Ruggedized smartphones aren’t everyone’s cup of tea but there is a market for them and a fairly large one at that. Simply put there are just plenty of consumers who really have need for device that will be capable of standing up to more than the average amount of abuse that your standard smartphone will take on a day to day basis. Nomu is a brand that while not large, and certainly not well-known in many larger markets, produces phones that fit into the rugged smartphone category. A device like the Nomu S30 is one such device which we covered before, and now we’ve been able to spend some time with the Nomu S30 Mini, a smaller version of the S30 that is a little more pocketable for those who prefer a device that comes in a smaller form factor. For the most part the S30 Mini is a lot like the S30, but there are obvious differences, the screen size and overall phone size being a couple of them. Let’s take a closer look at the S30 Mini and see how it stacks up.
As mentioned, there are some differences between the Nomu S30 Mini and the Nomu S30. The obvious difference is the size. The S30 Mini comes with a 4.7-inch screen, which is quite a bit smaller than the 5.5-inches on the S30, but the resolution is another difference that some may not notice. The S30 Mini comes with an HD display instead of Full HD, but that shouldn’t be a major issue given the size of the display. When it comes to the cameras, Nomu did step things down a bit here too, as the front-facing camera is a 2-megapixel sensor being used while the rear-facing camera is an 8-megapixel sensor.
On the inside, the S30 Mini is working with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage so it’s not underpowered but there is one less GB of RAM than the S30 and half of the storage amount. The battery gets bumped down to just 3,000mAh from 5,000mAh, and the processor is MediaTek 6737T CPU, which is a 1.5GHz quad-core CPU. The phone is running on Android 7.0 Nougat, though you might not know when you look at some of the icons as the messaging icon is a bit dated as are the icons for some of the other apps. The icons in the status bar however, as well as the app drawer design, the design of the settings menu, and the design of the quick settings menu all look like they should for a phone running on what is mostly stock Android with little adjustment. The S30 Mini uses a micro USB port for charging, it has a 3.5mm audio port for plugging in headphones, and it supports expandable storage for extra room if the 32GB isn’t enough up to an additional 64GB via the microSD card slot. It’s also using Corning Gorilla Glass on the display for protection and it’s IP68 certified against dust and water so a little spill or some rain, dirt, or sand shouldn’t damage the device and make it unusable.
In The Box
There’s not a lot going on in the packaging here as you get just the essentials. It seems more often than not now, mobile device brands are beginning to package their smartphones with a little something extra, and Chinese smartphone makers have been adding in more than just the essentials for the last couple of years or more. That isn’t true with the Nomu S30 Mini, as you get just the phone, charger, and a pre-installed screen protector. Then again, many phones don’t even come with the screen protector so you might as well look at this as a win.
Hardware & Design
Nomu has kept things really the same here in terms of design between the larger S30 and the S30 Mini. Again though, there are some differences. For example, the S30 Mini’s frame is a different color and has more of a dark gunmetal look to it while the S30 is more of a silver. The Nomu S30 Mini has a metal frame save for the top and bottom parts of it, which are a soft-touch plastic with a rubberized feel for grip and shock resistance that wrap around the corners, and is for both the top and bottom portions of the phone. A large Nomu logo sits in the bottom bezel of the display, with the charging port and audio port sitting in the top edge, while the phone’s only speaker sits on the bottom edge.
The buttons are a bit different on the S30 Mini than they are on the S30, so this is another area where Nomu decided to make some appearance adjustments. Instead of having the power button and volume buttons on the same side, the volume up and down buttons are on the right side of the frame while the power button is on the left side. The power button is also not round, and instead is a shorter version of the volume up and down buttons. If you flip the phone over to the back you can see that Nomu gave the phone this carbon fiber look for the battery cover, and it has a sort of textured feel to it so it kind of helps with grip but not by a lot, at least in my experience as this material felt more slick to me than grippy. Despite this though I never once had any issues with dropping the phone, and even if I did, the device is designed to be a little more rugged so it would have likely been fine if it was dropped or knocked off a table from normal height. Overall the design is a little chunky or bulky but this is the nature of durable phones, and to the S30 Mini’s credit it’s at least easier to fit inside a pants pocket. The phone does also have some pretty big bezels which might be the most unfortunate part about the design, but this won’t bother everyone and may not matter to many users who are looking at devices like this one in particular.
