How we time and log our dives has come a long way in the past few decades. We’ve gone from purely analog units (a watch and a depth gauge) all the way to the advanced computers we have today. Modern divers have a wide range of choices when it comes to their dive computer. Computers come in every shape and size, from console-mounts to watches, all the way up to advanced, smartphone-like units that do everything but make you a cup of post-dive coffee. But which dive computer is right for you? Let’s take a look at the options.
The console dive computer
On a console, the computer is integrated with the manometer and often a compass as well. This was a fairly common setup until recently, and the style still has its fans and advantages.
Everything is in one place. Divers can quickly check their depth, remaining air, remaining gas, direction, and more. It’s all attached to your scuba unit, so there’s little to no risk of forgetting your computer on the dive boat’s deck as you take the plunge. And because everything resides in one unit, your wrists are free, so you needn’t worry about putting the watch over your wetsuit.
Consoles are a bit clunky, large and relatively heavy. Also, not all computers are available in a console version anymore.
Who they’re best for:
Recreational divers who like a one-stop solution and the old-school feel of a console.
The standard wrist dive computer
Wrist computers are still the most popular and often the least expensive. Sized like a very large watch, they combine a fairly small profile with an easy-to-read screen, large enough to allow a lot of information to be displayed at once. They are also fairly easy to make, so most of the cheapest computers are of this type. There are more advanced models as well, of course. Essentially, standard wrist computers are the most versatile, including everything from the inexpensive, entry-level Cressi Leonardo to the trimix-enabled Suunto Hel02.
Standard wrist computers are a manageable size, not overly large but still easily legible. Divers can choose from quite a large selection of types and features.
Some of the most advanced features are moving to the OLED-type computers, which are gaining popularity. These units are pretty streamlined, but still not exactly tiny.
Who they’re for:
Anyone from recreational to technical divers in search of a cost-effective, streamlined dive computer.
The watch-sized wrist dive computer
Basically, a compact version of the standard wrist dive computer, wristwatch units are about the size of a large watch. They have many of the same features, as well as a watch function that you can use when you’re not in dive mode. Smaller screens do mean that you often need to scroll more to see the same information that a larger unit would display on one screen. These also often feature an apnea mode, so divers can use them for freediving, too.
These computers can double as your watch, so you can save some money here. Their small size means they’re less cumbersome, but feature- and safety-wise, they’re up to standards.
It’s difficult to find a wristwatch with any trimix functions. The smaller screen also displays less information. Those with poor eyesight may also have to forego these units because they can’t read the small screen.
Who they’re for:
Recreational divers who want a smaller computer, and like the watch-computer combo.
OLED computers are the newest kids on the block. They feature large, high-resolution color screens, and often very advanced functions. Most of them allow for a wide range of diving, from recreational to tec and rebreathers. They are quite boxy, like an oversized iPhone. The screen legibility combined with the advanced capabilities give them unparalleled superiority in the functions department, however.
OLED computers offer loads of information, bright, colorful screens, iPhone-like usability and advanced functions.
OLEDs are also large and expensive — think $1,000 or more if you want air integration. Since their functions are quite advanced, many divers will pay for a lot stuff they’ll never use.
Who they’re for:
Advanced divers, particularly tec and rebreather divers.
Whichever you choose, rest assured that the industry monitors their safety and reliability quite strictly, so they are all equally safe to use. Any computer works with one of only a few algorithms. The choice is simply a matter of budget and personal preference in terms of style and functionality.