What is the best dive computer to buy for scuba diving?
Dive computers are one of the most essential pieces of scuba diving equipment that you can buy. Considering that they help to keep you alive, they are a small price to pay. Most dive computers start with the same basic functions:
- They give you your no decompression times. This means they can tell you how long you can stay at that depth without increasing your chances of suffering from decompression sickness (excessive nitrogen bubbles that appear in your body after a dive)
- They accurately tell you how deep you are so you don’t exceed your certified maximum depth or dive to unsafe depths. Insurance companies will try to get out of any pay-outs if you exceed your maximum depths for your qualification and a dive computer is your proof that you haven’t
- They work out your surface interval and your residual nitrogen time when you do repeat dives
- They are more accurate than tables and give you more bottom time as they readjusted the no decompression time as you ascend
- Most dive computers now include a countdown for your safety stop
- If you do go in to decompression then it tells you what steps you should take such as ascending to a particular depth and staying there for a set amount of time (air permitting)
- If you ascend too quickly they will tell you to slow down
- Nitrox compatible – so if you are qualified to use Nitrox you can set the dive computer to the Oxygen levels and this will increase your underwater time accordingly and warn you if you exceed your maximum operating depth for that %O2.
- You can link a cable to your PC and upload the information to an online dive log
Once you get past the basic computer then there are other features you might wish to consider that some of the more expensive models include such as:
- Air transmitter – this allows you to more accurately monitor your current air pressure and it will tell you how long your air will last at your current depth at your average breathing rate
- Multiple gases – as you become a more experienced diver you may look to move to more technical diving that will allow you to have more than one cylinder with different levels of Oxygen
- Bluetooth connectivity – you can link your dive computer to your phone, table, mac or PC and download all of your dive data to an online log book kept on the internet. A great gadget for tech geeks as well as divers who like to keep an accurate record of their dives. You can normally upload your photos and maps against each dive and you can also leave notes. Not only is this useful if you come back to the dive site again but you can share to other divers and your social media
- User-changeable batteries – traditional dive computers required you to send off your computer for a battery change. This can cost up to £50 as they require pressure testing to ensure there are no leaks. Some computers now allow you to change the battery yourself at a fraction of the cost
- Rechargeable batteries – simply plug your dive computer into a USB port and it will recharge the computer for you. Once charged they normally last for around 20 dives. Some computers can even charge via a solar panel on their face
- LCD displays – these tend to be easier to read than traditional grey matrix computers, especially on a night dive
- Electronic compass – this means strapping less toys on your arm and/or gauge and you can also mark directions so you can track your way back
- Technical dive computers – these will future proof yourself if you wish to move on to mixed gases, tri-mix and rebreathers
- Upload dive maps and photos on your computer to aid navigation and your fish ID skills
Once you have decided what functions appeal to you then there are 3 main styles of computer
o Wrist style – this is the standard style dive computer that is generally easy to read and sits on your wrist
o Watch style – these are great for diving on holiday as they can be used like a watch when not in the water and have all/most of the same functions of their larger brothers (but tend to be a more expensive)
o Console computer – this replaces your current pressure and depth gauge that is attached via hose to your regulators. They are very popular in America but less so in Europe – for no real reason really
Other considerations aside from budget are what material do you want the computer and strap to be made from such as light-weight titanium.
As with most things it comes down to personal preference but here is a list of our recommendations and their reasons why:
Wrist Style Computers
Suunto Zoop – used the world over and has all the basic functions you’ll need. RRP £199
Aqua Lung i300 – very similar functionality to the Zoop but feel slightly sturdier. RRP £191
Aqua Lung i200 – one the least expensive watch style dive computers on the market. We also think it looks pretty smart too. RRP £249
Suunto D4i Novo – allows you to upgrade to air-integration. Comes in lots of colours too. £449
Suunto Vyper Novo – has the same functions as the Zoop plus can be used with air-integration. RRP. £375. Current price £325 (excluding transmitter).
Suunto D6i Novo – A smart computer with air-integration and digital compass. RRP £649
Aqua Lung i450T – Includes air-integration with life-time pairing, user changeable battery and digital compass. RRP £521
Mares ICON HD – Allows you to save maps and photos in to the computer, rechargeable, LCD screen, air-integration and rechargeable. £485 (excluding transmitter)
Suunto EON Steel – tough metal housing, LCD screen, digital compass, air-integration, rechargeable, easy to use
Suunto DX – has all of the features of the D6i plus can be used for technical and rebreather diving. RRP. £825. Current price £710
If you still aren’t sure which dive computer is the best one for you, simply call us on 0800 699 0203.