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It's now been a couple of weeks since T-Mobile flipped the switch on its 5G network and I've been using the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren device since launch. 5G has been appearing in my status bar in more places than I ever thought it would be, confirming T-Mobile's claim that coverage is widespread. I've also had the chance to test the network in the Puget Sound area, Orlando, New York, and San Francisco.
Every phone I get for review is tested on my daily commute through weak signal areas. OnePlus phones have always been top performers with Samsung devices so I was excited to test out the new T-Mobile 5G network. I keep reading articles and Tweets where people relate 5G only with network speeds and mmWave technology. There is much more to 5G than speeds and mmWave so don't be dissuaded by reports slamming this newest T-Mobile network technology.
OnePlus flagships challenge the best smartphones, but at more affordable pricing and even with some specifications leading the industry. Even though this 5G McLaren variant is the best OnePlus ever, it is still priced less than the high end Samsung and iPhone devices with similar specifications. The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren brings today's latest technology and latest Android software, along with McLaren customized features and 5G network support, to the masses for $900.
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus
Display: 6.67 inch 3120 x 1440 pixels resolution AMOLED (516 ppi)
Operating system: OxygenOS based on Android 10
Storage: 256 GB internal with UFS 3.0
Cameras: 48 megapixel main camera with OIS, 8 megapixel telephoto camera with 3x optical, and 16 megapixel ultra-wide lens with 117 degree field-of-view. 16 megapixel front facing camera with f/2.0 aperture.
The front of the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren is dominated by the 6.67 inch display with minimal bezels on all four edges. I've adopted the full gesture interface of Android 10 too. The Apple iPhone X amazed me with its display a couple of years ago, but I am even more impressed by what OnePlus has done with no notches, punch holes, or other interferences on the display. The AMOLED quality looks great to my eyes and the 90 Hz refresh rate can be left on all the time. The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G offers an 88.3% screen-to-body ratio, making it one of the most optimal media machines available today.
The 16 megapixel front-facing camera pops up only when you need it, making it a great option for the enterprise as it becomes obvious when the front-facing camera is energized and in use. The fingerprint scanner is an optical version positioned under the display. OnePlus has been using this approach for a couple generations and it is blazing fast on the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G.
Flipping over the phone to look at the back shows a few awesome McLaren details. Papaya Orange is found around the bottom and lower sides while also outlining the triple rear camera system. While the back is glass black, much of it is transparent and showing off cool textures like those seen on McLaren steering wheels. Various levels of lighting show off different aspects of the back and I love the unique look.
The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G is one of the few phones we see with the latest Snapdragon 855 Plus processor. I was expecting to see this in the Pixel 4, but that didn't happen. The 855 Plus offers 15% faster graphics rendering than the 855 and also supports Qualcomm's 5G modem. It also has ample internal storage with UFS 3.0 technology so accessing your storage is not a bottleneck on the device.
The three-way ringer switch continues on the upper right side and I'm very pleased that this unique feature remains. The Apple iPhone has a two-way ringer switch (it's way too small for me to activate easily) and I find it interesting that OnePlus remains one of the only Android makers with a more capable and functional three-way physical switch. It's colored Papaya Orange so it stands out a bit and helps provide some McLaren touches to the phone.
T-Mobile OnePlus 7T Pro McLaren: in pictures
The triple rear camera system performs about the same as the triple rear camera system on the OnePlus 7 Pro, but it has the super macro mode seen on the OnePlus 7T so it's a very capable set of cameras. I've come to realize I don't capture that many photos with my phone and when I do I just share them on social networks. You can capture great photos with this phone and there is so much more that I care about using that excels on this phone.
After a couple of weeks of heavy usage, I'm easily getting more than a day with this phone whether I'm on 4G or 5G. I think the wide coverage of 5G may actually be helping with battery life as the phone is not churning away trying to stay connected in a weak area of 4G coverage. The battery has a large capacity and the Warp Charge 30T system, included in the box, charges the phone up quickly, but you won't have to worry about this until the evening when you are done using your phone.
As I was unboxing the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G with all of the orange wrapping, I was satisfied with the inclusion of an orange fabric-wrapped cable and Warp Charge 30T adapter. I can't tell if a screen protector is installed or not, but the OnePlus website shows there is one on the phone. If so, it goes all the way to the edges and is indistinguishable from the display.
I was also hoping for some kind of case since OnePlus has been including clear cases in its packages, but there did not appear to be any case included in with the charger, cable, and phone. However, after scrolling through the OnePlus website, a cool McLaren case was shown. I then found a hidden compartment on the bottom of the retail box that held a lovely case with Alcantara material and carbon fiber. It's an awesome case that takes the feel of the phone to the next level while also offering protection and good looks.
