Each month, the SCUBA DIVER test team assembles to rate and review a selection of dive equipment from a range of manufacturers.
Products are split into price categories and are then evaluated for performance, comfort, ease of use, build quality, looks and value for money. The Test Team comprises Editor in Chief Mark Evans and a squad of volunteers, whose dive experience ranges from a couple of hundred dives to well over 7,000.
This test, we look at the 5 best wristwatch dive computers. At one time, if you wanted a dive computer that doubled up as a watch, you basically bought a Suunto Spyder, and then the iconic Suunto Stinger, which became pretty much de rigeur wrist-wear for dive instructors.
Suunto had the wristwatch-style dive computer segment of the market to themselves for a long time, and they have bolstered their range substantially over the years, and still offer more of this type of dive computer than anyone else. However, most of the other manufacturers have now cottoned on to the fact that a lot of divers like to have a wristwatch computer, either as their primary unit, or as a handy back-up to their main dive computer, and so they have brought out a few into their line-ups.
We have assembled a selection of the 5 best wristwatch dive computers here for the main test, but have also provided a round-up of the other computers offered in this style by these manufacturers.
Aqua Lung i200C
Aqua Lung offer several wrist-mounted dive computers, including the full-colour i770R, but they had not ventured down the wristwatch route until they brought out the i450T (see below). That has now been joined by the innovative i200C, which represents fantastic value for money for a well-equipped, durable wristwatch-style unit.
It uses the tried-and-tested Z+ algorithm, and has a segmented LCD display, which is easy to read – for low-light conditions, it has a push-button-activated back light, which is handy on night dives or when you are in grotty UK conditions.
It has got four operating modes – Air, Nitrox, Gauge (with run timer) and Free Dive. Handily, the latter tracks calculations to allow unrestricted switching between free and dive modes. In Nitrox mode, it can handle two gas mixes, up to 100 percent oxygen, so will cover the vast majority of divers for all of the diving they will ever want to do.
It has a user-replaceable battery, so no sending it off to the manufacturer when it runs low.
It comes in six funky colours, from the more-subtle Grey and Dark Grey to in-your-face Bright Pink, Aqua, Blue, and Hot Lime. We got the Hot Lime for this Group Test, and it certainly stands out as a daily wear watch, often eliciting comments from even non-divers. It feels solid on your wrist, but is not what I’d call heavy. The best thing about the i200C is how easy it is to use – it literally takes a couple of minutes to get your head around the menu and four-button navigation and then you are away.
However, one of the i200C’s greatest attributes is down to how well it works with the DiverLog+ app (which is available for iOS and Android). The i200C seamlessly interacts wirelessly via Bluetooth Smart technology, and you can control all aspects of the computer from your phone or computer. I found it easy to jump into DiverLog+ and adjust all the settings – gas mix, salt or fresh water, alarms, etc – and then it is a simple matter to just fire that over to the i200C and, you are ready to dive. Far quicker and easier than doing it all manually on the computer itself, to be honest.
On completing your dive, you can then throw over all your dive data from the i200C into your DiverLog+ app logbook. Your dive profile, time and date, water temperature, etc, are all brought over from the i200C, and you can then add additional information, such as what gear you were using, your location, buddy’s name, any photographs or videos you took, and so on. You can even get your buddy to digital ‘sign’ your logbook. Once complete, you just hit the ‘share’ button and can send it out via all the usual channels – email, Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, etc.
The DiverLog+ app has many features beyond those described above – you can build up a file of buddies, locations, ‘gear bags’ for different conditions, and much more. Like the i200C itself, it is very intuitive and easy to use.
With a decent range of capabilities, and coming in at just a shade under £300, it represents excellent value for money and is a nice user-friendly piece of kit, especially as it works so well with the DiverLog+ app.
Aqualung i450T Computer
The i450T was Aqua Lung’s first real foray into the world of wristwatch-style dive computers, and is a capable unit in its own right. It offers hoseless gas integration, and is compatible with three different transmitters and gas mixes on a single dive. The screen is nice and clear, it has a digital compass and, like the i200C, it has four operating modes – Air, Nitrox, Gauge, and Free Dive.
Mares Smart Air
Mares boast a wide array of dive computers, but only really made an impact in the wristwatch-style scene with the launch of the Nemo range and the Matrix (see below), but it was the Smart (see below) – and the Smart Air – that really put them on the map.