For an HD resolution the screen on the Nomu S30 Mini actually looks pretty decent. It might not be the best resolution out there for any smartphone but the color contrasts are bright and graphics don’t look choppy and colors don’t look over saturated or too muted. Viewing angles of the screen are also pretty good so you won’t have to literally look directly at the display from a straight on point of view all of the time. When it comes to brightness the display pulls through nicely, though it does not get as bright as I would have expected it to when turning the slider on the brightness bar all the way up to its maximum levels. This might be the only downside or complaint I have about the display as the brightness could be an issue in situations where it’s much more sunny and the direct sunlight could make it hard to see the display without a glare.
Brightness aside the rest of the screen is decent and is likely to be more than adequate for the average user. Screen responsiveness was good too and I didn’t notice any issues with the screen not responding to touch. There is a bit of lag in the screen relaying my touch to the system when typing in my PIN to unlock the device, but this seemed to be the only area where the responsiveness was a tad bit slow. That being said the display is not necessarily the strong point of the Nomus S30 Mini but it’s not a downfall really either. It’s just an ok part of the device, no more and no less.
The S30 Mini might only have a quad-core processor inside but the 3GB of RAM does help to keep things running pretty smoothly for the most part. Performance with the S30 Mini really wasn’t too bad and while you might not be playing the most graphically demanding games on this phone, it should handle playing some games without much of a problem and it will do so without getting overheated or giving you much if any lag. For the performance part of this review we played Capcom’s latest release, Puzzle Fighter, which isn’t a 3D high-action game with a ton of special effects, but there are still some special effects and the characters are made up of 3D models, and the graphics do get a little intensive when the fighters use their special moves. Suffice it say you’ll be able to play games like this pretty easily, and it even held up well enough when playing an action RPG like Naruto X Boruto which has more anime-like visuals and plenty more eye candy. That said, the visuals do show up a little more choppy or less sharp, so as long as you’re ok with things looking less smooth in terms of image quality, the S30 Mini will be able to play games. When it comes to multitasking for things like emailing, browsing the web, sending messages and browsing social media, the phone did ok here to so unless you’re going to be trying to use this to showcase power point presentations or have 30 apps open and running at once you shouldn’t run into any issues with performance during the day to day use.
The Nomu S30 Mini does have a smaller battery than the bigger S30, and for good reason as a 5,000mAh battery probably wasn't possible to fit into a smaller device. You would also think that a 3,000mAh battery would be more than enough for a phone like this one, but it actually performed less than ideal and is not what we would have expected when using this device. On average I was able to get maybe 5 to 6 hours of screen-on time with it and for a lower-powered processor and a smaller display with a lower resolution the amount of time you do get from the S30 Mini on a single charge just felt a little bit short to me. All that said the device shouldn’t have trouble getting you through the work day, though you may have to plug it once or so during the day if you’re a heavy user and you will definitely need to be charging it every single night if you want to use it the next day.
Now since the battery life wasn’t too great and the performance could have been a little bit better, you might think that you’d be in for some really poor audio quality especially since the phone has only one speaker, but on the contrary I found the speaker on the S30 Mini to be decent. It does get pretty loud and though it does sound a bit tinny at times, it never ended sounding muffled or blown out. My only issue with the speaker is the placement, which did make it impossible not to cover up even a little bit. Covering the speaker completely is avoidable if you simply don’t rest the inside of your palm directly against the body of the phone, and this makes it so you’re almost cupping the phone in such a way that the audio is almost amplified a little, and even without doing this if you’re just listening to streaming music while the phone is sitting on your desk, then you might be pleasantly surprised.
The specifications on the Nomu S30 Mini are adequate and they do provide a decent experience for the category of device that it sits in, but this isn’t to say that the phone is a powerhouse in its category either. It does end up with some lower scores in the benchmark tests but not so much that the device should be avoided. It’s simply average, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s also important to remember that the benchmarks are not indicative of what the performance will be like in a day to day situation as everyone will use their devices differently. We ran the Nomu S30 mini through AnTuTu, Geekbench 4, and 3DMark to test out the performance of various aspects, and if you’re interested you can check out the screenshots of the results from each test in the gallery of images just below.
