A couple of weeks ago, we tested out some new dive computers / dive watches from a few different manufacturers. What we found during our tests was certainly surprising to us. Those results may surprise you as well.
The testing place: About a mile off the west coast of Grand Cayman about 65 feet down.
The weather: 84F / 29C and mostly sunny.
Water temperature: 81F / 27C
What a decision it is when it comes to choosing a dive computer. Some people like the pure dive computer, bulky, big numbers so that I can see the readout from ten feet back type big. Some folks look for a more stylish everyday watch-like dive computer that they can wear around on their wrist and not look too much like a total dive nerd; the key being that the unit can’t be TOO bulky. I personally am in the second class (do you ever get that second class citizen feeling like I do?) just described when it comes to picking out a Star Trek technology Tri-corder level dive information device. These dive systems are meant to give up some very important information when you’re below the ocean’s surface and you can’t just rush back up to ask for a spare if yours fails. Diving is kind of like flying in that a lot of the time when you’re doing either, it’s just not feasible to coast off to the side of the road if your equipment fails. Unwavering faith in my gear and that of my family/friend’s that I’m diving with, is paramount to my enjoyment of the dive! Dive computers have no exception in my book. There just shouldn’t be any failure in your dive computer with a reasonably fresh battery installed in it. Not that the world will blow up if there is a failure with your dive computer, it’s just that it’s NOT LIKELY to happen. It’s just not a piece of equipment that has any mechanical or electronic reason to fail often. That all being said, let’s list the reviews of these dive computers/watch types. This list is by no means exhaustive of all the choices that are out there and available to us, in fact we only tested three different dive computers, three cool (at first) computers that we were excited to dive with and put through their paces.
Let’s start with the Mares Smart Dive Computer and Watch: The Mares Smart is by far the least expensive of the dive computers tested here and frankly we had the least expectations for this computer/watch before beginning these tests. However, it turns out that the Mares Smart is an extremely functional and functionally intuitive unit that I would highly recommend to others, my family and friends included! This watch does a super fine job under the water and does it just as well as it does on top of the seas. The Mares Smart is even kind of stylish and comes in many different color combinations. However, I’m certain that the Red/Black color combination is somehow faster and more powerful when it comes to shooting out sticky web in order to catch the bad guys. If it’s good enough for Spiderman to use, then it’s good enough for me is what I guess I’m trying to say here. Also, red and black are the SaltyDogs.com colors so, it’s a big win owning this diving workhorse!
Build Quality: 4.5 stars out of 5. It’s made out of plastic and rubber and a less expensive stainless steel strap buckle. All in all, it’s a decent build and the computer goes for under $400.
Price: Under $400 USD. That’s an exceptional deal in my books. Great watch/computer!
Conclusion: The Mares Smart dive computer and watch is a great unit! I highly recommend it and trust it to assist my family members with their dives and daily lives. My wife and son both wear a Mares Smart daily.
Next up for our Dive Computer review is the Oceanic OCL Dive Computer and Watch: The Oceanic OCL is a middle of the road dive computer when it comes to function and price. I wore this unit daily for five months before it malfunctioned and gave me errors on two consecutive dives. It seemed unbelievable to me at the time that my Oceanic OCL could malfunction on me during a dive and after those two occurrences, I lost faith in the Oceanic OCL dive computer and watch model. I won’t ever dive with it again, even after it’s ‘repaired’. Just can’t trust it. Also, there’s no way in Hades that I would ever give even a repaired version of that computer to a family member or friend with which to dive. There’s also no way that I’ll sell the Oceanic OCL to another unsuspecting diver. After writing these words, it occurs to me that I guess I could sell the computer, with an asterisk on the sale that the buyer needs to promise me that the Oceanic OCL dive computer is for shore use only, NOT FOR DIVING. Then MAYBE I’d sell it. Or maybe I’ll just flush my Oceanic OCL and see how deep it really can go.
NOTE: I had the Oceanic OCL in AIR Mode, I wasn’t sucking NITROX at the time, otherwise TECHNICALLY according to PADI’s Nitrox lessons, I would have had to cut my dives short immediately after receiving the malfunction and error from the Oceanic OCL computer.
Build Quality: 4.0 stars out of 5. It’s a great looking watch and solidly built but, the rubber watch band doesn’t fit me well. -It pinches too much at the top of the wrist and computer. Also, the strap holder keeps sliding up on the band and becomes useless with not much assistance from me.
Price: About $600 USD. That’s NOT an exceptional deal in my books. Beautiful watch/computer that malfunctioned on two consecutive dives.
Conclusion: The Oceanic OCL dive computer and watch looked like it was going to be a great everyday watch and dive computer. After the Oceanic OCL malfunctioned and locked up on two consecutive dives, I just can’t trust it. Oceanic Malfunction FAIL.
Last but not least in this test review is the Suunto D9TX Dive Computer and Watch: The Suunto D9TX is a very high end dive computer and daily watch that does exactly what it should do. It works and it works extremely well. Looks great too! This is the kind of drop the mic type dive computer and watch that Poseidon himself would wear daily. It’s made of titanium and so is the band. It just all works. And I believe it will work EVERY TIME I dive in the water with it. Works great on the surface too. This is the dive computer and watch that I now wear daily.
Here’s the SaltyDogs.com Scuba Dab team in action under water… Tough conditions demand tough equipment!
Build Quality: 5.0 out of 5 stars. It’s a very sexy looking daily wear watch and it’s built like a nuclear sub. Suunto even uses the same material to build these D9TX’s that the Americans and Russians use to build their nuke submarines… Titanium. This dive computer might even be able to calculate missile launch trajectories and figure out launch codes, haven’t gotten to that part in the manual yet to be certain. The device is a looker and worker for sure.
Price: About $1,500 USD WITH the tank pressure transmitter and USB information transfer kit.
Conclusion: I have zero buyer’s remorse. There wouldn’t be any such thing as product reviews if everything were built like the Suunto D9TX. It’s stand up and clap grade equipment. Lastly, I’ve seen a couple of the stainless steel versions that having pitting all over them from hard ocean wear. Do yourself a favor and get the Titanium version!