Last Updated on August 26, 2021 by Editor G
Dive computers are convenient and versatile devices. They continually track your depth and time underwater and more importantly, keep your nitrogen levels within acceptable limits.
As much as we’d tell you to figure out your needs and then pick a model, there are a few basic features you must not skimp on. Your first dive computer should be easy to use. It should show current depth, maximum depth during the dive, No Stop Time (NDL), and overall dive time.
A low-battery warning is also very important. You’ll want to know when it’s time to change the battery and also transfer data for an in-depth look at your dive.
Other features include backlighting and audible alarms. While there are more sophisticated features, beginners and recreational divers don’t need the extras.
We’ve carefully considered names from top brands before putting up this list. Ours are wrist dive computers. Some are quite sizable and only look good with scuba diving gear but others you can use for everyday wear.
Quick Guide – Editors Choice
Top Entry Level Dive Computers
Oceanic Geo 2.0 Wrist Computer- Best Dive Computer on a Beginners Budget
- Powered by Oceanic's Exclusive Dual Algorithmâ„¢ - Your choice between Pelagic DSAT (Spencer/Powell data basis) or Pelagic Z+ (Buhlmann ZHL-16C data basis)
- 4 Operating Modes: WATCH (Alternate Time, Chrono, Daily Alarm, Countdown Timer), NORM (Air and Nitrox), GAUGE (with run timer) and FREE (tracks calculations to allow switching between NORM and Free)
- User-Friendly Interface with "Step Back" â€“ allows forward and backward navigation through menus and settings - Switch between up to 2 Nitrox mixes to 100% O2 with no restriction (Gas 1 may be up to 100%, and may be less or greater than Gas 2)
- Stop times 3 minutes - displays minutes & seconds - Deep Stop with Countdown Timer â€“ Maybe turned on or off. 2 minute countdown at half your max depth, for dives greater than 80 ft / 25m
- Single button access to "Last Dive" display (max depth & bottom time) - Data Retention - maintains calculations indefinitely when the battery is changed - Audible Alarm with flashing LED light - History Mode includes total number of dives, max depth, total dive hours, and lowest temp
Oceanic Geo 2.0 is a decent dive computer for beginners and recreational divers. It is a budget model. We don’t expect features like Air Integration, GPS, etc.
Oceanic Geo 2.0 functions both as a dive computer and a regular watch for daily wear. It is smaller in size than regular dive computers. This has its advantages and disadvantages. The sleek design means that everything gets cramped up on the screen. It can be hard to read. The menu takes a little time getting used to. Most people are not happy with the laminated quick start menu. But we do like the buttons since you can easily press them even in gloves.
It has four buttons. Two buttons help to go forward and back on the menu. The third button helps to save the settings while the fourth button allows you to turn the backlight on and off.
You get four operating modes on the Oceanic Geo 2.0. It features the Norm mode for Air or Nitrox dive modes, Gauge, Free Dive, and Watch mode. It is easy to switch between any of the modes with the buttons. We like that it can store up to 24 dives on its unit logbook.
Though not the largest, you can select log sampling rates between 2, 15, 30, and 60-second intervals. It also allows you to select between imperial and metric modes. This way, you can use it in the most comfortable to view mode.
Perhaps the best feature about Oceanic Geo 2.0 is its dual algorithm. It allows switching at will between decompression and no decompression profiles. It also has settings where you can adjust safety limits.
This dive computer has automatic altitude adjustments. It also automatically calculates the safety stop function for dives over 80ft. The max operation depth for this computer is 328ft (100m) in the Air/Nitrox mode. It allows a max depth of up to 393ft in the Gauge mode.
When it comes to the alarms, Oceanic Geo 2.0 makes it so that you can understand each alarm based on the mode. The alarms vary from too fast ascent to exceeding dive time, deep stop violation, etc.
