Best Dive Computer

Ok, so you are going scuba diving and want a dive computer.

There are lots of dive computers and almost as many dive computer reviews so start with your favourite scuba magazines. Things change quickly so don't borrow a friend's old copy of Diver magazine from 2 years ago and expect to see a worthwhile review.

Next, read more than one recent review from more than one source. It isn't that easy to compare these devices and decide which are the best dive computers, because so much of the functionality is about personal choice.

What does a dive computer look like

cobra dive computer       vr3 dive computer

The design of dive computers is basically getting smaller sleeker and cooler as the years and technology progress. The VR3 from Delta P is the first to go high definition full colour, but the Suunto’s Vyper and Cobra dive computers are simply the mutt's nuts in terms of good looks.

Safety First

With dive computer reviews you can take it as given that the item on your wrist or hose (although it is called a dive computer you don't actually have to take a laptop and modem connection down to the bottom of the ocean with you) will be robust, well constructed and unlikely to fall apart. When we talk about safety we are generally referring to deco tables and these do vary from system to system.

However the basic set up is invariably very very conservative with big safety margins built in. Spend more than 10 minutes a foot below the surface and most computers will light up like a christmas tree and whistle at you to get the heck out of the water and phone your mother. It is only when you start changing the algorithms (which often takes a lot of tinkering with buttons, a degree in particle physics and the use of a 6 lb club hammer) that your dive computer's safety profile alters from hyper-conservative. As a novice diver you will think this a good thing. In years to come when you are a blase old git with more nitrogen bubbles than sense in your brain you will think the manufacturer's cautious approach is a pain in the neoprene.

What does a dive computer do?

Dive computers are an alternative to decompression tables, but with an added edge. What a dive computer does is to continuously calculate the actual depth and time profile of the diver as they are diving. This means the diver doesn't need to carry a separate watch and depth gauge (except as redundancy backup). The dive computer will alert the diver if they ascend too fast or overstay they bottom time or miss a deco stop.

What else does a dive computer do?

There are often additional temperature gauges and compasses to replace the old heavy units that poor people have to carry down into the briny. Almost all dive computers offer an export function to PC. When combined with a bit of software the serious, professional, cautious or just plain nerdy diver can look at their previous dive profiles on a PC and calculate all sorts of graphs and diagrams .

How much do dive computers cost?

They vary from around 150 for the most basic model to ten times that amount for a top spec model.

What should I look for in a dive computer?

The novice in particular will not know whether the algorithm of an aeris or Aladdin dive computer is better than that of a suunto vyper or uwatec dive computer.

In fact for the beginner it is usually simply a matter of choosing a nice conservative model like the suunto vyper and getting on with it.

As we get more experienced we find that we have a personal nitrox mix which we want our dive computer to take account of. Or perhaps we feel the mark of a good scuba diving computer is that it holds details on every one of the last 2000 dives we have done and features easy downloading to our PC dive analysis software.

Dive computer reviews

For some of us (hands up all you Uwatec fans) the ability to change the battery without having to pay for a 10-man emergency micro engineering team to remove the back-plate might be a key decider.

I want to remind you that the biggest, most important thing to think about when choosing a dive computer watch is that you can use it properly.

Which ever make of diving computer you choose, make sure you know what each and every every button on your new mares or oceanic or sherwood or tusa dive computer is for.

Ensure you understand what the flashing 'stop' message on your mosquito or nemo dive computer means.

Here is a review table of dive computers. It isn't particularly scientific but should help you start your quest for the best dive computer to suit your personal needs.

Brand Price Functionality Cool-factor
Uwatec starstarstar starstarstarstarstar starstar
Scubapro starstarstarstar starstarstarstar starstar
Sunnto starstarstar starstarstar starstarstarstar
Mares starstarstarstar starstarstar starstarstarstarstar
Apeks starstarstar starstarstar starstarstarstarstar
Cressi starstarstar starstarstarstarstar starstar
Delta P starstar starstarstarstarstar starstarstar

If you are looking for great value Scuba equipment then my best advice is to go to Simply Scuba. Check out the dive computers there.