A dive computer, a personnel decompression computer, a decompression meter, or a mini watch/device, whatever you like to call it, this device is widely used by divers to measure time and depth and perform calculations for allowed time at depth, decompression times, and ascent rates. Dive computers increase safety and extend dive times.
Historically, dive computers were first introduced by two Italians - De Sanctis and Alinari in the year 1959.
A dive computer generally works on a real-time ambient pressure input mechanism to measure depth. Many dive computers provide additional information to the divers such as water temperature. You might find it hard to believe, but these mini dive computers are capable of re-calculating data based on the continuous changing positions of the divers.
These computers have numerous applications and are also used to calculate decompression schedules in various scientific and military operations. Not only this, dive computers also find a range of commercial usages as well. As a matter of fact, various innovative dive computers are also capable of calculating decompression for breathing gases like nitrox, oxygen, trimix, and heliox.
Keeping their growing popularity in mind, a lot of variants of dive computers are introduced in the market today. From wrist mounted computers to the ones which can be fitted to a console with the submersible pressure gauze – there is a range of choices you can choose from.
If you are new to the diving world, or have not used a dive computer before, you might now know how to use a diving computer. Well, this is what the next section is all about.
How to Use a Dive Computer
As stated, you might find dive computers a bit complex. However, they are very easy to operate. You just need to ensure that all the required parameters are carefully set before you dive, and you are good to go. Here is a quick guide to help you understand how these mini dive computers can be used effectively:
Algorithm settings could be different for different underwater computers. Thus, it is essential that you make yourself familiar with your device before you dive in the water. Various dive computers even allow you to customize the algorithm settings, and if your device allows you to do so, consider yourself as lucky.
You can choose between a conservative algorithm and a liberal algorithm. This function particularly helps you out when you need to match your computer’s calculations with your dive buddy’s computer.
This factor needs to be essentially set each time you are diving. To set this properly, it is highly recommended to consider the non-deco countdown basics.
The air and nitrox settings are present in most of the scuba diving computers. As a matter of fact, you can dive on air or 36 percent nitrox, or 32 percent nitrox. The best scuba dive computers available today have nitrox as their default settings that get activated immediately after 24 hours.
Thus, it is highly recommended to check your nitrox settings before going into waters to make sure that your cylinder and computer are on the same page.
Make sure that you make your audio or visual alarms a central part of your diving plan and especially if you are diving to an area with beautiful corals and fishes that might distract you easily.
It is highly recommended to program your own safety stop parameter. You can program it to the standard 3-5 minutes for a depth of 15-20 feet.
Deep stop parameter
There is still an ongoing debate if the deep stop is actually beneficial or not. While some experts support the idea, others are against it. Well, it is your choice. However, you can always to choose disable it as needed.
What Features to Look Out For?
Thankfully, a digital dive watch does not look complex today. Instead, they look more advanced and high-end when worn as a wrist watch. So, what essential features should you look for? Here are a few of them:
It goes without saying that a display screen is important as this is where you are going to get all the information. Make sure that you pay attention to its size and lettering, and also check if it is equipped with LED backlight.
You can go for a dive computer having a full dot matrix that uses small dots to make up a number or a character or the one that uses segments of lines for creating characters. Some watches have a combination of both.
In an OLED screen, the digits light up themselves and give you clear information. Sometimes they also make use of different colors so that you may easily differentiate between the information.
You may also choose to opt for a colorful LCD display so as to differentiate between data easily without straining your eyes.
It is essential that your dive computer comes with an appreciable memory so that you can review your dive logs on the go. Generally, most dive computers are easily capable of storing a dive history of around 15-20 days.
Alarms and battery
If you are a new entrant to the world of diving, it is highly recommended to go for a dive computer with an alarm feature so that it can alert you at maximum dive limits. The best alarms are both visual and audible, and are easily noticed in the water.
Also, make sure that your device is powered up by user-changeable batteries such that you don’t have to visit the technician every time the batteries run out of charge.
Again, this is an important parameter you must pay attention to. Double check if your chosen dive computer is easy to navigate and allows you to operate flawlessly even when you are diving under water. You might also like to choose a dive computer with compass or GPS.
Remember that you’ll have to wear this dive computer in the water for hours at a time. Make sure the drag won’t be enough to discomfort you, and make sure the weight and size are comfortable.
Comparison of 3 Best Diving Computers
There are a range of wrist mounted computers available today. Oceanic Geo 2.0 is a great mid-range wrist computer and is a perfect pick for beginners, while the Mares Puck Pro is a basic and a reliable wrist watch.
On the other hand, the Suunto Zoop Novo watch has been designed for recreational divers as it is strong and long lasting. So which one should you choose?
Well, we will help you make a well-informed decision by comparing the best rated dive computers in this section. Let’s get started.
