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Choosing A Dive Computer – What Are The Factors To Consider?

If you are new to diving, check out our introductory article on scuba diving!

An important piece of diving equipment that keeps you safe, tracks your progress, and helps standardize and improve your dives is a dive computer or dive computer watch. So, one of the first diving gear to buy for scuba diving is a dive computer.

If you are in the market for a dive computer watch, read this article carefully. There are so many dive computers out there and you may end up buying one that’s too advanced for you or lacks the functions you want.

Whether you are looking for an entry-level or advanced dive computer, there are many things to take into consideration if you intend to get one. Here, I’ll be providing information about dive computers after which the factors to consider when buying a dive computer will be discussed.

What Is A Dive Computer?

A dive computer is a device that measures the depth and time elapsed during a dive and uses this data to track the dissolved nitrogen in your body as you dive. By displaying real-time diving information on an easy-to-read screen, a dive computer tells you how long you can dive safely.

Dive computers also help divers to avoid decompression or at the very least, decompress relatively safely. They’ve become popular among divers because of their ease of use.

The three types of dive computers are the wrist styles, the watch styles, and the console computers with watch-style dive computers having mode popularity because of their versatility.

What Information Does A Dive Computer Display?

I think I don’t need to explain depth, temperature, and air pressure since those metrics are easy to understand. Other important dive information displayed by a dive computer include:

Remaining dive time: Dive computers tell you how long you can remain at your current depth and return safely to the surface.

Air consumption: This is the same at which a diver uses the air in the scuba tank. Your dive computer uses your air consumption rate to calculate the remaining dive time.

Nitrogen exposure: Many dive computers tell you how much nitrogen is in your system by using a bar graph or a meter. You can also use this feature to know how much nitrogen you’ve off-gassed towards the end of a dive.

Dive logs: This is the record of your diving history. You can review this data to keep track of your progress, how much air you are using or the performance of your dive computer.

Compass: Important navigation tool when visibility is bad or you get swept by currents into an unknown or unfamiliar area.

How To Choose Your Dive Computer?

Beginner Divers vs. Advanced Divers

Remember when I said it’s easy to buy a dive computer that’s too advanced for you or lacks the functions you want? You need to choose your dive computer based on your level of experience and whether you intend to improve your skills.

As a beginner or entry-level diver, there are several beginner dive computers on the market that displays basic diving information. The Cressi Leonardo is one example of such dive computers.

However, you’ll eventually outgrow the Leonardo if you dive regularly and have made improvements as regards your diving skill. Then, you’d need dive computers like the Mare Smart Air, Shearwater Research Peregrine, and other advanced dive computers on this list which are more expensive.

If budget isn’t really a problem, you can start with the Peregrine or Smart Air which grows with you as you make progress in your diving.

Of all the dive computers on this list, only the Shearwater Research Perdix is truly capable of handling technical diving. Technical diving is on another level entirely, since you dive deeper than you do in recreational diving, and will require specialized training and equipment.

The dive computers on this list are mostly aimed at the recreational diver.


Your dive computer will either use rechargeable or replaceable batteries or even both. If it’s a replaceable battery, make sure you can replace it yourself without visiting a professional for your convenience. On the other hand, if it’s a rechargeable battery, you should make sure it’s fully charged or has sufficient charge before going for a dive.

Gas Blends Support

Depending on whether you intend to make decompression stops when diving, you may have more than one gas blend in your tank. So, you should also watch out for the different gas blends your dive computer can keep track of. Most recreational divers use two gas blends with a maximum of 50% oxygen. Some dive computers are capable of supporting multiple gas blends and can even allow you to switch between your gas blends when diving.

Air Integration

Dive computers that have the air integration feature connect to a Bluetooth transmitter mounted to your regulator’s first stage. This transmitter allows your dive watch computer to keep track of air pressure which makes it tell you your air consumption rate and the amount of time you can use at your current depth before you exhaust your air supply.

If you dive regularly, you should consider investing in a dive computer with this feature.

Screen Type

Most entry-level dive computers have a black and white LCD display or a full-color display. Some models use a LED backlit screen that retains a glow after a dive torch is shined at them thanks to the phosphor-luminescent technology used on them. And this means you can still read the screen of this type of dive computer even when the backlit fails.

However, full-color displays are more popular nowadays because of their aesthetics and ability to display in great detail.


Some dive computers can connect and sync with your PC, Mac, or Smartphone through Bluetooth to plan and log your dives. If this is a feature you want, you should go for dive computers that have it.

Older models of dive computers may connect to your devices via a USB cable.

Modes and Features

Dive computers usually have various operation modes depending on how sophisticated they are. Entry-level dive computers usually have basic models such as air, Nitrox, and gauge.

Interests dive computers have more operation modes like Watch, which allows you to use your dive computer as an everyday watch, or Freediving for when you want to dive.

More advanced dive computers will have modes like Trimix and rebreather.

Other features that can come in handy include an electronic compass and built-in GPS.

Final Thoughts

A dive computer is an essential piece of your scuba diving equipment and it is important to choose the right one! It needs to be reliable, easy to use, and give the right information when you need it. Choose your dive computer according to your diving level – no need to get something too advanced if you are a beginner!

Hopefully, after reading this article, you now have a good idea of what a good diving computer should be like and how to choose it!

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