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The Best Dive Computer

the best dive computers for different skill and experience levels

The Winner of Best Dive Computer: The Shearwater Teric

As someone who travels and dives a lot, from Aruba to West Papua to the Red Sea, I like to have my own gear. Each piece of gear you own or use while diving is potentially life-saving, and none more so than your dive computer. This is why it makes sense to invest in the best dive computer you can get. 

I chose the Shearwater Teric as the best dive computer in 2022 because it is the best combination of all the features you’d want in a scuba diving computer: nice design, great screen brightness and easy-to-read face, and air integration. 

In addition to the Shearwater Teric, I have also included a list of other best dive computers including: 


What Does a Dive Computer Really Do? 

According to the scuba training and certification institute SDI:

one of the most important things your PDC is displaying…[is your] No Decompression Limit (NDL). What is the No Decompression Limit? It is the amount of bottom time you have left at your current depth based on where you currently are in the dive, where you have been during the dive, and how much time you have spent there before you incur a mandatory decompression stop.

Diving is potentially dangerous for a number of reasons, and they depend on where and the type of dive you’re doing, but one of the constants that every diver everywhere, no matter the circumstances, has to account for is the amount of nitrogen in their blood and how that figure affects their dive. 

So, in short, a dive computer, among other things, tells you when you absolutely MUST stop to ensure you are not harmed by excessive blood nitrogen levels. 


Main Evaluation Criteria to Choose the Best Dive Computer

Throughout the below guide we will focus on some recurring and primary features of each of the best dive computers in their respective categories. These criteria are designed to help you make a good choice for your needs and budget. 

They are: 

  • The dive computer’s ease of use. Ease of use includes things like intuitive screen navigation; intuitive interface; clear, large type and characters; buttons that are simple to press; a bright screen that is easy to read at a variety of depths and water clarities, and colour mode. 
  • Functionality and non-negotiable features: These include things like Bluetooth, air integration, battery life for long dives, tilt compass and other useful customizations
  • Evaluations from divers: A dive computer needs to be well-liked and rated highly by other divers.

The Overall Winner of Best Dive Computer: The Shearwater Teric

The Shearwater Teric is the best dive computer in 2022 for a number of reasons, but the overriding one for me is the fact that it’s a fabulous scuba diving computer whether you’re a professional or a recreational diver. 

An easy-to-read, bright screen, intuitive and simple user interface and colours and display metrics you can customize to your preference, this is a dive computer that you can wear as your everyday watch and that performs how you would expect a Shearwater product to perform underwater.

While it doesn’t come with wireless air integration, you can opt for it if you want to purchase the computer-transmitter package deal

The Teric is quite the dive computer. A full-width screen makes it easy to read no matter the conditions and its list of features is comprehensive enough to satisfy experienced tec divers while remaining easy enough to learn for novices. 

One of the main reasons this is, in my opinion, the best dive computer on the market is that it has the brightest screen I’ve seen to date on a PDC. It makes it so easy to read, which I like because I wasn’t blessed with the greatest eyesight. 

Shearwater is one of the most trusted brands in dive sports, and the Teric is, for me, the best dive computer you can purchase right now. 

**a bonus feature that I particularly like is the computer’s charging dock (which comes included) that allows you to recharge every couple of days without having to open up any waterproof ports to plug in USB cords and the like. A bit safer, imo. 

As with anything–especially complicated electronics–manufacturing processes always produce a certain amount of error and variability, and there is always the chance that you’re that statistical improbability that gets a defective unit. If you trust the company’s customer service enough, it shouldn’t dissuade you from what really is the best dive computer on the market right now. 


Best Smart Watch for Diving in 2022: The Garmin Descent Mk2i

Garmin’s Descent Mk2i dive computer comes with a comprehensive set of features, is incredibly durable and is a fantastic multi-sport smartwatch to boot with very good battery life. It is also air-integrated, which is what any high-end scuba diving computer and smartwatch should be. 

Yes, it’s expensive, but you are paying for a smartwatch that tells you depth, temperature, dive time, NDL/TTS, PO2, N2 loading, ascent/descent rates, gas mix, time of day, decompression and safety stop information (and more)–all of this in quite a small package sitting neatly on your wrist. 

This might not be the best dive computer for beginners because it has so many different functionalities, but if you are a techie like me and enjoy being able to micromanage every last facet of a dive, the Mk2i is pretty hard to beat. You are unlikely to find small dive shops and liveaboards supplying this piece of gear to their guests. 

There are other reasons this is the best dive computer/smartwatch combo. This watch is a tech-divers dream, as it comes with trimix (for deep recreational and commercial dives), and gives you the option to pair the watch with up to five tanks. This makes it the best dive computer for dive guides looking to monitor multiple clients or for experienced divers diving with the less experienced–parents with kids, more experienced spouses with less experienced. 