Phone Calls & Network
This isn’t an international phone so you likely won’t be able to use the S30 Mini in the U.S. due to a lack of support for most of if not all U.S.-based cellular network frequencies. This means it might not be a good fit for you if you live in the U.S. and are wanting something along the lines of what the S30 Mini offers. If however the phone is going to be used for travel and you want something that will be a tad more durable while you’re away from home, then the supported network frequencies are listed just below.
4G FDD-LTE: 800/900/1800/2100/2600
4G TDD-LTE: Bands 38, 39, 40, and 41
This is an entirely stock Android device, or just about as there are virtually no unique or special qualities about the phone from a software standpoint. It doesn’t come with any special features like you would find on devices from Huawei, Xiaomi, Meizu, or even Vivo. This isn’t a bad thing for everyone as the stock software experience can be the simplest for some users, especially if they’re already familiar with the way that style of user interface looks from another device. In that type of scenario the software would ensure a smooth transition from phone to phone and the user wouldn’t have to relearn a bunch of stuff.
The downside is that those which want a little more from their phone might be disappointed in Nomu’s decision to stick with a bare bones software experience before launching the phone. If you happen to be one of those types of users then there isn’t much to look at here. That said there are some things about the software that were a nice touch. Like the fact that it is stock, as mentioned above, which will make things easier to find and interact with from the get-go. It’s also got this feature called DuraSpeed which when enabled, is meant to restrict the background applications that are running so that the app you’re currently running and interacting with in an open state is boosted to perform better. This does potentially affect some notifications of those apps but it’s a small price to pay if you want the best performance for the app’s you use in the foreground. The device also has MiraVision which lets you adjust the display color a little. Here there are options to change it from the standard default setting to vivid, or to custom if you want to adjust the values yourself. Of course, since this is Android Nougat the device also comes with things like Google Assistant so you can use things hands-free more often, and that’s always a good thing.
The Camera experience here is not that great, unfortunately, and it isn’t just because the camera doesn’t take the best photos. The camera software UI is an extremely minimal offering with just regular old photo mode and panorama mode, and a small HDR button in the top right corner to help pull more contrast out of certain photos depending on the lighting and what it is you’re taking a picture of. You do also have options for a few filters you can have placed over your images before taking them, though this is also something which you will find in a lot of different phones coming out of China.
Camera app aside, the image quality is just not good. Pictures more times than not looked too grainy, and the images always felt either overexposed or underexposed, leaving parts of the image either much too bright or not bright enough. Even in the best lighting conditions the images were leaving something to be desired, so it’s nice that the camera is there but you shouldn’t buy this phone for the camera capabilities because they’re just not there. It’s nice to have in a pinch, but if a really good quality smartphone camera is something you’re looking for in your next device, this just doesn’t have it to offer. Perhaps some things could be improved in the software side of things, but it also comes down to actual hardware and the S30 Mini just doesn’t have the best hardware for the job.
Pretty good sound quality
IP68 rated and has waterproof charging port
Stock Android feel to the UI
Display wasn’t bad
Battery life could have and should have been better
Camera experience was poor from the app to the quality of the images
No USB Type-C
Doesn’t really work with U.S. networks
Nomu may not put out the best of the best in the smartphone world, but it’s easy to forget that brands like Nomu aren’t always trying to reach the market of consumers which wants high-end devices with top-tier specs, features, and price. It’s trying to cater to the budget consumer. The consumer which wants some decent specs but may be more concerned with having a device that is not only not going to cost them an arm and a leg, but also come with durable build so that if an accident happens and the device is dropped it likely won’t have to be replaced.
Should you buy the Nomu S30 Mini?
That depends on what you want and need from a phone. This isn’t a device which is going to work with the U.S. networks unfortunately, so if you need something for a daily driver within the region then you’ll be out of luck. If you do need one for travel, or a region where the phone network frequencies are supported, then this isn’t a terrible option as it is rugged and has some other good qualities about it.