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
- Our Rating: 4.5
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.7
- Popularity: Low
- Our Rating: 4.3
- Popularity: Low
Dive Computer Reviews
1. Cressi Leonardo
Cressi’s Leonardo dive computer is the least expensive model we recommend–by a long shot! It’s the cheapest option that can keep you safe and informed underwater.
We suggest the Leonardo for entry-level recreational divers on a tight budget. It costs less than many dive watches, but does as much as some computers twice the price! There’s a good reason so many rental facilities stock these.
It’s impressively versatile, for such an inexpensive dive computer. The Leonardo is equipped with Air, Nitrox, and Gauge modes, which just about cover everything a recreational diver will encounter. It has 22-50% Nitrox compatibility, which is rare at this price. Aside from the fact that it lacks a true free-dive mode, it offers a lot of room to grow.
There’s a lot on the display, but the dividing lines keep things fairly neat. Everything’s legible, if not as clean-cut as our pricier picks. You always see the essentials, including a battery life indicator. Overall, it’s by far the best display under $300.
The Leonardo does everything you need a basic dive computer to do, despite its lack of frills. It calculates depth, dive time, decompression status, ascent rate, and surface interval times. It also includes a clock and thermometer, with temperature readings displayed while you’re underwater.
The algorithm is surprisingly good, too, for something that’s been on the market for some time. It incorporates both RGBM and deep stops. It’s also relatively conservative, which is good for newer divers who will probably be the people considering the Leonardo. While it may not be as flexible a computer as our more expensive picks, the Leonardo is still very smart and responsive.
It has a backlight, unlike most inexpensive options. You can turn it on manually, and it’ll also light up automatically when an alarm sounds
There are audible alarms to keep you safe, which we consider a must-have, even on the entry models. The Leonardo is impressively loud underwater.
Like all the best dive computers, it makes life easy for you. The Leonardo starts when you hit the water. That’s unfortunately not a given on all inexpensive models, so it’s a nice convenience here.
The single-button interface is simple, even though it does mean you have to do some things in roundabout ways. We found that it’s pretty easy to get the hang of, especially if you have a smartphone with buttons that do multiple things. The approach here is similar.
You can switch between imperial and metric units, depending on what you prefer.
The battery and lens cover are both replaceable. It’s not as breezy to open and maintain this one as our expensive recommendations, but very doable.
It’s both designed and made completely in Italy. That’s one key reason the design and build quality are so much better than the crappy Chinese options in the same price range. This is the real deal, and it’s made by one of the best dive manufacturers on the market.
It’s covered by warranty, and has a superb track record for reliability. More ambitious divers will probably grow out of this one eventually, but you can count on it to last as long as you need it to.
You get used to navigating with just one button fairly quickly, but we still prefer having more dedicated buttons. That’s one reason we recommend that anyone who can afford to spend more for the Suunto do so.
There’s no freshwater mode, and no free-diving mode either. You can use “gauge” mode, but it’s not ideal. You’ll have to pay more to have those dedicated modes.
Like anything at this price, the Leonardo can’t be air-integrated.
You buy one of these for the value factor and for functionality, not looks. It’s fairly large and clunky with a thick face and overly large wristband. A lot of divers call this “the hockey puck”, and you can see why. That’s another reason to spend more if you can afford to.
It doesn’t store more than one dive unless you use the computer connectivity, which is both expensive and less intuitive than others.
The backlight works well, but isn’t super bright.
2. Suunto Zoop Novo (new model!)
Suunto’s Zoop dive computer has been one of our favorites for years, and it’s a standby at dive schools and shops around the world. These cost more than the Cressi Leonardo, but we think they’re the better budget buy if you’re looking for something basic.
The new Zoop Novo improves on the original in a few key ways. It’s super easy to navigate, thanks to the addition of more dedicated buttons, and it finally adds a true free-dive mode. We think it’s an ideal entry-level and intermediate model for anyone who can afford it.
It’s more versatile than the Leonardo, without costing too much more. The Zoop Novo has the same 5 diving modes as the more expensive Suunto’s:
Air mode (similar to the Normal mode on the Leonardo, and the default setting most recreational divers will use)
Nitrox mode (allows you to adjust for 21-50% oxygen, as much range as recreational Nitrox divers need)
Gauge mode (works as a bottom timer, with depth time and temp displayed. It’s a feature you’d use to plan out dives yourself either by hand or using mental ratios, rather than relying on the computer’s algorithm)
Free-diving mode (simply displays depth, max depth, dive time and surface time, without making any calculations or assigning times)
Off mode (the Leonardo has this as well: it turns things completely off, so that the computer isn’t activated by water)
Suunto’s algorithm is one of the best on the market. It’s the same that’s used in the company’s more expensive offerings. The best thing about the algorithm on the Zoop is the adjustment range it offers. You can tweak settings within the algorithm to adjust how conservative it is during your dive.
