Buyers Guide to Finding the Best Dive Computers 2018
There is nothing more tranquil than plunging into the abyss and watching the rays of light wafting into the water above you. It’s just you and the never-ending blue. You have corals for company and the occasional Great White.
Scuba Diving is fun, its surreal, it’s ethereal and it’s dangerous.
If you are a first timer, you want to ensure that you spend more time awing at the many delights the ocean will throw at you, rather than fiddling with multiple pieces of equipment, trying to figure out how much time you have before you run out of air. That’s always the first timer’s most important concern, isn’t it?
On the other hand, if you are an experienced campaigner who scrounges the ocean floor for wrecks, you already know the importance of having a good diver computer. Those wrist-watched sized data crunchers that do all the hard work of computing a thousand different probabilities and displaying on a colorful screen that, ‘Hey buddy, it’s time to head back up. Civilization calls’
Personal scuba computers can be lifesavers. Not to mention that with a few schmany additives thrown in, you get some exclusive bragging rights in the scuba diving community. But if trying to select one off the shelf doesn’t make your head spin, then you are clearly not aware of the tech specifications and the gobbledygook that you will have to navigate through, just to get some numbers on the screen.
Thankfully, we help you pick the top dive computers for you, irrespective of your skill level or the tech that you are looking for. But before we wear our flippers and plunge headlong into it, let’s quickly take a moment to understand what dive computers are all about and a few desirable features that can make or break you, when you are submerged 100 feet under the ocean.
How to Pick the Best Dive Computer for Yourself
First things first, a dive computer is a computing device used by scuba divers that’s worn on the wrist, resembles a smart phone screen and does some lifesaving calculations for you. It calculates your depth (built-in depth gauge), time of the dive (timer) and then, it informs you about the amount of nitrogen that you have absorbed in your body. More the nitrogen, lesser the time left to ascend. This time is shown on a large and colorful screen that is easily visible under water.
Does that simplify things a little? Now it’s time to venture into more complicated turf.
How do you pick the best dive computer for yourself? Here’s how.
What’s your skill level?
Beginners should stick to the basics. Look for something that has a clear and visible screen and does what it’s supposed to do without you having to fiddle with it. There are a lot of good scuba diving computers which do just that. Some of the standard features that you’d want in one are depth, time, no stop limits, ascent rate, no decompression limit (NDL) or no stop time, emergency decompression and information about the previous dives. More advanced or recreational divers may want additional features like open circuit air/nitrox/trimix compatibility.
You want to see the data large and clear. So look for a big (colorful) screen with a backlit display. A dot matrix display works equally well too as long as it is visible.
As we said before, you don’t want to be fiddling too much with your dive computer under water. Look for something that’s as hands free as it can be. For the tasks that demand your fingers, look for models with large buttons. Remember that you will be wearing thick gloves.
The average price for a personal scuba computer with standard features is around $250-$500. Advanced ones will make you poorer by $800-$1000. Beginners can mostly do fine with entry-level devices.
You have two different styles to choose from. One is a wrist watch styled dive computer which once again has two different varieties, one that looks like a hockey puck and the other which resembles a normal wrist watch and can be worn on land too.
The second style is a console or boot mount styled computer that has all the features packed into a compact device.
Last but not the least, air integration is one of the most sought after technologies in the top dive computers. It allows you to connect it to the oxygen tank using a transmitter and it will display the amount of air time remaining and the PSI reading of the tank.
The 5 Best Dive Computers in 2018
That’s about it. I think we are ready to see our list of the top 5 best dive computers in the market currently.
#1 - Shearwater Research Perdix
The Shearwater Research Perdix is one of the latest and flagship offerings from the Canadian manufacturer, who commands a cult following among diving enthusiasts, ever since they launched into the market with the ‘Predator’, their first dive computer.
The Perdix is an upgrade worthy of every accolade it is receiving. This is a smartly designed dive computer that can be taken along for anything from recreational dives to deep water technical dives. It is small, has a slim profile and a long lasting battery.
What greets you out of the box is a large 2.2-inch color screen display with ample space for displaying all the information that you’d ever need. You can see adaptive safety stops, the number of stops, the depth and the duration of stops that is tailored according to your dive time and previous dive history.
The Time to Surface is displayed clearly and shows you the most important information, taking into account all the necessary safety stops.
You can customize or choose from four different dive modes, OC recreational, OC technical, CC-INT and gauge.
Advanced divers, technical divers and rebreathers.
Full color wide screen
Clear and large numerical display as well as graphics.
Air, Nitrox and Trimix
- Large colorful display
- Multiple modes including technical and closed circuit rebreather
- Trimix compatible
- Lots of customization options
What Could Have Been Better
- Nothing. This is one of the top dive computers that you can invest in.
The Shearwater Research Predix bridges the gap between a recreational dive computer and a technical one. It is a flawless package. If you intend to go beyond the average recreational dive or into deeper waters, this is what you need.
#2 - Suunto Vyper Novo
The Vyper Novo is the upgraded version of the very successful and widely used Vyper. The Novo model received some impressive upgrades like air integration, handling of multiple gases, etc.
These features make it also one of the best scuba diving computers you can find today. It’s a great device if you’re an experienced diver but is also not too complex to be managed by a beginner.
Compared to models that are sized like a day-to-day watch, the Vyper Novo is quite large. The benefit is that the larger display shows all important information at-a-glance.
The number of buttons to press to get any information you might need is minimized. This way the gadget is what it should be, a device to help you stay safe while diving and not yet another technical nightmare that you need a PhD to understand!The large size makes it easy to press the buttons even when you wear thick gloves. The display is sharp and easy to read in any light condition. The backlight allows to see data even in the darkest spots under water.
