Nomu S30 review: The rugged phone that doesn’t compromise power for durability

The S30 is Nomu's flagship Android phone, a handset that matches decent specifications with a tough titanium alloy shell and rubber protection at the corners. It's waterproof, shockproof, dustproof and it can stand up to extreme temperatures, but is it for you? Also see: Best Chinese phones

UK price and availability

The Nomu S30 is a Chinese phone that you can purchase through Chinese sites such as GearBest, where it costs £201.42 ($251.24) in Black, as per our review model. If you're happy to get the Silver version, this is a little cheaper at £184.38 ($229.99).

You should note that upon arrival in the UK you may be asked to pay import duty, which is calculated at 20 percent of the value on the shipping paperwork plus an admin fee of around £11. Also know that your rights when buying goods in China differ to when you are buying products in Europe. You can read more in our article on buying grey-market tech.

How tough is the Nomu S30?

The Nomu S30 is IP68 rated, which technically means it can withstand being submerged in up to 1.5m of water for up to 30 minutes. However, the company claims it can actually handle up to 5m of water for up to two hours, and that you can take photos and videos underwater or use it with wet fingers (there's also a glove mode). 

In the video below you can see that the Nomu S30 survived our sink test.

However, we found it impossible to interact with the screen while it was wet, and upon close inspection we found droplets of water - not enough to cause damage but still concerning - under the back panel strip that conceals the two SIM and microSD card slots.

Although it's a relatively tight fit, there is no rubber seal here to keep out the water. That's also true of the Micro-USB charging port at the phone's bottom, which uses a small rubber flap to keep things dry rather than the more attractive and less fiddly approach of waterproof phones such as the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S7. The latter, for example, lines the inside of the charging port with rubber and coats the metal with an anti-corrosive substance. Also see: Best waterproof phones

If Nomu really wants its S30 to be seen as a waterproof camera phone it should consider adding a dedicated camera button, since interacting with the touchscreen is impossible without first drying it.

We like the addition of the waterproof speaker, which is found on the bottom edge and won't fire sound into a desk or the palm of your hand when placed down screen-up. This speaker is pretty loud at the best of times, with Nomu specifying the NXP SmartPA audio chip. 

As well as waterproof the Nomu S30 is shockproof. As you'll witness from the below test, in which we launched it twice across our patio, the resulting damage was merely superficial, with a few scrapes on the carbon-fibre-effect rear and some dents and scuffs on the rubber corners and plastic rim around the screen edges.

The screen itself, though, was absolutely fine. This is thanks to Gorilla Glass 4 screen protection, which is pretty tough but not unbreakable. Though the raised plastic rim running the circumference of the screen glass will protect it when dropped on to a flat surface, you will only need to drop it to on a stone or the corner of something hard to cause it damage.

Following the drop test we found everything worked exactly as it did before, so the Nomu S30 stands up as a rugged phone.

You can see the damage in more detail in the images below.

Nomu S30 damage

Nomu S30 damage

Design and build

It seemed a real shame to have to throw down the Nomu S30 and attempt to cause it damage, because as rugged phones go it's really not bad looking. It has the same angular rubber corners and chunky body as other tough phones, but the front is all glass and there is none of the garish coloured rubber adorning its exterior. Also see: Best phones 2017

In fact, the black carbon-fibre-effect rear is actually quite stylish, and the rubber is found only at the corners. The titanium-alloy frame is also visible from the sides, held together with small metal screws, which together give it a more premium look than most rugged devices.

Nomu S30

The button shown in the image above caused us some confusion at first. The Nomu S30 has a huge battery inside - rated at 5,000mAh - but in our tests we found that when switched off for a few days it wasn't always brilliant at holding its charge. So when presented with a phone that - unknown to you - has a flat battery, plus what looks to be a volume rocker and two other buttons, it can be difficult to work out how to turn it on!

For what it's worth the power button is the small circular button below the volume rocker. The other button, shown above, is an SOS button. The Nomu S30 can automatically call and send an emergency help text message to any contact you specify in the settings, though thankfully you'll need to press and hold the button a few seconds before this will work.

If you've no need for the SOS button it can also be used as a shortcut key to launch an app of your choice, though oddly pressing the button won't wake the screen. So although that app will be ready waiting for you, you'll need to unlock the phone before you can use it.

Given the SOS button, we're a little surprised to find such a weak flashlight. There's just a single-LED flash on the back of the Nomu S30, so even flashing in SOS mode it isn't going to be easily seen. See all phone reviews

LEDs aren't really the Nomu's thing, and you'll find there's no notification light either.

Nomu S30

Something missing from this phone is a fingerprint scanner. That's not at all unusual for a rugged phone, though increasingly it will be considered odd by many Android users. If you want to lock the screen you can do so via a pattern, PIN, password or use voice unlock.

So while the Nomu S30 is better-looking than most Android phones, it's a long way clear of the sexiest Android phones you can buy. There's no escaping the fact this phone is very large and very heavy, measuring 162x83x13.35mm and weighing 260g.

Part of the reason for the extra weight is the aforementioned huge battery, while the extreme size comes down to the 5.5in full-HD screen. This is a very large panel for a rugged phone - the more glass the more chance of them getting broken, of course. 

As you would expect there is a lot of space around the screen, helping to ensure any damage at the edges is kept away from the display. These bezels are even chunkier at the top and bottom, and not helped by the touch buttons under the display that could have so easily been placed on top of it. Worse, these buttons are overly sensitive, and we were forever accidentally pressing them.

Nomu S30

All that extra space adds up to a phone screen that's 5.5in on the diagonal sitting in a body that's 6.5in on the diagonal. As you can imagine you'll need big hands to manage this one, and we found nothing in the settings that could ease screen management - the Nomu S30 runs a near-vanilla version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Also see: Best phablets 2017

That the screen is so large is not necessarily a complaint, of course. Having a need for a tough smartphone does not automatically rule you out from enjoying luxuries such as videos and gaming that work better with more space in which to play, as as we'll discover in a moment core performance from the Nomu S30 is pretty good too.

Nomu has fitted a 5.5in Sharp IPS panel, which has a sharp full-HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. As we have come to expect from IPS the colours are very realistic and viewing angles strong. We also found the Nomu S30 sufficiently bright for use in all conditions, making that screen a definite point in its favour.

Our Nomu S30 review continues on the next page >>

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