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Vandit Kalia

Garmin Descent

Review – Garmin Descent Dive Computer

By Gear

GARMIN DESCENT MK1 DIVE COMPUTER REVIEW
By: Vinnie
Date: September 2020
Garmin Descent

The Garmin Descent Mk1 was one of the most exciting dive computers back when it was launched, coming as it did with all the features that one could ever want in a dive computer – and then some.  The Descent it as close to being a “Do Everything” device as it gets, with ability to track other activities (running, cycling, etc) as well as the usual fitness metrics such as steps, HR, calories burned, etc.   And all of it backed up by Garmin’s famous ecosystem which allows for consolidation and viewing of all your activities.    This combination makes for a very unique dive computer – one with no real competition in terms of feature set.

As a long-term Garmin user myself – I have a couple of Garmin 520 computers I use with my bike, a Garmin 935XT watch I use for running and triathlons and a Vivosmart 4 I wear as a daily activity/sleep/recovery tracker, I was very excited at the idea of adding a Garmin dive computer to our portfolio of dive products, and asked for a review unit to be sent out to me.

I have been testing it out on land and in water over the past couple of week – lets see whether it lives up to the hype.

THE BASICS

The Garmin Descent comes in a compact, rigid cardboard box, inside which you find the watch, some manuals and the charging cable.     No extraneous packing, fairly eco-friendly – so that’s good.     A travel case ala Shearwater would have been nice to have at this price point, but that’s an academic quibble, to be honest (I actually prefer to just stick the dive computer in a pocket in my carry-on when I travel, rather than add another box).

 

Inside the box was a robust-looking unit, with a black body, chromed external bezel, chrome bezel and a soft rubber strap.   Also packed in was the charging cable and the usual papers that no one ever reads.

With a diameter of 50mm, the Garmin Descent dive computer is not small by any means, but the short lugs make it surprisingly wearable as a day-to-day watch – which is one of the main benefits of getting a dive computer in this form factor.  It certainly looked very sharp, in a “purposeful tool” kind of way, as opposed to “wrist jewellery” kind of way.

THE DIVING FEATURES

Let’s start with what it does not have – air integration (although it is expected that the Mk2 version will have this).       That’s the easy part.

Now let’s talk about what it does have.   The short answer to that is “everything else”.    As far as the standard features go, here is a list:

  • Air mode
  • Nitrox mode
  • Apnea/Free Diving mode
  • Apnea Hunt Mode (where the alarms are disabled)
  • Gauge mode
  • Full ready for decompression diving
  • Trimix mode
  • Ability to define and switch between 6 different gas mixes
  • Open Circuit vs Closed Circuit mode
  • Multiple conservative settings – Low, Standard, High and Custom, where you can define your own gradient factors
  • Digital compass (excellent!)
  • Dive Planning Mode

In addition, there are a whole lot of other standard features, like many alarms, dive stopwatch mode, altitude settings, fresh vs sea water settings, etc. which I will not waste time covering.

The algorithm used by the Garmin is the industry standard Buhlmann ZH-L16C – same as the Shearwater and a proven, reliable model.       In addition to the standard 3 settings for conservatism, you can also tweak the algorithm exactly as you please, which does away with the limitations imposed by overly conservative or overly liberal computers:   this is done by adjusting the Gradient Factors (and *shameless plug alert* you learn more about Gradient Factors and a lot more in my Decompression Theory masterclass.  Ahem).

That alone makes it a very impressive unit, capable of covering virtually all use cases you would expect underwater.    But wait, there is more.     There are 3 very cool additional features on this computer:

The first is Optical HR which works underwater – unlike the Scubapro Galileo, which claims to adjust the deco profile based on your heart rate, I do not believe that the Descent does so (and it is debatable whether that adjustment has any significant or measurable real world impact on diver safety).     But it is still nice to be able to see your HR and get a sense of how hard you are working underwater, and also for analysis afterwards (great on dives where you were working against a current or had unusually high air consumption).

The second is built-in GPS and surface navigation, which not only marks the entry/exit coordinates of your dive, but also shows you a map of where you are and even allows surface navigation.   Presumably, your boat will have its own GPS, but still, it is always nice to have this feature – the more data you have on the surface, the better.

GPS in your watch – showing entry, exit and a map of the surroundings.   I wants it!!!

The last is the ability to see Tide Charts for your location.   As a dive professional, I find this very useful – and that holds true for recreational divers as well, in terms of knowing what to expect as far as currents and vis go.   Being able to look up this info on my watch, as opposed to firing up a browser on my phone, is pretty slick stuff.

Seriously amazing stuff, Garmin.    My gear lust was fully awakened once I had a chance to play around with this.

NON-DIVING FEATURES

If this is all that the Garmin Descent dive computer was capable of, it would still be a very impressive dive computer.    But as the saying goes, wait – there is more.

Built on a Fenix 5 platform, the Descent is actually a full-featured smart sports watch, with all the capabilities of the dedicated Garmin sports watches – you can use it for various activities including cycling, running, pool swims, open water swims and more (strength, yoga, walking, etc).   In addition, for those of you with dedicated accessories, the Garmin Descent also pairs with accessories like cycling power meters, external HR straps and running pods.     If you wear it as your primary fitness device, it will also do things like track steps, calories burned, stress levels (based on HR variability) and more.

Despite its size, the Descent was very comfortable on the wrist for a run (sorry, no photos while actually running – I dont carry a phone)

As mentioned earlier, I use a Garmin 935XT as my main sports watch for running and triathlons, but the Descent has pretty much all of the same functionality as well.     I used it instead of the 935XT for a few runs, and it worked just as well – despite the device being a fair bit thicker and heavier, it was surprisingly comfortable.   I credit the soft rubber strap, which allows you to get it snug enough without being uncomfortable.    And I got all the advanced running metrics like GCT, Vertical Oscillation, etc. that I get from the 935.   So zero compromises in functionality.

The Descent also pairs with the Connect IQ app store (a part of the Garmin Connect phone app), which lets you download various third party apps and screens for the dive computer – this includes watch faces, activity apps, etc.

ConnectIQ apps let you customize and get additional info on your device

Furthermore, you can also get your phone call and message notifications on your Garmin device – just like any other smart watch.

In short, the Descent isnt just a device you wear for diving – it is a single device that can stay strapped on your wrist all day, every day.

USAGE AND ERGONOMICS

I’ve managed to take the Descent out for a few dives over the past few weeks and see what it was like to actually use the device.

The display on the Garmin is nice and bright – not as amazing as the Shearwater OLED display, but sufficiently bright and easy to view underwater.

Dhruv modeling the Garmin underwater – the display is legible and easy to read even in low vis

Battery life is very good – Garmin claims about 36-40 hours for diving, and up to 10 days in watch mode.   I have not had a chance to test this rigorously, but based on my usage and battery levels, it seems to be more or less right.    And this is a sensible amount of battery life – while this is obviously a matter of personal preference, I can’t be bothered dealing with a device that needs charging every day or two.    Give me something that will run a week of diving without needing any attention.

Charging is through a USB cable with a proprietary connector which attaches to contacts on the reverse side of the watch – standard stuff.     The cable t0 computer connection is very secure indeed – this is NOT going to accidentally come loose at night, resulting in you having an computer with low batteries on the morning of the dive.

Charging cable

Ergonomics, in terms of setting up, will be very familiar to users of other Garmin devices.    Coming from my 935XT, I was able to get into the Descent without needing any manual or anything.     For someone new to the Garmin system, the immense array of options, it can seem a bit much in the beginning, but once you understand the logic of how the menu system is structured, it is surprisingly intuitive.

In dive mode, you have 3 display screens and you can tap on the screen to toggle between them, or use the up/down arrow keys.   The primary screen shows the essential info – dive time, depth, NDL and, in the case of nitrox or trimix, your gas mix and related info.     The second screen shows compass heading, depth, time and NDL.    And the last screen shows heart rate info, as well as the standard essential dive details.

 

The 3 display screens of the Garmin Descent

This is the one place where I felt the Garmin Descent could do better.

For starters, both the NDL and the dive time field read in MM:SS format – which is quite unusual compared to other dive computers, which display minutes only.      Perhaps it is just me, but whenever I see something displayed in the MM:SS format, my brain automatically equates that to a “time” display, not a NDL or deco time display.   So this was one thing that took me by surprise.

Another issue I have with the display is that the arguably most important information – NDL – is in the same font/color size as a bunch of other information that is not as critical, and so does not stand out as much.      Personally, I would have preferred to see that info in a different color or larger font size, so that it stood out more.

The biggest issue, for me, however, was the lack of clarity on labels.   Take a look at this shot, taken during a dive:

Screen 3 display during a dive

Is TOD time of the day or time of dive?    One would expect, from the fact that it occupies a more prominent display that it would be the dive time – however, the standard notation for that is Dive Time, not ToD.  And if so, what is 15:46?   The time of the day was around 1-1:30pm, and the Garmin – which was paired to my phone and to the GPS – should have picked up the correct time automatically.   So neither of these two numbers actually represents the time of the day.     Even if one of them is dive time, what is the other?      And why would you waste display space with something as irrelevant as time of day?

Admittedly, I was searching for new sites and also comparing this unit to a couple of other units I was testing, so my attention was split many ways – and in practice, it would be easy enough to figure this information out with use.   However,  one thing I have learned is that if something isn’t marked clearly (and often, even if it is), odds are good someone will misinterpret it.   So I am a big believer of making stuff as clearly marked as possible, especially for safety-critical units.   And any in case, in this day and age of advanced displays, there is absolutely no reason to have unmarked fields.

The decompression screen is a little easier to read, but still is somewhat confusing at first glance (I have taken this screen off the Garmin website, as I did not have the time to test this computer on some deco dives):

Garmin Descent Mk1 decompression screen

The bottom left number should be PPO2 (an assumption, given the lack of labels, but a pretty safe one) and the top left number is the total dive time.    But given that you are in deco and so past your NDL, why does display show 12:32 under NDL?   I can only assume it is total time to ascend – but if so, why not label it as such?     Surely the display header can be changed accordingly, to avoid the issue of someone mistakenly assuming they still have 12 minutes of no-deco time left.

Are any of these fatal flaws?   Not really.    A couple of dives and you will soon understand the layout and what the fields mean.    However, you just need to be aware that there will be a short learning curve as you get used to the display, and you need to make the effort to cross that curve.

Lastly, the dive planning mode works pretty much as advertised – easy to use and you can add additional surface time to the planning mode to get an idea of what your allowed bottom times would be at some point in the future.  .   You can even plan decompression dives on the unit, if you so desire.

