With so many dive computers out there it is not hard to get overwhelmed. I have gone through a few different styles over the years and am not opposed to trying out something different occasionally, but with the diversity of things that I do, I need something that will work in every aspect of scuba diving that I do. So what do I look for?
I am a firm follower of the KISS philosopy, Keeping it simple. Now, my main diving is either for a professional programs or technical diving, so I need something that can adapt. I also like something that is easy enough to use underwater. Something that outlines everything I need to know easily. So, at the dive shop Oceans Unlimited we deal with a couple of different brands, Aqualung being our primary, and then Sherwood. Now whilst we work with other scuba equipment distributors, these are the companies that deal with dive computers so these are the ones I have looked at.
So I am going to focus on the new range of Aqualung dive computers as it is what we stock primarily, and what I look for personally. Aqualung acquired Pelagic pressure systems in 2015 who were the manufacturer of Oceanic computers previously so for many of you the models will look very familiar. They have two entry level options and then 3 additional models. I have had a good look at what they refer to as their entry level the i200 and i300 as well as the i450.
The i200 and i300 as I mentioned previously are what you would refer to as “entry level” computers, but with so many features jam packed in there I think that they are way beyond that. They have dive mode and nitrox mode for starters. For standard recreational diving you would use one of these modes and can change your nitrox mix up to 40% which is all you need. The display is nice and clear and shows you your decompression limit as well as your dive time, depth, temperature and any other basic dive info. My current computer of choice is the i300. Now I use this for technical diving, as well as recreational diving. And yes, remember it is a recreational dive computer. The fact that it has gauge mode means that I can use it for advanced technical diving. You always plan your dives efficiently before heading out, for me, usually with V-planner and then run that program with my slates and computer in gauge mode. I will be honest and say that in the past I did buy more advanced computers with fancy gas switching and the rest, but as I got more and more into technical diving, everything was planned before hand, and with that, I have only ever needed gauge mode. You cannot predict with a good sense of accuracy what your dive competer will throw out at you if you put it into deco (unless you are using a shearwater with v-planner incorporated) so why waste the money on a computer that does that? A simple gauge mode computer will allow you to do that and in addition you are being more conservative by forwardly planning everything in the first place. The also offer deep stop mode which is again a great feature and with the option of freedive mode the diversity of this computer just keeps growing.
Both the i200 and the i300 have these features, so as you can guess, they are our biggest sellers, as I will not push equipment that I don’t think is necessary. I completely believe these computers will fulfill so many of what you need as a professional and beyond dive computer. The only difference mainly between this two is personal preference, do you prefer a puck computer or a wrist watch type?
The next step up is the i450 which we also stock. Adding to the previous two models you have a digital compass, 3 gas switch mode and the option of doing a hoseless gas integration. Also there are more advanced watch features including stopwatch and countdown features. So if you would like to add some of those additional extras then maybe this is the next step up for you.
All of these computers are reasonable priced and I cannot recommend them enough. Remember, keep is simple and you’ll find that entry level can be a lot more than it initially says on the tin ; )