In this Guide
Diving is one of life’s greatest adventures. You get to explore unseen depths underwater, meet incredible aquatic life, and test your own limits as a swimmer.
However, charting out all those dive tables can be a real drag on your dive. At the same time, if you don’t do out all the math, you’re putting yourself in danger during your dive and when you fly home. That’s why we love dive computers so much!
These handy devices do all the tricky math for you, so you can cut the tables right out of your routine! They’ll also adapt in seconds to the specific conditions of our dive, and adjust their calculations constantly so you’re never doing guesswork.
The problem is, shopping for them can be just as tedious as plodding through dive tables. And given how essential they are to keeping you safe underwater, it’s super important to find the right one. That’s why we put this guide together.
We compiled all our collective diving expertise to find the best models on the market right now! We consulted our personal experience, professional reviews, and buyer feedback to narrow down the field to a few great models.
We’ve chosen different options to suit a range of budgets and skill levels. Below, you’ll find full reviews of all our favorites, as well as a handy guide to help you figure out which is your best bet!
Let’s start with a quick peek at our Top Three:
Best on a Budget
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- Rating: 4.7
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- Rating: 4.3
- Reviews: 37
Dive Computer Reviews
Our most budget-friendly recommendation has all the basic features of a great model in a very affordable package. It’s simple, easy to use, and offers a very reasonable range of diving modes to suit entry to intermediate divers.
We like the flexible decompression algorithm, as well as the customizable alarms. This one’s one of the unquestionable favorites for new divers, since it offers so much value for money. That’s why you’ll see it on nearly every list of the best models on the market!
It has both audible and visual alarms to alert you whenever something needs your attention. They’ll let you know when you need a decompression break, or when you’re in a no-fly space.
You can also set your own alarms for a maximum depth or dive time. Let’s face it–we all get carried away when we’re exploring underwater, so these alarms are a good backup to make sure you don’t stray out of your depth.
It works with standard air, and also nitrox mixes up to 50%. This model is actually a top choice for nitrogen diving schools and training programs. A 21-50% range covers most casual recreational diving, and is more than enough for beginners to test the limits of their skills.
The Suunto RGBM algorithm allows for continuous, flexible decompression, which is a rare feature in entry computers. It optimizes the decompression breaks to get you the best ascent time.
By contrast, some other entry models have a set decompression routine, which isn’t always appropriate for your dive time and conditions. The Suunto constantly adjusts to your conditions, so you’re always safe.
Previous buyers noted that it’s on the conservative side where decompression is concerned. That’s good, because a less-cautious computer can let you decompress too quickly or too slowly, and leave you in trouble.
The computer also adjusts your no-fly time after you’re out of the water according to the conditions of your dive.
The screen is no-frills, but it’s very easy to read. It’s a basic LCD with programmable display modes, so you can choose the information you need to see. At 40mm or so, it’s a very readable screen size, too.
It’s very easy to use and navigate. The push button controls don’t have any learning curve to master, and the menus are easy to maneuver.
The ascent time and available no-decompression time are displayed clearly on the main screen at all times. These two are your most important safety timers, so we like that they’re never hidden.
It works on your wrist, or mounted to a larger console. You can also hook it up to your computer to compile log books and look at graphs of all your dive stats over time.
It turns on automatically when you hit the water.
It counts down automatically whenever it goes through a cycle, like safety stops or surface intervals, so you’re always informed.
It works for both snorkeling and scuba diving.
It’s priced like a dive watch.
Overall, this is a pretty basic computer. It covers the essentials, but there are a few things this one won’t do that nicer models will. It doesn’t work with tri-mix gases, it doesn’t have a compass, and there’s no freshwater mode.
The software and computer interface is optional, not included. Some reviewers were less than thrilled with the software. It’s not covered at great length in the manual, so you may want to have a look at online forums if you have questions.
The audible alarms aren’t super loud.
There’s no backlight. If you’re making dives early or late in the day, you might not have as easy a time reading the display on this model. Likewise, if you’re diving particularly deep, or exploring darker places, this one probably isn’t a good choice.
The manual is only available online–there’s no printed booklet in the box.
There’s no fresh water mode.
This Cressi model has a few key upgrades over the Suunto. It’s backlit, accepts a wider range of gas mixtures, and has extra safety features to keep you safer as you decompress.
We like the visual oxygen toxicity indicator, as well as the backlit, straightforward display. Overall, it’s a smarter, more sophisticated computer in a more attractive and usable package.
Cressi’s new RGBM algorithm is more flexible and adaptive than the Suunto’s. The Suunto modifies your decompression calculations based on the conditions of your specific dive, but the Giotto can actually adapt its settings for multiple dives in one day.