There are three different “profiles” to choose from, which essentially adjust the conservatism of the algorithm. There are three different altitude settings, too, so you can tweak the whole computer to suit the location you’re diving in.
Like the Cressi Leonardo, the Suunto Zoop Novo is a relatively conservative computer. With the algorithm adjustments, you can even make it more so. It automatically adds an extra deep stop for dives deeper than 20m, and it doesn’t let things slide. If you skip safety stops, it’ll automatically give you less dive time if you do several consecutively
The whole thing’s easier to navigate than the Leonardo. Having 4 different buttons makes a lot of the menu functions faster, without cluttering things up.
One display feature we love is the adaptive ascent rate bars on the right hand side of the display. They’re a nice visual cue to keep you moving at the right speed, and the computer will ping you and add a mandatory safety stop if you go faster than 10m per minute on the way back to the surface.
There are certainly plenty of older Zoop’s on the market for a lower price than the Novo, but we think the new model’s upgrades (added button, free-dive mode, etc. )more than justify the higher price tag.
The protective lens cover is easier to remove on the new Novo. So is the battery cover, though changing batteries is something you’ll want to have done at an authorized service location. The strap is a bit sleeker, and there’s an extra loop to tuck in extra strap when you’re not using your wetsuit.
Most importantly, the old Zoop didn’t have a backlight, but this one does! That makes it much safer in all conditions. Like the Cressi, the Suunto has audible alarms to go along with the bright backlight.
The Zoop Novo has lots of onboard storage, compared to the Cressi Leonardo. Up to 140 hours of dive data can be stored at a time. It’s also computer-connectible, and finally has been upgraded to the same interface as Suunto’s nicer computers.
These aren’t the flashiest or fanciest computers on the market, but they’re pretty much legendary when you look at practical functions and reliability. The Zoop Novo is made in Finland, like the nicest Suunto’s, and has an excellent track record for long-term performance.
It’s not integrated, and can’t be integrated in future.
It’s not for technical divers, even though it’s more versatile than the Cressi Leonardo. It’s not particularly streamlined, and it doesn’t allow for either gas switching or an actual tech algorithm.
You can adjust within the one algorithm, but you can’t choose different algorithms altogether.
The Oceanic Geo 2.0 gives you that option, as well as a few levels of conservatism to choose from.
It costs a good 1/3 more than the Cressi Leonardo. You get a lot more functionality, but there’s still a big price gap. That’s why we include the Leonardo in addition to the Zoop–we know not all beginners will want to spend quite this much.
Oceanic’s Geo 2.0 is our most expensive pick for the recreational diver. It adds even more versatility over the Suunto Zoop Novo, and is a more feature-packed choice for experienced recreational divers.
The Geo 2.0 is remarkable in that it allows you to switch between 2 completely separate algorithms. Compared to the Suunto and Cressi, it adds a few technical features, without costing more than a recreational model!
In short, we think the Geo 2.0 is the nicest you can get without spending considerably more for a true technical/air-integrated dive computer.
It’s sleeker and better-looking than our cheaper choices. The Geo 2.0 has a stainless steel band around the case, and is the slimmest of the bunch. It’s more like a dive watch than a hockey puck.
As well as being able to choose between degrees of conservatism, you can choose between two whole algorithms: Pelagic DSAT (Spencer/Powell data basis) or Pelagic Z+ (Buhlmann ZHL-16C data basis). Having a whole separate algorithm as well as some personal adjustments to each makes this extremely customizable.
It’s also more versatile in the gas department. Unlike the Leonardo and Zoop Novo, the Oceanic Geo 2.0 lets you switch between gasses easily.
It has 4 modes in all:
Watch (basically the same as the Off setting on the Zoop Novo)
Gauge (same as on the Zoop Novo or Cressi Leonardo)
Normal (default, incorporates both Nitrox and regular air dives)
Free (runs background calculations so you can switch to Normal without starting from scratch)
The Normal mode is particularly good. You can set up multiple gas mixes, and switch between the two, or drop to standard air. It’ll revert to standard air automatically if you go a full day without diving with the Nitrox settings
You can turn the deep stop feature on and off, as you like. That’s just one example of the Geo 2.0 being more flexible and customizable than the Cressi or Suunto. Of course, we always recommend taking deep stops, but some people aren’t fans of them.
Because it’s so flexible (there aren’t even any restrictions on the gas mixes you use), this is easier to fit to divers who don’t like to be as conservative. That makes it a better fit for some more advanced folks, although you skip or reduce your safety stops at your own risk.
