Can you dive without a dive computer? Sure you can. It’s not like diving was invented after the dive computer. You might not need one, but I can guarantee that you’re going to want one. This tool can help you navigate effectively underwater, calculate your decompression stops, give you basic facts about your surroundings, and a whole lot more.
Every dive computer will give you some sort of information. Is it really the information that you need though? I’m not the best diver in the world, but I do know a good dive computer from a bad one. That’s why I’ve put this chart together for you. It’s an easy way to find the best products from the good stuff.
What Is a Dive Computer and Why Do I Need One?
A dive computer is a mechanical device that will help you keep track of the data you’re able to create with a dive. It will give you some basic information, like how cold the water is, along with how deep your dive happens to be. There are also a bunch of important functions that can come with the modern dive computer that will help your dive be much safer.
If you ask me, the reason why you should own one is because you can set safety alarms and stops that automatically trigger. The best dive computers allow you to set a maximum depth alarm, along with a tank pressure alarm and a turn-around alarm.
Let’s face it: the beauty that exists under the sea can take your breath away. You just don’t want to be stuck in a situation where you have to hold your breath for a long time to survive. That’s why you should own a dive computer – if for no other reason. It gives you a better chance to come home at the end of the day.
What Do My Reviews Have to Say?
There’s a lot of good stuff going on with this dive computer. It offers air and nitrox modes. You can switch through the various features with just a simple button push. It also has audible alarms and large digits that are just as easy to read as the large-print edition of Reader’s Digest. The fit on the wrist is nice and secure and the backlit screen is easy enough to read, especially on a night dive. Audio and visual countdowns are also part of the safety stop. I was impressed and think you will be too.
- A single button Dive Computer makes it effortless to set Air, Nitrox and Gauge modes. Ideal for beginners in Scuba Diving. It is easy to use and easy to read all the information due to the high-definition screen that gives large numerical displays.
- FO2 adjustable between 21% and 50%. PO2 adjustable between 1.2 bar and 1.6 bar. CNS oxygen toxicity graphic indicator.Three levels of user adjustable conservatism. Visual and distinct, easy-to-hear audible alarms …
This is more of an entry-level dive computer, so let’s just get that straight going into this review. The screen is easy enough to read and the diver interface works reasonably well. There’s also a dive planner built into the watch-style computer as well. The layout of the screen does take some familiarization to get used to the layout, but you can also download dive data to your PC, so those two issues even themselves out. I personally like the 50-hour profile and the logbook memory. Give it a try and I think you’ll appreciate the experience.
- Operating modes: air, nitrox, gauge and freedom modes
- Programmable for 21% to 50% oxygen mixtures
- Imperial or metric programmable, decompression stop data, audible alarms
- Back Lite display, easy to read in low light & night conditions
- Maximum depth display: 330' (100 meters)
Mares Puck Pro
How can you not love a dive computer that’s named after hockey? It even kind of looks like a hockey puck when it’s on your wrist. So what I like about this dive computer is that you don’t have to deal with a rechargeable battery dying on you while you’re under the water. Just replace the batteries before your dive and you will have confidence in being good to go. It also has an ascent rate indicator and holds a log of up to 50 dives or 36 hours of data. All good stuff that you’ll want to check out.
I can never say this brand name right. It doesn’t matter though. The dual algorithm with deep stop is ridiculously beneficial. You also receive three operating modes, including a run timer and calculation tracking. You get three operating buttons instead of one and the placement is designed well so my fat fingers don’t accidentally hit the wrong button. You can also switch between 3 Nitrox mixes if you want. I have a little trouble exporting my data, but I also have a little trouble with all computers in general. Bottom line – it gets the job done.
