There have been smartphones with stratospheric price tags before, but usually, something is special about them. Phones like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and the Huawei Mate X are anywhere from $2,000 to $2,600, but those were first-gen foldable smartphones with brand-new display technology. Sony’s latest entry into the smartphone market, the Sony Xperia Pro, is a boring, old slab phone that seems utterly forgettable until you look at the price: an astounding $2,500, or the price of three brand-new, $800 Samsung Galaxy S21s. Sony has really outdone itself.
The Xperia Pro, Sony’s first smartphone with 5G in the US, is launching today for $2,499.99. Sony is targeting the device at professional users, who it hopes will use its HDMI input to turn the phone into an external camera monitor and its 5G connectivity to quickly upload or live-stream footage. Sony says it currently has no plans to release the Xperia Pro in Europe.
Xperia Pro Hardware
Outside of its HDMI input and US 5G support, the Xperia Pro’s hardware is very similar to last year’s Xperia 1 II (which shipped with 5G support in Europe but was limited to 4G LTE in the US). That means it’s powered by a Snapdragon 865 processor with a 4,000mAh battery, and around the back, there are the same 12-megapixel wide, telephoto, and ultrawide cameras. The Xperia Pro also includes a tall 6.5-inch 21:9 aspect ratio OLED display, which Sony is once again describing as 4K but actually has a sub-4K resolution of 3840 x 1644.
At $1,200, the Xperia 1 II was already an expensive smartphone, and the Xperia Pro is over double its price. But Sony argues its 5G support and HDMI input could be incredibly useful to professional users.
Let’s start with the HDMI input, which is located on the bottom of the phone where the Xperia 1 II’s USB-C port. (The Xperia Pro’s USB-C port is still on the bottom of the device, but it’s shifted to the left.) Sony says it’s capable of taking up to a 4K 60fps HDR video stream and should work with any cameras that have an HDMI output.
In practice, what this means is that you can connect the Xperia Pro to a camera’s HDMI output, for example, and use its bigger screen to get a clearer view of whatever’s being filmed or photographed. You can pinch to zoom into the image displayed on the screen or overlay gridlines to help with framing.
Where this functionality gets especially interesting is with the Xperia Pro’s 5G connectivity, which enables it to act as a live-streaming link for your camera in addition to being an external monitor. The Xperia Pro can stream footage from its HDMI input to YouTube directly, and it supports StreamLabs and StreamYard for streaming to other platforms like Twitch and Facebook Live.
The phone supports both Sub-6GHz and mmWave 5G, and Sony claims that it has a unique four-way mmWave antenna array to maximize reception. There’s also a built-in network visualizer app that can be assigned to its shortcut key to help you find the best position to get a signal. Hopefully Sony’s software and hardware are enough to mitigate mmWave’s problems with limited coverage.
The Xperia 5 II brought support for USB-C tethering to the Sony A7SIII for speedy photo file transfers to a file transfer protocol server. The Xperia Pro inherits the same ability. But with the addition of 5G, you could have even faster speeds — in theory.
The crazy expensive price proves that it’s only for content creators
Ever since Sony started teasing the Xperia Pro early last year, Sony has emphasized that it’s a device for professional users, and its $2,499.99 price tag makes this more obvious than ever. When asked why they haven’t released a 5G device aimed at consumers in the US, they told us that they’re waiting for the technology to be more broadly implemented by carriers. Until then, Sony says it’s focusing on professional users who it thinks can get more use out of it.