Best Dive Computers for Beginners – Editor’s Picks for 2018
Beginners Dive Computers
Eager, first-time divers, want to know everything about their newfound hobby. Thankfully, we’ve got the scoop for you on everything you need to know about dive computers. A dive computer is your digital writer lifeline, allowing you access to real-time information for the perfect dive.
Before jumping into buying the best dive computer for beginners, you should be aware of the standard features to keep an eye out for. These standard features include:
- Emergency decompression
- Ascent rate
- No stop time remaining
- Previous dive information
- No stop limits
- Low battery warning
- Enriched air (Nitrox) compatibility
Quick tips for purchasing a dive computer include:
- Being able to read the dive computer with your mask on.
- Is your dive computer going to be compatible with your equipment?
- Do you 100% understand the information you’re reading? If not, you’re putting your life at risk.
Navigation is Critical
Any qualified diver would never go down without having access to some sort of navigation equipment. The more pressure you find yourself in, the more disorienting it can be, and no matter how much you think you know, under the water is another story. Navigation is critical and owning a dive computer with an old-fashioned compass is pivotal in your safety. Without this, you may not know how to get to shore, or back to your boat for safety.
Life-Saving Depth Gauge
Without the life-saving component of a depth gauge, you may wander a little too far down to the point where you’re too disoriented to function and ask for help. A depth gauge works hand in hand with your decompression stops and calculates how much time you spent at a particular depth. If you’re left guessing, it will ultimately negatively affect your calculations for decompression stops.
The Perfect Calculations
When you’re at an extremely low depth, it can be hard or near impossible to make any sort of calculations yourself while functioning in the water world around you. Dive computers take out this stressful aspect for you and perform the calculations for you. These life-saving calculations work alongside decompression calculations, decompression stops, and for specific models – no-fly times for those who are diving on vacation.
It sounds morbid, but when you ascend in a plane after diving into a certain depth, the nitrogen in your body will expand because of the pressure. You may explode! (No, seriously, it’s a thing and a safety precaution). Some dive computers will let you know when you safely fly again.
Most modern dive computers will have an onboard memory feature for you to review all of the information stored away during your ascent into the aqua world. It’s a nifty little feature and can help you predict and plan for future trips down.
Activation of Your Dive Computer
Any dive computer bought will have to go through an activation process, much like a phone. Thankfully, you don’t have to activate your phone with water, though! Ultimately, there are two ways to enable a dive computer for beginners including manually or with water. The manual option requires the diver to press a button before going in the water.
If you’re new, you should be forewarned that many divers FORGET this aspect of preparation, causing companies to come up with a solution that allows instant water activation as soon as divers are in. Now that you’ve got the scoop on the different life-saving and data recording components, we’ll go over our top three picks (and our top recommendation!) for the perfect dive computers for beginners.
#1 - Cressi Leonardo
Not overly clunky and super fashionable, the Cressi Leonardo is one of the best on the market. Its design is sleek and not bulky/heavy, so you won’t be worrying about it in the water constantly, with features that include:
- Audible alarm
- Easy on button
- Air and nitrox modes
- Large digits for better reading underwater
- Backlit screen for night dives
Not only does this dive computer give you a readout for the different depths during your dive, but you can also read these numbers beautifully at night. The backlit screen function allows for safe tracking during dangerously dark dives. This device also has a data reset feature, which is perfect for rental companies working with beginners. This may be the only con, as beginners may accidentally stumble into this section and delete their hard-earned data.
Another significant aspect of this computer dive watch is the audible and visual automatic safety stop countdown at 15ft or 3 minutes. A wrist-held safety buddy, there’s no real reason why you shouldn’t purchase this as a beginner! This dive computer has a 24-month limited warranty.
#2 - Suunto Zoop Novo
The Suunto Zoop Novo is the successor of the Zoop. It’s gotten a little bulkier and has a number of added features and functions compared to the first version of entry-level wrist mounted scuba diving computers by Suunto.
The size is overall easy to manage and navigation is super easy with four dedicated buttons places strategically around the display.
Both other devices we listed in this guide have a single button for navigation. At first glance this is an easier design but it does have a disadvantage. If you page through the different menu options with a single button you have to step through each option as you cannot go back and forth with a single button. A design with multiple buttons lets you go back and forth as needed and can make it easier to get to where you want to be in your menu options. The single button simplifies the overall handling but can make it a lengthy process to get where you want to be in your navigation options.
The Zoop Novo is the entry-level dive computer by Suunto. The standard variant is a wrist mounted design but there are also versions where you can get it as a console mounted device. The overall features are clearly targeting divers that only need the basic set of features and functions:
- Air/Nitrox/Gauge/Freedive/Off modes
- Audible and visual warnings and alerts
- Four-button navigation
- Large display with all data at-a-glance
- Large log book with up to 140 hours of data
This is a no-nonsense dive computer with all essential features and functions for a beginner. It’s easy to use and makes it easy to read the information on the display. The backlight is strong enough to allow you to read the data on the screen in dark and murky waters.
The computer uses Suunto’s own RGBM algorithm. This is at times seen as a rather conservative one. You can adjust the conservatism of the algorithm if needed.
The Suunto Zoop Novo is a great scuba dive computer and it’s hard to find real negatives about it. You certainly won’t get all the bells and whistles but that’s what you’d expect from an entry-level device for a beginner. It does offer all the required basic features and you’ll be diving for a while before you’d really look at any more higher-end functions.
#3 - Mares Puck Pro Plus
The Mares Puck Pro Plus is the latest rendition of the original Puck scuba diving computer. In case there’s any confusion about the name, it does refer to a hockey puck with regards to shape and size.
You can find many other wrist mounted dive computers that are smaller or that you can even wear as your daily watch. If that’s your criteria then the Puck Pro Plus is certainly not the best device for you!
It’s designed as an entry level gadget that provides all basic features you would expect and need:
- Air/Nitrox/Gauge modes
- Visual and audible alarms
- Single button navigation
- Clear and easy to read display
- Bluetooth connectivity
The biggest improvement Mares had in store for the Puck Pro Plus is the Bluetooth connectivity. No more cables required to exchange dive data with your computer!
The display received a few minor changes and is as excellent as it has been on the Puck Pro. Large numbers that make it easy to read combined with a strong backlight so you can still see all information in dark environments.
The Mares Puck Pro Plus is a solid contender with all necessary features and functions you’d expect from an entry-level scuba computer!
We think the best dive computer for beginners is the Cressi Leonardo. While the version with the stand and USB connector are nice, it's not a necessity.
You might as well save yourself some money and go with the basic model without all the connectivity items.
You'd thought we were going to recommend the last one? While the added gifts are lovely, they aren’t essential to the current dive missions, and they can be purchased at a later time. For beginner divers, it’s important to feel out the piece of equipment instead of splurging on the biggest package possible. If you enjoy this watch and want those added features of a download cable and stand, those accessories are available online.
For beginners, this watch is fantastic. With large fonts, sounds, and all the readings you can hope for no matter the time of day, the Cressi Leonardo hits the nail on the head.