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Compass, depth gauge and a dive watch: these are some of the precision instruments you wear when you go scuba diving back in the olden days. Well, it’s still been practice by some today, especially for the old-school divers. But can you imagine them wearing all at once in your wrist? Not to mention the feeling of beating a watch model, it will likely be bulky for sure.
With today’s technology, these instruments are integrated into a single smart digital instrument we all call the dive computer. From the early models of dive console integration, research and product development has paved the way in making dive computers a standalone instrument that is worn like a regular timepiece. Aside from reading important dive parameters, modern dive computers are also pre-programmed with an algorithm that provides real time data and planning for your next dives. In effect, the tedious process of using the dive table in making a dive plan is simplified with the automatic features of your dive computer.
Amazing, right? Yes, but using a dive computer does not exempt you from learning the recreational dive planner and making a dive plan, which happens to be a whole section in the open water diver certification course. The mastery of using the dive table, making a dive plan and using a dive computer will make your dive safer.
In this 2024 buyer’s guide to finding the best scuba diving computer, we’ll cover:
Measurement readings: depth, time, temperature, surface interval Data storage: 50 dives Max depth: 120 meters (393 feet) Pros: easy to replace battery without using sophisticated tools, large backlit display, software compatible with Windows and Mac, complete reset mode which is ideal for dive shops Cons: no air integration, too large to wear like a wristwatch
Launched in 2020, Donatello is one of the few new-generation Cressi dive computers designed for both scuba diving and freediving. Inspired from its predecessors (like the Giotto, Leonardo and Michelangelo), the Donatello is still a rugged dive computer, but now with a wider UFDS display. The UX design is simpler and more functional, that with a single button press, effortlessly navigates you between the air, nitrox, gauge and free mode.
Energy conservation is significantly improved in the Cressi Donatello. Powered by a replaceable CR2430 battery, power life is extended with an energy saver mode when not diving and an auto power-on once it gets wet. Aside from the wrist type, your options also include the Cressi Donatello console version.
Measurement readings: depth, time, ascent rate, surface interval and scuba-specific measurements Data storage: 400 dives or 200 hours Max depth: 100 meters meters (328 feet) Pros: Sleek design, changeable silicon or leather strap, wireless air integration, 3 gases (Oxygen 21 – 99%), digital compass and multi-language. Cons: high price point and numbers on display are small
Made in Finland, the D5 is one of the latest Suunto dive computers out in the market. With high contrast and 320/300 screen resolution, D5’s monitor is one of the clearest and brightest amongst dive computers. With 3 navigation buttons, you can easily switch between modes and settings. Upgrades and accessories of the D5 include the Suunto tank POD – a transmitter that allows your D5 dive computer a wireless tank pressure reading.
Although released in the market in 2019, the D5 has an updated 2022 software. For this year, all D5’s are already software updated. For older units, you need to log at the SuuntoLink app, link your D5 and upload the latest software. With the app, you can also customize your own dive mode. While it already has 3 gas modes, you can set your own view styles, define specific gas settings and dive alarms.
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, temperature Data storage: 200 dives Max depth: 100 meters (330 feet) Pros: Comprehensive tracking, scratch proof screen and easy to read Cons: No air integration and no touchscreen
With their bulk and ragged appearance, dive computers are not usually worn on formal occasions, except for a few like the Garmin Descent Mk2S. Looking like a smartwatch and yet a fully functional dive computer, the Garmin Descent Mk2S is what every diver needs. Aside from its sleek design, this trendy dive computer gives you all the important formation of your dive like max depth, bottom time, surface interval and can store up to 200 dive logs.
And its not just about fashion and style since the Garmin Descent Mk2S is also versatile since it can be used, not just for scuba diving using air, but also for nitrox, trimix, pure O2 and closed circuit rebreathers. This is why we tried and made our own in-depth review of the Garmin Descent Mk2S.
You may also want to check other Garmin Descent dive computers, like: Mk3 and G1.
