Dive gear shopping for dummies : the dive computer
Updated: Jun 15, 2021
Buying a dive computer probably comes just after buying your own mask. If you want to be safe when you're diving. you should have your own computer; that way you don't rely on anyone. It's small, light and easy to bring along on diving holidays and if you like free diving you can use it for that too. However, there are loads of different ones out there and navigating the market to find the one that suits you can be diffiuclt. Here are a few tips.
Think about your budget
Unfortunately, the first question you probably have to ask yourself is how much you can or are willing to spend for the purchase of your dive computer. Prices vary widely, with your cheapest dive computer starting around 150 euros and the most expensive models costing over 1000.
You might think that you can get around that by buying a second hand one, like with a car this can work great or can be a complete disaster. Check the dive computer history for the number of dives. Most computers have a shelf life of approx. 1000 dives in my experience but models and uses vary and I’d steer clear of buying something with over 200 dives especially if you‘re getting something a bit fancy (and expensive) which has so many more ways of going wrong…
Which style is for you?
Watch, fisher-price watch or console? Those are basically your three main choices. What I mean by this is you can get a (usually slightly more expensive) computer that looks and acts like as a watch as well, a dive computer that is a huge chunky thing on your wrist made of plastic with a big display screen (what I call ficher-price watch, like a fisher price tool set for kids type thing -big, chunky, plastic and easy to use) or you can get a computer that fits on your console with your spg.
Pros and cons of the three:
Pros: because you can wear it comfortably, you’re less likely to lose it. You just pop it back on after diving and take it off at home that night…
Cons: you might have to scroll to access the info since the screen is small and it doesn’t all fit on one. Usually more expensive and you look like a bit of a showoff with your fat watch.
Bulky/fisher price watch
Pros: easy to read, all the info on one screen, numbers are large, it’s idiot proof.
Cons: the bulkiness means you take it off and then might not pop it back on (you might not fit your arm through your jacket sleeve) so the potential for it getting misplaced is much greater that with a smaller model (trust me, I've been there).
Pros: It's on your reg so there’s little chance you ‘ll forget to bring/ wear it, unless you forget your reg…
Cons: It’s an expensive piece of equipment that will stay with your gear at the dive shop/ boat overnight if you’re doing several days diving; and in as much as people don’t usually steal regs , they do steal dive computers so you might have a nasty surprise. It costs a lot so better to have it with you. Additionaly , it also means you have to bring the reg if you want to have your computer with you on holiday for instance.
What type of diving will you use it for?
Not everyone plans to do tech diving and even if they do, not everyone plans to do trimix for example, so you might have a long think about what type of diving you’re planning to do for the next few years, say. You might change your mind as you go along but then you might think about investing in a new computer suited to your new interests. You might also ask yourself if you’re planning on doing any freediving, many computers have this feature.
Do you want it air integrated?
Some computers have a feature that allows you to track you air consumption as well as all the other info. Some people find this super useful. Personally, because of my allergy to technology, I feel more comfortable with having a mechanical/analogue system that has been proven pretty fail proof for my air. Also I feel that if my computer fails, it’s no biggy but I'd be happy to know how much air I have left to safely finish the dive with my buddy (you can also have an spg as backup though). Each to their own on this one, if you’re the high tech type, you’ ll probably love this feature.
How conservative should it be?
What type of diving do you do? Do you like diving quite deep? Do you often do several dives a day? You might want to borrow, rent and compare computers before buying one to see how they react when you push them to their limits and what the limits are… Suuntos are very conservative , so you’ll get emergency deco before a Mares, for instance, most of the time but once you get to 8 meters with a Suunto your deco ticks off so you can carry on enjoying the dive at a shallow depth whilst doing your emergency deco stop. With a Cressi for instance you may have to ascend to 3 meters to get rid of your deco, which is usually too shallow to really carry on diving. Check to see how the model you like reacts with repetitive dives, you might get surprises. Talk about it with friends, try as many as you can( rent , borrow, steal- no, don't steal) and compare with your buddies when diving to get a better idea of how they react when close to the limits.
Think about how much you want to spend, what you’re going to use it for and chat/ compare/ borrow from your mates/diving instructor/guide. Happy shopping!