The Smart Air is a neat, compact wristwatch computer that has subtle good looks – we like the grey-and-black strap and body of our test unit, and the flashes of colour on the screen surround. The minimalistic stying continues to the controls – there are only two buttons. This makes navigation around the menus very easy.
The computer offers hoseless air integration for up to three transmitters, and it gives you a graphic and numeric display of tank pressure on the screen. It is multi-gas compatible, and has a freediving mode with dedicated alarms. There is also a bottom-timer mode, and a backlight for when you are night diving or in low-light/low-visibility conditions.
We found the screen nice and clear in use, and while the digits are not the biggest, they are very sharp and distinctive, so we had no problem reading the information on the screen. We were also able to operate the computer even wearing thick neoprene gloves.
The Smart Air has a user-replaceable battery, which is great news on a wristwatch-style computer, and saves you having to send it off to the manufacturer
The computer provides the hoseless gas integration through the LED Tank Module, which has a colour LED mounted on the end. This allows for visual tank checks pre-dive, but also it will alert your buddy to a low-gas situation during the dive.
The Smart Air works with the Diver’s Diary (Mac) and Dive Organizer (PC) apps, which allow for firmware upgrades, has full logbook functionality, and much more.
The Smart Air represents awesome value for money – a wristwatch-style computer offering hoseless gas integration is an absolute steal.
Other wristwatch computers
The Nemo range was Mares’ first delve into the world of wristwatch-style dive computers, and these were followed by the Matrix , a well-equipped dive computer, with a clear dot matrix display, rechargeable battery, upgradeable firmware, and a full-tilt digital compass.
The Smart is a full-featured wristwatch-style dive computer, which can deal with two gas mixes, and also has freediving mode, and a bottom-timer mode. It comes in a range of colours – black, black-and-white, lilac-and-white, lime-and-white, black-and-red, and black-and-grey. It also has a user-replaceable battery and, as it is the basis for the Smart Air, also only has two buttons for navigation/operating the backlight.
The OCi is Oceanic’s range-topping wristwatch-style dive computer, and it incorporates an awful lot of features. As with most Oceanic computers, it is equipped with the patented dual algorithm, so you can select from the Pelagic Z+ (Buhlman ZHL-16C) or the Pelagic DSAT (Spencer/Powell data basis) algorithms, and as well as air and nitrox modes, it also has free and tech free (where it calculates nitrogen during a freedive) modes.
It also has hoseless gas integration, and is capable of communicating with up to four independent transmitters, with up to four nitrox mixes from 21-100 percent. That should be more than enough for entry-level technical divers.
The OCi has a digital compass which is easy to use and clear to read, and in fact the entire display is nice and simple to navigate. It doesn’t have the biggest screen – the Geo 4.0 is larger, with a bigger display – but the digits are nice and clear, and navigation via the four-button controls is straightforward.
Like the Geo it has a user-replaceable battery, though it is recommended to have it pressure-tested by a dealer.
Our test unit came in a cool white colour scheme, but it also comes in black, black-and-yellow, black-and-blue, black-and-grey, and black-and-red.
Oceanic Gep 4.0 Dive Computer
The Geo, now in its 4.0 incarnation, was Oceanic’s first wristwatch-style dive computer, and this latest version is a solid unit. It can handle air and nitrox (up to three gas mixes between 21-100 percent), and also has a gauge and freediving mode. The menu is easy and simple to navigate via the four button controls, and it has got a backlight for low-light conditions.
As with most Oceanic computers, it is equipped with the patented dual algorithm, so you can select from the Pelagic Z+ (Buhlman ZHL-16C) or the Pelagic DSAT (Spencer/Powell data basis) algorithms. It will also work with the Pelagic DiverLog+ app, which can be downloaded for free from the App Store. This handy tool not only logs your dives but also allows you to control and change settings from your phone via Bluetooth.
Pre-dive you can select your gas mix and algorithm, set alerts for time and depth, etc, and then fire it across to your computer. After the dive you can reverse the process, sending all your dive profile information across to your phone, where it can then be embellished with photos, videos and more.
www.oceanic.com – Website no longer active.