Oxygen OS is a fairly stock Android experience and the version in the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren is based on Android 10. The November 1 Android security update is present on the phone I purchased. There are customization options, including custom accent colors, dark theme, and more. Navigation options are also under your control so you can move around the phone as you desire.
McLaren software options include wallpaper, standby clock, fingerprint sensor animation, and icon pack. McLaren orange lines also race across the display as an animation upon startup. Horizon lights appear on either side of the display when the ambient display is selected and notifications appear. The McLaren software touches are subtle, but appreciated.
Unlocked OnePlus phones have an option to show or hide the shelf on the home screen panel. The shelf doesn't offer much functionality for me personally so I usually turn it off. Thankfully, since T-Mobile carries this phone, Google is offered as the left panel so I can see my Google feed on a phone that is not a Pixel.
OnePlus has Zen Mode that lets you setup times to take a break from using your phone. You can choose break durations ranging from 20 minutes to 60 minutes with daily reminders and Zen mode notifications. Achievement badges can be earned for Zen Mode completion with access to all of your stats too.
It's great to see OnePlus provide an image gallery, notes, voice recorder, OnePlus Switch (excellent way to switch between OnePlus phones) and camera application that are all optimized for the hardware. T-Mobile only has the T-Mobile account app and Visual Voicemail installed on the device so thankfully T-Mobile is a great partner for keeping this OnePlus device focused on the user rather than the carrier.
600 MHz 5G support
In early 2018 I went to a Qualcomm 5G event, but left skeptical that the networks would have 5G ready to go in 2019 and likely not until later in 2020. At the time, the focus was on mmWave high-band 5G that is focused on supporting the internet of things in urban areas or for industrial applications. mmWave will provide faster speeds than LTE, but it's more about supporting more connected devices in concentrated areas. It's not going to reach out far and wide, while it also loses signal in buildings and even behind objects since its line-of-sight technology.
There is also low-band 5G that is designed to extend out further and provide broader coverage, but may not have speeds much faster than LTE at launch. It is still 5G technology that requires special 5G modems and 5G antennas. Even with LTE, speed hasn't been an issue for me as I am able to stream Netflix shows without issues. It's much more about coverage and consistency, both of which low band 5G provides. For some great details on why you should actually appreciate T-Mobile's 5G low-band network, check out this excellet article from Sascha Segan at PC Mag.
In addition, if the T-Mobile purchase of Sprint is completed then customers with the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G will get support for Sprint's mid-band 5G with no additional purchase required. The phone is a future-proof phone that can take advantage of 5G now so it's really a no-brainer if you are looking for the latest OnePlus smartphone.
Daily usage experiences and conclusion
I will never be able to afford a McLaren automobile, unless I win the lottery, but with the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren phone on T-Mobile I get to experience a taste of this high end brand. Orange is also my favorite color so having several parts of the phone, software, and included accessories with orange highlights pleases me too.
Over the past couple of weeks I have traveled to Orlando, San Francisco, and New York, in addition to covering hundreds of miles in the Puget Sound area. 5G has appeared in each city with fairly consistent download speeds that have been faster than LTE, in the 20% to 40% range. I've also seen more extensive coverage with 5G than with just 4G. I used a OnePlus 7T with a T-Mobile SIM to directly compare 4G and 5G performance. The fastest download speed I recorded on 5G was 110 Mbps. The 4G LTE speed at that same location was 68 Mbps. As I mentioned above, T-Mobile's current 5G spectrum is more about wider coverage and deeper penetration than faster speeds and that's OK with me.
The OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren has the same physical design as the OnePlus 7 Pro, which has been serving as my prime device for watching video content, and I haven't found any other phone with a better full-screen experience. There are virtually no bezels on all four sides of the screen on the OnePlus 7T Pro 5G McLaren thanks to the pop-up front-facing camera and in-display optical fingerprint sensor. It's been my go to movie machine, with a Spigen kickstand case, for daily train commuting and airplane travel.
There are three cameras on the back of the OnePlus 7T Pro and while it may not have all of the advanced hardware or software of the iPhone 11 Pro or Pixel 4, you can capture some great shots with this phone. I have been perfectly satisfied with the cameras and am especially fond of exploring macro mode that lets you get to within 2.5cm of your subject. In the past Samsung phones have excelled at macro photography, but this new OnePlus phone beats out Samsung.
This new phone is packed with high end specifications, supports T-Mobile's latest 5G network, flies faster than most Android phones, is extremely well built, and looks great. I wish it had some level of water resistance so I could carry it while running, but it looks like I'll just run without a phone while it is serving as my daily driver.