How to Choose a Scuba Diving Computer

The most important factor when you’re looking for a dive computer is how it looks and what color it comes in. It’s important that the color of the scuba computer matches the rest of the gear! It’s also important to choose bright colors so that you’ll be seen underwater…

Just kidding. Color is certainly the least important choice you have to make when you’re looking to get a personal dive computer!

How to Choose a Scuba Diving Computer

Considerations for picking a Dive Computer

However, there are quite a few considerations to take into account to pick the best scuba diving computer for your needs. Let’s have a look at these factors so you can choose wisely.

First and foremost, you have to be realistic about your experience level and your diving style. It’s also important to realize where you’ll be going within the sport of scuba diving. Most people won’t be able to afford to go diving every week in different exotic places. So, while it is nice to dream of being in the water every minute of your life, you most likely won’t be…

Being clear about how often you’ll dive, where you might dive, how deep you feel comfortable to dive, your own experience, etc. will help you tremendously to pick the right scuba gear including a dive computer. Answering some of these questions will ultimately allow you to figure out whether you, for example, will require air integration or the ability to handle different Nitrox mixes.

Aside from dealing with the technical features you might require from your dive computer, you also will have to decide whether you want it to be console mounted or on your wrist. You’ll often find dive computers that you can get in either of the mounting styles and also some that can be switched around. However, most will come either as a console or a wrist style and you should think about what you might want before buying.

Brands that offer several of their scuba dive computers for either of the mounting option are Suunto and Cressi. Oceanic on the other hand mostly offers wrist-mounted dive computers. Higher-end devices, like many of the Shearwater ones, will only come as wrist-mounted systems. Consider what mounting style you prefer before you go out to buy a scuba computer.

Another point to consider is whether you’re choosing what dive computer to buy is whether you want a model with a conservative algorithm or one that is more aggressive. No matter which kind you go for, they will all keep you safe when diving. It’s just a question of how much safety buffer you feel comfortable with.

Let’s first have a look at the advantages and disadvantages of dive computers on your wrist.

There are a few reasons why it is beneficial to have a dive computer that you wear on your wrist. Probably the least important is whether you might consider a dive computer that also functions as your day-to-day watch. 

This way you’ll get the benefits of only having to deal with one device all day long. The disadvantage is that the watch-size dive computers don’t have that much display area to show important data. It’s fine if you’re a recreational diver that doesn’t dive too deep and prefers clear waters. However, if you are going deep and also dive in less than clear conditions then a full-size dive computer on your wrist or on a console is the way to go!

Another consideration is how far you might want to push your diving. If you, for example, would consider becoming a dive instructor then having a wrist-mounted scuba dive computer is the way to go. That way you have both hands free all the time to correct or help other divers while still being able to read the important information coming from the computer.

One other thing to consider is where you prefer to dive. If you, for example, like to dive in caves or wrecks then it might just make the most sense to use a wrist-mounted device. Why you might ask? Well, a console-mounted scuba computer is not tight to you and might end up being caught at a rock or part of the wreckage when there’s not a lot of space. It also can be harder to reach for the console in tight areas while you’re practically always able to look at your wrist.

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Dive Computer that is mounted on the wrist

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Any Reasons why to Choose a Console Mounted Diving Computer?

If your goal is to simply enjoy the beauty underwater and dive a few times a year in clear water then you really don’t have to worry about all the reasons why a wrist-mounted device is easier to handle than a console-mounted one. In that case, you won’t have to take care of other divers, worry too much about ascent rates or having to continually look at the computer due to deep dives, etc.

The most you get from your device, in that case, is that you use it for timing. Therefore, it won’t matter very much whether you have it on your wrist or as a console. You’ll be checking the timing a few times and won’t be constantly looking at the display.

One reason for using a console-mounted diving computer is it’s simply harder to forget. It is part of your dive gear and as it’s connected to your regulator, it’s always part of your gear in your dive bag. A dive computer on your wrist might be forgotten at home if you don’t constantly keep it in your dive bag. Having said that, it’s easy enough to keep your dive computer packed with the rest of your dive gear and thus it shouldn’t really happen that you forget it at home!

Having looked at all the reasons why one or the other mount style might better if you’re going to rent the equipment while you dive it might be best to simply try out both options and see for yourself what you like best. It’s easy to make arguments for both styles but in the end, you have to choose the mounting style that works best for you.

In our opinion, it makes a lot of sense overall to go for a wrist-mounted device. It’s more versatile and it has the potential to work for you in many environments and circumstances. There’s nothing bad about a console-mounted device but there simply might be situations where it’s harder to handle.

Oceanic Console Mounted Dive Computer

What Functionality do you really need?

The more important questions to answer will be about your diving style or requirements. Do you plan on diving with Nitrox? If so, then the device certainly has to be able to handle Nitrox. Does it have to be several different mixtures of Nitrox in one dive that you need to switch during the dive? Higher-end models will be able to help you with that.

You have to decide whether you might need or want an air integrated dive computer. In that case, you can monitor your air consumption on the device and you can skip using a Dive Gauge for that.

Most modern dive computers that offer air integration provide a wireless connection kit. A transmitter is attached to your first state regulator and it wirelessly transmits the data to your dive computer. A feature like this will typically be found on higher-end dive computers and cost extra.

If you often use it then it’s worth the expense. Lastly, you can also have dive computers with an integrated compass. As with the other two features outlined above, you will usually find this functionality in higher-end models.

Cave Diving

Words of Wisdom

One thing you have to consider above all is whether you are comfortable with any kind of dive computer/technology. You have to trust the device and you have to know how to use it.

You can’t start to simply press a few buttons and hope that the scuba computer will do it all for you. Take the time to learn about your device so you know how to handle it when you’re underwater.

If anything unforeseen happens while you’re diving, you can be sure that you won’t have the time to figure your dive computer out while you’re in a panic!