The Sony Xperia Pro is absolutely one of the most compelling phones I’ve tested in a long time. But it isn’t for everyone. The $2,500 phone continues Sony’s move away from smartphones designed for a mass consumer audience and confidently toward devices for photo and video enthusiasts. (UK and Australian launches have yet to be confirmed, but the US price converts roughly to £1,830 or AU$3,250.) Last year, we got theand the . The Xperia Pro takes this narrow-appeal approach to the next level. It isn’t meant to compete with the likes of the or the . In fact, there really isn’t another device like it that offers the same functionality.
A 6.5-inch 4K display, 5G connectivity and HDMI input transform thefor photographers, video shooters and content creators. And even if you’re one of those people it still might not be exactly for you.
- Professional level video monitor features
- Robust utilitarian build
- Live broadcast streaming over 5G
- As a phone its essentially the Xperia 1 II
- Price is high limiting its narrow appeal
- 2020 specs and Android 10
- Wished it recorded video via HDMI input
The Xperia Pro is essentially an Xperia 1 II repackaged into a new slightly bigger body with the addition of a micro-HDMI port. It looks unabashedly plain and utilitarian, which is appropriate for a serious piece of equipment. It has a dedicated shutter button, a side-mounted power button that’s also a fingerprint reader, and a new hardware shortcut button.
It has the same easy-to-open dual-SIM card tray that can also be used with a microSD card for extra storage. It has the same cameras, and it seems capable of taking the same excellent photos and videos as the Xperia 1 II. The Xperia Pro also has last year’s Snapdragon 865 chip and runs Android 10, though it got a boost in RAM to 12GB. Since the majority of the Pro is the same as the Xperia 1 II, I encourage you tofor a in-depth analysis of all those features. Note that I used a preproduction model of the Sony Xperia Pro, which is why I haven’t given it a full, rated review.
You might be wondering that if the Pro is so similar to the Xperia 1 II, why does it cost $1,400 more? That’s where things get very interesting and very niche. The Xperia Pro is a phone, a camera monitor, a speedy photo file-transfer device and a 5G broadcast/livestreaming machine. I was definitely wowed by how it can streamline the creative workflow of photographers, videographers and live broadcasters. But after a week of testing, I also realize that it’s not for all photographers, videographers and live broadcasters.
Aside from indicating that its capabilities are far beyond the ordinary, the $2,500 price will definitely cause sticker shock for many. If you add up the Xperia Pro’s functionality (phone, 4K monitor, 5G cellular modem) the price becomes a little easier to swallow. But the question remains, is this phone for you?
The Xperia Pro as a 4K field monitor
Oftentimes, when capturing video with a dedicated camera, you want a larger screen to preview the image to check things like focus and exposure. The built-in screens on cameras are severely limited by their small size. There are a number of 4K external monitors you can buy ranging in price from a couple of hundred dollars up to nearly $7,000.
One of the main appeals of the Xperia Pro is that you can use it as a 4K field monitor. You simply connect your camera and the Xperia Pro using an HDMI cable (one that has a micro-HDMI connector for the Pro). Next, you turn on the camera and open up the aptly named External Monitor app on the Xperia Pro. Depending on your camera’s settings and output, you’ll see a preview of what you’re filming, on your phone.
It is absolutely wonderful using the Xperia Pro as a camera monitor. The first benefit comes in terms of size and weight. The standalone camera monitor that I use to film CNET videos is bulky and heavy. In fact the Xperia Pro weighs 75 grams less and that’s not even accounting for the weight of the giant batteries my monitor needs for power. And speaking of batteries, the Xperia Pro and its 4,000-mAh battery lasted hours when used as a monitor compared to the 45 minutes or so I got with my 4K camera monitor. If I need to charge the phone while it’s mounted on the camera, I can plug in a USB-C cable and a portable battery.
Another benefit is that I can interact with the Xperia Pro like a phone instead of controlling it with early-2000s computer display buttons and a goofy generic menu interface. I can pinch to zoom the preview image larger or smaller. The Pro’s External Monitor app also has tools for screen lock, brightness control, zooming, grid lines, frame lines and a 180-degree image flip.
Smartly, Sony hasn’t made any of the functionality proprietary. I tried the Pro out as a monitor for both a Sony A7SIII and a Panasonic S1H mirrorless camera. For the most part, the app worked great, though a few times it lost the preview image. I didn’t experience any major bugs with the External Monitor app, but I couldn’t tell if the few times the connection dropped was because the HDMI cable was loose or the fact that this was a preproduction phone. Hopefully this is addressed in the final version.
When the preview is displayed on the phone there is a lot of black space on either side. I wish I could offset the video feed to the left or right side of the display and have the other half to easily assess controls and menus. My only major complaint about using the Xperia Pro as a preview monitor is that outdoors in sunlight its brightness struggled. If I was buying the Xperia Pro to use as a monitor, I would definitely want to add some sort of shade to it when filming outdoors.
I also wish there was a way for the Xperia Pro to record a video signal coming in from HDMI, like other high-end monitors can. That kind of functionality would appeal to me and the kind of video work I do.
The Xperia Pro is the perfect Zoom teleprompter monitor
But the fun doesn’t stop there; the Xperia Pro’s HDMI input isn’t limited to cameras. And because of this it proved to be an ideal solution for. Normally for a Zoom call you might use your computer’s built-in camera. But as many of us found out during the , getting an external camera for Zoom works way better. The only downside to having an external camera for Zoom is that you’re still looking at your computer screen to see the person or people you’re talking to.
