Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5 vs Samsung A5

These phones want to be considered alongside the best of the best – so what have they got to offer?

If you're in the market for a smartphone in 2017 then you've got no shortage of choices to pick from, and telling the difference between these fine slabs of glass and metal isn't always easy - which is why we like to take the time to explain your choices in more detail.

Here we're looking at three phones that sit just below the top tier of smartphone royalty, somewhere in the high mid-range: the Huawei Honor 9, the OnePlus 5, and the Samsung A5. They're what you might call flagships on a budget, and here's all you need to know.

Design and feel: Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5 vs Samsung A5

Image above: Honor 9

Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, and so you might have your own ideas about the look of these phones, but from our perspective these are three phones that are very decent looking indeed.

The Honor 9 gives you a glass and metal casing in some funky colours (grey, blue, black and gold), and it's very, very glossy to look at. The curved edges and solid fit are easy on the eye, and while it might not be the most original-looking smartphone we've ever seen, it's still right up there with the best-looking handsets. It measures 147.3mm x 70.9mm x 7.45mm and tips the scales at 155g.

Meanwhile the OnePlus 5 can certainly hold its own in the looks department, though it's perhaps a touch more conventional. It measures 154.2mm x 74.1mm x 7.25mm, and weighs 153g, and you can pick up the OnePlus 5 in black or grey. It's less spectacular than the Honor 9 but still just as aesthetically pleasing in a minimal kind of way.

Finally, the Samsung A5 is perhaps the least eye-catching of the trio, and perhaps the only one that looks slightly cheaper and mid-range. That said, it's by no means ugly - it's side bezels are practically non-existent and it feels well put together in the hand. The phone measures 146.1mm x 71.4mm x 7.9 mm, weighs 157g, and can be bought in black, gold, light blue and pink.

Key specs: Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5 vs Samsung A5

Image above: OnePlus 5

You've got a bunch of specs to wade through when it comes to comparing these phones, and we've focused here on the main ones: CPU, RAM, storage, camera and display. For some extra specifications, scroll further down the page.

First the Honor 9, which rocks a 5.15-inch, 1,920 x 1,080 pixel display. Inside there's a custom Huawei-made Kirin 960 processor, 4GB or 6GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. A dual camera is fitted, with 20MP and 12MP sensors, which means you get the added benefit of 2x optical zoom.

The OnePlus 5 has a larger 5.5-inch screen but the same 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution, combined with a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB or 8GB of RAM, and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage. Again, there's a dual-lens camera setup, this time 20MP and 16MP, but the optical zoom only goes up to 1.6x.

Lastly the Samsung A5 has a 5.2-inch screen which again uses the standard Full HD 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution. Inside there's a Samsung-made Exynos 7880 CPU, 3GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. The camera is a 16MP affair, with no optical zoom, which puts Samsung's phone slightly behind the others in terms of specs and power.

Other features: Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5 vs Samsung A5

Image above: Samsung A5

Battery life really needs to be tested extensively over time but we can at least give you the battery sizes: 3,200mAh for the Honor 9, 3,300mAh for the OnePlus 5, and 3,000mAh for the Samsung A5. While all these phones offer some kind of "quick charging" technology, the OnePlus handset seems to win out here with its Dash Charge feature, which promises a 60 percent recharge with half an hour of charging.

Waterproofing is only available on the Samsung A5, with its IP68 rating, so if being able to drop your phone in liquid and still use it afterwards is important to you, you're going to want to avoid the Honor 9 and the OnePlus 5. Samsung's phone also has a microSD slot for expanding the internal storage, as does the Honor 9, but there's no slot on the OnePlus 5.

Another consideration is Android: the Samsung A5 is stuck on Marshmallow (Android 6) while the Honor 9 and OnePlus 5 come with Nougat (Android 7). The skins developed by each manufacturer are loaded up on top of that, so read up online for details, but if you want the very latest features that Google's mobile OS has to offer then the Honor or OnePlus phones look like slightly better bets.

Price and verdict: Honor 9 vs OnePlus 5 vs Samsung A5

In terms of raw specs it's hard to split the Honor 9 and the OnePlus 5 (there are differences, just not major ones) - it's really down to which phone design you prefer, and maybe which Android skin you prefer as well. The Samsung A5 is no slouch, but it's not quite on the level of the other two.

Otherwise, the fast Dash Charge technology developed by OnePlus is worth noting, as is its excellent customer support. The waterproofing offered by the Samsung A5 is definitely a reason to go for Samsung's handset rather than the other two, and you might find availability is better, depending on where in the world you live.

You can't really compare phones without their prices though. For the cheapest configuration, the Honor 9 retails for about £380/$495/AU$645, the OnePlus 5 for £449/$479/AU$760, and the Samsung A5 for £369/$399/AU$649. There's not a huge amount in it at all, but the pricing hierarchy goes Samsung-Honor-OnePlus.

With its very good price, excellent specs list and refined looks, the Honor 9 just about edges our T3 Smackdown, but both the OnePlus 5 and the Samsung A5 have features that might make you prefer those phones instead. Whatever your pick, you won't be disappointed by any of these excellent 2017 handsets.

David Nield

Dave has over 20 years' experience in the tech journalism industry, covering hardware and software across mobile, computing, smart home, home entertainment, wearables, gaming and the web – you can find his writing online, in print, and even in the occasional scientific paper, across major tech titles like T3, TechRadar, Gizmodo and Wired. Outside of work, he enjoys long walks in the countryside, skiing down mountains, watching football matches (as long as his team is winning) and keeping up with the latest movies.