OnePlus came out of nowhere barely five years ago, offering a compellingly cheap flagship phone with… questionable marketing. OnePlus has grown up a lot over the years, and it’s no longer reliant on unlocked phone purchases. Not only has OnePlus partnered with carriers over the past year, it has produced some of the first 5G phones in the US market. The new OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren has a mouthful of a name, but it’s probably the first 5G phone that’s even worth your consideration.
The McLaren 5G is blazing fast, as we’ve come to expect from OnePlus, but you also get a fantastic display, very fast charging, and of course, 5G connectivity on T-Mobile’s new nationwide network. This is the first 5G phone I’ve used that will remain connected to 5G consistently as I wander around, and it can be very fast. However, T-Mobile’s 5G isn’t always as speedy as you might expect, and the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren definitely comes with some battery life limitations.
Design, software, what’s in the box
The OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren 5G is a familiar device—you’ll probably have a good grasp of the basics if you’ve touched any of OnePlus’ recent phones. It’s virtually identical to the 7T Pro, which was itself almost identical to the 7 Pro. We already have a full review of the non-McLaren 7T Pro. The only truly new thing here is the 5G network support, so check the 7T Pro review if you want more basic information. We also have a separate hands-on with the non-5G McLaren edition phone.
As with the 6T McLaren phone, this one has a shiny glass black chassis with orange accents. Whereas the previous McLaren edition had a carbon fiber pattern under the glass, this one has a collection of glistening metallic lines. Some people will probably like this, but I think it looks like an oil slick on the back of the phone. A few people I’ve shown the phone to instinctively tried to clean the back because it just looks dirty before you realize the lines are under the glass. This phone does not remind me in any way, shape, or form of a race car. The phone does at least come with a fancy case, but I don’t like it as much as most OnePlus cases. It’s a combination of soft plastic with a carbon fiber pattern and microfiber. It does hide the ugly back panel, but the fabric portion picks up dust and grime rather easily.
Naturally, there’s no headphone jack on this phone, but there is a USB-C port with support for 30W Warp Charging. I love how fast this phone charges, but that’s a proprietary standard. Luckily, you also have 18W USB-PD charging support. On the top edge, you get OnePlus’ pop-up selfie camera, which eliminates the need for a display notch. The McLaren 5G also has the usual OnePlus optical fingerprint sensor under the display. It’s not lightning fast, but it works well enough.
This phone runs Android 10 out of the box, and I’m generally pleased with OP’s take on the latest version of Android. Since this is a T-Mobile phone, it even has Google Discover on the home screen instead of OnePlus’ pointless “Shelf” UI. Android 10 on the 7T Pro 5G is as snappy as ever, and OnePlus has retained some nice quality of life improvements like the alert slider integration and a setting link in the unexpanded quick settings. However, OnePlus has foolishly hidden Android 10’s dark mode in the theme settings under “Tone.” There’s not even a quick settings toggle!
The 5G variant of this phone has the same size and weight as the regular 7T Pro: massive. With a 6.67-inch display, a lot of people won’t be able to use this phone with one hand. In this age of huge phones, that’s not particularly unusual. At 206g, this is not a phone you want to be using while falling asleep in bed. It will hurt when it falls on your face.
As a McLaren-branded phone, it has the highest-tier specs available in the current generation OnePlus phones. There’s a Snapdragon 855+, 12GB of RAM, and 256GB of storage. In my experience, there’s no functional difference between the base model specs and the premium specs, aside from having more storage space. Even the platry 8GB of RAM in the base model OnePlus 7T is fine.
Living with 5G
The OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren 5G is one of just two phones that taps into T-Mobile’s 600MHz 5G network right now, the other being the $1,300 Samsung Galaxy Note10+ 5G. At $900, the McLaren 5G is the much more economical of the two.