CONNECTIVITY AND APP SUPPORT

The Garmin Connect phone app is the centerpiece of the Garmin eco-system and repository for all your workouts.        Like all your other Garmin devices, the Garmin Descent will connect to it via Bluetooth (something that works seamlessly – even on Windoze and Android) and automatically upload your dive, where you can see it on the app, share it on Strava, etc.    This includes a visual display of your profile, GPS info as well as all the dive metrics including HR.

Screenshots from the Garmin Connect app

The Garmin Connect is also the hub from which you can download apps onto the device – and this raises the issue of reliability.

I am a long-term Garmin user and very happy with their eco-system but even the most hardcore of Garmin fans has to admit that their devices, especially first generation ones, often have teething issues that can make them fairly annoying to use.    Add to that the ability to add apps of unknown provenance and you have set the recipe for an untimely crash.     That’s bad enough when it happens on a bike or a run (it is a proven fact that if you cannot save your workout on Strava, you do not get any training benefit from it!) but happening on a dive can be downright dangerous.

However, the good news is that once you start a dive, the Garmin locks out all the other apps and functionality, thereby improving reliability.   Certainly, the computer worked perfectly for me and searching online doesn’t seem to indicate too many reliability issues – which isn’t surprising.  Garmin also makes products for the aviation industry and those have to be made with a very high degree of reliability – obviously, some of that has been carried over here.

Watch faces, weather apps, activity apps and more allow you to customize your Garmin

Garmin also has a Garmin Dive app, which provides a single place for keeping all your dive-related activities.  I installed it and tried out, and it seemed to be very similar to the regular Garmin Connect app, just more of a “dive log” style.   I didn’t spend too much time on it.

SUMMARY

There is no dancing around the elephant in the room – the price of this unit.   It has a MRP of Rs 109,000 (and the incoming Garmin Descent Mk2 is even higher) – even factoring in the fact that we will be selling it at a healthy discount, this is NOT a cheap dive computer.

So is it a dive computer that is worth buying?

Obviously, whether you even need to spend this much on a dive computer is a matter of personal choice.     You can certainly get by with an entry-level, no-frills dive computer – but the higher-end dive computers have a lot of features which, while not essential, do add a lot of convenience to your diving and which I certainly cannot live without.     So that’s a personal choice – for me, I would rather suck it up and pay the premium once and then enjoy the benefits over several years.   That’s worth a lot more to me than a flagship phone, for example.   But I also get the rationale for buying a more value-priced computer.

So let’s rephrase the question – if you are looking for a high-end dive computer, is the Garmin Descent worth buying?

As I mentioned at the start of this article, there is nothing like the Garmin Descent on the market today.      It is a top-end dive computer and a top-end smart sports/fitness watch rolled into one, and it does both without any significant compromises.     The Garmin 945XT (the current successor to the 935XT) is about Rs 55,000 or so.   A top-end wrist-watch dive computer like the Shearwater Teric is around Rs 80,000.     This computer gives you the best of both and only for a relatively small premium (once you factor in our selling price).     So from that point of view, it is even… dare I say it… good value.

If you do not care about land-based features but only care about getting the best possible computer, then something like the Shearwater Teric is the closest one-to-one competitor to the Garmin Descent.   I will have a direct head-to-head comparison of these two dive computers coming soon, but they each bring something different to the table – in the Garmin’s case, it has the GPS navigation and a longer battery life air while the Teric has a significant better (in terms of legibility and intuitiveness) display and air integration.

The Garmin Descent does have some foibles when it comes to how the information is presented, and all else being equal, I would prefer a computer without these issues.   However, all else is most definitely NOT equal – and the strengths and features of the Descent make it a very appealing option for divers looking for a do-it-all sports watch.

xHowever, I will only recommend this computer to divers who are willing to spend that little bit of effort getting to know this computer on the first couple of dives – if you are ok with that, this is certainly a contender in the top-dog category.    I am certainly very tempted to get one myself, to use with my teaching kit (where the Perdix AI is a bit overkill).

Shearwater Peregrine review

By Articles

SHEARWATER PEREGRINE REVIEW

by: Vinnie
Date: August 2020

 

Before I start, I should make it clear I am a big fan of Shearwater diver computers – in my experience, the Perdix and Teric are the best dive computers in the market today, and I believe this strongly enough to have purchased a Perdix AI for myself at full retail from a store in Singapore.

A full review of the Perdix is coming soon, but here is what sets it apart:  customizable algorithm, full features (trimix, Open Circuit, Closed Circuit), built-in compass, air integration, ability to handle more gas mixes than you are ever likely to use, user changeable battery, upgradable firmware and a fantastic, legible display, all in a sturdy housing that is designed for extreme use (this is certainly no dainty wrist jewellery).     There is literally NOTHING you are missing in this dive computer.

Unfortunately, all this comes at a price – the Perdix (and its sibling, the Teric) are not cheap.    While there is definitely something to be said for having a computer that is virtually future-proof and that you are not likely to outgrow, the price of the higher end Shearwater does tend to put off people looking for a more value-priced computer.     Enter the Shearwater Peregrine –  with an MRP of Rs 36,000 (at the time of writing this article) it is an “entry level” dive computer intended to bring the Shearwater experience within reach to more people.

Let’s see how it fares!

UNBOXING

I like the minimalist packaging that the computer comes in – it comes packaged in its own travel case, and inside, you find the following:

  • A 26mm rubber strap and a set of bungee cords
  • Locking bars and tools for attaching them
  • Wireless charger
  • USB cable
  • An inspection certificate
  • A couple of stickers
  • A spare screen protector

Everything that you need – and no huge amount of wasted plastics and paper.    Kudos to Shearwater for a very eco-friendly packing job.

Note that while my unit came with a black strap and a black bungee cord, you can get white or a matching blue rubber strap for the Shearwater Peregrine, if you so desire, as pictured below:

Peregrine_Rear_Duo_Rear-1024x657Colored straps are available for the Peregrine – never under-estimate the importance of color in making sure you stand out amidst a sea (pun intended) of divers all dressed in black!

FORM FACTOR, DISPLAY & ERGONOMICS

The Shearwater Peregrine is an over-sized dive computer – not a wrist-watch sized dive computer.         As you can see below, the screen is approximately the same size as the Perdix, but the casing has been slimmed down a significant degree.     The Perdix has a very strong “all business” look to it – this is a computer that is all business, all the time.   The lines of the Peregrine are a little more relaxed, with a pop of color in the form of the blue bezel around the screen (although that is the only color available at present).

20200812_144505The Shearwater siblings – the Perdix on the left, the Peregrine on the right.   The 158 day surface interval on my Perdix is a sad testimony to the effects of the COVID pandemic!

Generally, all else being equal, I have a preference for wrist-watch sized computers:  they are easier to travel with, you are less likely to forget them in your hotel room on the morning of the dive, you don’t have to take them off before/after the dive while putting on your wetsuit (and so risk them getting damaged or even falling off the side of the boat!).

So why have I gone from a Suunto D9Tx, a watch-sized dive computer, to a Perdix, an oversized unit?    The key phrase is “all else being equal”.      In some cases, a larger dive watch is just an exercise in cost-cutting – miniaturization is expensive, after all.   In other cases, the larger form factors gets you more – better battery life, higher quality display, better presentation of information, etc.       I am happy to say that the Peregrine, like its bigger brother, does utilize this large form factor very well.

Take a look at this:
Peregrine_Front_NX50_Deco-1Peregrine Display (image borrowed from the Shearwater website, as I sadly have not been able to get into the water with my unit)

A few things jump about this display.   To start with, the legibility and ease of reading the info.    This is a modern display with a high degree of contrast and easily legible in all conditions.    Second, note the use of colors to highlight important information (eg, NDL reaching ‘0’ in this case).    And last and most importantly, notice how well the screen of computer displays information in an easy to read format.      As an added bonus, you can even change the font colors as per your preferences.

One of the most common issues I have seen with divers is while they may be familiar with the “regular” screen of their computer, they often cannot read the decompression screen that comes up if they exceed their NDLs – ie, the very information for which they bought the dive computer.     Shearwater’s experience with the needs of tech divers is clearly obvious here – in this example. the decompression information is clearly presented and cannot be confused with anything else.

It bears repeating – it doesn’t matter how high-tech your dive computer is:   if it isn’t intuitive to understand, especially in a stressful situation, it is not a good option.   The Peregrine is aces in this regard, and for these tangible improvement, I am willing to forego the convenience of a watch-sized form factor (same as the Perdix).

In terms of ergonomics, the Peregrine, like the Perdix, uses a 2 button interface.   I initially expected this to be fairly clunky, given my experience with other 2-button dive computers, but the interface is surprisingly intuitive.    It helps that Shearwater uses the display to give you very clear indications of what each button press is supposed to do.

20200813_154611The labels at the bottom of the screen tell you very clearly what each button press does – in this case, pressing the left button takes you to the next setting, while pressing the right button goes into planning mode.    The logic is fairly intuitive and easy to pick up after a couple of uses.   Note the green color display – you can change font colors as well.

About the only downsize of this interface is that if you accidentally overshoot a setting, you have to scroll through the settings to get back to it.   But the buttons are have a great tactile feel (the ones on the Peregrine are actually a lot nicer than the ones on my Perdix) and it takes all of 5-6 seconds to do this, so it isn’t really a great loss.

FEATURES AND FUNCTIONS

While the Shearwater Peregrine dive computer is an “entry level” model, it is certainly not lacking in features.   Here is a short list of the essential features and functions.

For starters,  as you might expect from something carrying the Shearwater name, it is a full-featured computer designed for decompression diving.    Unlike many of the entry-level dive computers designed for recreational diving which often tend to penalize divers significantly if they go into decompression, the Shearwater Peregrine will work well if you decide to get into extended range or technical diving.    And of course, even if you accidentally go into decompression on a recreational dive, it will give you accurate information on how to handle your decompression safely.

Unlike its bigger brothers, the Perdix and Teric, the Peregrine does not offer trimix or closed circuit capabilities.   However, the Peregrine dive computers also offers a 3-gas Nitrox mode.  This lets you use 3 different nitrox mixes:  typically a bottom gas and 2 different decompression mixes for accelerated deco.    This makes it suitable for all air/nitrox based technical diving.

