Finding the best dive computer can be tricky and it won't be long before they are mandatory everywhere. So whether you’re just starting out on your diving adventure or you’ve been bubbling around for a while, it’s a piece of kit you’ll need. All the flashing, beeping, sexy electronics and technical jargon could leave you more confused than a repetitive dive plan calculation, so we’ve taken the hard work out of it for you.
Best Dive Computer Review
Quick Comparison Chart
Before you start looking at computers, you will need to consider a few factors. Your budget is most likely your first parameter. You don’t need to spend a small fortune, think about how much you will use your computer.
If you dive only on holiday and are just buying one to offset the mandatory hire rules now being enforced, then you might not want to spend as much as if you are diving every weekend. That said, a good value dive computer by a reputable manufacturer is no less of a computer than their top of the range model, you just might not want to wear it to the pub later!
Decide where you are going to wear your computer too. You have the choice between - on your wrist and - attaching it to your regulator set via a console. Console mounted gauges can feel a little clunky and not very streamlined; the downside to wrist mounted gauges is that they are an extra thing to remember and put on. However, wearing your computer on your wrist gives you the greatest flexibility as it is independent of your regulator.
Consider the size of the display and the amount of information presented in terms of both your eyesight and how easy it is to comprehend. The ease of use is also a factor; do you wear gloves and, if the design requires it, can you push the buttons while wearing them?
Finally, have a good think about exactly what you will use your computer for and what activities you might want to progress to in your diving life. Your computer will last a while so if you are considering technical diving you need to look at a computer that can gas switch for decompression diving, if you are considering free diving then you will want one that features a free diving mode.
If you are a beginner diver and are not sure, start with something simple but one that has the option for you to use nitrox.
All dive computers will be able to show you your current depth, maximum depth visited, total dive time, remaining no decompression time (which will adjust as you change depth), and temperature. Computers will also have some way for you to monitor your ascent speed and safety stop and be able to guide you through emergency decompression procedures.
Audible alarms are standard and are there to warn you of various limits; alarms can be turned off and, some can be adjusted for preference. There will be some previous dive data or log information, the amount of which will vary depending on the model.
It would be very unusual to find even the most basic computer today that doesn’t have nitrox capabilities; if you’re investing in your diving as far as buying a computer then there’s a good chance a nitrox course is in your future so don’t consider a computer without this feature.
If technical diving interests you then you need to look for a dive computer that will allow you to program different gases and enable you to switch to them during your dive. This functionality means that as you change gases for accelerated decompression and your computer will calculate your stops.
Some computers only have algorithms for different nitrox mixes, and some include trimix too. Some manufacturers sell the base device, and then you can buy unlock codes to access further functionality as your requirements progress.
Air integrated computers tell you your remaining air pressure and how much time you have left based on your current breathing rate. Console mounted computers with this feature work on a high pressure reading the same as your submersible pressure gauge whereas wrist mounted devices work wirelessly via a transmitter attached to your first stage. Transmitted air data is not 100% reliable; do not throw out your SPG just yet.
Can you change the battery yourself or does it need to be sent off? If it needs to be sent off, where does it need to go, how long will it take, and how much will it cost?
If you’re a data geek you’re going to want to be able to scrutinize your dive down to the micro bubble; on the more basic computers, this isn’t possible while on some models the required gadgetry is extra. The download feature allows you to have an electronic log as well as lots of additional information not available via the dive computer screen itself.
A planning mode is included on some models, and this can be anything from a simple, ‘How much time will I get at x depth if I jump in now?’ to generating a full technical diving plan with gas switch and decompression stop information. The planning mode will be relevant to the diving the computer is made for if it’s a feature you think will be useful find out what it can do.
A free diving mode will allow you to track single breath apnea dives. A gauge mode will allow your computer to function as a bottom timer tracking only your depth and run time. Guage mode can be used to monitor a technical dive plan that is written on a slate making it a great back up device for a technical diver with one technical computer.
Diving at altitude requires slightly different procedures and an augmented dive plan; some computers have a setting for this. Likewise, some computers have a conservative setting should you wish to add more safety to your plan.
Computers screens do get scratched, so most come with a screen protector. If they don’t you will need one; so make sure they are easy enough to buy and replace.
Suunto Zoop Novo Dive Computer
This computer is the basic model in the Suunto range but has everything that you need to get started and keep you going for quite a while. It’s nitrox compatible, can be used for free diving, has adjustable alarms, ascent rate indicators, safety stop tracking, altitude and personal conservatism settings, and you can change the battery yourself.