Shearwater Research Teric
Now most of the other wristwatch-style dive computers on the market user a dot matrix LCD display, and these are generally nice and clear, and easy to read. However, Shearwater Research decided to utilise all of their skills with full-colour screens, as with the Petrel and the Perdix, and shoehorn it all into a wristwatch-sized unit. The result was the Teric, and while it is by far the most-expensive computer here, it also boasts a mind-boggling array of features, as well as one of the brightest screens I have ever seen in all my years of testing dive equipment.
When Gabriel from Shearwater Research was describing the Teric to me prior to the arrival of our test unit, he said ‘the Teric is like the sun and the Perdix is like the moon’. I have always been impressed with the colour and clarity of the screen on my Perdix AI computer, so I thought he was maybe exaggerating – until the Teric showed up.
Set on its brightest setting, the Teric obliterates its sibling. Light conditions, dark conditions, lousy vis, it makes no difference, you can easily read the information on the AMOLED screen of the Teric, and if you really have bad eyesight, you can set it to ‘Big Layout’, which makes critical information largest.
Menu navigation is done via four buttons, but you can configure it so that a single button can access your most-used tools, such as compass, timer, etc.
The Teric is hoseless gas integrated, and can monitor up to two transmitters on two different tanks. It has tech, OV tech and CCR tech modes, with up to five trimix and nitrox gases, so even hardened veteran technical divers will find that this has the capabilities to match their skill level.
The computer also has a freediving mode, and as well as a ‘techie’ black finish, you can also get it in black-and-white, black-and-green, black-and-yellow, black-and-blue, and even black-and-pink.
It has a rechargeable battery, but uniquely, this is wirelessly charged – you simply pop the Teric into the cradle and it starts charging. Even the screen display rotates 90 degrees so that you can still read it and use it as a timepiece even when it is being charged. There are also three displays on the screen – a normal digital readout, a digital ‘analogue’ style with hands, and then a funky display with circles containing the hour and minutes, and one with seconds, moving around the screen.
Suunto have a mighty line-up of wristwatch-style dive computers, but they gave the range a shake-up with the launch of the D5. Sitting in the price point between the D4I Novo and the D6i Novo, the D5 takes a different track. It has a three-button navigation control, and a full-colour screen, which really makes it stand out from its brethren.
If you are used to Suunto’s existing range, it doesn’t take long to get your head around the D5, and if you have an EON Core or Steel, you will instantly find the menu familiar. The screen is clear, especially if you set it to the highest brightness, but you can always give it a short extra ‘boost’ of brightness by pressing the middle button.
It has a digital compass which is clear and simple to use, and hoseless air integration with up to three different tanks, as well as fully updateable software. It can handle up to three gas mixes (from 21 to 100 percent) and uses Suunto’s latest algorithm, Fused RGBM 2. There is also a freediving mode, and a gauge mode.
One feature we really liked was the vibration alarm, which sounds when you miss a stop, break a depth limit, etc. It vibrates when you start your three-minute stop, and then vibrates again to let you know you have completed it.
It will Bluetooth to the Suunto App on your phone, and you can then download your dive logs, as well as add additional information and photographs.
It also has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which means you never have to worry about your computer running out of juice on a dive trip and having to scrabble around to find someone to change the battery.
One neat feature about the D5 is the strap system. You can literally remove and replace a strap in seconds. There are a wide variety of colours and styles available, and even a leather strap for evening wear (Suunto don’t recommend diving in that one!), so you can swap and change as much as you want.
Other wristwatch computers
As we mentioned in the introduction, Suunto kickstarted the whole wristwatch-style dive computer with the launch of the Spyder, and then the Stinger. The extensive line up now includes the D4i Novo, which uses Suunto’s RGBM algorithm, has three dive modes – air, nitrox and free – and has optional hoseless gas integration.
Then there is the D6i Novo, which is equipped with the Suunto RGBM algorithm, and has a steel casing, 3D compass and hoseless gas integration. It has four dive modes – air, nitrox, gauge and free – and can switch between up to three nitrox mixes.
The range-topper is the DX, which at its launch was the world’s first watch-sized CCR-compatible dive computer. It has a titanium bracelet, and utilises Suunto’s Fused RGBM algorithm. It can handle air, nitrox and trimix, can switch between up to eight gas mixes, has a 3D digital compass, and optional hoseless gas integration.
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