And of course, for recreational diving, the Peregrine has the standard modes:   Air, Nitrox and Gauge (no freediving mode but you would not wear a large dive computer like this for freediving anyway).     You have the option of setting both high and low PPO2 alarms, as well as depth and time alarms.   One cool feature:  you also get a vibration mode, in case you are diving with a thick hood and unable to hear audible alarms.   Pretty neat!

The computer is based on the Buhlmann ZHL-16C:  the industry-standard algorithm, proven and refined over decades to offer the safest possible approach to decompression today.      As is typical for most dive computers, you get 3 different conservatism settings – Low, Medium and High.      Even at its lowest setting, the Peregrine is not excessively liberal – so this actually is a setting that may work for a lot of divers, depending on their preferences (see my article on How to Pick a Dive Computer for a more in-depth discussion on conservatism).

However, what sets the Peregrine apart is the ability to customize the GFLow / GFHigh percentages, if you so desire – this is a fantastic feature and is absolutely amazing to find it in this price range.

deco-editAbility to adjust the conservatism setting on the Shearwater Peregrine

Do note that this feature is for experienced divers with an in-depth knowledge of decompression theory as well as their own personal risk tolerances – so I will advise not messing with it unless you are very sure you know what it does (hint:  if you have to ask someone what settings to use here, you are not ready to use it.   When you are ready to use this feature, you will know how to set it, and you will be thankful you have had this feature).

In addition, the Peregrine also checks off my other vital criteria – a battery that is either rechargeable or user-replaceable.   Unlike the Perdix, which uses a user-replaceable AA battery, the Peregrine offers wireless charging – place it on the provided USB mat and it charges.     The mat is slightly smaller than the dive computer, so easy enough to pack and carry on a trip.   For what it is worth, the Peregrine also seems to charge off the wireless charger I use for my mobile phone.

The Peregrine also has Bluetooth connectivity with Shearwater’s desktop or phone (Android/iOS) app, which lets you upload your dive logs to Shearwater’s cloud-based server and view them on the app.

Screenshot_20200813-212446_ShearwaterDisplaying the dives on the Shearwater app

The dive log on the Shearwater app shows you your profile as well as tissue loading at any time.   This log is from a Perdix, but the Peregrine information is very similar.

The app also allows you to upgrade your computer’s firmware.

Unlike the Perdix, the Peregrine does not offer a digital compass or air integration.  While neither of these features are essential, they are certainly nice to have.   However, to be fair, the computers offering these features are all one entire price tier above the Peregrine in price as well (typicall Rs 10,000 – Rs 15,000 more expensive).

USAGE

While I didnt have a chance to take the Shearwater Peregrine dive computer into the ocean for a dive, I did do a little freediving with it to see how it behaved.   Also, a lot of my experience with the Perdix translates over directly to the Peregrine as well – after all, both these operate on more or less the same platform.

From an algorithm point of view, there is nothing to say about the ZHL-16C – as mentioned earlier, it is the gold standard of decompression algorithms.      So what remains is ease of use, along with features.   And “ease of use” has always been a strong point of Shearwaters, given their origins in tech diving.

Setting up a computer before the dive is very easy – it is a few buttons to adjust the nitrox and once you do, the nitrox percentage is clearly visible on your display.        As with most computers these day, the Peregrine turns on automatically once you descend to about 1m of water.   And as discussed earlier, the display is super legible and easy to read.

Peregrine_Front_NX32_15.7MPicture courtesy Shearwater

The Shearwater display breaks up into 3 panels.   The upper left panel shows you the dive depth and time.   The upper right panel shows you decompression information (critically, the no-deco info and deco info are displayed in different locations, to prevent you from confusing the 2 numbers).     And the smart use of color coding highlights important information – eg, that you are running low on NDL in the photo above.

The bottom panel can be customized as per your preferences.  On my unit, I have replaced the time and temperature with average depth, which is useful for me to estimate my air consumption and overall nitrogen loading (just because my computer is doing that for me doesn’t mean I switch my brain off!).

You can also get a visual display of your tissue loading, for each of the 16 compartments in the Buhlmann model – while this is typically not the most actionable of information, I find it a very useful learning tool to correlate nitrogen loading from actual diving to the theory of decompression.   Seeing how the graph changes over the course of a diving vacation, or even after a shallow dive vs a deep dive can be very instructive.

Peregrine_Front_Air-15M_TissueTissue loading as a visual graph – as always, color coded to make it easy to understand

The Shearwater also has a very easy to use dive planning mode – you can choose to plan your dive as if it were about to start immediately or after some time (eg, if you still had some more surface interval to complete), and figure out your NDLs accordingly.

20200813_173040Use the screen on the left to set when the dive is starting (now or later) and then, on the subsequent screen, you can see your NDLs

And as mentioned, the solid, easy to press buttons make the entire experience of navigating the Shearwater Peregrine dive computer an absolute pleasure (users of the Suunto Zoop, for example, will know and appreciate what I mean!).   Having used and reviewed a LOT of dive equipment, I cannot describe how happy I get when I see manufacturers getting ergonomics and usability right – these are things that you appreciate every single minute of use, and mean far, far more to me than a laundry list of features which are a nightmare to actually use.

Lastly, battery life is rated up to 30 hours, give or take, depending on screen brightness.   I haven’t had a chance to test this but after a few days of playing around with the dive computer quite thoroughly, including some water sessions, the battery indicators still reads full.   So I expect it to be more or less as per spec- this means you can easily get one dive trip out of it, without needing to faff around with charging the unit every day or two.

SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS

So how does the Shearwater fare against the competition and is it worth buying?

At a price of Rs 36,000 (at the time of writing this article), the Peregrine is more expensive than the Aqualung i200 and the Mares Smart, both of which have an MRP of around Rs 27,000.

However, while it may be marketed as an “entry level” computer by Shearwater, that is only when compared to Shearwater’s offerings.     As computers go, the Peregrine is far more advanced than typical entry level computers – it may not have all the bells and whistles of its bigger brothers, but when it comes to basic decompression horsepower, it stomps over everything else:  decompression, 3 gas tech open circuit, customizable deco profile, a fantastic color display – these are all features you typically find on computers costing well over Rs 60,000.

As you gain skills and expand the scope of your diving, it is possible for you to outgrow the entry-level computers fairly quickly.    However, the Peregrine’s advanced deco capabilities means that it will stay with you for everything short of rebreathers or trimix.    Personally, this is a tradeoff I would be very happy to make:  while the absolute entry-level computers do get the job done, the Shearwater is a big step up in terms of ease of use and also scalability, in terms of growing with you as a diver.

That said, there are a couple of features that it is missing – air integration and digital compass.   These are both nice-to-have features for sure and given a choice, I would have preferred a dive computer which had these options.    But keep in mind that all dive computers with these options cost a lot more (Rs 45,000 and higher, and that excludes the cost of the air transmitter) – and those computers also lack the same functionality when it comes to core decompression features.

So as far as tradeoffs go – compared to the next pricing level, you are gaining a far more advanced computer and saving a significant chunk of money but by giving up on a couple of nice-to-have but non-essential attributes.     Is that a fair trade-off?   It really depends on your personal preferences.

Ideally, I would rather pay more and not to make a trade-off at all.    But if I had to, I’d pick the Shearwater options.  The way I look at it:   I can always get a small compass and clip it to the side of the computer’s strap or to my BCD, if need be (and while it may be important to me, I also realize a compass isn’t something most recreational divers use a lot).     And while I really like air integration and would dearly love to have it if given a choice, I would pick a customizable algorithm and ability to handle multiple gas mixes over it:  one is “nice to have”, the other actually impacts my diving in a meaningful way.   And then there is the matter of the price difference too – skipping these extraneous features saves you a lot of money.

What the Peregrine lacks in bells and whistles, it makes up by in core functionality that no one else offers for anywhere close to this price:  you are getting most of the core functionality of the Perdix, for only a modest premium over an entry-level computer.

Very highly recommended – and definitely makes our “Recommended Gear” list!

Purchase

DIVEIndia is an authorized distributor for all Shearwater products, including the Peregrine, and you can use the link above to purchase your own unit.

Do note, however, that our reviews are not affected by the fact that we sell the item – rather, we only sell the items that we like.   We sell Mares, Aqualung, Tusa, Scubapro, Shearwater and more – between them, there are enough quality dive products that we have absolutely no need to push gear that isn’t up to the mark.   The stuff we recommend is the stuff that we believe in ourselves.

How to pick a dive computer

By Articles, Gear, Reviews

HOW TO PICK A DIVE COMPUTER – A BUYER’S GUIDE

By: Vandit Kalia (Vinnie)

One recurring theme that you may have noticed in my articles – and if you do any course with me – is my tendency to get on a soapbox and talk about divers taking ownership of their own safety by engaging their brains.     That is the windmill I have chosen to joust against, and, for better or worse, will continue to do so.

But a fundamental requirement to taking ownership of your own safety is having all the information needed in order to do – information drives decision-making, after all.     What information are we talking about ?   Dive time, depth, no deco time and air left at minimum – direction and air consumption rate as nice-to-have extras.       This is the information you need in order to make an informed decision about your dive, and you get this information from a dive computer.

I really cannot stress this enough – if you are diving, you really should own your own dive computer.   And no, I don’t say this because we sell dive computers.   We make a few thousand rupees on each sale.  It is hardly the sort of stuff that is going to let me retire to a tropical island.

Now, many people – especially those used to diving in tropical locations – will be used to having the DM lead the dive, and often, the DM also has the dive computer and manages the dive profile for everyone.      Let’s face it – ideal or not, this system works and thousands of people dive daily following this approach.   But there is a reason this is not ideal and is not recommended:  when it works well, it works well.   But if something goes wrong, it compounds the dangers.     What if you get separated from the group?   What if you end up going a little deeper during each dive, for multiple dives?     Most importantly, this habituates the diver into doing “trust me” dives, and prevents them from engaging their brain on each dive – this significantly hampers their development as a diver because if a problem happens, they have not developed the judgement or critical thinking skills or discipline needed to solve the problem.

That is why I push dive computer ownership more aggressively than, say, doing a Specialty Course with us (which earns us more).   It is one of the best investments you can make in controlling your own safety and eliminating variables which can add complexity to a problem.

So the next question (and one of the most common ones I get asked over email or Whatsapp) becomes – what dive computer should I get ?   There is a bewildering array of dive computers out there in the market, ranging from under twenty thousand rupees to well over one lakh (a few hundred dollars to well over fifteen hundred).

The purpose of this article is to demystify dive computers and give you the information you need to pick the dive computer that works very best for your budget and preferences.

