How to choose your dive computer and use it properly!
The use of dive computer has made scuba diving even more easy and enjoyable. We are now done making mistakes skipping lines on our old dive tables. After years of development, computers come in all shapes, colors and price. I recently change my computer watch for a new one and I would like to give you some insight of how I am choosing it. I will not advocate any brand in particular, I will just go around the different type of dive computer on the market. Other dive specialists will go a bit further in each dive computer analysis.
What do I need a dive computer for?
That’s the first question you have to ask yourself and your buddies. You will notice quite quickly that you will get a lot of different answers. Let start with a few case study:
“I am a new diver and want to get further into the sport. I am on the way of buying equipment and don’t want to stretch my budget. Typically, I am diving once a month” said Marcus Miller. I am sure a lot of you will recognize themself into that need. So Marcus is a recreational diver, that is not going to constantly wear its watch. I think it gives us two good options: a bulky wrist computer and a console computer.
The wrist computer is the entry-level for all scuba divers. I personally started with a Mares Puk, but others exist as the Cressi Leonardo and the Deep Blue Cosmiq+.
Wrist Computer is a good starter:
- Good Price
- Easy to use
- Some computers like the Cosmiq are an online logbook connected to Bluetooth
- When you get further into diving, it can become your back up computer.
- They are bulky, you can not wear them for your best friends wedding
- For some of them, navigating in the menu can be complicated
- You can possibly lose them during a dive
The console computer fits all your needs
The console computers is also a very good option for Marcus as it is getting a new gear set. He might be able to save some bucks:
- The price range is great. Quite often the wrist computer will also have a console version. You will also get a higher market.
- You can not lose them underwater. In some conditions, new divers can be overwhelmed and lose gear. That will not happen with a console. That is also one less piece to pack at the start and end of the day
- You can get it scratched if you don’t secure your gear properly.
- If your computer has integrated air (replace your pressure gauge) and/or a transmitter, you are likely to have a bad surprise with the battery. My advice is to keep redundancy or back up.
- Batteries might have to be changed by a professional in some model
Stanley Clarke was telling me: “I am an advanced diver and I do a couple of dives every weekend and sometimes a night dive”. Paul sounds like a water baby and he is too busy to have time to remove his computer after a day of diving. He is, like me, a perfect candidate for a dive watch. As an Instructor, I spend most of my time in the water and I appreciate to have my log always with me. So Paul and I are looking at something a bit trendy and light. Dive watches are getting smaller, colorful and a bit expensive. I personally own an Oceanic Geo 4 after owning an Oceanic Geo 2 for the last 4 years. What I like to consider those computers on top of the budget is the style. If you are not going to wear it out of the water, why bother with a more expensive and smaller to read computer? Also, can I change the wrist band for a none branded one (not possible with Geo 2), what is the warranty as you are going to wear it more, it will get used.
The Dive watch is my personal favorite
- You can wear it out of the water (and you can’t imagine how many discussion that computer will start)
- A wild range of budget and colours
- Still a chance to lose it
- Some allow for a transmitter and integrated air.
- You can wear them at your wedding
- A bit more expensive than the Wrist Computer
- They are somewhat fragile
Kurt Cobain was also telling us: “I am planning to do my Tec Diving course in a year or two, I am diving a lot”. Kurt doesn’t want to be limited by its equipment in the future. All the computers, we have talked about are for recreational diving. They will not allow you to plan Decompression Dive. If you are planning to become a Tec Divers, they will be a limiting factor. But hold your horses before you spent 2K on a Tec computer. First of all, Tec diving is about redundancy. So you will need an extra computer or at least an accurate depth gauge and timer. All the computers we discussed give you that option (although the console computer is probably the least practical for a Tec setup). The best thing is to get into buying those computers during or after the course, so your instructor makes you try a few different sets up.
Tec Computer should be chosen when you get to that stage of diving
- They are expensive enough so your partner will not blame you if you are using them instead of wedding rings at your own wedding
- They offer a great range of option to plan your dives
- You need to train on them to use them perfectly
…and how should I use them?
You might remember your PADI Open Water course final exam. The first thing to do with a dive computer is to read the instruction manual. You need to make sure to set your computer to metric (except if you eat jam and gjf on toast).
The most important tool of your dive computer is the planning mode. It allows you to know what is your actual no decompression time before you are underwater. It is the only way to plan your dive, just getting underwater and figuring things out is not an option.
After a dive, you have to rinse and soak your computer in fresh soapy water. Push all the buttons to get the salt out. Make sure to dry them and protect them from the sun if you are not wearing them.
Once in while do a computer check underwater and make sure that your computer read the same depth.
Some computer needs some update. Make sure you connect them online regularly to get the freshest software.