- Air and Nitrox operating modes
- Water and manual activation
- Variable ascent rate indicator, User-replaceable battery with "Hot Swap"
- Customize the information presented during a dive with a press of a button
- Color-coded bar graphs, Safety stop count-down timer, 12 Dive Log Book
How much do I love this thing? Let me count the ways… It runs on a single AA battery. It is capable of air, nitrox, and trimix. The digital compass is tilt compensated and gives you three-axis outputs. You can integrate this dive computer with Bluetooth for communication to your computer, an iPad, or even an iPod. It offers understandable dive planning and decompression data. Upgrade today and you’ll love this maybe even more than I do.
- User Replaceable AA Battery
- Air, Nitrox, Trimix capable
- 3 axis, tilt compensated, digital compass
- Bluetooth Integration: Smart ready Bluetooth for communication with PC, Mac, iPod and iPad
- Dive Planning and Decompression
How to Find the Best Dive Computer?
In a word: memory. My memory isn’t what it used to be, but I still know a good product when I see one. The dive computers of today are great because they store dive data. Some of them can even store information about your past 10 dives. That way you can compare events and be able to respond to changing conditions more effectively.
But a good memory isn’t the only thing that a dive computer needs to become one of the best. Here are some of the other features you’ll want to look at.
Is it PC Compatible?
Being able to download your dive data into your computer can help you keep permanent records of each dive. You can also easily delete those dives you might want to forget about. Like that one time, out in the Bahamas… well, that’s a different story for a different day.
Does it Have a Compass?
A compass must be part of your diving gear. Under the surface of the water, it can be easy to lose your bearings. That’s even more true when your eyesight starts to go like mine. A compass on your dive computer gives you a backup way to get to where you need to go.
Can it Make “No Fly” Calculations?
Having decompression calculations on a dive computer is a good thing. Having no-fly calculations is even better. Nitrogen doesn’t come out of your body very quickly. If you fly after you’ve dived, then that nitrogen can expand and you can be left in a world of life-threatening pain. Trust me – you want these calculations.
Where the dive computer is placed is the final feature you’ll want to consider. I really love the dive computer watches that are available today. With solid backlighting that makes them easy to read, I can get the data I need right away. It also makes me feel important when I wear it, like how someone might feel wearing an Apple watch.
Some can be boot-mounted as well if you prefer the foot instead of the wrist.
The Air/Nitrox integrated computers are a good buy as well. They cost a little more but will give you a pressure gauge so you know how much time you’ve got left in the water.
Common Issues with Dive Computers and How to Solve Them
“I won’t have any problems with this brand new product I’m about to buy.” Said no one ever.
The biggest issue I’ve encountered with dive computers is that the screens are sometimes difficult to use. Some models turn into a beautiful mirror when you go under water. Great if you want to admire your inner Salty Dog. Not so great if you need dive data. To fix this, I recommend a screen coating that can cut down the glare.
There’s also the problem of weight. Some dive computers are too (insert your favorite expletive here) heavy. It’s true. You feel like there’s a 16-ton weight on your arm, foot, or back that should be dropped on a cartoon character instead of being attached to your body. The only way to get out of this is to read the best dive computer reviews and look at the specific dimensions of the product.
Charging can also be an issue for some dive computers. You’ll find some work with great awesomeness for dive after dive and hold their charge well – with a fast recharge even. Then there are some that don’t hold a charge at all after the first dive. I recommend looking at the manufacturer’s ratings on battery life before purchasing any dive computer.
What Are the Prices of the Best Dive Computers?
Dive computers do require a chunk of change. Most folks can find one for around $200 that will get the job done. Pay a little more and you’ll get some of the extra features, like dive calculations, that are super nice. Pay a little less and you’ll get a depth gauge, thermometer reading, and dive timer and not much else.
What to Consider when Choosing the Best Dive Computer?
You must look at a number of factors while choosing the optimum dive computer for yourself. If you are a novice and just beginning diving as a hobby, a simple dive computer with basic features and a low budget can fulfill your entire needs. However, if you are a dive instructor, you need something long-lasting that can log multiple dives. In that case, you could consider some high-end models to suit your needs.