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, temperature Data storage: not specified Max depth: 40 meters Pros: GPS tracker and built in digital compass Cons: High price point and only 36 hours battery life
Who would ever thought that an Apple Watch can become a dive computer? Yes and that is made possible by the Apple Watch Ultra. When you purchase, it is just an Apple Watch with a robust titanium case, precision dual-frequency GPS and a 36 hours of battery life.
The only time this Apple Watch can become a dive computer is when you synch it with its partner Oceanic+ app, after which, you can immediately use it either as a digital compass or as a depth gauge up to 40 meters deep. Running under the Bühlmann decompression algorithm, this smart watch can calculate and display basic dive parameters like depth and dive time. After the dive, you can immediately upload your dive data directly to your iPhone or at the cloud.
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, deco stop Data storage: 1,000 logged hours Max depth: 260 meters (850 feet); 152 meters (500 feet) with transmitter Pros: large monitor, easy to read number, air integration Cons: high price point
Suited for technical divers, the Shearwater Perdix 2 has all the features a demanding diver needs when exploring highly demanding environments. The Perdix 2 is the only air-integrated dive computer that can accommodate and simultaneously read 4 transmitters, giving you the luxury to monitor multiple tanks in a single glance.
With an armored casing, the Perdix 2 is one of the toughest and most reliable full-size dive computer in the market. Its precision titanium surround bezel and piezo touch buttons protects the performance of its enhanced electronics.
Adding more to its toughness, its aluminosilicate glass lens protects its 2.2” improved clarity bright screen, making it impact and damage resistant. For in-water notification, it strong vibration alert system will really get your attention which is crucial, especially at the critical moments of a technical or commercial dive.
You may also want to check other Shearwater dive computers, like: Peregrine, Teric, Petrel and the Nerd (which is the preferred dive computer of my DM students and other dive pros).
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, temperature, ascent rate Data storage: 100 logged hours in multigraph display Max depth: 150 meters (492 feet) Pros: upgradeable firmware, simple design, mid-range price point, Nitrox and trimix capable (up to 5 gases) and changeable strap Cons: slight flaws in design, does not include interface and software for downloading to pc or mac
Being one of the newest dive computers under the Mares product line, the Sirius combines technology and elegance ideal for both recreational and extended range divers. For newbie divers, the Sirius can be your everyday wrist watch. But when its time to dive and the unit gets wet, the computer mode will automatically turn on, displaying all relevant dive information like depth, dive time and deco time.
For pros and extended range diver, purchasing along its transmitter converts the Sirius into an air integrated dive computer with five nitrox and trimix modes. And the strap, it can be changed to fit any wetsuit thickness.
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, temperature Data storage: 24 dives Max depth: 100 meters (330 feet) Pros: large display, easy to read numbers, durable, altitude diving capabilities Cons: not intuitive to use, confusing user’s manual, only 24 logs
Using its DSAT-based Buhlmann ZHL-16c PZ+ code, the Geo 4.0 and other Oceanic dive computers has been using their own algorithm which has become the blueprint for other brands. In every dive, the Geo 4.0 will read your dive profile like depth, dive time, temperature and deco stop timer. Operational settings of the Geo 4.0 includes normal, freediving, nitrox, gauge and altitude diving.
Internal memory allows to store 24 dive logs with a PC interface to upload your data, synchronize it with its own OceanLog app and view the historical mode to see your total number of dives, total dive hours, maximum depth and lowest temperature explored.
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, temperature Data storage: 24 dives Max depth: 100 meters (330 feet) Pros: compatible with most dive consoles Cons: bulky design
Not all dive computers goes in the form a wrist watch, as some can be integrated in the dive console, like the Tusa Element II. Activated automatically when wet, the Element II can function either as an air computer, nitrox computer, simple depth gauge, freediving depth gauge or just simply a timer. With a screen monitor larger than most wrist-type dive computers, the Element II clearly displays its large alphanumeric figures with a backlit display and audible alarms. Just be reminded early on that the Element II set up on a dive console can become bulky and may weight up to 2 pounds.
You may also want to check Tusa’s wrist type dive computers, , like: the TC1 (also called IQ130i) and the solar powered IQ1204.