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THE FUNDAMENTALS:  NO-DECO INFO & DIVE COMPUTER ALGORITHMS

The main reason you get a dive computer is to know how much no-deco time you have left – everything else can be figured out through some combination of a dive watch, depth gauge, SPG and/or compass.       So it stands to reason that this should be the most important thing, right?     Well, yes and no.

Yes, it is indeed the most important thing.    However, the good news is that virtually all dive algorithms being used today are robust/reliable enough to provide safe information to most divers.     Let’s talk about that in a little more detail.

As you guys may remember from your Open Water course, the decompression model is basically an empirical curve that is fitted onto existing data about safe/unsafe dive profiles.  It is essentially a probability curve which predicts the risk of getting DCS for a dive to a given depth/time.     The No Deco Limit is basically a point along the probability curve where the risk of DCS is deemed to be very low.

The most popular – and industry standard –  decompression model is the one you learned about in the Open Water course:  it was created by John Haldane and refined further by Dr Albert Buhlmann, into its current iteration, the ZHL16 – most computers today use a variant of this model, with some tweaking done as per each company’s preferences.     Another popular model is the RGBM model, developed by Dr Bruce Weinke, which focused not just on the traditional tissue absorption model but also on controlling the build-up of silent bubbles.      In addition to that, several other brands have added more significant tweaks, by trying to factor in things like age, heart rate, etc and using those to adjust the No Deco Time.

While a detailed comparison of the various models is outside the scope of this article, and the arguments of the pros/cons often resemble holy wars when it comes to the fervor of the participants on each side, it is worth noting that at the recreational level, either of these models is perfectly capable of keeping you safe.        Yes, that is correct – from a safety point of view, there is no evidence that indicates that one model is better than the other for recreational diving.

What does vary between dive computers is how conservative or progressive they are.     On a weeklong dive holiday, you might find that 2 dive computers often diverge by as much as 5-10 minutes when it comes to no-deco time.      At this point, I can hear you going “wait a minute – how can 2 dive computers be so different?   Which one is correct?”

Remember – there is no correct answer.   These are just models using probability curves and taking into account multiple factors to arrive at a single number – what you see as being a higher or lower number is merely a function of which factor has been given more or less weight.         All these models keep you safe – they just do it differently.     So “which is correct” is the wrong question to ask.

A more appropriate question is – which one is better for me:  more conservative or more progressive.

As a general philosophy for diving, we can all agree that “more conservative is better”.   But as with everything in life, you reach a point of diminishing returns.    That’s why we don’t wear helmets when we drive, or elbow/knee pads when we walk, for example.    So if we are on an expensive dive holiday to a dream destination, do we necessarily want a dive computer which cuts out dive time short by 10-15 minutes on each time?

In my experience, experienced divers often have a good idea of which algorithm has worked well for them and are also aware of any personal risk factors that may apply – they would be better off with a more progressive option, as this would let them build in additional safety margins if needed, and give them more bottom time otherwise.   On the other hand, beginner divers may still be developing their diving discipline/awareness, and so may benefit from a more conservative dive computer, which gives them a margin for error (which, to be clear, is not something you rely on!).      Also remember – you can add conservatism to a more progressive dive computer via its settings, but you cannot make a conservative dive computer more progressive.

So my recommendation is that if you think you have the discipline and awareness to add your own safety margins when applicable (eg, if you are tired, been in a strong current, etc), then a progressive dive computer would be fine for you.   If you are a diver who is at greater risk of DCS (age, weight or other factors), or want the comfort of added safety margins, then a more conservative option would be better for you.

FEATURES OF A DIVE COMPUTER

So if a cheap dive computer keeps you just as safe as a more expensive dive computer, why is there a price difference? The answer is simple – due to features. Some features are virtually essential and greatly enhance the utility of a dive computer (and make it less likely that you will outgrow it). Others are convenient and nice-to-have. And yet others are a matter of personal preference.

So here is a list of popular features and some details about them, which you can use to determine whether or not you want them.

Nitrox:

In this day and age, you should not buy a dive computer that does not have Nitrox mode.    Even if you are not Nitrox certified now, you may choose to get Nitrox certified later (and there are very good reasons for doing so:  namely, extended bottom times) – and having a dive computer that allows you to dive with nitrox will help.  Dive computer manufacturers realize that – it is very hard to find a computer that does not have Nitrox.      Do look into how easy it is to set the nitrox, and whether there is an easy way to check what mix you are diving with.      Failure to set the mix correctly (or forgetting to switch back to air later) are very common mistakes, and the easier it is to set/see your nitrox mix, the less likely you are to make this mistake.

Ascent / depth / time alarms:

I cannot think of a single computer that does not have them.   What does change is how loud those alarms are.   So if they matter to you, look into whether or not you can hear them (or feel them, if there is a vibrate mode).

Legible Display:

The benefits of a display that is easy to read, even in poor conditions, should be obvious to everyone.    Sometimes, this can take the form of a backlight – other computers have active LED displays which are much brighter.     However, legibility goes beyond just that.     Is it easy to understand what all the elements in the display mean – this is especially true when you go into accidental decompression, when you are faced with a display that you may not have seen before:  can you clearly identify that you are now in decompression?   Are all the numbers clearly labelled and can you tell what they mean?

Battery Life and Charging:

One of the banes of old dive computers used to be the need to send the entire computer to the shop to have the battery changed.     And imagine the feeling of being 2 days into a week-long dive holiday and having your computer battery die!    We have seen this happen with quite a few divers who have come to dive with us, and I have had it happen to me when traveling.   So I firmly believe that any computer that you use today should be one with either a rechargeable battery or a user-replaceable one.    Rechargeables are easier, but rely on a proprietary connector.    User-replaceables require you to have a spare battery of the appropriate type.     So there is a tradeoff.

The other element here is battery life.    Some dive computers have great, colorful displays but may last only a couple of days.    Others go up to 40-50 dives.   Yet others can go a few hundred dives.     Typically, the brighter/more colorful the display, the shorter the battery life.   And rechargeable dive computers (usually but not always) tend to have shorter battery lives than those using AA batteries.       Which one you go with is a matter of personal preference.

Planning Mode:

Most computers have some kind of a planning mode, which lets you figure out how much bottom time you have at various depths, which is important for dive planning. The most basic dive computers only give you the allowed bottom time if you were to dive immediately. Other dive computers let you add on additional surface time and calculate the allowed bottom time in such cases. This is very handy for dives where you plan to go to a specific depth, as it lets you figure out how much surface interval you need.

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Screen showing the Shearwater Perdix in planning mode.   You can also increase the surface interval and see how that affects the NDL

Ergonomics:

How easy is it to change the settings on your computer – such as nitrox percentage, depth alarm, personal conservative factor, etc? How easy is it to scroll between displays when diving? With enough practice, you can get used to pretty much any device, of course – but what if you pick up the computer after a gap of 5-6 months and then, while on a dive boat, realize you need to change a particular setting? Will you remember what to do?
One of the most common questions I get asked on a dive boat is “hey Vinnie, how do i set the nitrox on this thing”, as someone hands me an unfamiliar dive computer. The easier it is to remember, the less likely you are to mess it up.

Deco diving / Tech Features:

All computers will handle accidental decompression – ie, if you accidentally exceed NDLs. However, not all computers react the same way afterwards. Some computers are designed for decompression diving – eg, Suuntos, Shearwater and more. If you go into deco, they tell you want to do and happily keep purring afterwards because their standard algorithm is compatible with decompression diving. Others are not: while they will give you the info you need to complete your accidental deco, they will get more conservative later because their algorithms are not designed for decompression diving.

In addition, some dive computers designed for tech diving will allow you to switch between different gas mixes.   Yet others are capable of working with trimix.      Typically, only higher-end dive computers have these features.   Are they need for recreational diving?    Not at all.  But if you plan to get into tech diving, then getting a computer with these features ensures you won’t outgrow the computer.

Digital Compass:

One of the least-developed skills among recreational divers – especially in tropical reefs – is navigation. That reason is obvious: most of the time, you are following your DM, who handles the navigation for you, and so you don’t get a chance to practice. Having a compass is useful as it lets you work on your navigational skills at all times – and of course, if you and your buddy plan to dive without a guide (or you get separated from the guide), the compass becomes an essential part of your toolkit.

You can get an external compass and mount it on your console or clip it to your BCD, or you can get a dive computer with a built-in digital compass. I have a strong preference for the last option – neater and always there when you need it. This is a very under-rated but nice-to-have feature.

Air Integration:

If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought of air integration, I would have said “not for me”. Then I got the Shearwater and have been using its air integration feature, and am getting sold as to its benefits. It’s really convenient to be able to see all your information, including air, in one go. But one very nice benefit is that it also lets you see your air consumption rate on the fly – so if you are breathing a little faster for some reason, you will see that and can adjust your breathing rate accordingly. Eg, my breathing rate often goes up when I am taking photos, as I use my lungs and legs to compensate for currents while I try to get a precise composition – sometimes, my gauge has provided a very useful reminder that I am being too inefficient and that perhaps I should try a different method to stay in position.

Higher-end models even let you add multiple transmitters – so for example, you can see not just your air but also that of your buddy (or air of 2 different tanks, if you are diving sidemount or have deco bottles with you).

Essential? Of course not. But definitely very nice to have. When I use my other dive computer, which lacks air integration, I definitely miss it.

Form Factor:

Some dive computers are large and chunky. Others are more wrist-watch sized, not much larger than a regular watch. And this does matter. A larger dive computer will have a more legible display. But it is also one extra thing to pack and carry, and also something you will have to take off/put on every time you get in and out of a wetsuit. By contrast, a wrist-watch sized dive computer is something you just put on and forget – no risk of it falling while on the dive boat, no risk of forgetting it in your hotel room on the morning of the dive, etc.

Heck, you can just wear it every day as your regular watch – so if an unexpected dive opportunity comes up, you are good to go (I used to do that with my old Suunto dive computer – and it came handy when I was traveling through Africa for 4 months, and got some unexpected opportunities to go diving). I personally have a very strong preference for wrist-watch sized dive computers (and am considering switching my personal Shearwater from a Perdix to a Teric for this very reason). But larger displays are also nice, especially for older eyes. So think about what matters more to you.

Materials, Straps & Colors:

Dive computers can be made of polycarbonate or have a steel (or even titanium) case – metal cases look nicer and may be preferable if you want to wear the dive computer as a watch.    That said, polycarbonate is very robust and has good shock absorption properties, so don’t rule it out as being “lower quality”.

