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Buying a dive computer for beginners

Find the perfect dive computer for beginners with our ultimate buying guide!

By 8 Min Read
Dive computer displaying WhatsApp

In part 4 of my “Ultimate guide to buying scuba gear for beginners” series, I will give you tips, tricks, and recommendations on buying your dive computer when you’re new to diving.

Use the table of contents to read to the sections you are interested in most or jump to another part of the series.

Best dive computers for beginners

These are my personal recommendations for the best dive computers for beginners.

I have added recommendations for each pricing category so you can pick one that fits your budget.

Suunto Zoop Novo

The Suunto Zoop Novo is one of the best-selling dive computers of all time.

Super affordable, Nitrox support, nice logbook functionality, and much more, what’s not to like?

In contrast to most contenders at this price range, the Zoop Novo features a 4-button layout which makes navigating in and out of the water much easier and faster than 1- or 2-button dive computers.

Being such a well-known brand, you can get service and replacement parts for Suunto computers anywhere in the world.

In addition to the technical features, which are superb, the Zoop Novo just looks really nice, even though it isn’t a wristwatch-style computer.

What I don’t like about the Suunto dive computers in general, is their non-disclosure of the decompression algorithm. This is not specific to this dive computer, but all the Suunto ones.

As it is unlikely that divers at this price range will use the Zoop Novo for any technical diving activities, it is not as relevant as in higher-priced tiers.

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0

The Zoop Novo is by far my favorite budget dive computer and the right choice for vacation divers and beginners.


Shearwater Peregrine

The Shearwater Research Peregrine is the best advanced dive computer for beginners in 2022.

Shearwater has long been the de facto market leader for advanced technical dive computers. When they finally released a computer aimed at recreational divers in 2021, their entire website went down for hours as people tried to get theirs first.

The Shearwater Peregrine is an exceptional dive computer aimed at all divers who want a superb dive computer for recreational diving without the drawbacks of other contenders and without the high cost of other top-of-the-line products.

First off, it looks great, featuring a small console-style display with lots of bells and whistles usually only found in the 650€+ range.

This includes a color display, multiple diving modes including Nitrox and Gauge mode, 30 hour+ battery life, and my preferred Bühlmann GF decompression algorithm.

The system language can be set to a number of languages and the Shearwater technical support is great.

While this dive computer can be used in technical diving, you would want to go for the Shearwater Perdix instead, if Trimix diving is your thing.

The only drawbacks, if you can even call them that, in my opinion, are the lack of color options for the frame, as well as the fact that it’s a wrist strap computer.

This means you won’t be wearing it around all day like you could the Suunto D5, for example.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

If you want the best recreational diving computer in the below 600€ range and are not looking for a wristwatch-style one, the Shearwater Peregrine is the best dive computer out there.


Garmin Mk2 Descent

The Garmin Mk2 Descent is the second edition of Garmin dive computers which includes some design changes, better battery life, air-integration support, and more.

Garmin took the dive computer scene by storm in 2019 with its Mk1 Descent which featured some super cool innovations, unique features, and most of all, a multi-sport dive computer smartwatch.

I used the Descent Mk1 for more than three years on almost 1,000 dives, before upgrading to the Mk2 Descent.

I don’t even know where to begin why this is my favorite dive computer of all. It has multi-sport support, so it doubles as my dive computer and running, hiking, climbing, and swimming watch.

It has all the features you could potentially look for in a dive computer, so I suggest a look into the specs.

The display is super nice, the Garmin map feature is above anyone else on the market, and I personally love the Garmin App and community ecosystem.

A small feature that I found super convenient is the clippable wrist strap which makes it super simple to switch between the short and long wristband, depending on exposure suit thickness.

I use it as my tech diving computer together with my Shearwater Perdix, and the Trimix, as well as multi-gas decompression support, is outstanding.

Yes, the Shearwater dive computers are a little more powerful for tech divers, however, nothing beats the Garmin for anyone who does more than just scuba diving.

Would I recommend this dive computer to beginners?

Well, here is the thing. Are you a runner, swimmer, climber or already own a Garmin sports watch? Are you looking for a smartwatch in general?

In that case, the Garmin Mk2 Descent is only a few hundred euros more expensive than the Fenix 6 (the Garmin top-of-the-line sports watch) which means you technically only pay the difference for the dive computer.