As with the Suunto Zoop Novo, the Oceanic has a generous memory bank for storing dive data. You can always get to your last dive with one button, rather than having to scroll through menus. There’s a lot of room in the bank, too, although the Oceanic gives you a set number of slots, rather than a specific number of dive hours
Like the Cressi and Suunto, the Oceanic has a clear, legible display. It looks the best of the three, though there’s not a world of difference between them. The Oceanic uses lines like the Cressi, but they’re laid out in rows instead of zones. It’s all neat and tidy. No complaints here!
As with our cheaper picks, you can hook this up to your computer to compile and work with dive data. We also like that the firmware is updated regularly, something that’s not true of our cheaper picks.
It has all the key features of the Cressi and Suunto: audible alarm and flashing LED alarm light, a backlit display, and a replaceable battery.
The included manual is very basic, so you have to look at the online version to really get to know this thing. There’s an online walkthrough course, too, which we definitely recommend to buyers.
It’s just a bit complicated, compared to the Cressi and Suunto. There are definitely more features to navigate, but Oceanic certainly doesn’t make it as easy for you as they could have.
For instance, the menus are each assigned a letter, but the letters don’t correspond to words. The Nitrox menu, by way of example, is labeled “F”. It’s all straightforward once you’ve spent some time with it, but you definitely need to put more effort into learning this than the Cressi or Suunto.
The computer interface is absurdly pricey. Unless you actually do things with dive data once it’s on your computer, this is probably not worth the extra money.
Unless you really care about your algorithms and need to use the gas-switching feature on this one, you could easily get a similar level of quality and functionality with the Suunto. The Oceanic is no better in the reliability department, and aside from looking slightly better, it’s not necessarily of higher quality. You’re basically paying for the extra features.
This is a very nice dive computer for recreational trips, but it’s still not a technical computer. It may have a few technical features, like gas switching, but there’s no trimix functionality, and it can’t be integrated with your air system.
Overall, it’s less conservative than the Cressi or Suunto. That’s why it’s not so great for beginners.
It doesn’t included a protective lens cover as standard. You get one with our cheaper picks, so that’s disappointing.
4. Shearwater Research
Our recommendation to technical divers, the Shearwater Research Perdix AI is as good as it gets in the world of dive computers. It’s a fully-integrated system that’s equipped for any gas mixes and conditions.
It’ll take you as far as you could want to go with diving. While expensive, it’s also a fantastic computer for advanced recreational divers who can afford to invest in a premium device with air integration.
This is as close to perfect a dive computer as we’ve found in our years of reviewing gear.
It’s the smartest of the bunch. It uses the Bühlmann ZHL-16C decompression algorithm, which is one of the options on the Oceanic Geo 2.0. The Shearwater doesn’t have a second algorithm choice (that’s exclusively an Oceanic offering, as far as we know), but it offers lots of finesse within the Bühlmann.
You can tweak the algorithm according to your body needs and personal preferences. It’s basically a more refined, adaptive version of what the Suunto Zoop Novo does with its own algorithm.
The Shearwater has user-configurable Gradient Factors (GF), which give you a range of factor adjustments within the algorithm. There are enough that you can basically go as conservative or liberal as you like.
This is a fully-connective technical computer. It integrates with any air system, and any gas type. You can’t get any more accurate than using this thing. The computer calculates gas time remaining based on tank readings, and the computer’s display stats are calibrated directly with your tank pressure, not based on estimates.
The Perdix AI is a transmitter system, so it has a wrist unit and then a separate transmitter/gauge unit which attaches to your hose. Up to two transmitters can be used, and they’re completely wireless. We prefer these transmitter systems over something that mounts entirely to the hose, since a screen is always easier to look at on your wrist.
Unless you want/need to use a second transmitter with your setup, the Perdix AI comes with everything you need in the box. It includes the wrist computer and a transmitter unit as sold(be sure to use our links to get the right listing). You don’t need to buy anything extra aside from some batteries. It even comes with a film-type screen protector straight from the factory
This is simply a joy to use. It has a big 2.2” display with full color range and deep saturation. The whole thing feels much more like a smartphone than a digital watch, which is how our other picks feel. It’s just plain nicer to look at than cheaper recreational options, such as our other picks.
The navigation is a big part of making the Shearwater more pleasant. As well as looking good, everything’s laid out logically and the menus are all adaptive based on what you’re doing. This is the best computer we’ve used at anticipating what you need. Everything’s easy and intuitive to navigate/adjust.
And despite the extra features and rich colors, it still keeps all the basics in sight. The Shearwater always displays tank pressure, depth time, battery life and so on, no matter which mode you use. Everything’s simple and legible, and automatically changes based on what’s going on.
Unlike a lot of technical computers, it doesn’t feel like a behemoth. The Shearwater makes the most of its size, with a streamlined frame and small bezel. It’s quite light, at 1/3 of a pound, and it allows for natural wrist movement without any clunk.