Straps can be of rubber, metal, elastic or fabric – the last two are often one-piece and so add a degree of reliability in case you lose a spring bar where the strap attaches.

And of course, choice of colors varies by model/brand.

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Form factors  compared:   Shearwater Perdix, Suunto D9Tx, Garmin Descent and a Doxa 1200T dive watch

Freediving/gauge modes:

This is also something that comes standard with virtually all dive computers have these days.    Gauge mode is great if you want to use your dive computer as a bottom timer (eg, as a timer backup to a different computer) – it switches off deco calculations and just gives you depth/time.   Freediving mode, as the name implies, is used for freediving/skindiving/apnea, and tracks dive duration, average depth, recovery times, etc.

Personal / altitude adjustments:

Virtually all computers let you adjust for altitude by changing a setting.    They also let you adjust how conservative the model is – in most computers, you can make the computer more conservative, although some let you tweak in either direction:  make it more or less conservative.    Typically, these are just pre-cooked settings, but some high-end computers like Shearwater actually let you precisely adjust the gradient factors, so that you can customize the dive computer precisely.

Digital Logs:

Some dive computers allow you to download your dive info into the brand’s app via a cable. Others do it wirelessly. Yet others have a full ecosystem built around uploading, geo-tagging and sharing your dives with other divers. I havent logged my dives for over 20 years and if I did, I would use paper – but I know many people prefer digital logs. If so, wireless transfer may be something to consider.

Other Features:

Some dive computers use a heart rate belt and factor in your heart rate when calculating your decompression info. That’s pretty slick, I have to say. Does it make you materially safer? I cannot say. Other computers combine activity tracking (steps, heart rate, etc) and are basically smartwatches + dive computers rolled into one. Are any of these essential for diving? No. Are they cool as heck? Oh yes. Should you get them? Depends on your budget and preference.

SUMMARY

In general, there are 3 price points for most dive computers.

At the entry level, you get the standard features:  nitrox, freediving, gauge, alarms and algorithm modes (eg, standard, conservative, more conservative).    These are sufficient for most recreational diving.      Typical pricing for computers in this range is Rs 25,000 – Rs 35,000, more or less.

In the middle range, you get extra features like digital compass, air integration and more premium materials – this is a range from Rs 35,000 – Rs 50,000 or so, approximately.

At the high-end, you get no-holds-barred devices, with a lot of neat extras, like customizable/upgradeable algorithms, ability to handle trimix, ability to handle multiple air transmitters and so on.     Prices for these can run to over a lakh.

What should you get?     The answer is – it depends on your budget and preferences.   The entry-level is where the value lies.    That said, if budget allows, the mid-range lets you get computers which, while not essential, add a fair bit of convenience to your diving.    And of course, the high-end gets you amazing devices that do pretty much (except spot hammerheads).

Hopefully, this article gives you enough information to help you reach a decision.    Feel free to drop us an email at sales@diveindia.com if you have any questions and we would be happy to help you out.    Oh, and we do carry dive computers in all these ranges – Mares, Aqualung, Deep Blu, Scubapro, Shearwater and Garmin – at very competitive prices (hint, hint!).

Deepblu Cosmiq+ Dive Computer Review

By Articles, Gear, Reviews

Review: DeepBlu Cosmiq+ Dive Computer

Reviewed by:   Vandit Kalia (Vinnie)
Date of review: May 2020

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ is an entry-level dive computer and one of the more interesting units I have had a chance to try out of late.

Headquartered in Taiwan, Deepblu positions itself primarily as a community and marketplace for divers first, and gear manufacturer second.   So it is not surprising that their dive computer also emphasizes this community aspect, and also relies heavily on a smart phone for controlling and uploading, eschewing the desktop-based apps of the traditional manufacturers.

Read on for a hands-on review of its pros and cons, as well to find out whether it makes our recommended kit list.

THE BASICS

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ dive computer is an oversized, entry-level model designed to be easy to read and easy to use.   It came packaged in a nice hard case, inside of which you find the computer and 2 straps that match the accent color of the computer.

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ comes in a nice, sturdy case.

You have a choice of accent colors when you buy the computer – the one I got was pink (my wife claims that it is lilac or maybe lavender, but I don’t believe in those colors.    Pink it is), and so the 2 matching straps were in pink:  one in a solid color and the other with a camouflage pattern.      Yes, you read that correctly – a pink camouflage pattern.

I have pink sneakers, pink slacks and pink shirts (and no, I don’t wear them all at once), so I am a sucker for pink.    And once I got past the ridiculousness of the concept of pink camouflage (make up your mind, bro – do you want to be seen or not?), I had to admit that the color actually looked quite funky – and it also matches with a few BCD and masks that we sell, so there is that.

The straps are NATO-style pass through straps and are super sturdy – there is near-zero chance of this computer coming off accidentally, no matter what you do.   And they will last a lot longer than rubber straps too, which can become brittle with age.

Inside the box are the computer and 2 heavy duty fabric straps.

The case itself is a nice sturdy unit and packs the computer safely and securely.     Now, unlike a watch-sized computer which you can just wear when you travel, oversized computers typically get carried in your carry-on bag.    Many people prefer to use a padded box for carrying their dive computer – while you can use this box for that purpose, it is a little too big for carry-on (and you shouldn’t be checking in your dive computer).     Compare that to the Shearwater, which comes in a really compact case that is perfect for the computer and a couple of spare AA batteries.

But then, you can buy 3 of these computers for the price of a Shearwater, so it is not a perfect comparison.   And in any case, given carry-on weight restrictions, I personally don’t really use any boxes.   I just toss my Shearwater into a pocket in my bag and leave it there – it is sturdy enough and I haven’t had any issues.     Given that this computer also has a hard plastic case, I wouldn’t expect any issues with it either.   Wrap it in a sock or T-shirt, if you must or stick a screen protector on the display.

The Cosmiq+ case vs the Shearwater case.

FEATURES

As mentioned, the Deepblue Cosmiq+ is an entry-level computer designed for recreational divers.   So obviously, you don’t get tech features like use of gas mixes containing more than 40% O2 or the ability to switch gas mixes.   You also miss out on some nice-to-have premium features such as air-integration & built-in compass – but that is to be expected at this price range (you typically will need to spend Rs 10,000 – 15,000 more to get those features).

What the computer does have are the essentials, as to be expected from even entry-level dive computers these days:   ability to use nitrox mixes up to 40%, a gauge mode and a free diving mode.     It has the usual full set of alarms – depth, time, deco, ascent rate, MOD/PPo2 violation, CNS O2 Clock limit and more.    And it packs all of this in a lovely, oversized display with a lot of contrast and which is very easy to read.

ALGORITHM

The Deepblu Cosmiq+ uses a Buhlman variant as its algorithm – the industry standard which has been around for decades.   Does it have fancy features like heart-rate related adjustments, or RGBM and such?    No.     But the Buhlman algorithm has withstood the test of time and proven itself to be safe and reliable – and as far as I know, the human body hasn’t changed significantly over the past 30 years.

As someone who once used to geek out on the latest decompression algorithms, I have realized that for recreational diving, this plays a very minimal role in safety – different algorithms may produce numbers that vary, but in the real world, as long as you follow sensible diving practices, any algorithm in a mainstream dive computer is more than capable of keeping you safe.

To provide additional flexibility in terms of matching the algorithm to your personal preferences, you can adjust the algorithm on the Cosmiq+ to be normal, conservative or progressive.

The normal implementation of the Buhlman on the Cosmiq+ is quite conservative to begin with, compared to both my Shearwater and my Suunto D9Tx (set at 50% RGBM).   At 24m, the Suunto gives me 29 minutes of bottom time, the Shearwater gives 26 min and the Cosmiq+ gives 24 min.   At 30m, the difference is even more stark – 18 min for the Suunto, 17 for the Shearwater and 14 for the Cosmiq+.

The Cosmiq+, compared to my personal dive computers – the Shearwater Perdix and Suunto D9Tx

On subsequent dives, the gap to the Suunto narrows, as the Suunto’s RGBM algorithm tends to be more conservative compared to Buhlman.      But it is still on the conservative end of the scale – although not as excessively so as something like the Suunto Zoop.

That isn’t a bad thing –  for beginner divers, having slightly more room for error isn’t a bad thing.    And as you gain experience, improve your diving discipline and also gain familiarity with diving algorithms, you now have the option of using the progressive option – I did not have a chance to test it too extensively, but from the few dives I did on it, it seems to be a “sensible” degree of progressiveness that should work for most experienced divers.

And obviously, if personal or other conditions warrant, you can set the computer to be even more conservative.  So very sensibly done.

Lastly, this computer is not designed for decompression diving, and going into deco will punish you fairly heavily, in terms of bottom time for the next dive.     Which is fair – you should not be doing decompression dives if you are not trained for it, and if you are trained for it, you should know better than to use a recreational computer for that purpose.

SIDE NOTE ON CONSERVATIVE / PROGRESSIVE COMPUTERS

On one hand, we can all agree that more conservative is always better – atleast as a general philosophy and approach to diving.   On the other hand, if you have spent good money going on a diving holiday, do you really want to cut each dive short by 10-15 min because your computer is less conservative?    So which is better?

To start with, keep in mind that there is no “correct” number.     The No Deco Limit isnt a hard line, but a probability curve, and algorithms are basically a mathematical model fitted to simulate the probability curve of getting DCS for a vast and varied population of people.     So each number is, to some degree, an arbitrary cut-off point on the probability curve which is deemed “safe enough” for most people, with an additional safety margin added on.

Experienced divers often have a good idea of which algorithm has worked well for them and may choose a more progressive option because they are disciplined enough not to need a lot of additional safety margins:   they build it in themselves.    Such divers typically also tend to be more aware of conditions that may increase their pre-disposition to DCS and so know to be more conservative if those conditions apply, and so are able to handle this well.    In other words, they also keep their brain engaged while using the computer.

On the other hand, beginner divers may still be developing their diving discipline and awareness of NDL, depth and air.     They may also not have the best buoyancy and be going up and down a little.   In such cases, a more conservative computer may be a better option, as it gives them a little more margin for error (which, to be very clear, is NOT something that you ever plan to rely on!).

Gun to head, if you force me to pick an option, I will pick a more progressive computer, as you can always make them more conservative by tweaking their settings.    That said, if you are a diver who is at a greater risk of DCS (age, weight, other factors), or if you feel that you would benefit from a greater safety net, or if you are more risk averse, then yes, a more conservative option might be better for you.