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, temperature, ascent rate Data storage: 200 dives synchronized using DeepBlu app Max depth: 100 meters (330 feet) Pros: intuitive interface, clear display, easy to upload dive logs Cons: only uses DeepBlu app for uploading dive log info, no altitude diving mode
Re-engineered and fully reinforced: that is how the Cosmiq+ Gen 5 evolved from its former design. Some of its physical upgrades includes 35% thicker material, a redesigned o-ring and a bigger memory now capable of storing 200 dive logs. While the frequency of firmware updates remains the same over their cloud-based app, the battery and its charging capabilities has improved significantly. The Cosmiq+ Gen 5 comes with its own magnetic USB cable for charging and the new battery can power up for 10 hours underwater and up to a month on standby mode.
Measurement readings: depth, time, surface interval, temperature, ascent rate, no fly time Data storage: 40 log hours Max depth: 100 meters (330 feet) Pros: large screen, easy to read figures Cons: bulky and heavy
If you’re looking for a dive computer that is pretty straight forward, then you should use the Seac Screen Computer. With its large 4 x 4″ monotone screen, the dive information being displayed is highly visible to the eye. Aside from the regular parameters (like bottom time, depth, temperature and deco time), the Seac Screen Computer can also compute your no fly time which is important if you’re flying out soon after a dive trip.
You might be thinking, that at a single glance, all dive computers are the same. While it may be true when it comes to general functionality, there are certain features that are common to most dive computers, while some features are unique to a particular product. These features will help you decide the right dive computer for you with features that suits your needs and diving profile.
Display – assuming that you already know the principle of refraction where everything you see underwater is 25% larger and nearer, you can now neglect the display features of a dive computer. No, you should not. Remember, since most dive computers are wrist-type, their display area is pretty confined. With this, we highly recommend a dive computer that has an optimal screen size but with a large display of numbers. A manual backlight feature will also compliment the clarity and readability of figures shown in the display.
Depth Limits – all dive computers are water resistant, but they vary in depth ratings. Most dive computers in the market has maximum operating depth ranging from 100 meters (330 feet) up to 260 meters (850 feet). For us, the deeper the depth rating, the better. But this does not mean that you are going to exceed your maximum depth limits set within the recreational dive planner or your depth limitations specified in your particular certification level.
Ease of Use – otherwise known as user experience, the Ease of Use feature in a dive computer is very important since this will allow you to fully operate without encountering any difficulties. Some dive computers automatically switches from normal time mode to dive mode once it gets wet. Other dive computers features buttons to assist you in navigating to different modes and functions.
Memory – traditionally, we record the information of our dive through manually writing and filling up the pages of a dive log. With dive computers, every dive together with its vital information are digitally stored in its system and can be retrieved anytime you want. There are only 3 differences amongst different brands and models of dive computers: either you are required to retrieve the data through manual operation of the dive computer, digital transfer using bluetooth or USB toggle to a desktop/laptop using software. Regardless of what the data retrieving feature you choose, what we recommend is the amount of dive log it can store. The more dive logs, the better.
Air Integration – the air integration feature of a dive computer allows you to digitally monitor the air in your tank. This means that when you dive using a dive computer with air integration feature, you will have 2 ways to monitor your air, either through the submersible pressure gauge that is connected to your tank via high pressure hose or remote and hoseless through your dive computer.
Note: If you prefer this feature, then you need to choose a unit that has this feature since not all dive computers have this unique characteristic.
The Benefits of Owning a Scuba Diving Computer
Dive computers are expensive and that’s the reason why some of us goes out for a rental. We highly suggest that you should buy your own dive computer and enjoy the benefits, like:
You are guaranteed that you are using a dive computer that meets your needs and matches your dive profile.
You are guaranteed to be familiar on how to use and operate the dive computer.
You are guaranteed that you can easily retrieve your digitally stored dive log anytime anywhere.
With renting, you will most probably be using a dive computer that you are not familiar with and this will be very difficult especially when it comes to operation and navigating to different menus. And lastly, you need to retrieve the digitally stored data after every dive since you will be returning back the unit.
Disclosure: The Salt Sirens is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. We are also an affiliate of Scuba.com.