The OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren will be a phone to buy if T-Mobile merges with Sprint—but only if T-Mobile merges with Sprint. A slight upgrade from our Android phone of the year, the McLaren is the fastest Android handset on the market today and supports T-Mobile’s “nationwide” low-band 5G. But at $899.99, it costs $350 more than the OnePlus 7 Pro does right now, and we can’t justify that price unless the Sprint/T-Mobile merger brings a much better 5G network.
What’s in a Name?
OnePlus has a slightly confusing phone lineup right now. The McLaren is almost exactly like the OnePlus 7 Pro. It is less like the OnePlus 7T, which is a slightly lower-end phone with a somewhat different body and a different camera. That’s to the McLaren’s advantage; I find the OnePlus 7 Pro’s camera performance to be better than the OnePlus 7T’s. That said, there are some key differences with the McLaren, which I’ll get into in this review.
And can we address that name? The phone is made by OnePlus, it uses the 7T processor and charger, it’s in the Pro body, it has 5G, and it has something to do with a car company. It’s an unfortunate mouthful, and should have been collapsed in some way. From here on out, we’ll mostly just call it the McLaren.
The Same, Only Faster
The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren is co-licensed with the McLaren car company, which is famous for its fast vehicles. Design-wise, that translates into a phone with a black body with orange accents and a wavy silver pattern on the back, along with a special orange cable and charger. It comes with a nice case with an Alcantara-esque black back that doesn’t protect the front of the phone at all; I found that out when I dropped a 7 Pro in a similar case and cracked the corner of the screen.
The McLaren is the same size (6.4 by 3.0 by 0.35 inches), weight (7.27 ounces), and shape as the OnePlus 7 Pro. It is a very large phone, but you’re getting power for the size. The 19.5:9, 3,120-by-1440, 6.67-inch, 90Hz AMOLED screen is an absolute wonder. Like the one on the 7 Pro, it’s ultra-bright, with HDR10+ color support and a high refresh rate that makes scrolling particularly easy on the eyes.
This is the fastest Android phone on the market, thanks to its clocked-up 2.96GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ processor and OnePlus’ software build. It scored 10,899 on the PCMark Work 2.0 benchmark, as compared with the OnePlus 7T’s 10,361 and the OnePlus 7’s 10,043. I take that benchmark very seriously because it simulates actual tasks like web browsing and photo editing.
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Otherwise, though, it benchmarks almost exactly the 7T, which also has the 855+ processor, putting the phones slightly ahead of ordinary 855-based devices. The 855+ pushes frame rates on the GFXBench Car Chase Offscreen graphics benchmark from 41-43 to 48, for instance, and bumps Geekbench single-core processor scores from around 745 to around 775.
That speedy processor combines with 256GB of UFS 3.0 storage and 12GB of RAM for a very smooth experience. The ridiculous, excessive amount of RAM means that pretty much all of the apps you’ve used recently will maintain their state if you flip back to them.
The real MVP here, though, is OnePlus’s Oxygen OS version of Android 10, which is somehow even smoother and more efficient than the Google Pixel 4’s. While it doesn’t have some of the Pixel’s latest buzzy features, such as live transcription, you’ll have absolutely no problem with performance.
The McLaren has the same cameras as the 7 Pro does, but photo quality has improved with several months’ worth of software updates. To recap, there’s a main 48MP f/1.6 camera, a 16MP f/2.2 wide-angle camera, and an 8MP f/2.4 3x-zoom camera, along with a 16MP pop-up front-facing camera.
I took some shots at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit in Maui and I was more impressed with the quality this time around than I was back when the 7 Pro launched. Low-light performance, especially, is less noisy than the Pixel 4’s, although more prone to blur because of lower shutter speeds. You get hyper-saturated, punched-up colors, which is a big change from the original 7 Pro at launch.
Left to right: OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, Google Pixel 4
Left to right: OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, Samsung Galaxy S10.
Left to right: OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren, Google Pixel 4
The McLaren trades in the 7 Pro’s Warp Charge 30 system for Warp Charge 30T, which charges the battery slightly faster. On the McLaren, we got a 37-percent charge in 15 minutes, compared with 35 percent on the 7 Pro in the same amount of time. The MacLaren charged to 70 percent in 30 minutes compared with 62 percent on the 7 Pro, and 99 percent in an hour versus the 7 Pro’s 95 percent.
To get those speeds, you need to use the included charger and cable. The proprietary charging system doesn’t work with standard USB-C PD chargers, and it doesn’t support wireless charging.
In testing, battery life for the McLaren was slightly shorter than the 7 Pro, lasting 10 hours and 54 minutes in our streaming video rundown compared with the 7 Pro’s 11 hours and 37 minutes. In a week of using the phone, I didn’t have the sort of midday battery pressure I’ve experienced with the smaller Pixel 4 and Samsung Galaxy S10e.
5G and Its Discontents
The flagship feature here, really, is the 5G. The McLaren is one of the first two phones to support T-Mobile’s low-band 5G, and at $899.99, it’s much less expensive than the $1,299.99 Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ 5G. The phone supports low-band and mid-band 5G, but not the millimeter-wave 5G that T-Mobile installed in six cities this spring and then promptly stopped talking about.
Low-band 5G is unimpressive in many major US metro areas right now, because T-Mobile doesn’t have enough spectrum to make it worth it. I go into great detail in my in-depth analysis of T-Mobile’s 5G. Simply put, it is not $350 worth of additional performance.
This will change if the T-Mobile/Sprint merger goes through. At that point, T-Mobile would potentially get access to Dish’s 600MHz airwaves and Sprint’s 2.5GHz airwaves, both of which the McLaren can support. With a lot more spectrum available, 5G speeds might go through the roof. But we don’t know yet. We’ll have to see how, and if, T-Mobile implements this.
In the world of math and theory, a OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren with access to 20MHz of 600MHz 5G airwaves and 100MHz of 2.5GHz in major cities would be an absolute barn-burner, hitting 300Mbps on the regular. But that’s in theory.
If the merger doesn’t go through, we have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen, because T-Mobile (obviously falsely) claims to have no backup plan. All we know right now is that the 5G performance we’ve seen doesn’t justify the price difference between the 7 Pro and the 7T Pro 5G.
Comparisons and Conclusions
The $899.99 McLaren is less expensive than most of the other 5G phones currently out there, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it. T-Mobile’s low-band 5G just doesn’t provide enough of a performance bump right now to justify the $350 price difference over the excellent OnePlus 7 Pro. (T-Mobile isn’t currently selling the 7 Pro, but it’s available direct from OnePlus.)
That may change if the T-Mobile/Sprint merger clears. When is that happening? Your guess is as good as mine. If it happens after February, the Galaxy S11 will likely be on sale, able to support not only T-Mobile’s low and mid-band 5G, but also millimeter-wave 5G. The McLaren’s price might be lower then, too.
If you’re interested in T-Mobile’s 5G, wait. If you just want to buy a T-Mobile phone, we recommend the 256GB OnePlus 7 Pro for $549.