An intermediate to experienced diver that ventures into mixed gas
Large with all important data displayed
Easy to read, no color
Up to three different gas mixes
- Easy to read display
- Navigation is intuitive with 4 buttons
- Large log book for up to 140 hours
- Capable to integrate up to 3 wireless gas transmitters
What Could Have Been Better
- Large size which can’t be worn as a daily watch.
The Suunto Vyper Novo is a feature-rich scuba computer that offers everything that an experienced diver needs. As a recreational diver there are no capabilities you could require that are not delivered.
The features you get even include a 3D compass. If you combine that with the wireless air integration you end up not needing a bunch of other gauges and devices.
Even if you are in your early days of diving, you can have a closer look at the Vyper Novo. The air integration can be something you add later as it’s optional. The base device offers features that will be satisfactory for years to come!
#3 - Oceanic VTX
The Oceanic VTX has a visibly different design than many other diving computers. The screen alone is amazing and displays the information clearly and in vibrant color.
The overall navigation and usage of the device is easy. The buttons are placed strategically and can be used even when you’re in thick gloves.
The VTX is worn on the wrist. It is a very specialized device so it can’t be worn as a regular watch! Looking at the features it is quite amazing though to have all those capabilities packed into a reasonably small device.
The Oceanic VTX clearly targets experienced divers. It is feature rich and allows to do a lot of data gathering and programming. It easily connects to a computer by means of Bluetooth.The log book is a little on the small side with enough capacity for around 24 dives. Going on a scuba vacation might push you over the limit here. The other caveat is that the battery life could be a little longer. It’s around 20 hours. Diving trips where you’re not having a computer handy to offload dive data and where you use the computer more than usual can easily end up with frustrating moments where you run low on battery and/or dive log!
Experienced diver with demanding needs for features and data
Beautiful and vibrant OLED display
Bright and easy to read
Capable of dealing with up to 4 gas mixes
- Fantastic, colorful display
- Easy navigation
- Up to 4 gas mixes
- Bluetooth connectivity
What Could Have Been Better
- Somewhat bulky
- Logbook could be larger
The Oceanic VTX is definitely considered a high-end scuba diving computer. That’s not only reflected in the features and capabilities it offers but also in the price.
Besides all the bells and whistles that this device offers, the highlight simply is the display. Colorful and vibrant, yet very clean. It shows all information you need in a clear and concise way.If you’re not an experienced diver and do not you require all the data collection so you can slice and dice it as you please, then you’ll definitely find other scuba computers that are cheaper and offer a set of features that matches your needs. The VTX pretty much has it all but that can end up being a little too much for many divers.
#4 - Cressi Leonardo
One of the most important features that beginner divers look for, is to get access to important information when they need it the most, without having to fiddle through unwanted screens. That’s precisely what they get with the Cressi Leonardo. With a one button user interface to get information and customize the dive computer, it is one of the most user friendly models in the market currently.
You can toggle through the various modes and settings in the blink of an eye without getting lost while doing it. The Leonardo features a module design which allows you to use it as a wrist watch and also remove it and mount it to a console. It comes in a variety of color combinations.
It includes an air and Nitrox mode (up to 50%), has a large segmented dot-matrix backlit display which displays all the necessary information clearly. While it uses a conservative algorithm, it offers users enough options to tailor this level.
An in-built log stores data for up to 60 dives and there are critical audible alarms to sound the most important information.
Segmented Dot Matrix
Clear. But the backlight is not the best.
Air and Nitrox
- One button user interface
- Air and Nitrox compatible
- Nitrox settings can be retained
- Audible alarms for critical information
What Could Have Been Better
- Poor quality backlight
- No air integration
This is a perfect beginners dive computer and also a great choice for a backup dive computer for recreational dives
#5 - Mares Smart
Mares Smart is a minimalist but very efficient entry level dive computer that trumps a lot of higher priced models with its intuitive user interface and two button control. It may lack the bells and whistles that are typically advertised in bold. But it more than makes up for it with its well thought out dive mode screen and comprehensive data.
It has a stylish and sleek design with both the buttons and the bezel ring made of stainless steel. This also gives it a more solid feel unlike flimsy all-plastic models. The Smart can also double up as a sporty wrist watch when you are not diving. Additionally, it comes in a variety of colors to match your style.
The main display shows you the vitals such as NDL, water depth, dive time and temperature. In addition to this, there is an ascent rate indicator and tissue loading bar graph. There is an alternate screen which shows the gas mix, the average depth, the max depth, the current time and the oxygen toxicity.
The two button controls make it easy to modify the screen. The top button can be used to tweak the settings in the upper part of the display and the lower button allows you to navigate through the alternate displays.
It allows two gas mixes (21 – 99% Oxygen) and the Surface interval countdown is another stellar feature of the Mares Smart, which makes it a versatile choice at this price point.
There are visual and audible alarms for critical alerts and the backlight is excellent allowing clear visibility even in the dark. If you make the noob mistake of ascending too quickly, it sounds an alert with a large ‘SLOW’ on the screen.
Beginners and recreational divers or as a backup for professionals
LCD backlit display
Excellent. It is sharp and clear.
Air and Nitrox
- Two button easy navigation
- Air and Nitrox
- Dive log
- Clear visible backlit screen
- Audible and visible alerts
What Could Have Been Better
- No air integration
- No compass
Priced at under $350, the Mares Smart offers enough features to make it a great buy at this price point. It may be considered as an entry level dive computer due to the innocuous appearance and lack of a colored display. But it packs a punch with its features and is even used by professional divers.
We hope you enjoyed browsing through our list of the best dive computers. We have tried to include a few entry level models, something mid-range and of course, something for the serious guys to play with. Always do your research and make an informed decision.
If you are just starting to scuba dive then you want to check out our guide to find the best dive computer for beginners.