When I was introduced to the Oceanic XT computer, it was called the Aeris A300 CS. Aeris was making a big push toward innovative design and technology, which birthed the compact OLED dive computer. Prior to shipping to the public, Aeris put their beta test divers to work. We were asked to honestly evaluate the pre-production units in order to identify and address any problems. During the 2014 Aeris and Oceanic merge, the Aeris A300 CS became the Oceanic VTX — new name, additional improvements. I’ve had the opportunity to dive both versions; this is my initial impression and feedback on the Oceanic VTX.
I never judge a book by its cover, but this computer’s cover, with its Terminator-like chrome frame, sleek screen and small size, was very enticing. I was impressed with the slim profile and how comfortably it sat on my wrist and over my drysuit. The primary units I tested came with the extended rubber strap, but I’m switching to Oceanic’s bungee wrist mount. After fitting my unit, I started pressing the strategically placed buttons and was met with a colorful OLED display. On the first screen, I used the home menu to easily navigate to multiple settings and modes. The icons and letters were piercing against the black screen, making the small-to-large fonts very legible.
“The full-color screen effortlessly displays all the vital stats of your dive without all the bulk that can sometimes overwhelm the wrists of more petite divers,” says avid diver Erin Durbin-Sherer.
Programming and Knowing What Your VTX Offers
I admit that I’m that diver who tries to figure out how to use his computer before reading the directions. Oceanic had divers like me in mind and my VTX was set to dive as soon as I activated it. Though it is truly easy to change settings without assistance, I still referred to the quick-start guide for a review on the user interface. Ultimately I read the full operating manual before programming multiple gases and transmitters for my technical dives, and after doing so, I realized that the Oceanic VTX offered far more than the average dive computer.
One of the first things I wanted to program was my personal information to help identify my computer. When I selected “my info” from the menu bar, I was reminded to use Oceanlog or Diverlog to input data. I simply downloaded the Diverlog app for $11.99 and I was able to sync my iPhone 4s and VTX via Bluetooth. Now I can make wireless changes to my settings and utilities, as well as upload my diving information. Oceanic didn’t forget about PC and Android users; the product includes a USB cord and Bluetooth should be available for Android soon.
I love having the option to use my phone or PC, but I tend to use the 3-button system to change my settings and utilities before my dives. I am constantly adjusting my alarms, max depths, turn pressures, algorithms and transmitters based on what course I am teaching or what type of decompression diving I am doing. With my junior new divers, I set my VTX for conservative and max depth alarm for 40 feet. For deep dives I set my gas mix and an alarm for a max depth of 300 feet. Knowing that I can rely on my computer to switch gases during my deco and have PSI redundancy gives me peace of mind. As with any dive, though, my dive computer is assisting me and I always bring backups.
“Compact, yet powerful. The ease of navigation is fantastic with the 3-button system,” says Brent Miller, manager of houseofscuba.com.
Once I’ve programmed the settings and utilities, it’s time to take my VTX diving. The manufacturer asked me to play with the brightness settings on the surface and down below, so I selected the brightest option for my night dives — it was so intense that it attracted some pesky squid. I love the idea of using it as a fifth backup light, but doing so drains the battery quickly.
I opted to set the auto dim for what I needed most, which definitely extended the battery life, and the screen was much easier to read on a sunny day. Bright beams of sunlight will make any screen difficult to read, so I took this into consideration when positioning my Oceanic computers. During my sunny dives, I wore my computers on the inside of my wrist to cast a shadow when checking my depth, time, psi, etc., but during my night dives, I position them on top, so that I can read my screen from multiple angles.
One of my favorite features of the VTX is the distinct alarm sound. When programming my computer, I set alarms to go off as reminders for my dive buddies and myself. The ascent rate alarm is helpful when evaluating emergency ascents with students or taking deco stops in high surge. I also like that I can set an alarm to indicate that I’ve reached my planned no-deco limit, which extends my recreational dive time.
Though I love utilizing my computer for training purposes, I truly take advantage of the multiple settings when I’m diving deep or for hours at a time. I’ve had the opportunity to put my Oceanic VTX to the ultimate test while filming Southern California’s deep plane wrecks. As much as I love getting narc’d, I wanted to make sure that I could easily manage my gases, depth, air consumption and camera equipment. Prior to diving, I set my voodoo gas mixes from 28 to 99 percent and programmed each transmitter. During this dive, I was definitely task loaded with equipment and the VTX gave me peace of mind.
When my dive buddies ask me how I like the Oceanic VTX computer, I give a positive review. After diving with these computers for several months, I truly appreciate how well it does what it’s designed for.
Of course, I remind divers that computers are there to assist our dives, and to always plan with redundancy. Not every computer is 100 percent perfect, but Oceanic has come pretty darn close.