Associations can be found in the strangest of places. Remember U2+Apple? Fossil+BMW Asus+Lamborghini? Tech seems to be in constant search of a crutch to take it beyond the ordinary. OnePlus has chosen supercar manufacturer McLaren to partner with and create something more than just great. Something… aspirational.
Claims aside, OnePlus does know how to create a sense of occasion, starting with the packaging itself, which clearly is a labour of love. And papaya.
Design – One for the fans
The significant size of the phone is well punctuated by papaya orange highlights on the sides, camera lens housing and the slider alert button on the side. It’s the strange pattern on the back that baffled everyone at the launch, but it’s actually inspired by the limited edition McLaren Speedtail concept and its carbon weave trim. The 3D Corning Gorilla glass on the front with the pop-up cam does make it look gorgeous, even though the curved edges don’t add much value besides flashing for notifications.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 7T Pro, but if you’re going to put a supercar badge on your phone, it has to look appropriately racy. McLaren’s legendary papaya orange shade is generously sprinkled on the box, the phone and even the charging cable. But the most elaborate display of this friendship between a Chinese disruptor and a British racing legend can be seen in the bundled protective case.
Buried deep in the womb of the box, you’ll have to peel it off its resting bay and what you get is a crafty case finished in Alcantara and carbon fibre, with the McLaren and OnePlus logo shining through in chrome. You are special, it screams. Truth be told, it is one of the best phone cases I've seen and actually makes the phone feel better with it rather than without it! It does add weight to the already substantial mass of the phone, so make sure you’re prepared to handle bulk.
But if the aesthetic doesn’t cut it, the performance should. The lovely 90Hz display is addictive and the OxygenOS keeps getting slicker with every generation. With regular updates, the camera performance has seen a big jump too. A fine specimen this is indeed!
Camera – Closer to greatness
Constant improvements are being made to the 48MP primary shooter and the biggest changes are seen in Night Mode. Exposure is well maintained using HDR, while detail and sharpness is on par with the best. The only area it drops the ball is white balance, casting a warm tone over the scene. The triple lens set-up uses the Super Macro functionality very well, allowing you to genuinely get close to a bee without being stung. 3x telephoto isn’t without noise while the ultrawide is a great tool to pack in the wolfpack during a night out.
Overall, it’s a great camera in this price segment with sharp, bright pictures that work brilliantly for social media. It’s only when you zoom in to more challenging parts of the frame that you realise that the colours are artificially enhanced and shadow detail is lacking in the darker areas. This is, of course, observed only when comparing it to phones like the iPhone 11 and Samsung Galaxy Note 10, both significantly more expensive.
Video stabilisation is good and 4K 60fps is supported for up to 5mins of recording, and it does a brilliant job of capturing smooth motion with high levels of detail. The colours, though, seem a bit inaccurate in still photography, with oversaturated reds and noise in darker areas.
The 16MP front camera is a pop-up unit that also doubles up as a quick face unlock, even in the dark using a quick burst of white light from the screen. Quality from the front cam is above par, especially in Portrait mode where regular updates have helped in cleaning up edges with sharper separation even on difficult objects like hair. The three levels of beauty filters are also mild enough to look realistic and does not change your gender completely. What could use improvement is the Filter naming system on the OxygenOS. They just seem randomly named after different sizes of paper, with no indication to the kind of effect they can generate.
Display – Prepare to be spoilt
Too big for comfortable one-handed use it is, but if you get around that, this is a great screen. The 6.67in AMOLED display is one of the biggest on any flagship out there and, with no notch to break the visual poetry, makes a very strong case for gaming and binge-watching. It does look a bit OTT at first, but dig into the settings and you will be able to find a balance that you personally prefer. It’s HDR10+ capable and supports the P3 colour gamut, so it’s advised that you spend some time getting it to look right. Lot of calibration options and the 90Hz refresh rate makes scrolling fun. You’ll be going through miles of social media feeds without fatigue, thanks to zero blurring or stuttering.
Smart Reading mode keeps it easy on the eyes for long bouts of text by reducing the colours or even eliminating them for a B&W reading experience like a Kindle. You get options to run the display at a lower refresh rate (60Hz) and even a lower resolution (FHD+ or QHD+) to maximise battery life, but that’s like buying a McLaren and driving it on Toyota Corolla tires. The McLaren theme continues in the software too, with icon packs, wallpapers and notification lights tuned to the brand’s trademark orange hue.
Performance – Future proof
No one ever said that the OnePlus 7T Pro with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855+ SoC and 8GB RAM was a slow train. Add another 4GB and you get a true monster that is overkill but one that is also insured to last for the next three years of what the app developers throw at you. Differences between the 7T Pro and the McLaren Edition are impossible to decipher even while playing Call of Duty at its highest graphic settings and every other app opened in about the same amount of time, indicating that the 50% jump in RAM is currently not required by most. But sure, we get it that the McLaren badge had to be justified and this is the only real hardware justification besides all the colours and skins.
Gestures that replace the three Android system buttons work in a fluid manner and the phone never slowed down even with more than 15 apps open at the same time. Photo editing was quick and so were movies using the GoPro app. OxygenOS adds a layer of customisation and ease of use to Android 10 that makes it one of the best skins around and you might even start preferring it to stock Android soon!
We would’ve liked an IP rating but OnePlus assures that this phone can take splashes and mild dunks; however,don’t try that at home if you like the pop-up selfie cam too much. The Warp charger has undergone speed improvements too, and now under the Warp Charge 30T guise, it charges up to 60% in half an hour and full charge in about an hour. These claims are by and large accurate and we were even impressed with the battery life of the McLaren edition, lasting more than a day with mixed use of camera, editing, streaming audio, watching video clips and heavy use of social media.
As far as flagships go, the premium feel and experience of the 7T Pro McLaren Edition justifies its price tag. In fact, it feels even more expensive than it is with a fabulous build, well-crafted case and a screen and performance that makes many others pale in comparison. It seems to omit some key features like wireless charging tech in favour of its own Warp Charge fast-charging, water and dust-resistance is still suspect and the rear cams while great, can do even better.
But for anyone looking for an all-rounder that won’t age with time, the OnePlus 7T Pro is a no-brainer, solidly-engineered smartphone. And the McLaren Edition only adds to its wow factor. Only problem is, the iPhone 11 is within spitting distance in terms of its starting price now, and if you’re more conservative than flamboyant, the almost-as-good OnePlus 7T just makes for better value. That is the only reason this deservedly five-star product gets a four-star rating in this test.