Sony Xperia Pro-I review

GSMArena Team, 02 December 2021.

Design

It sure looks like no amateur, the Xperia Pro-I. A single colorway - classic black, a frame that's all about grip and controls, plus an all-but-forgotten safety feature, and then a matte back with tons of camera hardware along the center axis - this imaging pro has an understated 'I mean business' presence.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

The business side is the back - that's where the sort-of 1.0-inch primary camera is. You'll easily recognize it by its oversized ring, Sony made sure to make enough room for a 'Zeiss Tessar T*' branding, but oddly missed pointing out it can change the aperture. But it makes sense, in fact - pros don't brag.

Having said that, the Zeiss logo beside the camera in addition to that Tessar mention might be considered bragging, but we'll allow it.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Opposite the blue badge, there's an opening for a mic. You'll be using that one for vlogging on the rear camera unless you trick out the Pro-I with an external mic on top of your other vlogging accessories.

Below the main camera is the 3D ToF camera that helps with autofocus in the dark. Underneath that is the relatively modest 50mm-equivalent telephoto while the ultrawide is at the top. These 'secondary' cameras are raised up a bit from the back but not quite as much as the 1-inch star of the show.

    Sony Xperia Pro-I review

The back panel of the Xperia Pro-I is made of Gorilla Glass 6. The panel has a matte finish which has somewhat in-between properties - it's not the smudgefest of gloss panels, but it does pick up some fingerprints. It's not as slippery as other matte backs, so that's a partial win.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

You'll be getting plenty of grip on the sides anyway. The metal frame has a uniquely finished striped pattern that allows for a firm hold, and there's ample area to grab onto to begin with.

But if you've ever climbed a tower while holding a camera, you'll appreciate the Pro-I's lanyard eyelet, too - a strap around your wrist as an extra safety measure is never a bad idea when the alternative is a Pro-I split in half on the ground.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

It's on this same side that you'll find the card slot. As is the norm on Xperias, you pry the tray out with a fingernail, no eject pin required, and the tray's cover has a gasket to keep dust and water out - the Pro-I is IP68-rated.

You can use a couple of nano SIMs, but you can also swap out one of the SIMs for a microSD card if you need the extra gigs for all those videos you'll be recording - though the built-in 512GB storage sure sounds like plenty.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

The opposite side of the phone is more crowded. Bottom to top, we're starting with the shutter release button, and it's bigger than on mainstream Xperias like the 1 III. It does have the knurled texture that makes it recognizable by touch from the rest of the frame.

We're not entirely fans of this button, however. There's no remotely defined half-press position, and the button's placement is such that your index finger tends to rest on it when simply holding the phone, often accidentally engaging focus or launching the camera. Then again, perhaps that was the intention, and the button is placed precisely where it should be. Our point stands about the missing tactile feedback about the half-press.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

There's also the matter that in the touchscreen-everything reality we're living in, this button's actual usefulness is second to its sentimental purpose. On the other hand, it does allow for operating the camera with gloves.

A counterargument to that exists about five centimeters further up this same side of the phone. The power button can be used to launch the camera just as well (with a double press), and it, too, is 'always on' - it works with the display off, and it works when you're using the phone.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

This button also has the fingerprint reader embedded in it, a conventional capacitive unit. It works equally well with either the left index finger or the right thumb, and it's ever so slightly recessed in the frame, so accidental presses are slightly less likely. If you do happen to encounter those, however, and the resulting refusal of the phone to unlock with a fingerprint after what it perceives as too many failed attempts, there's no option in settings for the recognition to require a press on the button - it only works with a touch and that's it.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Above the power button is the volume rocker, which does its job with a satisfying click action.

That's not all the buttons, though. There's an extra key next to the shutter release, a small circular one. It can be set to launch any app on the Xperia Pro-I, but you can specifically use it to summon one of the video-centric apps, and it's set to Video Pro by default. It's not customizable within those apps, and that might be a functionality worth considering. For example, it could be used to switch to video mode and start recording all in one action when you're in stills mode in the basic app.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

The USB-C port on the bottom is not your average USB-C port - it also supports DisplayPort, which is how the Pro-I connects to the vlog monitor accessory. There's a mic around here, too.

Up top, there's another mic, as well as the 3.5mm audio jack. That can be used for headphones, but also for plugging in an external mic if you don't have the vlog monitor (which itself has a mic jack).

USB-C port and a mic on the bottom - Sony Xperia Pro-I review Another mic and the 3.5mm jack up top - Sony Xperia Pro-I review
USB-C port and a mic on the bottom • Another mic and the 3.5mm jack up top

The front of the Pro-I is your typical Xperia with the good and the bad that entails. The OLED display has the cinematic 21:9 aspect ratio, and it's cutout-free - the selfie camera is fitted in the top bezel. That also means it's the same small-ish 8MP unit that's best suited to video calls.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Another classic Sony touch is the front-facing stereo speakers - one below the display and another above it, also serving as earpiece. And that top bezel also still holds an RGB status/notification light, even in the age of always-on displays that can be a lot more informative than a green dot.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

The Pro-I measures 166x72x8.9mm, a millimeter extra in the X and Y directions when compared to the Xperia 1 III - the meatier frame here can take responsibility for those. It's certainly a tall phone, but it's a relatively narrow one, so you can easily reach across, though the top is obviously out of bounds unless you use both hands.

The 211-gram weight is about right for what it is; it's certainly not too heavy. If anything, the Pro-I is lighter than average - other camera-centric offerings like the Galaxy S21 Ultra and the Mi 11 Ultra are in the 230g ballpark.

Sony Xperia Pro-I review

Reader comments

  • Anonymous

Why can't they just use all the censor area for one great camera and omit those 2 useless instead. We DON'T need 3 compromise cameras.

  • Fact

Fact I been using sony phone for more than a decade.. quality/performance and uniqueness of all sony phone is awesome from T630>p900>p910>p990>p1i>X2>Z ultra>Xperia C5>Z3>XA2 ultra >Xperia 10 plus> Xperia III 2 I...

  • Stephane

GSM Arena Always the best, well balanced test. Congratulations. Hooe soon Sony Xperia 1 IV (or other name) news or release (May?) Do you think a new Pro will be release end 2022?