For my external camera, I use a Panasonic S1H that plugs into my computer with an adapter. I can use another adapter that connects my computer to the micro-HDMI port on the Xperia Pro. This essentially makes the phone into a 6.5-inch external computer monitor so whatever is on my computer screen shows up on the phone’s screen.
I have a mini teleprompter stand that slides onto the end of my camera’s lens and can support the weight of a phone. I took the Xperia Pro that was connected to my computer and put it into the stand. Now when I look at my camera, I can see whatever is on my computer screen. I can put the other person’s Zoom video feed onto the Xperia Pro/teleprompter and not have that weird back-and-forth eye contact thing going on. This is great for a Zoom video or any video chat that’s being recorded. You get the nice image quality from using a dedicated camera without looking away from the lens to see the other person.
The Xperia Pro can broadcast a 4K video livestream over 5G
The Xperia Pro is Sony’s first 5G phone for the US. Using a combo of 5G and the micro-HDMI port allows you to livestream video content from a dedicated external camera directly to social media platforms like YouTube and Twitch. That means I can use a Sony A7SIII camera and a nice lens to capture 4K video live and have the Xperia Pro upload the video signal over 5G (preferably mmWave, the fastest kind of 5G) to whichever broadcast platform I’m using.
The preproduction Xperia Pro I tested only had support for 5G mmWave. The only 5G near where I was filming was the sub-6 variety, however, which didn’t work on the Pro. The final version of the Xperia Pro will support both sub-6 and mmWave 5G. Also you can use the built-in cameras on the phone to livestream, but when you have the ability to use a dedicated camera with much better image quality, why would you?
Remember when I said the Xperia Pro was aimed at a niche audience? The livestream/broadcasting feature definitely is. An interesting proof of concept Sony shared was on full display along the sidelines of NFL games in the form of a camera rig nicknamed The Megalodon. It’s made up of a Sony Alpha mirrorless camera, a gimbal, a monitor and a cellular modem (in the backpack) to share the signal to the broadcast truck. That means the camera operator isn’t tethered to a giant physical cable. It is not hard to imagine an Xperia Pro being used in lieu of the cellular modem and/or the monitor.
Most stadiums have 5G mmWave support. And as 5G and specifically mmWave expand more in the US and when we get back to a point where we’re traveling for video shoots again, I can definitely see the appeal of streaming a 4K video broadcast live over 5G. But for now, this feature is aimed at big live events like professional sports.
Xperia Pro 5G network visualizer
To find the strongest 5G connection, there’s a built-in network visualizer app that can help you pinpoint the best way to position the phone for a broadcast. One of the reasons behind the practical looking body of the Xperia Pro is that it houses four different 5G antennas. The app shows upload and download speeds as well as which side of the phone (top, bottom, left or right) has the strongest 5G signal. The idea is you would move the phone toward the strongest side. Since I only had sub-6 5G available, the app showed 4G LTE availability, which literally surrounds me, because it’s basically everywhere compared to 5G.
Xperia Pro offers FTP server support for photos
Lastly, the Xperia Pro has support for file transfer protocol, or FTP, via USB-C tethering. This was a feature Sony first launched last year on the Xperia 5 II and Sony A7SIII for speedy photo file transfers. But with the addition of 5G, you could have even faster speeds — in theory.
Compare Sony Xperia Pro specs vs. Sony Xperia 1 II, Sony Xperia 5 II
|Sony Xperia Pro||Sony Xperia 1 II||Sony Xperia 5 II|
|Display size, resolution||6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED; 3,840×1,644 pixels||6.5-inch 4K HDR OLED; 3,840×1,644 pixels||6.1-inch FHD+ HDR OLED; 2,520×1,080 pixels|
|Pixel density||643 ppi||643 ppi||449 ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.7x3x0.4 in||6.5×2.8×0.3 in||6.22×2.68×0.31 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||170.2×76.2×10.16 mm||165.1×71.1×7.62 mm||158x68x8 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||7.9 oz; 225g||6.4 oz; 181g||5.75 oz; 163g|
|Mobile software||Android 10||Android 10||Android 10|
|Camera||12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (3x telephoto)||12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (3x telephoto)||12-megapixel (standard), 12-megapixel (ultrawide), 12-megapixel (3x telephoto)|
|Processor||Snapdragon 865 5G||Snapdragon 865||Snapdragon 865|
|Expandable storage||Up to 1TB||Up to 1TB||Up to 1TB|
|Battery||4,000 mAh||4,000 mAh||4,000 mAh|
|Fingerprint sensor||Right side||Right side||Right side|
|Special features||5G sub-6 and mmWave, rated IP 65/68, adaptive battery charging and care, Dolby Atmos, Zeiss lens coatings, time of flight sensor, hardware shutter button, hardware shortcut button||5G-enabled (not in US), wireless charging, rated IP 65/68, adaptive battery charging and care, Dolby Atmos, Zeiss lens coatings, time of flight sensor, hardware shutter button||5G-enabled (not in US), 120Hz refresh rate display, rated IP 65/68, adaptive battery charging and care, Dolby Atmos, Zeiss lens coatings, time of flight sensor, hardware shutter button, hardware Google Assistant button|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$2,500||$1,200||$950|
|Price (GBP)||Converts to £1,830||£1,099||£799|
|Price (AUD)||Converts to AU$3,250||Converts to AU$1,960||Converts to AU$1,430|