7 lens (helped along by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 ISP) does a better job of eliminating chroma noise from photos, whereas the Honor camera produces pics that look darker, noisier and a little over-sharpened.

Honor wins with its bokeh effects, but OnePlus pushes ahead with a superior zoom capability.

Both phones include much-hyped zoom functions, and OnePlus's zoom lens produced clearer shots at 2X than the Honor camera, which uses a "hybrid zoom" function to take advantage of the extra resolution of the 20MP sensor. But Honor is the winner when it comes to depth effects — in early testing the Honor 9's low depth-of-field mode was able to more accurately measure the edges of subjects in our photos, whereas the OnePlus 5 routinely over or under-blurred certain areas.

In any case, those are just our first impressions: We'll have a more detailed comparison between the cameras in the near future.

Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5

Both the OnePlus 5 and Honor 9 are excellent phones for the money. In the Honor 9, you're getting a lot of phone for the relatively low asking price of ÂŁ379, with caveats around the overall slipperiness of the thing, the camera's low-light performance and EMUI itself, which through significantly improved of late, remains a far cry from Google's vision of Android.

On the OnePlus side, your extra cash gets you more RAM, faster charging, a camera setup that's more dependable in darker conditions and better for zoomed photography, and software that's faster and easier on the eyes. But all that technology is packaged up in a fairly dull chassis, with a display that doesn't match the daylight visibility of the Honor 9.

Which one is worth your cash? That'll depend on your budget, and where your priorities lie.