That means you can take a Nitrox dive after an air dive, in the same day. The Suunto isn’t adaptive enough to keep you safe in that scenario.
You can program for gas mixes from 21-99% oxygen. That’s a much wider range than the Suunto. More experienced divers will get a bit of added flexibility with the Giotto.
The Giotto also has a Gauge mode, so you can free dive without the computer making extra calculations for you. It’ll give you basic readings on depth, dive time, and chronograph time.
It has a deep stop setting, as well as the usual safety stop at 15 feet below the surface. New research shows that planning in an additional deep stop prevents severe decompression sickness symptoms.
The Giotto’s feature is nice because you can turn it on and off, and decide whether deep stops make you feel better, or are unnecessary.
It’s easier to read than the Suunto. The display is divided into sections, with dividing lines and headings to keep all the numbers easily manageable.
Plus, this one’s backlit. The Suunto doesn’t have a backlighting function, so it’s hard to read out of sunny waters. The Cressi works well even when you’re in a deep place, or diving on an overcast day.
Overall, previous buyers said it was extremely easy to use, even at a glance. They appreciated the simple navigation console, which is a huge plus for making mid-dive adjustments.
The alerts are both audible and visual. You can set timers, depth alerts, and decompression alerts.
It comes in a variety of color options. There are 6 to choose from, with colored stripes and edging to match your other scuba gear.
The battery is easy to replace, and you don’t need to bring the computer to a specialist to get the job done.
There’s a protective outer screen over the display to keep it scratch-free and watertight. You can replace the protective screen in case of any serious scratching, which can really extend the life of your computer.
It stores up to 60 dives onboard, and compiles a dive profile for you.
There’s a calendar and clock built in, so you don’t need to bring a dive watch along with you.
It’s made in Italy, which means you can expect a very high standard of quality control.
As with the Suunto, the Giotto’s software and computer interface are extra. At over $100, they’re an expensive upgrade to the computer.
It doesn’t coordinate with your air gauge, and there’s no option to add on a wireless air monitor. Expert divers might be a bit disappointed by this.
The strap is pretty long. Some buyers said they ended up cutting off part of the strap, since there was so much extra flapping around.
It’s a good 1/3 more expensive than the Suunto.
Our top quality recommendation has even more features than the Giotto, in a snazzy, more watch-like casing than either of the cheaper models. We love the dual algorithm versatility, as well as the smart Freediving mode.
This is our top recommendation to recreational divers who want a great unit with lots of features without spending $750+ on a professional computer.
This is one of the only recreational computers on the market to come with a choice of algorithms. Most computers have one set algorithm sold standard. It has a determined level of conservatism when it calculates your decompression time, stop points, and no-fly intervals.
Of course, every diver has different preferences, and each diver’s body has its own specific needs when it comes to decompression sickness. This computer comes with two algorithms, so you can choose the system that works best for you.
In addition to the dual algorithms, you can also adjust independent factors to a variable degree of conservatism. That helps you suit the whole system to your needs.
You can modify deep stop times, no fly times, and all the other compression sickness protections. If you need fewer breaks and less resting time, you can set the computer to a less conservative setting, and vice versa.
You can switch between 2 different Nitrox mixes while you’re in the dive. With the Giotto or Suunto, you only get one mix per dive. There are also no restrictions on the programmable gas mixes, unlike the other two options.
This one has 4 operating modes. You can use it in basic Gauge mode for basic measurements with no calculations, Watch mode, to use it like a wristwatch, or Normal mode for air/nitrox dives.
The fourth mode is a favorite of ours. You can use other computers on Gauge mode for free diving, but this one has a dedicated Free setting. It gives you lots of freedom like using Gauge mode, but it runs background calculations so you can seamlessly switch back to Normal while taking your freedive into account in the algorithm.
Like the Giotto, the Geo 2.0 has an optional Deep Stop feature. It has a two minute countdown timer at half your programmed max depth.
There’s a very convenient single-button way to recall your last dive. That’s a lot easier than it is on the Sunnto or Giotto.
The alarms are both audible and visual, and the LED panel flashes to catch your attention. That’s a lot more noticeable than the flashing numbers on the Suunto.
It looks classier than our other two recommendations. The Geo looks more like a watch, with its stainless steel accent and buttons.
Like the Giotto, this one has easily-replaceable batteries.
Like our other recommendations, it turns on automatically when you hit the water.
Experienced divers concurred that while this is more expensive than some other options, it’s the best you can do without spending lots more for a premium model ($750+).
It doesn’t store as many dives onboard as the Giotto. The Geo 2.0 only has room for 24.
As with our other recommendations, the computer interface is extra.