BATTERY

The next key feature that I think is important is a rechargeable or user replaceable battery.     I am happy to say that the Cosmiq+ comes with a rechargeable battery – it comes with a USB cable with a magnetic charger on one end, which snaps to attach to 2 contact points on the underside of the body.

The magnetic charger and the contact points on the Cosmiq+

However, the battery life of the computer needs improvement – I tested it in Raja Ampat, where we were doing 3-4 dives a day, and it did not always last 2 days.    I’d estimate the battery life at around 6-7 hours or so from a full charge (which I never got – I will talk about that further down).      To be safe, I would recommend charging it every day if doing 3 or more dives, and definitely every 2 days.

Is that ideal?   Depends on what you like.   My Shearwater uses a AA battery and gets well over 30-35 hours of battery life with the air transmitter connected.    And if I have an issue, a AA battery is one of the easiest things to find.     On the other hand, this makes for a large form factor and the spare battery is still one extra thing to carry (and make sure it is fully charged) – whereas with the Deepblu Cosmiq+ all you need is its USB charging cable and a USB output, and you are good to go.    But you do have to charge it regularly.      Personally, I am not used to  charging my computer regularly, and having had this reinforced for 30 years, I have a “get off my lawn” moment at the idea of needing to do so – even though I, like almost everyone else, have other devices that I do charge daily without complaint.  Go figure.  Whether this is an issue for you is a personal choice.

The magnetic charger attached to the Cosmiq+ body – this is not a very secure connection

And speaking of charging:  my other issue with battery life is related to the reliability of the magnetic connector of the charging cable – in my experience, this was not very robust and was dislodged a bit more easily than I would have preferred:  sometimes, the very act of putting down the computer after attaching the charger to it would cause the connection to become loose.     On more than one occasion, I woke up in the morning to find that the charging cable had come loose at some point and the device had not charged properly.   Luckily, this was my backup unit, but if this was my main unit and I woke up with an uncharged dive computer and 3 dives to go in Raja Ampat, I would have been very upset!

To be fair, once I became aware that the connector was a little finicky and easily dislodged, I started taking extra care in how i put the dive computer down after attaching the cable and did not have any problems afterwards.    But for someone like me, who isn’t really good with being so fastidious with things like charging cables, this is something I would prefer to avoid entirely.

Reading the specs, the battery life is supposed to be 8 hours – a fair bit more than the 5-6 hours I got out of it – and I wonder if my woes had something to do with the connector woes.   Also, to be fair, you can reduce the brightness of the screen (it is VERY bright by default – cutting it in half will not affect legibility and significantly increase battery life).

But be that as it may, this is definitely an area where the Deepblu Cosmiq+ could be improved.

USING THE COMPUTER

Due to some last minute issues, I only had 3 hours to pack my dive gear and my camera system before leaving for a Diveindia Outbound trip to Raja Ampat – in that hectic rush, I completely forgot to read the Cosmiq+ user manual before leaving.   I chucked the computer and cable into my bag, and carried on packing.

At breakfast on the morning of the first day of diving, I was doing what I always tell people not to do – trying to figure out a new computer.   Luckily, it was surprisingly easy to do:  the computer has 2 buttons and remarkably easy-to-understand interface:   pushing one button changes between modes (and icons at the top of the screen tell you what mode you are in), pushing the other button lets you make some changes.   About the only changes I wanted to make were the nitrox setting and it took me perhaps 2-3 minutes before I figured it out.   That’s a win.

The computer turns on automatically in the water and the display is very bright and legible.     Not only that, it is very sensibly marked and it is very easy to see all your dive information – depth, time, NDL, MOD and more.  There are visual indicators to indicate how much NDL and CNS O2 Clock you have left, and also alarms if you go up too fast.    The safety stop countdown is also easy to read.

One of the biggest challenges with many computers is that the deco screen can be quite confusing to divers who inadvertently end up exceeding their NDLs.    I personally know of atleast 2 cases  where divers did not realize that they had gone into deco, and continued diving, assuming that their deco time was their NDL (and oblivious to the fact that this number was increasing).    As you can guess, that could have been very, very dangerous.

Not so with the Cosmiq+.    I did end up putting the Cosmiq+ into deco on one dive, because I was using my Shearwater for the dive profile and just using this unit for comparison.         There was absolutely no mistaking the information – the computer clearly told you that you were in deco, by how many minutes you had exceeded your limit, how much deco you had to do and what depth you should ascend to (and all this info was clearly labelled and displayed in a manner that made it nearly impossible to confuse with the regular display screen).

Overall, the additional screen size of the oversized computer has been put to very good use here and information is displayed cleanly and with proper labelling  – unlike many manufacturers, who use the same screen logic on small and larger computers, just with bigger fonts.

Mantas on Manta Ridge, Raja Ampat (Dampier Strait)

THE DEEP BLU APP

And now we come to what sets this computer apart from the rest:  the DeepBlu App, available on Android and iOS.

The App let you do a lot of things – log your dives (you can pair other brands as well), post your dive photos and see posts of other divers in a social-media-like setting, learn more about dive sites in various locations, stay in touch with your dive buddies, and join clubs/groups.    It also lets you change all the settings of your computer very easily.

The day after my first dive, I tried to set up the app.    Yes, I know normal people would do it before, especially given how the app is the ideal way to set up your computer, but I was in Raja Ampat, this was not my main computer and I got distracted, ok?

The  first thing it required me to do was create an account – I could link to my FB or use an email.   I went with the latter.     The app sent me a confirmation email with a code I was supposed to enter.  10 minutes later, I still hadn’t gotten the code.   So I gave it up and went outside to look at stingrays playing under my water bungalow’s balcony,.    He, Raja Ampat vs messing around with my phone?   Phone is gonna lose every single time.    Instead, I continued to set the nitrox mix directly on the computer – something I was able to do without RTFMing (which is good) or needing the app (also good).

After a few days, I remembered about the app and tried again.    This time, I was able to get the verification code and register properly.   Then I tried pairing the Cosmiq+ to my phone – and nothing happened.   After 3 attempts, I ended up hitting Google for answers: clear the DeepBlue app data and try again.   Ok – and hallelujah, this worked.    Pairing was easy and after this, consistent.

As mentioned earlier, the App is a combination of a social media platform for divers, review site, online dive log and controller for your dive computer.    It has 4 main sections:    DiscoverPlanet, Community and Menu.

The “Discover” section is like a mini Facebook/Instagram for divers, where you can share your photos/dive log and see details of other people’s dives.    The “Planet” section is a review/information section, where you can research dive sites, read and post ratings and reviews and get all sorts of dive-related info.

The “Discover” section

The “Planet” section

The “Community” section lets you follow various groups, such as dive clubs, groups belonging to various dive operators, etc.      In the interest of full disclosure, I did not spend too much time on these features.

Lastly, there is the “Menu” section.     This is where you can adjust the settings of your dive computer and wirelessly upload the dives from the Cosmiq+ dive computer to the app.   Then you have the option of sharing those dives as part of your own feed in the community section, or just keeping it private for your own viewing.

The “Community” section

Uploaded dive logs are found in the “Menu” section

The “Menu” section also lets you add buddies, see your dive log, edit app settings and, as mentioned earlier, set up your dive computer.       You can change units, salinity level, conservative factor, nitrox percentage, screen brightness and also set various alarms, all on the app.

This is a really smart idea – one of the biggest issues with computers that I see on dive trips is people not remembering how to set their computers and fumbling around before the dive, pushing buttons at random.     The app eliminates all that – switch on your phone, make the settings on the app and voila, your computer gets set automatically.

Of course, the downside is that you need to have your phone with you.    On many dive boats and liveaboard dive platforms, this may not be the case.       The good news is that most of the settings are not things that you would change on a dive to dive basis – mainly, only the nitrox mix.   And this can be done without a phone, if need be.

The “Menu” section also lets you adjust the various dive settings of the computer

Adjusting the settings is very easy and intuitive

SUMMARY

So in summary, would I recommend it?

The computer has a lot going for it – a bright and legible display, well-labelled information presented in an easy-to-understand format (one of the best I have seen in an entry-level computer and which mitigates one of the biggest failure points of dive computers:  user error) and easy to set up/sync via the app.      It was very easy to use and overall, a really nice dive computer.   And, of course, the fact that you can tweak the algorithm up or down to meet your preferences is a huge positive.

However, there are 2 downsides to the unit.

The first is a matter of personal preference – for me, I strongly prefer watch-sized computers.  My Shearwater Perdix is the first oversized dive computer I have used since 2001 and while I love it to bits, I am seriously contemplating selling it and getting a Teric mainly for the small form factor.   The reason for this is that it is easier to travel with the computer and also, easier to manage it on a dive boat before and after a dive.   Of course, on the flip side – the larger screen is also why the information is presented so clearly and legibly, so there’s the tradeoff for you.

The second is more significant, however:   the below-average battery life and connection system.      Are they deal breakers?    Absolutely not.     If you are careful with how you attach the charging cable, and are ok with doing so every day or two while on a dive trip, it is certainly something that can be managed.   It is, however, a potential – and foreseeable – problem if a diver is careless or forgetful.  From what I have seen, many divers do tend to be a little forgetful on holiday and all it takes is one such incident and you can potentially end up messing a day’s worth of diving.

So for that single reason, the Cosmiq+ does not make our Recommended Gear list– that selection is reserved for gear which we think is the best fit for most people, and can be recommended without any qualifiers.   To be honest, it is a bit of a shame as otherwise, I really do like this dive computer.    However, at this price point, the Cosmiq+ is competing with the Mares Smart and the Aqualung i200.   Both have a watch-sized form factor, sensible algorithms and while the display isn’t as sexy and you do need to read the manual to understand the settings, the battery life on both is significantly better and so there are fewer caveats about usage.

However, that is not to say that the Cosmiq+ doesn’t deserve consideration or is not competitive – the legible display, app-based settings and cloud-based dive logging  make it a refreshingly different alternative in a world of otherwise fairly similar entry-level computers.   If the battery issues are something that you can work around, it is definitely worth considering (and arguably outperforms the other options in its price range).

So yes, I would recommend it, but with the caveats described.

Reviewed by: Vandit Kalia (Vinnie), resident gear head of Diveindia.   This unit was provided as a demo for testing, and was returned after the test period was over.   As always, these reviews represent our honest opinions on the product in question – we are beholden to you, our divers, and not to manufacturers.

DIVEIndia has the DeepBlu Cosmiq+ available for sale at a very competitive price – if this computer fits your needs, please contact us for current pricing and to purchase.