You also get GPS and other data like temperature and depth to add to your live logs. Impressively, the Mk2i can even link up with Garmin’s satellite transmitters. Again, the cost, but if you want something as close to sci-fi as possible, this is it. 

Summary

This is a top-of-the-line smartwatch that also functions as a scuba diving computer. This device gives you a very impressive range of information to augment and record your dives, is compact on your wrist, has air integration, pairs with multiple tanks, and even links up with Garmin’s satellites. You are paying more money for all of this, but a very impressive piece of equipment and without a doubt one of the best dive computers on the market. 

All in all, definitely a beloved and highly respected piece of equipment and very clearly the best dive computer-smartwatch on the market right now. 


The Best Dive Computer for around 500 bucks: The Shearwater Peregrine 

This is a great first dive computer, especially if you’ve ever used the standard beginner PDCs like the Cressi Leonardo or the Suunto Zoop. These are cheaper, but a lot of divers are often driven to upgrade because they can be very frustrating to use quickly. Shearwater’s Peregrine, which only just came out in 2020, has changed the beginner scuba diving computer market, offering a really advanced piece of gear that is still user-friendly enough for beginners to love. 

A big colour screen with a very simple, effective display and easily navigable two-button UI make this the best dive computer for around $500 on the market. One of the really nice features of Peregrine is that it allows you to program vibration alerts that tell you when something needs attention. The vibrations are powerful enough that you can feel them even if you’re wearing a 5mm wetsuit or drysuit

This is a fairly hefty dive computer, so you probably aren’t going to want to sport it as an all-purpose wristwatch, and it lacks air integration, which is definitely a demerit.

There are other comparably priced scuba diving computers out there that do have air integration (e.g., the Aqualung i470TC), but the Shearwater Peregrine has that big, bold colour screen and intuitive display, which (imo) makes it worth overlooking the lack of air integration. 

If you are looking for what sweet spot of affordability and performance–something that makes diving more comfortable and secure without asking you to cough up over a grand–then the Shearwater Peregrine is the best dive computer in that category. It’s a cut above the other entry-level PDCs mentioned above, and you pay a bit more, but the value for money is obvious. 

Summary

For around $500, the Shearwater Peregrine is a great beginner dive computer that is clearly a step up from the other “beginner” computers on the market at a slightly higher price.

While a bit bulky, its large colour screen, simple two-button setup, and other programmable features like vibration alerts, along with a very comprehensive instruction manual, make this the best dive computer in the price range and something you won’t feel the need to upgrade any time soon. 


The Best Economical Air Integrated Scuba Diving Computer: The Aqua Lung i470TC 

The Aqua Lung i470TC is a remake of an old classic–the widely used and adored 450 model–and one of the many great things about it is that, while it looks like a watch, it’s actually a complex air integrated scuba diving computer. You can use up to 3 transmitters (not included), and it has a fantastic user interface and an easy-to-read display. 

The display on this scuba diving computer pales in comparison to the above Shearwater Peregrine, but if you are adamant about air integration and you want something that you can wear as a wristwatch without feeling like a knob, this is the best dive computer and it’s slightly less expensive

Summary

This is the best dive watch if you’re looking for something more economical that also has air integration and can be worn as an everyday watch. The high-contrast display is easy to read, you can monitor air in three tanks (if you spring for the transmitters), you get advanced nitrox functionality, it is Bluetooth programmable so you can easily download and upload data onto and from it; it has a simple 4-button user interface and it stores data between battery changes. 


The Sexiest Dive Computer: The Suunto D5 Dive Computer 

The Suunto D5 is probably one of the most widely used by divers because of how sleek it is. You probably wouldn’t even assume this was a dive computer if you saw someone sporting this at a party or at the gym. 

It’s as popular as it is because it successfully pulls off the minimalist look while secretly hiding a very impressive number of features that any diver would be happy to have. Air integration, LED backlighting, Bluetooth integration, a rechargeable battery, vibration alarms, nitrox compatibility and a lot more, this is the best dive computer out there if you’re looking for something that looks good in any context while providing high-tech performance underwater. 

The UI is 3-button, so this is an easy-to-use scuba diving computer, and the digital compass with tilt compensation makes underwater navigation easy and intuitive. 


The Most Affordable Best Dive Computer for Beginners: The Auqa Lung i300C

The best dive computer for beginners doesn’t have to be short on features and frustrating to use. While this may have been the case a while ago, the fact that there are scuba diving computers like the Aqua Lung i300C on the market is a testament to the new era of affordable quality. 

With this piece of gear, you get a two-button interface and an easy-to-read display, which is nice for first-time PDC owners, but you also get advanced features like Bluetooth integration, which lets you download dive information post-dive. You can also use Bluetooth to make changes to things like your nitrox settings. 