A protective lens cover costs extra as well.
It’s not air integrated, and it doesn’t have any optional upgrades to give it air system compatibility. That’s true of our other two picks, but some buyers found it disappointing at this price. We’d advise budgeting at least $750 for something with air compatibility.
It’s twice the price of the Suunto, and a good deal more expensive than the Giotto.
The menus are easy to navigate, but they have acronymic names which can take some time to get used to. Previous buyers said you should plan on spending some quality time with the manual before you head to the water.
If you’re an adventurous, serious diver who wants a computer that’s a bit more professional than the Geo 2.0, this Shearwater is a good next step up. While it’s about twice the price of the Geo, it has lots of upgrades that we think make it worth the price.
This one has a full, 3D compass that’s built with compensators to keep in accurate as you dive. It works with any style of AA battery, even rechargeable options.
It’s covered by a 2-year warranty, and best of all, it’s Bluetooth-enabled! No need to buy expensive and awkward cables for this one. You can sync it with your computer wirelessly.
The display is large and horizontal, which makes for a much more legible layout than our watch-style recommendations. It’s also bright, with a high contrast blue lettering which is very easy to read in murkier conditions.
It comes with an unlocked CCR mode, which means you can program it with your favorite algorithm. That’s some serious versatility, which makes this machine almost infinitely customizable where decompression is concerned. It’s also compatible with tri-mix gas compounds, which is a big upgrade over the Geo 2.0.
Overall, this is a very well-equipped machine that’s good for advanced recreational divers who want lots of options and versatility.
Suunto EON Steel
If you’re a serious diver, and you want the absolute best model money can buy, look no further than this Suunto EON. It’s a full-featured wrist computer which coordinates with a wireless air gauge monitor to keep you fully informed of all your conditions.
It allows for perfect synchronicity between all your equipment, so you’re never left with awkward gaps or intervals between where the computer thinks you are, and where the gauge actually is. It has a built-in compass, extra-resilient depth gauge, and super easy navigation.
The first aspect that strikes you is the construction quality. It’s ruggedly built, with a stainless steel bezel and thick housing underneath. The screen is made from a special scratch and crack resistant glass.
The whole thing is guaranteed down to 150m, which is 50% more than our other recommendations. Plus, you get a little rubber sleeve to put over the whole thing for extra protection.
It’s fully customizable. This one works with any air setup you can throw at it, including trimix. You can also use it with multiple air tanks.
It looks great. It has a full-color, high-resolution screen that’s easy to read. It has strong contrast, which makes it very easy to make out underwater at a glance.
It’s also brightly-lit, and you can adjust the brightness to your conditions. Not only is it an intuitive computer, but we’re also very pleased with how consistent all the menus are on the display. Other computers keep changing layouts, which can get confusing, especially when you’re underwater.
On the whole, we’re simply hard-pressed to find anything to complain about with the EON. It’s intuitive, versatile, and virtually indestructible. Our advice is, if you’re an advanced diver and can afford it, you’ll be more than satisfied!
Which Diving Computer is Perfect for You?
The Suunto Zoop is the clear choice for divers on a budget. It’s also a good option for newcomers who want something basic that will allow them to explore diving without making an enormous investment.
It’s much more reliable and durable than other entry-level computers, and we think it ticks all the important boxes with a very reasonable price tag. However, it is somewhat limited in terms of which gas mixes it works with. It’s also a bit harder to read, and harder to personalize than our other recommendations.
The Cressi Giotto provides a few key upgrades for a modest hike in price. It’s much easier to read in mixed diving conditions, thanks to the bright, backlit screen.
The algorithm is more adaptive than the Suunto, which makes for a safer, more comfortable dive, especially if you hit the water twice in one day. It also allows for a wider range of mixed gas tanks.
The biggest selling point for us is that it stores the most dives of our three choices. On the downside, it’s not quite as versatile as the Oceanic.
The Oceanic is our recommendation to the recreational diver who wants the next best thing to a technical diving computer. It’s by far the most versatile of our three recommendations.
We especially love being able to choose between multiple decompression algorithms, as well as making adjustments to the conservatism of the computer. The Oceanic also looks the best of the three, with a more watch-like design and stainless steel accents. However, it’s the most expensive of the three, at twice the price of the Suunto.
How to Choose the Best Scuba Dive Computer
Think about air integration:
One big choice you’ll face when you’re shopping for your computer is deciding whether or not to get a computer that integrates with your air system. Air system integration allows your computer to modify its warnings, display, and decompression calculations in accordance with how much air you actually have. That takes a lot of the guesswork while you’re in your dive.
Be aware that you probably won’t find air system integration on a computer under $1,000. It’s a feature that’s more common among technical computers, as opposed to recreational computers for the average diver.