Rating: 5.0 / 5.0

If not, it is still one of the best dive computers money can buy, so if you want to get a premium dive computer, the Garmin Mk2 Descent is the one.


What is a dive computer?

Essentially, dive computers are small, often watch-sized, computers worn around your wrist during a dive and show important information such as current diving depth, time, and remaining non-decompression times. They are an essential piece of the scuba gear and you need one on every dive. As such, it’s a good idea to buy a suitable dive computer right after your Open Water Diver course.

First and foremost, they calculate your nitrogen saturation in and out of the water and give you the current non-decompression limit (NDL) based on that.

As you learned (or will learn) in your course, this used to be done with dive tables and dive watches, however, nowadays everyone uses a computer.

Underwater, dive computers also display the current dive time, and depth, as well as optional info such as water temperature, and safety stops.

Dive computers will alert you with blinding and beeping when your ascent rates are too high, which is super useful for beginners.

Last but not least, dive computers serve as a logbook with lots of info on each dive, which I think is a must-have for any beginner and experienced diver alike.

These are just the core functions of any dive computer, and the higher-priced ones will have cool features like multi-sport support, different breathing gases, Nitrox mode, and better displays.

Why buy a dive computer as a beginner?

Dive computers are required on every dive and belong to a diver’s personal equipment kit.

There are many reasons why you should definitely have your own dive computer, and why renting them is not recommended.

  • Expensive to rent
  • Logbook included
  • Every diver needs to use an individual one
  • They can be used as a wristwatch
  • You only have to master one dive computer
Scuba divers swimming through reef fish.
The Suunto Zoop in action.

Buying a dive computer for beginners

Buying a dive computer is not a straightforward task, as it depends highly on your requirements, budget, and skill level.

As such, I will only assess features which I think are suitable for beginners.

If you want to see further recommendations and more feature breakdowns, check out the best dive computers in 2022.

In general, the more you spend, the better quality you get and the more features ship with a dive computer. These are not just cosmetic changes, however, they often play a large role.

Dive computers on display
There are many different dive computers out there.

As my rule of thumb, for every 10-20 dives you do each year, I would invest 100€ more into my computer.

For every 10-20 dives per year, spend 100€ more on your dive computer.

So if you regularly plan on doing 50 dives a year, a 400€-500€ dive computer is more than justified, in my opinion.

On the other hand, if you only do a handful of dives each year, you will definitely get by with a super cheap one.

Basic dive computers for beginners: Features

$200 – $300

Basic dive computers will give you the following features:

  • Nitrogen saturation level
  • Non-decompression limits
  • Dive time
  • Dive depth
  • Surface interval
  • Logged dives (20-70)
  • Water temperature
  • Recreational decompression stops
  • Ascent rate alarms
  • Average battery life
  • Mono or Dual button layout

Advanced Dive Computers for beginners: Features

$400 – $700

Advanced dive computers inlcude all the basic features from above, plus extra ones that will make your life as a diver easier.

This often includes:

  • Wrist-watch style
  • Great design
  • Nitrox & Trimix support
  • Gauge mode
  • Freediving capabilities
  • Larger dive log database (100+ dives)
  • Good battery life
  • Decompresion planer
  • LED color display
  • Multi-button layout
  • USB chargeable

Premium Dive Computers for beginners: Features

$800+

Premium dive computers are the top-of-the-line offerings by manufacturers mostly aimed at dive professionals, very frequent divers, and those who like to invest in classy wristwatches.

They often don’t add new features but enhance the ones from lower-priced models while using better materials and design.

Premium features may include:

  • Map & GPS support
  • Smart-watch capabilities
  • Multi-sport support
  • Extensive logbook functionality (500+ dives)
  • Technical diving capabilities
  • Multiple decompression gases
  • More durable materials (titanium)
  • Very good battery life
  • Extensive dive planning options
  • Touchscreen display

Conclusion

This concludes this beginner’s guide to buying a dive computer.

If you want more inspiration, check out all my recommendations for the best diver computers in [curren_year] for every budget.

If you have any questions or need help finding the right one for you, leave a comment below.

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Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃

Cheers

Julius

Join the email list to get regular diving tips, tricks, insights, and news straight to your inbox!

Always dive with friends and happy bubbles. 😃

Cheers

Julius

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