How To Buy a Dive Computer: What To Look For

how to buy a dive computer
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Learning how to buy a dive computer is an essential process every diver has to go through.

Since the 1980s, these innovative tools have given underwater explorers revolutionary benefits.

From calculating your dive time to determining your maximum depth, there's plenty of features they offer.

What Dive Computers Do

Before we get into the details of what to look for, it's essential to know the purpose of a dive computer.

Put simply: these unique devices are designed to keep you safe while you're submerged.

They provide an assortment of essential metrics using innovative algorithms in the computer.

A few examples of the data they provide include:

  • Depth: Your current depth as well as the maximum depth per dive.
  • Time: Your total depth time from the second you descend as well as bottom time.
  • Surface Time Interval: How long a diver spends above the water between dives.
  • Ascent Rate: Ensures divers don't ascend faster than 30 feet per second, causing decompression sickness.
  • Safety Stop: The time when divers hit five meters, which is the safety stop depth.

There are multiple alarms built into a dive computer to alert you to any changes or concerns.

Whether they are visual, audible, or both, you will continuously be aware of any hazards you're close to encountering.

Features To Consider

Now that you're aware of what these computers do, let's get into the features you should look for.

Algorithm

First, you want to make sure you choose a diving algorithm that suits your needs.

Various manufacturers have an assortment of algorithms they use, some of which are more conservative than others.

If you're new to diving, you'll want a more conservative algorithm that allows you to dive safely with limited customization.

On the other hand, professional divers might opt for a less conservative algorithm to adjust their dive times.

A good middle ground is to opt for a computer that uses a combination of the Haldane model and RGBM (Reduced Gradient Bubble Model).

You should also consider an algorithm that allows for extra levels of safety, just in case.

Air Integration

The vast majority of modern dive computers have built-in air integration, and it's an essential feature.

With this metric, you can keep an eye on how much air is remaining in your tank.

You can also use it to calculate the amount of nitrogen your body is absorbing while submerged.

Style

Did you know there are two different styles of dive computers, known as console and wrist?

Console

Console dive computers are the larger of the two and are often connected to your regulator.

They have larger screens that are easy to read underwater and are easier to manage in cold environments.

You might also find that they are bulkier, heavier, and more challenging to travel with.

However, they seem to be the fan-favorite for most divers since they are the most convenient.

Wrist

Wrist dive computers provide much of the same information as console models, such as depth, time, and bearing.

What makes them different is that they are smaller, depending on the model, and are worn on the wrist.

Some divers prefer wrist computers because it's easier to look at your wrist for information than a separate piece of equipment.

Modern wrist dive computers will also contain several innovative features that a console unit might not.

how to buy a dive computer

Downloading Capabilities and Memory

It can be convenient to upload your dive information to a computer to review after an excursion.

Fortunately, the majority of dive computers allow you to do so with ease.

If you can find more modern models, they might also offer Bluetooth connectivity for wireless downloading.

This feature allows you to track your dive log history and other divers' history in your crew.

Another critical thing to consider is memory, which is responsible for keeping your diving information safe.

Are you the type of diver who goes out on the water more than 100 times annually?

If so, you'll need a dive computer that holds a lot of memory before needing to be cleared.

On the other hand, if you dive infrequently, memory won't be as much of a concern for you.

Analog vs. Digital

Although digital dive computers are widely accepted among new and veteran divers, analog is still quite popular.

Some people prefer analog because they can be more reliable and have an antique appeal to them.

You'll also be able to use your mental abilities to calculate your diving experience for a more hands-on approach.

Digital dive computers help to make the process simpler by giving you all the information you need at a glance.

The internal components do the calculations for you, and the algorithm ensures up-to-date data is always available.

If you prefer to rely on technology, we highly recommend sticking to digital gauges, especially as a beginner.

Air and Nitrox

Most modern dive computers give you the ability to switch between nitrox and air.

If you're someone who prefers to dive with different O2% levels, you can also customize your desired mix.

With high-tech computers, you can also handle multiple dive values with an assortment of mixes per dive.

Divers interested in going to deeper depths should set their sights on trimix.

With trimix, you'll be adding helium, which requires special training but is beneficial for experienced divers.

Screen and Display

Since you will frequently check your dive computer, you'll want to make sure it's easy to read.

The displays will typically differ depending on their difficulty; for example, entry-level ones typically have segmented displays.

Segmented displays are like digital watches but won't offer as much advanced information as dot matrix models.

With a dot matrix screen, multiple segments will help make challenging information easy to read.

It's also important to consider the screen's quality, such as the numbers and letters' visibility.

You'll want access to highly detailed colors, brightly colored screens, and more.

We recommend opting for models with color screens because they can draw your eye to different types of information quickly.

Also, always opt for an LED or LCD screen to assist with visibility underwater.

How To Buy a Dive Computer: Final Thoughts

There's a lot to consider when learning how to buy a dive computer, especially with all the technology.

As long as you can find an easy-to-read device that displays pertinent information, you'll be well-equipped.

You can bet that your needs will change with more experience, and you'll want to upgrade your existing device.

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