T-Mobile’s new 5G covers a much wider swath of the country than any of the millimeter wave 5G networks. Those signals are in the tens of gigahertz, which can carry a lot of data at the expense of range. T-Mobile’s network won’t offer an multi-gigabit speeds, but it works in most places.
I live in a suburb, far from any millimeter wave 5G signals. However, I get a reliable 5G signal on T-Mobile with the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren 5G all around the house. Yes, indoors. Millimeter wave doesn’t pass through walls, but this 600MHz signal even reaches down into my basement (most of the time). This phone does not support T-Mobile’s millimeter wave network at all, but that’s only in a few cities anyway. It does have support for the 2.5GHz 5G spectrum Tmo hopes to get when it acquires Sprint.
A representative sample of 5G speed tests.
I’ve used millimeter wave 5G devices a few times, and I’ve always come away unimpressed. While you can pull incredible speeds on millimeter wave, that only works when you can see the antenna. 600MHz 5G works more like the LTE networks you’ve been using for years, but that also means the speeds are unimpressive. I’ve used the OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren 5G around the Twin Cities Metro area for the last few weeks, and it remains connected to 5G a surprising amount of the time. However, I never saw a speed test cross the 200Mbps barrier. It was often very similar to LTE, sometimes beating it by 10% and sometimes losing by that much. There were also some areas where 5G chugged along at less than half the speed of LTE, suggesting the phone isn’t integrating 4G and 5G signals as well as it probably should. See below for an example.
LTE on the left, 5G on the right. Test conducted in Minneapolis.
The McLaren 5G operates in dual connectivity mode. That means it connects to a 5G signal whenever available, but it can rope in LTE to boost download speeds. As a result, both the 4G and 5G modems operate at the same time. In my estimation, adding 5G does have a negative impact on battery life. Over the course of an average day (18-ish hours), I’ve been lucky to see 4 hours of screen time. It’s maybe 10-20% worse than the non-5G OnePlus phones, and I’d consider that below average for a phone with a 4,085mAh battery. You can turn off 5G in the settings, but I don’t know why you’d buy the phone if you plan to do that.
T-Mobile says its network is capable of using 5G for uploads as well as downloads, which sets it apart from other carriers that can only use 5G for downloads right now. However, that’s not live in many places. Indeed, my uploads appear to be limited to 4G. Tethering is also 4G-only for the time being. T-Mobile hasn’t said when that will change.
Should you buy it?
OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren 5G
Maybe. The OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren 5G is the first 5G phone that’s progressed beyond a tech demo. It’s very similar to the OnePlus 7T Pro and OnePlus 7 Pro, which are fantastic phones. It has capable cameras, a great 90Hz 1440p screen, and a clean build of Android. It can maintain a 5G connection on T-Mobile’s network in most situations where you’d expect to have LTE on another phone, which is a big step forward.
At the same time, 5G is not a huge selling point right now. The speeds are inconsistent—they’re usually a bit faster than LTE, but sometimes they’re slower. The battery draw from having two modems active in the phone is noticeable as well. It’s not as bad as the early days of LTE when phones would die almost as soon as you took them off the charger, but the McLaren 5G sometimes struggles to make it through the day. I’m sure this will all get better as 5G evolves, but this is what you can expect right now.
T-Mobile’s 5G is overall more useful than any millimeter wave implementation I’ve used, but it’s not a must-have feature right now—it’s not a life-changing experience compared to LTE. Maybe it’ll be worth using down the line when T-Mobile gets access to the Sprint 2.5GHz spectrum, but it probably doesn’t make sense to go out of your way to buy a 5G phone now. There will be many more 5G options in 2020 thanks to Qualcomm’s decision to push it’s 5G modems alongside the 865. Still, if you’re someone who only buys a phone every two or three years, and you’re due for an upgrade right this minute, this might be the most future-proof purchase you can make on T-Mobile.
Buy it if…
You only buy phones every few years, and you need a 5G upgrade right now.
Don’t buy it if…
You can wait a few more months to hop on the 5G bandwagon.