Over the years, Sony’s smartphone division has taken a different approach than most of the other manufacturers. Sony smartphones have unique designs, they innovate, and they have distinct personalities. However, this also has a polarizing effect on potential users: while some fall in love with them, others consider the devices as being awkward and unwieldy. The Xperia PRO-I is no exception. To most, it will be just “another weird flagship from Sony”, but for a select few, this device is exactly what they want. I reviewed the Sony Xperia PRO-I while keeping in mind that it has a niche audience. Here are my findings:
The Sony Xperia PRO-I is perfect for:
- Content creators who travel a lot and need a small and robust camera for their vlogs
- Users who are comfortable with advanced cameras and know how to properly configure them
- Professional videographers or photographers who want to combine a flagship smartphone with a high-end camera
Here are the things I liked about the Sony Xperia PRO-I:
- The processing power of the smartphone is at flagship level
- The picture and video quality rival those of high-end compact cameras, if you apply the right settings
- The camera and video recording apps give you access to a wide range of settings
- The screen’s ppi (pixels per inch) is mind-blowing
- The device feels sturdy
- There is little bloatware, and the included apps are of high quality
There are some things that I disliked, as well:
- The shutter release button can easily be pressed accidentally, which opens the camera app
- The power button is hard to access and locate if you use the device with the left hand
- The device is too tall to fit in the pocket, unless you are a kangaroo
- Fully charging the device takes too long, even with the quick charger
- It’s an expensive device - 1,800 USD at the time of this review
If you want a flagship smartphone, Sony PRO-I fits the bill, but it’s not really meant to be that. It has a very narrow target group, and it provides them with tools that are not available on any other brand apart from Sony. The photos and videos taken with the Sony Xperia PRO-I are great, but in order to make them great, the device needs fine-tuning from the user - definitely not something that regular smartphone users are willing to do. However, if you are an experienced content creator who’s constantly on the move, the Sony Xperia PRO-I is a unique tool that can potentially enhance your content creation.
The Sony Xperia PRO-I arrived in a plain white box. Its dimensions are similar to most smartphone packages: 7.5 x 3.54 x 2.17 inches (190 x 90 x 55 mm). The front of the box displays just the brand and the model.
On the back, you can find some important specs, as well as a mention that the packaging does not contain any plastic.
Although the box looks like it was hurled with a catapult by the courier, the contents are perfectly fine, albeit a bit scarce. The package contains the phone, a 30 W charger with USB-C, a 1-meter charging cable, and the usual leaflets (quick guide, warranty).
The unboxing experience is rather underwhelming, especially considering that the Sony Xperia PRO-I is an expensive flagship device. There are no included accessories, just the charger and the cable. Then again, some other flagships don’t even pack a charger anymore.
The Sony Xperia PRO-I is a heavy smartphone, with a weight of 7.44 oz (211 g). Its overall dimensions are 6.54 x 2.83 x 0.35 inches (166 x 72 x 8.9 mm), and while the numbers make it seem as large as the Xiaomi 11T, the Sony smartphone has an unusual format. It’s narrower, so gripping it is a lot easier for people with small hands. The small ridges on its side make gripping it even better. On the front of the phone, you get a 21:9 OLED display (with Gorilla Glass Victus protection) and front-facing stereo speakers, as well as a notification light and the 8MP selfie camera.
The back of the phone is where the “PRO” part of the name really shows: you get a large camera cluster, containing the main 12MP camera in the center, a 12MP ultra-wide above it, and another 12MP sensor with a 50 mm focal length, acting as a telephoto, below the main camera. Other things to note on the back are the ToF (time of flight) camera, used for autofocus in low light conditions, the LED flash, and a microphone.
The bottom of the smartphone houses the USB-C charging port with DisplayPort support and a microphone.
The top of the phone contains, to my absolute joy, an audio jack, and yet another mic.
There’s not much happening on the left side of the smartphone, with only the SIM card tray and, surprisingly, a lanyard eyelet. This feature is just one of the quirks of the Sony PRO-I, and a very useful one too, for people who travel a lot and need to keep their smartphone safe.
On the right side, you have literally all the buttons, and there’s a ton of them: the volume rocker, the recessed power button, which doubles as a fingerprint reader, a small configurable button (which by default starts the camera in Video mode), and a shutter release with half-press function (for focusing the camera).
The Sony Xperia PRO-I has an excellent dust and water resistance rating, IP68, making it able to withstand being submerged at up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) for 30 minutes. Since professionals should never have fun, the smartphone only comes in black, there are no other colors available. If you’re a vlogger, Sony has some excellent accessories that turn the Sony Xperia PRO-I into the perfect tool for you: a grip with remote controls and a Vlog Monitor that attaches to the back of the smartphone and has a microphone mounting slot.
The Sony Xperia PRO-I looks and feels sturdy, and its unusual format, with a 21:9 screen, makes it easy to handle. The built quality is great, the materials used are perfect for heavy usage, and overall, the smartphone has a very distinctive look.
The Sony Xperia PRO-I is a flagship product and the specs fully confirm it. The device is powered by a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 888 chipset with an Adreno 660 GPU. It has 12 GB of RAM and a hefty 512 GB storage. The system software occupies roughly 21 GB, with other applications taking another 10 GB.
The screen is a 4K (1644 x 3840 pixels) OLED, capable of 120 fps. It has a diagonal of 6.5 inches and an amazing 643 ppi density. With HDR support and a maximum brightness of roughly 650 nits, it should provide quite the viewing experience, but I will test that in the next section.
The main components of the Sony Xperia PRO-I are, of course, the cameras. As I mentioned before, the PRO-I has three cameras for imaging (plus one for depth measurements) on the back and a selfie camera in front. Here are some specs for them:
- The main camera has a 12MP resolution, with an f/2 or f/4, 24mm equivalent wide lens. Thanks to its huge 1-inch type sensor, it has a pixel size of 2.4 µm, and it uses phase-detection autofocus (PDAF). It’s also optically stabilized.
- The second camera uses a 12MP sensor and a f/2.2 ultrawide fixed focus lens. It has a FOV of 124°.
- The telephoto camera is also a 12MP with PDAF and OIS, and it has an aperture of f/2.4 and a 50mm focal length equivalent. It only provides a modest 2.1x zoom.
- The front camera has 8MP, an aperture of f/2.0, and a focal length of 24mm.
The rear cameras are enhanced by Zeiss lens and make use of the 0.3MP TOF camera for depth measurements. The main camera can shoot at up to 120 fps in 4K and 240 fps in 1080p mode.
The battery is a decent 4,500 mAh unit. The Snapdragon 888 is a very powerful and at times power-hungry chipset, so it remains to be seen how fast it drains the battery. The included fast charger should charge the battery to 50% in 30 minutes. I tested both the discharging and charging times and made a charging graph for your convenience on the next page, so be sure to check it out.
Connectivity is great, with Wi-Fi 6 support, Bluetooth 5.2, GPS, USB-C 3.2, and NFC. One thing to note is that the dual-SIM tray can also be used for external storage (microSDXC). And you don’t even have to carry a pin with you, as the tray can be removed using your nail. This is really useful if you need to frequently swap storage cards.
The price of the Sony Xperia PRO-I is not for the faint of heart. Without the accessories, the smartphone costs a whopping 1,800 USD (at the time of the review). For a complete list of technical specifications, as well as the current price, visit the product webpage: Xperia PRO-I Smartphone.
Next, I get to take this bad boy for a test, both in benchmarks and in real life. On the next page, I’ll tell you more about its software and point out some of its qualities and flaws. Read on!