For professional or commercial divers, many factors come into play. You may need to stay under the water for longer periods of time; hence you would need a computer with enough battery power so that it doesn’t die on you. Commercial divers are usually responsible for maintenance, repair, or inspection of underwater infrastructure. As such, they need something reliable and with a full feature-set so that they can focus their full attention on their duties while the dive computer monitors everything for them.
However, your own diving expertise is not the only factor. Things like ease of use, affordability, type of dive computers, etc., are equally important when choosing the best dive computer.
Easy to Understand
This is important because being familiar with your gadget could become the difference between life and death when you are underwater. Things could go very wrong instantly during a dive, and if you face difficulty in using or understanding your dive computer, it could be very dangerous. This is why familiarity with the interface and features that your dive computer offers you is important. You should make sure that the computer that you choose is as easy for you to understand as it could be.
For beginners, a simplistic and minimalistic interface might be the way to go. You would want less clutter and easier-to-read numbers. So a dive computer that shows only the important parameters such as depth and pressure would be enough. You could go with both a digital screen or an analog gauge, whichever you might feel easier with.
Professionals could choose a more sophisticated dive computer with more features, such as various gas mixtures, or air integration, etc. Nitrogen accumulation can be dangerous if left unaccounted for. Since flying after diving is injurious to health due to nitrogen, it is valuable to have a dive computer that gives you an estimated time after which you can fly. So professionals may choose a more feature-rich dive computer that will help them keep track of a lot more things.
Dive computers can range from $200 to a whopping $1200 or close to that. The price varies depending on the functions and features offered by each computer.
These features might include pressure and depth measure, gas mixtures, air integration, no-fly calculation, or many others. Some may be durable and long-lasting, while some may have less battery life than others. All these factors can vary the price.
While considering your budget, you should keep an eye on what features you would like your dive computer to have. Some features might be absolutely necessary for you, but you might not need other features. So you should make a list of the things that you need and plan your research according to that.
For beginners, the basic features of low-cost dive computers are more than enough, and buying anything above that would most likely end up being too advanced for you. If you don’t expect to dive more than a few times in a year, you don’t need something feature-packed. Buying something expensive in this scenario does not make sense.
For professionals, who are most likely to dive many times throughout the year, an advanced-level dive computer is better. You might need to keep track of the statistics of each dive and may need to back up your data on a computer. You might also need to track your air consumption during a dive or may need a decompression option to adjust to different depths. These and other advanced features are only offered in high-end dive computers.
Wrist or Console
Wrist dive computers are usually worn like a watch and are relatively smaller in size. They are handier because of their size. You cannot necessarily view all the statistics at the same time; you have to toggle between various gauges with a button. Because they are a standalone gadget, divers sometimes lose them mid-dive. They are also relatively more expensive than their console counterparts.
Console dive computers, on the other hand, are larger in size. They are attached to the rest of your diving gear, which means there is a very slim chance of losing them during a dive. Owing to their size, you can view all the relevant information in a single glance, and you don’t need to switch between modes. But it’s the size that sometimes proves to be more inconvenient to manage. Also, since it is connected to your diving gear, you do face a risk of entanglement.
Depending on how long you wish to stay under and how deep you wish to go, different combinations of breathing gases are used. All professional divers understand that, and therefore they would like to keep track of the gas composition during their dive. Breathing gas is a combination of Nitrogen, oxygen, and helium. Helium introduces an increased heat loss, whereas nitrogen can cause a narcotic effect, and excessive oxygen can lead to oxygen toxicity. This is why an optimized percentage of each gas is used as breathing gas.
Divers who need to spend longer periods of time underwater need to know how much of each gas they have breathed so that they can keep track of the effects of the gas on their bodies. This is an expensive feature, and only higher-tier dive computers have this option.
The best dive computers are designed to keep you safe. They are an investment, but they also give you the critical data you need. So sure – you might not need one. My grandfather would tell you that no computer can be a substitute for the human mind. Yet the value of this tool is undeniable. Get yours today and you’ll see diving in a whole new way.