It’s definitely not a sleek watch like the Suunto D5 above–you would get some stares if you were wearing this in a restaurant or wandering around town with it on. There is a newer i200C model that has reduced a lot of the heft of the 300 that looks much slimmer on the wrist/hand. However, if you’re considering opting for the i200C, you might want to spend slightly more and go for the Shearwater Peregrine (covered above), because you get features like a colour screen and better nav. The Peregrine is bigger than the i200C, however, so you’re sacrificing wearability

If you are already evaluating more affordable options for the best dive computer for beginners and are considering models like the Cressi Leonardo, don’t be taken in by the mountain of positive reviews you read out there. They get as much positive press as they do because they are dinosaurs that have been around forever and many people simply don’t know any better because they haven’t used any other scuba diving computers. 

Others like the Suunto Zoop Novo aren’t bad, but I’ve found that if you’re looking for a scuba diving computer under, let’s say, 300 bucks, you’re generally going to get something much older than can’t really stand up to modern tech. 


What Went Into My Selection Process for the Best Dive Computer List

I ask myself three questions when choosing the best dive computer: 

  1. How easy is it to use? 
  2. What functionalities does it offer/do I want?
  3. What do other divers have to say about the computer?

I think simple is better when it comes to scuba diving computers. If you need to be able to operate something underwater, the user interface should be simple, including the number of buttons and steps to access vital information like decompression limits, oxygen levels, depth and direction. 

It kind of goes without saying, but a high degree of functionality is also key. If I’m on a dive boat and the dive master hands be a loaner dive computer that doesn’t do much (i.e., it’s an old model), I’m not going to be very impressed, and I’m probably even going to feel a bit less safe. 

Lastly, I also want to know what other divers (and especially seasoned divers who have used a lot of different computers) have to say. Why do they contend this or that PDC is the best dive computer? What don’t they like about it and why? I’m looking for specifics, not just blanket statements. 

In addition to my own experience with dive computers at dive shops from Thailand to the Red Sea, I spent hours reading reviews, watching YouTube videos, discussing different makes and models with diver friends and watching people argue about different computers and features on all of the big diving forums and message boards, from Reddit to PADI. 


Additional Things to Consider When Selecting a Dive Computer

  • How modern is it?: The best dive computers are the most modern ones, hands down. They are going to have new GPS technology, heart rate monitors and compass tilt compensation. Some even link up to satellites. If you’re spending a decent chunk of change on a dive computer, you are going to want it to last and remain relevant for a long time, so read user reviews before purchasing to make sure that any of the advertised “upgrades” are in fact that. If enough people are raving about new features, they are likely worthwhile.

Our list features the Suunto D5 and Shearwater Tetric because you are able to upgrade the firmware as new versions become available, so you always have something modern. 

  • Does it have integrated air? Air integration is hard to go without once you’ve had it because it gives you an overview of all of your dive data in one place. An air-integrated computer is the cutting edge of dive computer tech. You pay more for it, but there are plenty of old-school transmitters that work just fine with new-age scuba diving computers. 
  • How easy is it to read? Do you like squinting at a screen underwater to see how much air you have left or how much nitrogen is in your blood? You do? That’s strange. But seriously, readability should be high on your list of prerequisites when choosing the best dive computer. The screen should be bright and the text large enough that you can see what you need to see when you need to see it. Bonus points for any PDC that lets you customize what you see on the face so you can always see the essentials at a glance. 
  • Does it have a colour screen? There are colour screens and monochrome ones. Colour just makes everything easier to see, which is good if diving with contact lenses or if you’re older or farsighted. It does cost more. 
  • What does it look and feel like? If you’re paying for upmarket gear, whether it’s a scuba diving computer or a pair of fins, it should be aesthetically pleasing, fit well and feature a contemporary interface design. 
  • Does it have Bluetooth? Bluetooth is an important consideration because it is what allows you to download your dive logs to any apps or directly onto a device like your phone, tablet or computer. It is also what enables easy firmware updates when the manufacturer releases new features or patches. 
  • How customizable is it? Customizability refers to how easy it is to change how a dive computer fits or how it looks. Is it easy to replace the watch straps if and when they break? Can you configure the interface so that you see the metrics and data that you want to see? 
  • How long does the battery last? The best dive computers will not only have respectable battery life and be easy to charge, but they will tell you how much battery is left. You want a computer that allows you to maintain good screen brightness without quickly eating up your charge. It’s important to remember that one of the main tradeoffs when it comes to newer scuba diving computers is that, because of the increased complexity, they usually require more frequent charging than their progenitors. Smartwatch computers like the Suunto D5, for instance, might require a nightly charge. 
  • The price. If you take care to invest in the best dive computer for your needs and experience level, it can make diving a lot more enjoyable. Cheaper computers (especially anything under $200) tend to lack important features and can be annoying to use. Once you start getting into the high hundreds and over $1000, however, make sure you aren’t paying for features and functionality that aren’t ones you’ll ultimately use. 