Oceanic Geo 2.0
Mares Puck Pro
It has a perfectly designed screen along with a large numerical display. The screen displays all the information including depth, NDL, BT, and nitrogen loading bar graph clearly and perfectly.
Oceanic Geo 2.0 supports air along with two programmable nitrox gas mixes, up to 100% oxygen. It has 4 operating modes: watch, norm (for air and nitrox), gauze (with run and timer), and a diving mode.
The navigation is easier in Oceanic Geo 2.0 due to the presence of a step back system. Further, the whole interface is user-friendly and it won’t take much time for you to get accustomed to the UI.
Oceanic Geo 2.0 is equipped with some amazing features. It has a safety stop that triggers itself after 3 minutes. The watch is powered by a Buhlmann ZHL-16c algorithm that is based on PZ+ or DSAT.
Additionally, the computer is altitude adjustable up to 3,001 feet to 14,000 feet. Also, the device can display depths up to 100 meters (330 feet) below water.
Oceanic Geo 2.0 is perfect for night diving due to the presence of powerful and adjustable backlight. It is a perfect watch/dive computer for a diver who wants to upgrade from a basic dive computer or a beginner with a higher budget.
Oceanic Geo 2.0 dive watch can store 24 dive logs. The dive computer is PC compatible and the data stored can be easily transferred to the desktop with a USB cable. Further, it also allows you to reference your last dive on the go.
On the same lines, Suunto Zoop Novo would not disappoint you at all! It is solidly built and has a robust housing.
The Zoop Novo is a water activated watch and gets activated as soon as it goes deeper than 1 ½ feet. The dive mode has to be turned on before you start diving into water. On switching to the dive mode the battery level is displayed on the screen and to conserve the battery, it automatically switches to idle mode within 3 minutes.
Similarly, Suunto Zoop Novo is the best dive computer for beginners and comes with an easy-to-follow navigation, however, the only downside being that it doesn’t have a step back system which makes navigating back a bit time-consuming.
On the other hand, Suunto Zoop Novo has some exciting features as well. It consists of an adjustable alarm. Further, like the above two products, this device is altitude adjustable and temporarily changes the equilibrium level of nitrogen in the body when you travel to higher elevations.
The device also calculates shorter no-decompression times when you are at higher altitudes and is geared up by RGBM (Reduced Gradient Bubble Model) algorithm.
The dive planner installed in the device is on the front face of the computer gives you an option to adjust the depth levels. It works on Suunto DM5 software that is available for free on the Suunto’s website.
On the other hand, the Suunto Zoop Novo device is an entry level device which has an intuitive user interface and is a perfect dive computer for new divers.
On the other hand, the Suunto Zoop Novo device has a memory capacity of 50 hours and allows you to adjust the time, date and temperature on the go. Further, the device comes with a battery life of 18-24 months for 100 dives/year and is powered up by standard 3 volt CR2450. Additionally, the device is PC compatible like all the others on this list.
Similarly, the display provided by Mares Puck Pro is large, has an easy to read screen along with backlight making it perfect to dive in darker areas. Further, the device flaunts a great construction as it is made up of superior quality rubber and strong face bezel.
On the other hand, Mares Puck Pro watch has three function modes: air, nitrox and the bottom line.
Talking about Mares Puck Pro, all the buttons of the device can be operated by a single button design. A large face button gives you a chance to operate the computer in all the conditions even if you are wearing thick gloves.
Mares Puck also has a range of features to offer. It can be used in imperial/metric units, fresh/sea-water settings, and more. Further, this watch allows you to set audible alarms and control ascents.
Additionally, like Oceanic, this device is altitude adjustable as well and is also equipped with ascent rate indicators. The device makes use of Mares-Wienke RGBM (Reduced Gradient Bubbles Model) algorithm. Other features of the watch include the date and temperature settings.
As for the Mares Puck Pro, it is a good watch available at affordable prices and is perfect for people who have a tight budget.
The Mares Puck Pro allows you to store data up to 35 hours. Like the Oceanic dive computer, this device is PC compatible as well and you can move all your data to your desktop or laptop with the help of USB cable. Further, it is powered up by a 3 volt, CR2450 that is user replaceable.
Exploring the world under water is one of the most exciting things one can do. It is an addicting and rewarding experience. But in order to have such an experience, it is necessary to keep yourself equipped with safety devices, and one of them is a dive computer which would keep you updated with depth, time and other critical things below water.
Although all the above-mentioned dive watches are outstanding and offer high value for your money, if our opinion is concerned, we would recommend going for Mares Puck Pro Wrist Watch. It is of good quality, convenient to use, and is one of the best recreational dive computers suitable for all divers, professional and newbies alike.
This watch is a perfect pick for people looking to explore different functionalities and who want an appreciable control over their ascent. All in all, it is the best budget dive computer.
So, what are your views on this? Which is your best pick? Do let us know in the comments below.