It’s always brightly illuminated, and since the display is colored with a black background, you don’t need an annoying backlight. The text and digits are the bright spots, rather than the background. All in all, it’s a lot less obtrusive, especially for dives in the dark!
Both the computer and transmitter use replaceable batteries. While used in integrated mode, it gets about 40 hours of battery life, which is impressive for such an elaborate setup. The computer takes a standard AA battery, while the transmitter needs a CR2 lithium ion cell, which is a common type for cameras (aka easy to find!).
*Make sure to use lithium ion AA’s, since the built-in gauge is only designed to read those. Older alkaline cells aren’t going to be easy to keep track of.*
It’s actually pleasant to connect to computers! With most dive computers, including some of our cheaper recommendations, connectivity means you get to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a proprietary USB cable and deal with the company’s clunky software. Not in this case!
The Perdix AI is bluetooth-enabled, so there’s no need to buy ridiculously expensive USB cables. It even includes a bluetooth dongle, which you can plug into USB ports on devices that don’t connect easily by themselves (usually older computers).
You can also use it with smartphone apps, which most of us would rather do in the first place. It’s compatible with iOS and Android, and the bluetooth makes firmware updates a breeze.
The Sheawater is made in Canada and has a spotless track record for reliability. This is expensive, but it could well be the last dive computer you ever buy. The quality and functionality are that good.
This is a fully integrated, technical computer. Translation: it’s expensive. We appreciate that the Shearwater Research is hundreds of dollars cheaper than some other premium options (which don’t perform as well), but it’s still going to cost you more than a grand.
There’s room for improvement, and the nice thing about Shearwater products historically is that they do constantly make tweaks and adjustments. For instance, the Perdix AI only tells you the GTR for one tank, despite the fact that you can use two transmitters. Hopefully, newer models will add that, or perhaps it’ll be in a firmware update.
You don’t need something like this when you’re just starting out. None but the most advanced and ambitious recreational divers will actually get full use out of something this sophisticated. So, we recommend starting with a Cressi or Suunto, and then moving to one of these once you’ve logged quite a few big dives under your belt.
Which Diving Computer is Perfect for You?
The Cressi Leonardo is the least expensive model here, and so it makes sense for those on the tightest of budgets. You won’t be cutting corners on quality, you’ll just be keeping things simple and doing without some conveniences. If you can afford to spend more for the Zoop, though, we think that’s a better recreational dive computer for most people.
The Suunto Zoop Novo offers some definite improvements over the Cressi Leonardo, and it’s our recommendation to any entry-level people who can afford it, as well as advanced recreational divers who aren’t fussy enough about algorithms to justify buying the Oceanic. It offers plenty of adjustments with how conservative the algorithm goes, and it adds a free-dive mode you don’t get on the Cressi. For many recreational divers, this is as much as you need to spend.
The Oceanic Geo 2.0 isn’t better-made or more reliable than the Suunto, but it does offer more finesse. You’ll have an extra algorithm to work with, as well as adjustable factors. This is our recommendation to advanced recreational divers who want to be able to switch between gasses easily and have lots of control over their ascent.
The Shearwater Research Perdix AI is our recommendation for any technical divers. It’s the only integrated system we recommend, and it’s simply a superb setup. The Shearwater will work for any dive and any tanks. It’s accurate, convenient, and impeccably well-made. You don’t need to spend this much if you’re not an ambitious, experienced diver, but it’s worth every penny to those who will make full use of it.
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.
It’s the most precise way to go, but it’s not necessary for everyone. For the typical recreational divers, using a computer estimate and keeping an eye on your gauges is more than enough precision.
Air system integration is a feature that’s more common among technical computers, as opposed to recreational computers for the average diver. It’s only the most ambitious recreational divers and technical divers who demand something like this.
So, do you really need air system integration? If you’re a casual, recreational diver, probably not. You can save an awful lot of money by sticking with an independent computer. 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 your setup 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.
Make sure your computer suits your air setup. It’ll be basing its decompression calculations on your air mix, so you really need to be able to dial in a precise match.
First, figure out what type or types of gases you’ll be using when you dive. Some recreational divers use only standard air (o2), while others use Nitrox mixes. If you’ll be using Nitrox, be sure to get a compatible computer. Know the percentage of oxygen in the mix, and have a sense of the parameters (i.e. 20-90%, etc.) Do you need to use trimix blends? If so, you’ll need a technical computer. Otherwise, you’ll be fine with a good recreational model.
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. Most of the models we recommend either have adjustable factors to tweak algorithms to your preferences, or multiple algorithms altogether.
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:
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 usually short on amenities like backlights and adjustable features. That’s why they can be slightly more awkward to use overall. 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 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.
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!