• Handles two gas mixes
• Features dual algorithm
• The dive profile is downloadable to PC
• The battery is user changeable
• Can be too big for small wrists
• Lacks software for Mac
Aqua Lung i300 – Best Under $200
- 4 operating modes: Air, Nitrox, Gauge (with run timer), and Free Dive (tracks calculations to allow switching between DIVE and Free on the same day)
- User changeable battery and data retention. Maintains settings and calculations between battery changes
- Backlighting. For easy reading in low light
- Audible alarms and additional high-visibility LED warning light for additional safety
- User-updatable software gives access to the latest features and upgrade (must purchase optional download cable)
Achieve full control and be completely self-reliant with the Aqua Lung i300 dive computer. This model is feature-packed and does not need a hefty investment. It has a less conservative algorithm that’s nice for recreational divers over conservative models like Suunto.
Aqua Lung i300 comes in a rugged and chunky design. Although it is a wrist computer, you won’t be able to wear it every day since it does not have a watch mode. We like that you can easily replace the battery and it does not lose data between battery changes.
The buttons on this dive computer are tactile and easy to press. It features backlighting and flashing LEDs. They warn you when approaching no decompression limit or exceeding a safe ascent. The menu is also a bit small and can be hard to read like the Oceanic Geo 2.0. But it is easy to navigate.
However, you may come across some abbreviations that are not usual in a dive computer. As such, you may need to go back to your manual to look up the different abbreviations.
Every dive computer should help to keep you safe underwater. And while you still need to take into account safety concepts, the i300 comes in to help you achieve a safe dive. This model takes on the less conservative Buhlmann PZ+ algorithm.
We find it adequate since it only needs to take into account individual BCs instead of a group of people. The algorithm is between Suunto’s RGBM and DSAT models. Since it is moderately conservative it is strictly for no-decompression dives.
Aqua Lung i300 comes with several interesting features. It has four modes. The Air and Nitrox modes are for normal diving. It can be used as a bottom timer in the gauge mode. It also has a free dive mode. You can switch between scuba and free dives on the same day. This is opposed to models that need you to wait 24-48 hours.
This computer automatically adjusts the altitude and the algorithm. It also has deep stop capabilities such that you can extend your bottom time. You will like the pre-dive planning feature as well as the single-button access to the last dive. The dive plan is sensible which goes a long way in helping you achieve a fully-controlled dive.
• Surface time can be added to planning mode
• Can sync data to a computer
• Can switch between scuba and free diving on the same day
• Uses a less conservative algorithm
• The display is not DOT matrix-can be hard to read
• Not recommended for pro divers
Suunto Zoop Novo- Best Suunto Entry-Level Dive Computer
Suunto is a beast in the diving world. Their dive computers compete with the best of the best. Suunto Zoop Novo boasts full decompression capabilities. It is much better than other entry-level models.
Suunto Zoop Novo is built to last. It weighs 4.3 ounces and is quite large. The display is super bright. You can adjust the backlight or turn it off completely. Zoop Novo is made of durable materials. It has a composite bezel complemented by acrylic glass and an elastomer strap.
You don’t have to go with the rubber strap. It can be worn using a bungee or a boot mount. This computer is one of the simplest to activate. You can hit a button before you hit the water to see your dive plan. If you forget, the computer activates automatically when you hit deeper than 1.5ft.
Zoop Novo stays in the surface mode when you are in a depth of 4ft. When you dive deeper, it then changes to the dive mode. It indicates the battery level each time it enters the dive mode. To conserve battery, the computer will enter into the idle mode when it’s not in the water.
The 3V CR2450 battery can last for up to two years if you make less than 100 dives per year. But if you take around 300 dives, you will get only 12 months of battery life. It’s advisable to service Zoop Novo after 200 dives including changing the battery.
Although you can replace the battery at home, Suunto requires that you go to an authorized dealer. Otherwise, you will void the 2-year warranty.
Image Source: Suunto.com
Suunto uses RGBM (Reduced Gradient Bubble Model) algorithm. It is a conservative mathematical model that is all about safety. The algorithm can monitor closely spaced repetitive dives and continuous multi-day diving. It also monitors when you take dives that could lead to decompression sickness.