The display features large numbers with high contrast for easy reading of your dive time, NDL, current and maximum depth. There is no backlight on this model, but the screen will glow in the dark if ‘juiced up’ by your torch.
The model will guide you through emergency decompression, but this is not a computer for technical diving.
The four buttons are easy to press and allow you to navigate through the menus but you will need the instruction manual for guidance while you get the hang of it. You can download to your dives to your home computer, but the cable is an extra cost. The computer comes in a variety of bright colours which makes the computer easier to spot should you drop it. The Suunto Zoop can be wrist mounted or inserted into a console.
Cressi Leonardo Dive Computer
The Cressi Leonardo Dive Computer is Cressi’s basic model. It has everything you need; it’s nitrox compatible and has a high contrast display that clearly shows the information that you need in a well thought out manner.
It has a backlight which can be activated by pressing the button; this makes reading it easy at night or in low light conditions.
You can program in levels of conservatism, opt in or out for deep-stops and adjust alarms.
This computer has just one button with which you can program all settings. While this can make life easier, it is a lot of repetitive pressing which can feel laborious particularly if you make a mistake and need to start again. This computer comes in a variety of colours; you can wear it on your wrist or insert it into a Cressi ‘boot’ on your console. You can change the battery yourself, and you can download your dive data, but the gadgetry is extra.
Mares Puck Pro Dive Computer
The Mares Puck Pro is the new incarnation of the Mares Puck. It’s been updated to feature a bigger display, but a slimmer design yet like most basic computers in each brand range it’s far from streamlined. For a basic model, the Puck Pro has all the features that you need.
It’s nitrox compatible, has altitude adjustments, can be used in gauge mode, and has a backlight; in short, it gives you all the data you require for standard recreational diving.
You can change the battery yourself and download data, but you will need an extra kit to do this.
Cressi Giotto Dive Computer
Big brother to the Cressi Leonardo, the Cressi Giotto gives you everything you need in a recreational computer with the addition of some basic technical functions.
On this model, you can program two nitrox mixes, up to 99%, which you can switch underwater.
This functionality will allow you to run an accelerated decompression dive which is ideal if you have your sights set on some decompression diving in the future.
This model will give you that bit extra functionality without the hefty price tag of a full technical computer while you progress in your diving training.
Suunto Cobra Air / Nitrox Air Integrated Computer Console
This Suunto Cobra comes mounted within a console attached to a high-pressure hose. This design gives you all the decompression information that you need for recreational air and nitrox dives, and it will also tell you how much air you have left in your tank.
This is an integrated system that works via the high-pressure hose that directly connects to your computer to your tank for precision information.
There is no backlight, but the display will glow when given power from shinning your dive torch on it.
The information on the screen is clear and easy to read, and four button functionality lets you easily navigate through menus. You can change the battery yourself.
Shearwater Research Petrel 2 SA Dive Computer
One of the big daddies of dive computers the Shearwater does everything apart from making the tea. For the technical and CCR diver it has everything. It’s air, nitrox, and trimix compatible in any combination of up to 5 mixes and is suitable for both open circuit and CCR diving.
The computer operates Buhlmann, and you can adjust your gradient factors; an upgrade can be purchased activated by a PIN to access a VPM algorithm. For CCR dives deco calculations are made using constant set points.
The full-colour display is clear and easy to read and shows all required stop times and time to surface.
The Shearwater Petrel 2 includes a digital compass which negates the need for extra gauges. This computer does not lock out if parameters are violated.
It’s two button functionality makes menu navigation easy. It takes an AA battery which you can change yourself. With your computer, you will get a screen protector as well as all the accessories required for downloading data, battery storage, and a full user manual.
While this computer is the favorite of tech divers the world over it’s not kind to the recreational diver. The computer doesn’t distinguish between recreational and technical simply viewing everything as technical which means decompression stops are quickly incurred for repetitive recreational dives.
That said, the price point of this deep water Leviathan is not cost effective for recreational diving.
So which is the best? They are all great computers; it just depends on which one is right for you and the type of diving you are doing.
The Suunto Zoop, Cressi Leonardo and Mares Puck have little to choose between them. They are all great computers, but for what it’s worth, multi button functionality to navigate through menus is always easier. While all have clear displays, the technology in the Cressi Leonardo makes it the most defined and best contrast.
If you are looking for air integration that’s solid and reliable, then the Suunto Cobra is the way to go. Thinking about tech diving in the future but not sure then the Cressi Giotto will help you on your way. For technical diving, the Shearwater is your baby. Clear display, easy to use and will accompany on your whole technical journey whether open circuit or CCR.