What to Look For When Investing In a Dive Computer

Break Free From Tables with a Dive Computer

All divers learn to dive tables. It is imperative that every diver understands how to calculate dive profiles and to dive them safely. However, a dive computer can set you free. It will calculate all of your variables in real time so that you can get the most out of your dive, maximum bottom time, no mistakes with safety stops, and the opportunity to relax into your dive without running calculations in your mind.

You Get What You Pay For

As with all things in life, you get what you pay for, and this holds true for dive computers. You could purchase a basic computer for USD 350, but if you choose to put in some more, you will undoubtedly be happier with the end product. Your dive skills will not remain static so you will want a computer that will grow with you and your experience.

Bottom Line for Bottom Time

All dive computers will provide the following information:

  1. No-stop limits

  2. Depth

  3. Time

  4. No-stop time remaining

  5. Ascent rate

  6. Emergency decompression

  7. Previous dive information

  8. Low battery/replace battery warning

Outside of the basic information, choosing the right computer can be overwhelming for new and even for experienced divers. There is a lot out there to choose from. In order to make a smart buying decision, you must consider several factors.

3 Key Factors to Know Before You Buy

Budget

Gil Smolinski - Diving Equipment - Dive computer

While we all wish that we didn’t have to limit ourselves, you must calculate what your available budget is for your purchase. Just as I recommend doing all it takes to get a great regulator since your life depends on it, I strongly recommend tapping out at the high end of your budget for a computer. You won’t regret it.

Air Integration

Not all dive computers offer air integration, but it is feature that is quite valuable. Air-integrated dive computers give you all the information that you need as you dive. Your computer will calculate remaining air and dive times, adjusting your profile as you go.

In addition, the best models, such as the ScubaPro G2, offer multi-gas integration. This is of great benefit to tech divers and recreational divers who are using nitrox blend mixes.

Algorithms

All dive computers use algorithms to calculate safe dive profiles so as to prevent you from getting decompression sickness. Different brands use different algorithms, with some more conservative and some more liberal. What the algorithm doesn’t know is whether you are a weekend warrior with little other physical activity, carrying extra weight, dehydrated, or jet lagged. In this case, you need to understand your skill level and physical condition in combination with your preference for a more conservative dive plan or if you are diving at your limits.

All dive computers come with a variety of different features. This is where you will need to do some research and decide which ones are important to you. Certain features are more “must have” than “nice to have.”

Backlight

This is a feature that you don’t need until you do! If something goes wrong, you will be glad to have had it.

Water activation

This may sound redundant, but we have all been on a dive where a “dive turkey” enters the water and realizes that they left something on the boat. People get distracted, so turning on your computer is not something you want to overlook in your excitement to get in the water.

Alarms

Alarm features should be customizable to suit you. Chose a sound alarm, flashing light, or combination. A dive computer used correctly not only enhances your dive, it can prevent you from getting into a dangerous situation underwater.

Comfort

Your computer should be comfortable for you to read with a mask on. Chose a display that isn’t cluttered that you can see and understand.

Laptop/Computer Interface

This is a fantastic feature that allows seamless updating of dive information.

Take Care of Your Investment

A dive computer is a critical part of your essential dive gear and you must look after it carefully. Step one for getting the most out of your dive computer is to read the manufacturer’s manual and to set the computer to your preferences and specifications. Practice reading the screen and understand the functions.

Post-dive, give it a good, freshwater rinse and don’t leave your computer out in direct sunlight for extended periods of time. Replace the batteries as recommended and make sure that you have back-up batteries in your save-a-dive kit!

Having a computer that syncs with my smartphone and laptop with Bluetooth makes the post-dive top time more enjoyable with less time updating dive logs and more time reminiscing and planning the next dives.

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