UPDATE FROM THE MANUFACTURER

Apparently, the battery life issues were not just limited to me:  Cosmiq has recognized that and released a firmware update that improves the battery life, as well as a Gen 5 version with a larger internal memory for logging 200 dives, as opposed to 25.   Supposedly, there is also an upgraded charging cable as well.  If the battery life issues have been resolved, then yes, this computer makes it on to our Recommended Gear list.   We will update the review if and when we get a chance to try out the newer version.

Ocean Gravity by Guillaume Néry

By Blogs, freediving

Snippets of the ocean gravity video are resurfacing on the internet and we wanted to let you know that there is more to that video. The video is an edit of a short film made by Guillaume Néry.

Here’s the description from his Youtube channel.
Ocean Gravity is a short film that rewrites the rules of the underwater world and takes us this time into the world of the weightlessness.

Just like in the space, there isn’t anymore a top or a bottom. There isn’t anymore upside down and wrong side out. The ocean becomes cosmos, the man a satellite, and the bottom of the sea an unknown planet. Welcome in the fascinating universe of Ocean Gravity.

Guillaume: «since ever, my diving propels my imagination in the fantasy of the conquest of space. To touch the sea floor or to set foot on an unexplored planet, here are 2 fascinating adventures which feed my thirst of unknown. The discovery of this quite unique place (Tiputa – Rangiroa – French Polynesia), allowed us to put in image the visual closeness of 2 universes water and air, ocean and space.»

 

Here’s the entire freediving short film.
By a strange coincidence, DIVEIndia now offers Freediving certification.  Hint hint!

Credit: Guillaume Néry

False killer whale jumps over diver

False Killer Whales jumps over Snorkeler

By Blogs

We know this is an old post, but its definitely worth viewing.

False killer whale sightings are rare, but when photographer and naturalist Scott Portellini was snorkelling in Tonga, he experienced something divers dream about.

The video footage showing the leap – and the snorkeler’s astonishment.
The video was posted on Facebook by guide and photographer Scott Portelli, after a Swimming With Gentle Giants humpback whale excursion.

Portelli’s description reads: “Today out on the water we had an unexpected encounter with a large pod of false killer whales. This one interactive one came back and literally jumped over one of my guests. Never know what you are going to see in Tonga.”

False killer whales (Pseudorca crassidens), which can grow to about 17 feet, are uniformly black or dark gray, and do not resemble killer whales. They were named because, like killer whales, they sometimes attack small whales and dolphins.

Best time for scuba diving in the Andamans

Best time for scuba diving in the Andamans

By Andaman scuba diving course, Articles, Scuba Diving Andamans, Scuba diving Courses

BEST TIME FOR SCUBA DIVING IN THE ANDAMANS

Best time for scuba diving in the Andamans

Let’s start by clarifying something – rain doesnt matter so much for diving. Yes, it can affect visibility at shallow depths, but this only happens when there is extended rainfall here (which doesnt happen often, even in the monsoons – we usually get short showers). Furthermore, most of our dive sites are off shore and once you descend to the dive depths, conditions arent affected so much. Tides play a much bigger role in affecting underwater visibility and that changes from week to week – so the range of visibility remains more or less the same all year long, whether it is raining or sunny.
What matters more is wind. When it is too windy, the seas are rough and we cannot go out to the open sea (or sometimes, we can go out but decide not to, in order to be safe:  our standard isnt “can we dive in this”, but “if something were to go wrong, can we manage the situation safely for everyone in this”). However, even when it does get rough, we have a bunch of sites that are accessible all year long as they are sheltered from prevailing winds – what we cannot do is visit our remote, highlight sites like Johnny’s Gorge, Dixon’s Pinnacle and Jackson’s Bar. This doesnt affect beginners so much, but does affect certified divers.
Traditionally, this is what the weather holds over the course of the year:

 

January-May period is when the seas are the calmest (especially March-May, when the sea is sometimes to calm that it resembles a mirror) and surface conditions are best for diving.

 

June – August is the rainy season. This is different from the mainland monsoons, and consists of wet periods (when it is cloudy all day and there are frequent, brief showers) and dry periods (when it is sunny and calm for several days or even weeks). During some of this time, we are able to visit all our highlight sites and at other times, we are restricted to the nearby, sheltered sites.   While the diving is usually fantastic due to fish spawning in the warmer water, odds are higher that we will be limited to our nearer sites. However, the weather is usually very pleasant at this time, the package tourists are away and the island reverts back to a sleepy, idyllic paradise.

 

September-November is what we call the “new season” – during this time, the south-westerly winds are starting to die down, but there are still regular showers and occasionally, the winds do pick up. At this time, the diving is absolutely fantastic (a lot of fish spawn in the rainy season, so there is a lot of bio-mass on the reefs) and the sites are at their absolute best. The flip side, of course, is the slightly higher risk that winds may play spoilsport and limit us to nearer sites.  Also, currents can be stronger at this time.

 

December is a bit of a transition time – the terrestrial weather is lovely, sometimes there are showers and the winds can be moderately strong.
Of course, with weather patterns changing over the past 5-6 years, things are a little more blurry now. Over the past 3-4 years, we’ve had very calm conditions in June, with low wind and limited rain. We’ve also had rough conditions in Jan/Feb. At this point,

 

What does this mean?

 

FOR BEGINNERS: It doesnt matter when you come. We have sites that are accessible all year long, even in a storm, and the conditions of these sites usually do not vary that much whether it is on or off-season. In season, things are sunny and the islands are busier – in the off-season, it is quieter, things are more relaxed and the weather is actually very pleasant. And because the rain takes the form of brief showers, you can actually explore the islands without any issues).

 

FOR EXPERIENCED DIVERS: Based on the recent weather trends over the past 5-6 years, we’ll say that March/April/May offer the best chances of calm conditions,  followed by January/February, followed by September-December.     Conditions in June, July and August can vary – if you are lucky, you’ll get superb diving with just 2-3 people on the boat, and if you are unlucky, you’ll be limited to our nearer sites (which are very nice, but probably a step or so behind our highlight, open-sea sites).
Of course, the weather being what it is, there are no guarantees but hopefully, this will help provide some information in helping you plan your trip to the Andamans.
what does scuba diving feel like

What does scuba diving feel like?

By Andaman scuba diving course, Articles, Opinions

What does scuba diving feel like?
A beginners view.

One of the downsides of having been diving for a while is that sometimes, it is easy to take the ocean’s wonders for granted – yes, the diving is still enjoyable but that sense of wide-eyed wonder is lost. The more you dive, the more cool things you see, the less you tend to be excited by the common, everyday stuff – which, if you take a step back and think about it, is pretty damn amazing. On any given scuba dive here in the Andamans, you can see well over a hundred species of marine life. Translate that to seeing 100 different animals in a national park, or 100 different birds in a morning walk.

The same thing happens with the Andamans. After going out for an evening walk with the dogs daily for nearly 10 years, it is easy to take the long stretch of quiet, untouched beach, the clear azure waters and all the interesting marine life in the low tide rock pools for granted. It’s human nature, after all.

Still, sometimes, it is nice to “see” things from fresh eyes. Rajdeep Bhattacharyya came to do his open water course with us, and has written a beautifully evocative post on his first experience at diving. It puts a smile on my face, and it reminds me of my own first dive (in a pool – where the feeling of weightlessness had me hooked to the sport instantly) and the first dive where I saw fish (dive #30, in Florida). So, with the author’s permission, here is a link: https://www.wingd.ca/swimming-fish-andaman/

 

Scuba Diving Andamans

Scuba diving courses: Andamans, India

By Andaman scuba diving course, Scuba diving Courses, Training

Scuba Diving Courses Andaman: Learn Scuba Diving
For those interested in learning to dive, we offer the Open Water Course.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be an expert swimmer, or a daredevil adventurer in order to dive. Recreational diving is one of the safest sports around, and is suitable for everyone from the age of 10 to 65-plus. All you need is basic swimming capabilities, moderate fitness levels (ability to walk a kilometer or two without fatigue) and good health.

The Open Water course consists of 3 sections:
– Academic development: Here, you learn the theory of diving. This is covered in a mix of video, self-study and instructor briefings
– Confined water training: here, you master the essential skills of scuba, starting from the simple (breathing underwater) and working your way up to complex (removing/replacing your equipment underwater)
– Open water dives: now you get a chance to apply everything that you have learned by actually diving. We do 4 dives in the open water, where you repeat some of the skills that you learned earlier, and where you also get a chance to dive, enjoy yourself and soak in the wonders of the underwater world.

At the successful completion of this course, you receive a certification card from PADI or SSI, two of the largest diver training agencies in the world.

A quick word on these agencies: either of these cards will let you dive anywhere in the world – both are universally accepted (contrary to a popular misconception that one works better than the other). They are also interchangeable (you can start with one and switch to another, and each agency recognises the other’s cards). Regardless of which option you choose, you get a high-quality course. There are some minor differences in curriculum (more so at higher training levels), add-ons and pricing, and these, rather than brand, should form the basis of your decision. Our instructors will be happy to work with you in selecting the course that is just right for you – contact us for more info.

Typically, the Open Water course lasts 4 full days. However, we recognize that different people learn at different speeds – besides, you are on vacation and may want to spread out your training. So, the time to certification can be more or less. Two things are for sure: we will not rush you, and we will not compromise on your training.

The DIVEIndia approach: As with our diving, we believe in small groups and personalized attention for training. With our large staff of instructors, we are able to keep our classes small – usually 4:1 or better student:professional ratio – ensuring that you get all the personal attention that you need. Furthermore, as with all our courses, we go WELL beyond the bare minimum in terms of how skills are integrated, in terms of amount of in-water time you will get and also the degree of comfort and mastery that we impart before certifying someone.

Please keep in mind – just as all coaches, teachers and colleges are not the same, neither are all diving programs the same. We conduct what we consider to be one of the best Open Water training programs you will find in Asia (and even elsewhere): we have one of the most experienced teams of instructors in the region, we go well above the bare minimum in terms of standards and our goal is to actually make you a qualified diver, not just check off a set of skills and let you go. Think of the difference between learning a subject and learning to pass an exam – that sums up the DIVEIndia difference.

If you have any health-related concerns about learning to dive, please download the Medical Statement form which goes over a medical checklist. If you answer “yes” to any of the questions there, please get medical clearance from your doctor prior to reaching Havelock. You will need one separate clearance for every question to which you answer “yes.”

We highly recommend you club the Open Water Course with the Advanced Open Water Course.