So, do you really need air system integration? If you’re a casual, recreational diver, probably not. If you’re a serious recreational diver or a technical diver, it’s probably something you want to consider.
Air system integration keeps you safer on longer, deeper, and more technical dives. As your system becomes more sophisticated, you’ll want a computer that can keep up. However, if you’re an average recreational diver, it’s probably overkill.
You should treat it as a more sophisticated, elaborate watch. It should be light enough and sleek enough to fit on your wrist without causing aches or impeding your dexterity.
Think about the size and strength of your wrists, and make sure you find a model that suits you. Even if your computer is feature-packed and easy to navigate, you won’t enjoy using it if it doesn’t fit comfortably.
Consider your dive style and setup:
Before you even start shopping, you’ll want to lay out a few key factors that will help you narrow down your search.
First, figure out what type or types of gases you’ll be using when you dive. Know the percentage of oxygen in the mix, and have a sense of the parameters (i.e. 20-90%, etc.)
Each computer has a set range of parameters it’s designed to work with. Make sure your computer suits your air setup.
It’ll be basing its decompression calculations on your air mix, so you really need to get a precise match. If you’re using trimix gases, you’ll want to be extra careful to find a computer that’s compatible. Most entry level and midrange models won’t work for you.
Next, think about how you like to decompress. Where do you like to make stops? How long do you need at each break? Do you like to take an extra Deep Stop?
Are you more or less sensitive to decompression sickness symptoms? Do you need more or less time between diving and flying? Answering these questions will help you figure out how conservative an algorithm you want in your new computer.
Before you make any decisions, we suggest doing some reading on Deep Stops. While they’re not a traditional part of the decompression process, new research has shown that they can make a big difference in preventing decompression sickness issues.
Plus, many computers with Deep Stops programmed in allow you to switch the setting on and off. So, you can have it just in case, but not use it with every dive.
Finally, consider how you’ll be using your computer. Are you mounting it to a console, or wearing it on your wrist? If you’re wearing it on your wrist, make sure you think about whether you’re going to be wearing a suit underneath. If so, look for extra room in the wristband.
If you’re going to be mounting your unit to a console, make sure you know whether it’s compatible, and whether you need to purchase any mounting adaptors or other extras.
Decide on your budget:
These are available from $150-$1,500+. Entry models are available from around $150-$300, and expert level technical computers will cost $1,000+.
Even the most basic entry-level computer will cover the essentials. It’ll track your dive time, depth, and other factors. It will also calculate your decompression time and stops.
However, entry level computers are short on amenities like backlights and adjustable features. That’s why they can be slightly more awkward to use overall. Expect to pay at least $300 for computers with those extra features. Entry level computers also limit you to pretty basic gas mixes, which might not suit more advanced divers.
The more you spend on your purchase, the more flexibility you’ll have in terms of gas mixes, algorithm tweaks, and display settings. You’ll also get better connectivity to computer interfaces, more intuitive navigation, and other smart design features which make the unit a pleasure to use.
The most expensive models (over $1,000) have air system compatibility, wireless computer and smartphone connectivity, and more smart features which you won’t find on the cheaper models.
They have lots of adjustable dive functions, and more room to personalize the computer to your own preferences. While these features aren’t always essential, they’ll probably be quite useful to technical and expert divers.
Know your algorithm preferences:
The most important thing a diving computer does is calculate a safe decompression procedure for you. To do that, it takes note of all the conditions of your dive (time, depth, air, etc.), and plugs them into an algorithm. The algorithm is responsible for deciding when you need to make stops, how long to stop, and at what depth. It also calculates your no-fly time after a Nitrox dive.
While you don’t need to know any code or computer science to decide between models, you should know whether you want an algorithm that’s more conservative, or less conservative. More conservative algorithms err on the safe side. That means you’ll take more stops, and take longer breaks at each stop.
Some people prefer that extra security, while others find that it wastes time. Get a sense of your own needs before you shop. Any computer will list its algorithm in the description, and a quick Google search will tell you how conservative each is.
Think about connectivity:
Nearly every model can be hooked up to your computer. However, many models, especially at entry level prices, don’t come with the cables included. You’ll have to pay extra for the computer interface, and that can add as much as $100 to the cost.
When you’re deciding whether to spring for the interface, think about whether you’ll actually be using the software. Many models allow you to see your dive stats and profile onboard, so the software can be unnecessary. However, if you want to compare stats with friends, or do more in-depth analysis of your dives, the software will probably be helpful.
Still searching for your perfect dive computer? Check out Amazon’s best-selling models, and see how our favorites compare to the rest of the marketplace here!