For example, when you have multi-day dives, it may advise you to increase surface interval time. And when you make personal adjustments, it also adjusts its calculations accordingly.
This computer has four modes. These are Air, Nitrox, Gauge, and Free dive. It has adjustable dive alarms, stopwatch timer, and 140 logbook memory hours. It also has a built-in dive planner and you can download the data to your PC or Mac. It uses the Suunto DM5 software that is easy to download.
Suunto Zoop Novo makes diving simple though you will pay a little bit more than our two previous models.
• Detailed graphical logs
• Apnea timer for freediving and air/nitrox modes
• The display is big, clear, and backlit
• Has decompression stop data
• Does not set altitude automatically
• No-fly does not display in the standby mode
Garmin Descent Mk1 – Best High-End Dive Computer for Beginners
- Premium full-featured GPS dive computer in a sleek watch-style design; with bright 1.2” color display and topo mapping
- Built-in sensors include 3-axis compass, gyroscope and Barometric altimeter as well as GPS and GLONASS capability that lets you Mark your dive entry and exit points for surface navigation
- Supports single-gas, multi-gas, gauge and apnea diving, including nitrox and trimix; plan your dives directly on the device
- Dive log lets you store and review data from up to 200 dives - and share online via Garmin connect and its included mobile app
- Features Elevate wrist heart rate technology with multisport activity profiles, performance metrics and smart notifications
If you are looking for more features in a beginner’s dive computer, Garmin Descent Mk1 got your back. This is a premium model that functions as a dive computer and smartwatch. It is a nicely sized for everyday wear so you can track your activities in and out of the water.
Garmin Descent Mk1 comes in an elegant design. The 1.2-inch display is colored. It has inbuilt GPS, compass, barometer, and gyroscope sensors. The computer performs TOPO mapping on the display. You can also view the map and your plotted points on a smartphone. All thanks to the Garmin Connect App.
The build quality of Garmin Descent Mk1 is super durable. It has a sapphire crystal lens and a stainless-steel bezel. You can also choose a titanium bezel with titanium bands but it is more expensive than the steel bezel.
This dive computer has five dive modes. It has single and multiple gas modes. These include whether you are using Nitrox or Trimix. It also has apnea, gauge, and CCR (Closed Circuit Rebreather) modes. All these allow you to make a good dive plan so you can be safe underwater.
Garmin Descent Mk1 uses the Buhlmann ZHL-16c algorithm. It is less conservative. It has conservatism settings which allow you to adjust your safety limits. The algorithm automatically adjusts to the settings you make. You can set alerts for surface time intervals, dive time, multiple depth markers, etc.
This computer support six different gas mixes up to 100% oxygen. It automatically activates when you hit the water. The display will show the dive time, current depth, water temperature and no-deco time. It also shows ascent/descent rate, decompression stop information, and the battery level.
When you surface, this computer will give you the dive data automatically.
The smartwatch features on the Garmin Descent Mk1 are what make it special. This model comes with the Garmin Fenix 5X smartwatch features. It has 26 activity tracking options. From the water to the gym, and even the trails. You have thousands of activities to record and share with family and friends.
• Tone and vibration alerts
• Elevate Wrist Heart Rate Technology
• Can mark entry and exit points
• Up to 40 hours of battery life in dive mode
• Lots of features to keep up with
• Heart rate sensor cover could be of better quality
Dive computers for beginners offer basic to midrange features. If you are a recreational diver extra bells and whistles cost more. But they don’t have a significant benefit to you. The Garmin Descent Mk1 is the only beginner’s dive computer that is super easy to use.
If you are on a very tight budget, we recommend the Aqua Lung i300. And if you can afford a little more Suunto Zoop Novo is a perfect pick. It balances the features and the price so you won’t miss out on anything.
Even with a dive computer, you must watch your ascent rate and wait for at least an hour before your next dive. And don’t forget the safety concepts taught in Ope
Further Dive Computer Resources
Gareth Evans is a travel writer and entrepreneur living life as a digital nomad. Gareth has been based in Bangkok for the last 8 months.