The PADI Advanced Open Water course / SSI Advanced Adventurer (same rose, different names) consists of 5 dives: two are mandatory (Deep Dive and Underwater Navigation – Night is highly recommended), and for the remainder, you can choose from 15 options, including Night, Computer, Naturalist, Buoyancy, Wreck, Boat, Underwater Photography and lots more.

This is a practical course (emphasis on in-water training) and is meant to give you experience in diving under different conditions, as well as provide you with a deeper understanding of dive theory, planning and techniques.

And the reason we suggest clubbing the two courses is because it has the following benefits:
– you learn more and become a significantly better diver when you do both the OW and the Advanced
– you retain your skills longer, as you are better able to internalize the diving skills
– you are able to dive to 30m and thereby visit some of the best sites of the Andamans
– our Open + Advanced combo works out to be staggeringly good value

You do not need to commit to this in advance, but if possible, try to keep 2-3 days extra on hand after the course for this. Virtually every one who has done the combo has loved it.

USEFUL LINKS

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Review: Aqualung i300 Dive Computer

By Gear, Opinions, Reviews

Review: Aqualung i300 Dive Computer

Anyone who has done an Open Water or Advanced course with me knows that I feel that a dive computer is the single most important piece of equipment a diver should own. With a dive computer on your person, you have full control over your dive and are completely self-reliant – which is exactly what you, as a certified diver, should strive to be. A divemaster or more experienced buddy is good to have as an added layer of safety, but your safety is your responsibility and no one else’s.

Yes, it costs a little bit of money – but really, if you factor in the years of use you can get out of it, the annual cost is not that high. And having all the information not only improves your safety, but your confidence as well – and that means you are more likely to dive.

At this point, I can hear someone going “yes, but i can do this with a dive table as well”. Yes, you can, in theory. I did a dive yesterday – max depth 30m, total dive time 58min and at no point did we come anywhere close to our no decompression limits. If you were on tables, you would be out of the water in 24-25 min. Do you really want to pay thousands of dollars on vacation and then give up on >50% of your dive time? Let’s get real. Dive tables are obsolete for recreational divers and for good reason.

But I digress. Getting back to dive computers: until now, it really wasn’t cost effective to buy scuba gear, including computers, in India. However, times are changing. As those of you who are members of our Facebook group know, the scuba market in India has finally evolved to the point where manufacturers are taking it seriously, and now it is becoming increasingly cost effective for people to buy gear here.

So that led to me scouring the various price lists to see if there was a dive computer that could be a sensible alternative to the Suunto Zoop, one of the heavyweights in entry-level dive computer category – and this search led me to the Aqualung i300.

Before we start, a word on ‘entry level’ – that is not the same as ‘cheapest’. The idea is to find a computer which has sensible set of features ie, one which includes everything that is essential, and where you are neither paying extra for a bunch of optional bells-and-whistles, nor saving money by giving up on things that are important (be it features or usability).

Aqualung i300 Dive Computer

THE SPECIFICATIONS

The Aqualung i300 is an over-sized dive computer which has 4 modes: Air, Nitrox, Free and Gauge. The first 2 are for diving, the 3rd for skindiving/apnea and the last for use as a bottom timer when doing technical diving.

The first thing that jumped out at me was that the i300 has user-replaceable batteries. This is a heaven-sent. My personal computer, a Suunto D9TX, requires me to send it to Thailand every time the battery runs out – which means a couple of months without it. User-replaceable batteries are a ‘must have’, in my opinion.

The i300 also comes with a bunch of useful features: backlighting (for viewing in the dark), auto-detection of altitude and fresh water/sea water, the usual depth and time alarms & 2 unique alarms: a ‘Dive Time Remaining’ alarm (which can be set to beep to however many minutes before you hit your no-deco limit) and a nitrogen loading alarm (which can be set to beep when you hit 20%, 40%, 60% or 80% of your max nitrogen loading).

It gets credit for having a sensible Dive Plan mode – on many computers, including several Suunto models, accessing the Plan mode during a surface interval would only provide the bottom time based on the current surface interval. So if you were 30′ into the SI and wanted to get in the water after another 45′, there was no way to figure out how much bottom time you would get then – the Plan mode would only show you how much bottom time you had at that time. Thankfully, the i300 lets you add more surface time to the planning mode, which makes it actually useful for figuring out how long you have to wait or what your depth/time limits would be when you actually got into the water.

Two other neat features – it has a ‘Deep Stop’ option you can enable, if you want, and it also lets you specify the depth and duration of your safety stop.

In addition to the above, the Aqualung i300 also has all the other usual features – dive log mode, total number of dives logged, a conservative factor setting (which lets you make the computer more conservative), metric/imperial adjustments and the ability to sync with a computer with an optional cable (this lets you download your dives for review on a computer or online dive log software, and also lets you upgrade the firmware of the device if need be) and auto-on – although for some inexplicable reason, you actually have the ability to turn off the ‘auto-on’ function, if you so desire.

Lastly, the i300’s Free Diving mode is quite robust: not only does it includes things like a Countdown Timer (before you start your immersion), but the computer actually tracks your activities in Free Diving mode. So that means you can switch from Free Diving mode to one of the Diving modes (Air or Nitrox) at any time – many other computers, including several Suunto models, require a 24-48 hour waiting time before letting you switch modes.

IMG_3361

THE ALGORITHM

All of this is well and good, but ultimately, the main purpose of a dive computer is to help you plan and execute your dives. How good is the i300 at this?

Let me take a step back and sign a paean to Suunto dive computers. They are one of the heavy-weights of the dive industry, and with good reason – sophisticated computer models, workhorse reliability and smart interfaces. However, the big knock against them has always been how overly conservative they are – they use a very advanced model called RGBM, which tries to predict and minimize silent bubble buildup in the body, but the downside to this is that your dive time is greatly reduced, especially on repetitive dives.

The i300 is made by Pelagic Systems – who also make dive computers for Oceanic, Mares and others, and who are one of the leaders in developing decompression algorithms. The i300 uses their PZ+ algorithm, which is a moderately conservative algorithm, slotting in between the liberal DSAT model (also created by Pelagic) and Suunto’s conservative RGBM model.

So in theory, this should give you more bottom time, especially on repetitive dives.

But hold on – isn’t it better to have a more conservative computer? I sort of agree with that – their extra conservative model is the reason we use Suuntos in our dive center, after all.

However, the decision-making for a dive center is going to be different from the decision-making for an individual: we have to take into account divers of all body types, fitness level, age groups, health levels and abilities. You only have to take into account yourself.

And the inescapable fact is that millions of people have been diving safely for years using variations of the Buhlmann model (which is the compartment-based model that you learn in Open Water and even Divemaster), of which the PZ+ is a derivative. So at what point is a computer conservative enough?

Suunto themselves recognizes it to some degree – on their higher end computers, such as the D9, they offered a setting which would let you make the computer less conservative.

Generally, my belief is this – unless you have a condition which requires you to be more conservative when it comes to DCS (age, fitness, overweight), the PZ+ algorithm is going to be more than adequate at keeping you safe – just be careful about watching your ascent rate, give yourself atleast an hour between dives and follow all the concepts of safe diving that you learn in Open Water, and you are good to go.

i300

TESTING THE COMPUTER IN THE WATER

Over the past few days, I have taken the computer for a bunch of dives, along with my Suunto D9TX and a Suunto Zoop from the dive shop. To test how the computers responded to various diving situations and emergencies, not only did I do a day of regular diving, but I also took all 3 computers into decompression, and did a day of reverse profiles (a shallower dive first, a deeper dive second).

The computer behaved pretty much as i expected: on the first dive, I got a bottom time that was somewhere in between my D9TX (which has the reduced RGBM algorithm) and the Zoop (which has the full RGBM algorithm). The difference between all 3 computers was fairly small. On the second dive however, the i300 gave me a little bit more bottom time than the D9TX, and both gave me significantly more time than the Zoop – this is pretty much what I expected, given the algorithms.

The backlighting worked well, the tactile buttons were a pleasure to use, and all the automatic features of the computer worked precisely as they were supposed to. And the readout is very clear and easy to read, with all the essential information available at a single glance.

On the reverse profile day, the same held – all 3 computers gave readouts that were ‘sensible’, with similar bottom times as earlier.

On the decompression dive, there was a significant variation, however. I went down to past 40m and hung around till all 3 computers went into deco (no significant differences in bottom time here) and started to ascend once both computers were showing me 5′ of ascend time. As i ascended to a shallower depth and the controlling compartment changed, the Sunntos gave me credit for off-gassing on the faster compartment and the deco obligation cleared by the time i was at 15m. However, the i300 obstinately kept that deco clock ticking till I ascended to shallower than 10m.

This is a key difference – the Suuntos are designed for decompression diving (provided you are trained and qualified to know how to use them for this), whereas the i300 is strictly for recreational, no-deco dives (and it doesnt pay any attention to that ‘recreational deco’ nonsense) – So someone who is a technical diver or planning to become one may prefer a different computer. However, for the vast majority of recreational divers, this isn’t such an issue. You shouldn’t be going into deco anyway.

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CONCLUSIONS AND FINAL THOUGHTS

2 weeks ago, if you had asked me to recommend an entry-level computer, I would have blindly said Suunto Zoop/Vyper – why? Because i am a long-time Suunto user – and Suunto is also the brand that we use in the dive shop, with excellent results.

However, while the Zoop still makes sense for the dive center, I think that for an individual diver, the slightly less conservative algorithm of the i300 makes it a better buy, especially given that prices are comparable.

There are a couple of cheaper options out there, such as the various 1-button dive computers like the Mares Puck. However, going back to what i wrote earlier about the difference between ‘best entry level’ and ‘cheapest’ – single button interfaces are a pain in the rear. Given that the monetary savings would have been very modest, I ruled those out.

There are also more expensive options out there – what a greater price gets you is a smaller form factor (so you can wear it like a wrist watch – which is actually a really good thing: it goes with you whereever you go, so you are sorted if you make a last-minute decision to go diving somewhere), air integration via optional tank transmitter (so you can see how much air you have left, both in bars and time, based on your breathing rate), an in-built digital compass (that’s nice to have for serious divers and pros) and, at the highest end of the scale, the ability to switch gases between various nitrox and helium blends and rebreather modes (useful for technical divers).

All those features are nice to have, and if budget allows, by all means go for it. A Suunto D6 or equivalent is a great buy in that price range. But if you are a casual recreational diver who is not looking to spend a huge amount of money on unnecessary gear, the Aqualung i300 gets my vote as the first piece of scuba gear you should own.

Buy the i300 at a special price