Presentation and unpacking
When Sony announced the Xperia Pro, it made sure the focus was on the user of this device: the professionals in the field. Sony doesn’t even want to designate the Xperia Pro as a phone, but as a tool, as evidenced by phrases like “Learn more about XQAQ62/B” on the official website.
The Xperia Pro is focused on streaming 5G mmWave content from a professional-grade Sony camera, which is enabled by the Xperia Pro’s unique feature – the HDMI micro port.
But before we get into the technical details, let’s put some context. The Sony Xperia Pro costs $2,500 (JPY 250,000) and is exclusively available in the U.S. and Japan. With this price in mind, the unpacking experience is disappointing – you get an 18W charger and a USB cable – no case, not even the HDMI cable required to connect to a camera.
The exterior of the Xperia Pro looks like a hybrid phone-camera. You get the 21:9 4K HDR OLED display feature for which the Xperia 1 range is known, packed in a textured plastic body that’s a far cry from today’s smooth-looking Xperia smartphones.
The right side of the Xperia Pro is the command center with a two-level shutter button, a custom key that can be mapped to open any app, a capacitive fingerprint scanner, and a volume toggle. There’s a SIM and microSD card slot on the left of the Xperia Pro, a 3.5mm headphone jack at the top, and the very large micro HDMI port in the center at the bottom, pushing the USB-C port to the side.
Given the exorbitant price, one might think that the Xperia Pro is an Xperia 1 III with a plastic case and an HDMI port, but you would be wrong. This is a 2020 Xperia 1 II, complete with a Snapdragon 865 chipset, a 4,000 mAh battery and a triple 12 MP camera for a 0.5x-1x-3x zoom.
The Xperia Pro is an Xperia 1 II with an HDMI and no wireless charging
That’s a shame, because for $2,500, we’d expect the Xperia 1 III to be a model, with a Snapdragon 888, a larger 4,500 mAh battery and the more complex triple camera with a 3x-4.4x 70mm-105mm variable focal length telephoto lens.
Who is this Pro phone for?
The plastic exterior is not an aesthetic choice, but practical. It allows the Xperia Pro’s four beamforming 5G antennas to provide a stronger 5G signal at 360 degrees and that 5G is the fastest mmWave, not the less than 6 GHz variety. The choice of materials, however, means that there is no wireless charging on the Xperia Pro.
The Xperia Pro’s micro HDMI port is capable of delivering video up to 3840×2160 60p in 4:2:2 8-bit color, which is a drop from the full-size HDMI on, say, a Sony A7S III mirrorless camera, which supports 4:2:2 10-bit depth.
We asked a few professionals in the video industry what they thought of the HDMI mic and they said it wasn’t the most reliable choice, being easy to disconnect if you hit the camera or external monitor it’s connected to.
A full-size HDMI port would clearly have been the best choice, but it’s clear that putting it inside a phone isn’t feasible.
So what unlocks the micro HDMI port for the Xperia Pro? In short, it allows the phone to connect to a dedicated camera with an HDMI port. From there, the Xperia Pro can serve as an external monitor, field image streaming system, or streaming device, all via the phone’s built-in connectivity options.
You will need to buy a few items to use the Xperia Pro as an external monitor for your camera. A phone stand, an HDMI mic to any HDMI cable your camera uses, and optionally a cage for the camera, to attach everything.
We connected the Xperia Pro to a Sony A7S III – Sony’s state-of-the-art mirrorless camera for video. Sony has created a special external monitor app for the Xperia Pro, which, when connecting with the camera, displays a live stream from the camera viewfinder.
However, the application is very limited. You can’t interact with the camera through the phone, just zoom in on everything you see, enable overlay features like the third-party rule, and see your shooting settings. There is no additional control, there are no advanced features like false colors, waveforms and no external recording capability.
All in all, you can have more or less the same features with any good external monitor or even your regular Xperia phone through Sony’s Imaging Edge Mobile app.
Using the Sony Xperia Pro as a monitor for a camera
So what does the Sony Xperia Pro do that an external monitor can’t do? It can stream the stream from the camera to an app like Twitch or YouTube, in theory. However, Sony has not created an app for this, so you are left to your own. You need to install an application like Streamlabs and configure everything. And even after that, you’re basically streaming the content from the Xperia Pro’s screen and not from a video stream directly from the camera.
The Xperia Pro’s OLED panel is in 4K, but being 21:9 means you have to either shoot a 21:9 video from your camera or adjust black bars, as 16:9 is not as wide as 21:9. And even then, you’re stuck with everything your camera shows, like audio levels or third rule, or a timer, ISO, or shutter speed. These remain on the camera screen during video recording – the video itself doesn’t have them but you’re streaming your camera screen and not the video itself, remember.
All this could have been technically solved if Sony had created an app for streaming, but it’s not.
The other thing that the Xperia Pro can do, and it’s something that Sony has an app to transfer photos from your camera directly to an FTP server – convenient for sports shooters or events. But this is something you can do with any other phone, no HDMI required.
The Sony Xperia Pro is not so bad. Compared to an external monitor, it has a battery that lasts longer and can theoretically charge the camera if it is plugged into the USB-C port of it simultaneously. Its screen is generally of better quality than most monitors, although it struggles to be seen in bright conditions.
But when we get to the price of $2,500, we inevitably compare the Sony Xperia Pro to a quality external monitor or even a monitor and recorder. A monitor costs as little as $299 or normally about $599, while the recorder costs about $1,499. Both need a separate battery, but both are real Pro tools for use with a camera, with advanced camera control, additional features such as waveforms, focus, ProRes RAW video capture up to 8k with superior quality. therefore…
Is the Xperia Pro worth it?
The short answer is no. We can’t justify a phone with 2020 hardware and mediocre retail packaging, even at half price – HDMI or not HDMI.
You could argue the theoretical argument that highly specialized users, such as professionals streaming videos or photos in a 5G-equipped stadium or someone working for a broadcaster, could technically use the Xperia Pro for its 5G streaming capabilities.
But we bet these people are using increasingly specialized equipment like a professional Streamer & Recorder, encoder, mixer, etc., which cost well over $2,500. But at least they offer unrestricted streaming capabilities and control.
The Sony Xperia Pro is a good phone that boasts. A proof of concept, if you will. But it looks more like a vague argument for something that no one asked for, than a product that you’re likely to use in the real world.