Although most of today’s divers choose the watch-style dive computer, console computers still hold steady in their segment of the market. Here we’ll help you decide which is right for you, wrist or console dive computers.
Wrist or Console Dive Computers: The Basics
Essentially, dive computers function in the same way, regardless of where you wear them. A lot of dive-computer models are available as either a wrist or console unit, with the computer itself being identical. The only real difference comes down to how you wear one. A wrist computer is worn like a watch. A console computer sits in a designated unit, typically paired with your manometer and perhaps a compass.
In the early days of scuba, divers would wear separate depth gauges, bottom timers (typically a dive watch with a rotating bezel), manometers and compasses. For ease of use, and to free up some forearm real estate, manufacturers started putting all of these functions into a single console unit. This could be attached to the regulator first stage through a low-pressure hose, allowing the manometer to gauge remaining pressure in the tank. When manufacturers introduced dive computers, they simply replaced the depth gauge and bottom timer in the console with the dive computer, which combines the two.
However, the invention of the dive computer also meant that it was possible to move the depth gauge/bottom timer combo back onto the wrist. Today, both set-ups are readily available. So which is right for you? Both the console and the wrist computers have pros and cons.
Price. Console computers are typically cheaper than their wrist-mounted counterparts, so divers on a budget might want to consider a console.
Info at a glance. On a console, you can stick all of your gauges onto the same unit. This allows you to check your depth, dive time, remaining dive time, heading (if you have a compass), remaining gas in your tank, and possibly more — all at a single glance. Most of this information is also available in a wrist computer. But this usually requires costly extras — wireless gas integration, for example. You may also have to switch between functions, such as toggling between the depth/time info and the digital compass, if the computer has one.
Convenience. Advocates of the console point to the fact that divers generally don’t drop their consoles mid-dive. They are, after all, tethered to the regulator. The same cannot be said about wrist computers. I’ve personally found three dive computers in my dive career. And the risk of forgetting your dive computer at home or on the boat is almost non-existent with a console.
On the other hand, a console is quite a bit larger and more cumbersome than a simple manometer, which many wrist-computer divers have in its place. Some divers find it annoying to perform an entire safety stop holding onto a large console rather than simply checking their wrist.
Safety. There is no difference in safety when it comes to wrist or console dive computers. They all run on comparable algorithms. Some divers point to the larger console as a potential entanglement risk. Properly attach a console to the BCD and stow it away to ensure a streamlined profile and you’ll face little risk of entanglement.
Which one is right for you?
The Mares Puck 3 comes both in a console version and a wrist version; the console pairing with a compass and a manometer. This streamlined console puts the notion of the clunky console to bed.
Aqua Lung’s Inline 2 console is equally streamlined, but half the cost of the Mares.
Suunto’s Zoop is a good, basic dive computer at a very reasonable price. Many divers have started out with this computer, or use one as a backup. Still, you’ll usually have to pay 50 percent more for this than for the Aqua Lung console mentioned above. For a more advanced version, the Scubapro Mantis 1 features not only the core scuba-diving functions, but also skin temperature and heart-rate monitoring for more accurate DCI risk evaluation. It’s also streamlined enough that it can double as a wristwatch. Finally, it features a surface-swim mode, allowing you to monitor your swimming strokes.