What’s The Difference Between Dive Computers, Consoles and Watches?

Dive watches are fashion items that are designed to be waterproof and will show you your depth underwater. They are great fashion/functional items for people who spend a lot of time in and on the water, but they are not enough for actual diving because they don’t do things like calculate your decompression stops and time. For this reason, most serious divers would rather have a watch-like dive computer. 

A dive console integrates a dive computer into the air pressure gauge hanging from your BCD. It might also provide a simple compass. Dive shops–especially those that cater to new or inexperienced divers–often prefer this setup because it makes losing the computer less likely. Experienced divers usually prefer a wrist-mounted computer because it’s much more accessible and convenient. 

Finally, your dive computer displays all of your pertinent dive data on a wrist-mounted computer (though not always on the wrist). They tend to be smartwatch designs and give you the full breakdown of all the essential data you need to stay safe underwater. 


Dive Computers and Built-in Navigational Tools

Being able to read navigation tools underwater is one of the most important aspects of diving safely, and pretty much all the best dive computers will have a digital compass displayed on the screen. This design makes it a lot easier to maintain your bearing and track your navigation than the traditional BCD-mounted compass, or the standalone compass that some divers still strap to their wrists. 


Dive Computer Algorithms

One of the things you are paying for when you buy a modern dive computer is the sophisticated algorithm it uses to create a personalized no-decompression schedule for you. Using variables like time, depth, and pressure, the watch tells you when you need to make scheduled safety stops, how long before you can fly in an aeroplane again, how long you need to spend on the surface, and your total dive time allowance. 

One thing of particular note when it comes to dive computers and algorithms is that they differ from one manufacturer to another, and some computers even allow you to tweak the algorithm to make it more or less conservative. It’s a good idea for new divers to lean towards more conservative estimates of time and pressure so that you play it safe. 


Reasons To Bring Your Own Dive Computer When Traveling

If you travel a lot for diving, there are a few reasons you might want to invest in your own dive computer. The first is that you might want features or functions that a dive shop/resort doesn’t have. This is especially true if you’re a remote worker like me who is always on the road and often makes diving decisions at the last minute. 

It’s also nice to be able to control as many variables as possible when you’re diving. You can read reviews on Trip Advisor and get a pretty good idea of a dive shop’s professionalism and attention to detail through their site and videos, but you never truly know how well someone looks after their gear.

What’s more, you might show up at a dive shop, ready to go and feel uneasy about the type or quality of the dive computer they are using. At least if you know you have made sure to get yourself the best dive computer and take good care of it, you can feel comfortable wearing it while doing something potentially dangerous. 

Dive computers are also usually the most expensive piece of gear to rent. If you dive a lot, you’ll pay off that dive computer in no time. A scuba diving computer is small, lightweight, and easy to travel with and the best part is, they usually double as a wristwatch for a lot of people, so you don’t even need to pack it. 


How to Look After Your Dive Computer

If you end up going for any of the dive computers on this list, you’re going to be spending at least a few hundred dollars, and potentially a thousand or more. Of course, you want to look after your investment, especially since you are, in many ways, trusting it to keep you safe. 

Always rinse your PDC with fresh water after every dive–the same as you would with any dive equipment. Keep in mind that dive computers have small sensor ports and a lot of tight spaces, so it’s better to soak your gear than to try and flush it out with a strong spray from a hose, for instance. 

Look after a dive computer’s metal contacts. A lot of dive computers have external contacts which, over time, can suffer from salt buildup and corrosion. Take a soft toothbrush and some gentle detergent and scrub the contacts from time to time to remove this buildup. Corrosion can end up impacting water resistance if it eats away at enough of the material. 

Protect it from UV exposure, harsh chemicals and heat. Like corrosion, all of these can reduce the integrity of a dive computer’s waterproof seals. Don’t leave a dive computer sitting out in the sun on the beach or a boat, and don’t leave it in hot cars or cooking in dry bags. 

Store a dive computer somewhere that is cool, ventilated and dry. Most good quality dive computers come with their own padded carrying cases, which is the best place for them. 


In Summation

A scuba diving computer’s purpose is to keep you safe during and after your dives. You should invest in something that makes monitoring all of your vital underwater stats easy as well as something you are actually going to use. If you’re brand new to diving and have never owned a dive computer, you might not need or want the most sophisticated product on the market because it will be overkill. 

Keep the above list and reviews in mind, and you will have a much better chance of finding the best dive computer for your needs, budget, experience and physical attributes.

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