Sony Xperia Pro-I hands-on review

GSMArena Team, 26 October 2021.

Design, build, handling

The Sony Xperia Pro-I is not your typical dual-glass smartphone because of the unique frame design. Sony has made the metal frame thick and ribbed to provide a better grip. Indeed, this has to be one, if not the grippiest smartphone we've handled in years, and it should help for a hassle-free handling experience.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

Xperia Pro-I is water-resistant as any other recent Xperia flagship and has Gorilla Glass front and back panels. The screen is protected by the most recent Victus edition, and while we have no info on the rear sheet, we can confirm it's a Corning-made piece, too.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

The new Xperia Pro-I is as big as the Xperia 1 III; the sides are of similar thickness as well (8.3mm vs. 8.9mm), but this new model is 25g heavier, probably due to the new camera tech that's been crammed inside. Compared to the original Pro, the Pro-I is shorter, narrower and thinner, yet it features the same 6.5" 4K OLED, improved at that.

Sony Xperia Pro-I PreviewSony Xperia Pro-I next to the Xperia 1 III

So, the new Sony Xperia Pro-I borrows its screen from the Xperia 1 III and not the Xperia Pro - meaning it's a 6.5-inch OLED with 1B colors and 120Hz refresh rate. The panel fully supports BT.2020 color space and is intended to rise to the occasion when professionals need so.

One thing we love about Sony is its firm stand on the screen cutouts - the maker has never ever crippled a display with such thing, and it seems it never will. Unlike Apple, which now makes notched MacBooks! That's the reason you are seeing a bit thicker top and bottom screen bezel, but we'd say they do help a lot when using the phone in landscape orientation.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

Above the screen is where you'd find the ancient 8MP selfie snapper and one of the speakers, which doubles as an earpiece. There is also a notification LED light around the top left corner, yet another thing that appears only Sony is keeping alive these days.

Below the screen is the other stereo speaker - the Xperia Pro-I is one of the few phones on the market with truly symmetrical speakers.

Speaking about nearly extinct features, you will also find a 3.5mm audio jack, a hardware shutter key, and a hook for your favorite strap. And we do applaud Sony for including these things, which may seem absurd on an iPhone, but are of great help for professionals on the go.

The back of the Sony Xperia Pro-I is truly fascinating. It is covered with a flat Gorilla Glass sheet with a matte finish. The triple camera is here, along with all additional sensors and the flash, but if you've expected a Galaxy Ultra, iPhone or Oppo monstrosity, you are in for a surprise.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

There are three 12MP cameras here, each with different sensors. They are all centered at the back of the Xperia Pro-I. The large 1-Type Exmor RS BSI CMOS is in the middle, sitting between the 12MP ultrawide (top) and the 12MP telephoto (bottom) snappers. The TOF camera and the IR light source are visible just below the main camera.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

The LED flash is outside the large camera setup, near the top. And the white dot next to it is probably the color spectrum sensor. Finally, the last thing of interest is a monoaural microphone - it is used to enhance voices when shooting videos.

The cameras are jutting out a bit, but as we said - nothing as prominent as on other flagships and the wobbling on a desk isn't as annoying.

The sides of the Xperia Pro-I are interesting, too, as they are jam-packed with different features.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

The top of the Xperia has the 3.5mm jack and another microphone.

The primary microphone is at the bottom, next to the USB-C port.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

The left side has the hybrid-SIM tray and the hook eyelet.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

The right is overcrowded - here you can see the volume control, the power/lock key, a small round key intended for you to configure, and the two-step hardware shutter.

Speaking of the shutter key, it's been massively improved since the previous Xperia models. Its two-step mechanism is borrowed from the Sony RX100 models and is incredibly responsive with pleasant tactile responses. The button itself is also larger and is now textured. For the first time in a while, we actually found ourself using this shutter instead of the virtual one, which is exactly what Sony wanted to achieve.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

The fingerprint reader is on the power key itself, always-on and blazing-fast.

The round key can be configured by your liking - Sony imagines photographers will assign a specific camera app or pre-configured shooting mode and parameters. There are a ton of possibilities.

Sony is selling a dedicated leather case, which envelops the front edges and covers the whole back. It provides even more grip, but it also protects the screen from scratches and/or cracks if dropped.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

Sony will be also selling a cool accessory called the Vlog Monitor.

Sony Xperia Pro-I Preview

It's a stick with plenty of camera controls, a phone holder, a connection cable and a magnetic 3.5" LCD screen, which you can mount on the back of your phone and use the rear cameras for vlogging. It looks really nice and seems plenty useful for vloggers.

The Xperia Pro-I ticks all the right boxes for a keen photographer or cinematographer, at least as far as design is concerned. It is a durable phone with outstanding grip, thoughtful controls, and non-nonsense looks and shape. It is not a large slab either but strikes the right balance between screen size and comfort. Overall, we'd give it an excellent mark.

Reader comments

  • Anonymous
  • 20 Dec 2021
  • Mk3

The limitation lies in Qualcomm Spectra 580 ISP.

  • fromJapan
  • 13 Dec 2021
  • RLU

For a product with the catchphrase "a real camera in a smartphone," it seems half-baked. Sales points 1.0-inch image sensor with unparalleled descriptive power A shutter button that looks like a camera However, the 1.0-inch im...

  • Lukemo
  • 28 Nov 2021
  • thp

Asus ZenFone 8 Flip.