What should I buy? A wrist mounted or console mounted dive computer?
Supporters on both sides have valid points, so let’s explore a few of them so that you can figure out what is best for you.
Many manufacturers will make a unit available for either a wrist unit or a console style. While some will make the same computer available for both. The wrist units that are only available in wrist mounts can be different sizes and are normally larger than a computer set in a console.
In recent years, there is a growing trend for wristwatch style computers. These are the size of a normal digital watch and has that function as well as the dive responsibility. The console-style dive computers are available in one, two or three gauge configurations.
A two gauge configuration will likely have the dive computer and a pressure gauge, with the three gauge style adding a compass.
Air Integrated Dive Computers
An air integrated computer can read your cylinder pressure and reports it back to you which eliminates the need for a pressure gauge. Some dive computers take the cylinder pressure reading a step further, for example, they can calculate the number of minutes of air remaining at the current depth and exertion level.
A neat feature of these type of dive computers is that you can synchronize it with your PC or laptop to create an after dive report that shows you the amount of air you were drawing from the cylinder at any time adjusted for surface pressure.
This is useful to learn in which part of the dive you used the most air. When you know this you can practice slower breathing at this point on your next dive, which should result in less air consumption.
The air integrated dive computer, as the name states, must be connected with your air supply. There are two options to do so.
The hose method
The hose method connects your dive computer to a high pressure port in your first stage using a hose, in the same manner, the pressure gauge does. This is not a problem with console models for we are just re-tasking the high pressure hose.
The hoseless method
This method is also called the wireless mode. The wireless mode has a transmitter attached to a high pressure port on your first stage. This transmitter sends a signal to a receiver inside your dive computer. This method will work with both console styles and wrist mounted models.
Generally, dive computers with a transmitter are more expensive then hose integrated systems with the same features. You can buy the transmitter separately so that you can get started without the wireless integration.
Not everyone is comfortable using the wireless method as a signal loss is possible. If that would happen, the only option is to cancel the dive.
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Advantages and Disadvantages of each
As we discuss this section, I want to break it into three parts. Advancements in computer and electronic technology have allowed some miniaturization, and many feel that the new wristwatch style is separate from the traditional wrist mount.
One reminder, the wearing style does not impact any of the functions of the computer itself. A wrist mounted Suunto Zoop is the same computer as the console mounted Zoop.
Let’s start with a massive, possibly untrue, generalization. Divers who dive the murky and cold waters in the U.K., prefer the small brick size wrist computers, while divers that dive the warm waters of the Caribbean prefer console units.
Dive computers that are only available in the wrist mount are generally larger that the models available for consoles. They are also often rectangular, giving a wider viewing area. In the dark waters that are common for the U.K. Divers, this larger size means the information shown is easier to see.
Advocates of wrist computers will also tell you that it is more natural to read a wrist computer than a console. We are used to glancing at our watches to get the time while it is more of a mental effort to reach for, find and read our consoles. Also, if you are holding a line at a safety stop, the computer is right there in front of you.
Some female divers will comment that it is easier for them to look at their wrist than trying to look down at a console by their waist. On a negative point, a wrist mount is easier to forget or damage, than one attached to your first stage.
Another advantage of a wrist mount is that you do not need to own your scuba gear. Even if you have a full kit, there may be times when you will use rental equipment, when you are sneaking in a few dives on a business trip for example.
You probably know some operators in popular dive destinations require the use of a dive computer. You would not want to carry all your gear or even your regulator, but your wrist mounted dive computer can easily be in your carry on.
On the opposite side, having all your data (depth, NDL, Bottom time, air) in one place means one less step to check all of it and to dive safely.
Advantages and disadvantages of a wristwatch style
Wristwatch dive computers are replacing many of the dive watches with built in depth gauges. Many divers find them useful as a back up to their regular dive computer. A disadvantage is that a wristwatch style dive computer is smaller, and that makes them harder to read and handle.
When the conditions you dive in are always good, then that might not be an issue for you. But if you often dive in colder waters and use gloves you will not be able to operate a wristwatch style dive computer.
The biggest advantage for this type of computer is that you can always wear it where ever you go, and it is an excellent conversation starter because any diver will recognize your watch immediately, and you might have found yourself a new dive buddy.
Wait Still Can’t Choose?
I know that sounds like a line from a midnight info-commercial or way down at the bottom of a sales landing page, but there is more.
Introducing the “Hockey Puck”! No, it is not a revolutionary new development, in fact, the design goes back to some of the earlier models of dive computers. The first dive computers were large wrist mounted devices, however, shortly after came the circular dive computers the same size as the standard gauges found in analog dive consoles. These rapidly gained the nickname “hockey puck” given their circular design.
The diver only needed to pop out the depth gauge and push in the dive computer. Alternately they could wear a wrist boot. The wrist boot was already a device many divers were familiar with; it allowed a single instrument such as a depth gauge or a compass to be worn on the wrist.
In current marketing, you do not see the term “hockey puck” often, but many dive computers still can be worn as a wrist model and used as a console model.
Whatever style you decide to purchase, the first step should always be to read, and fully understand the operation manual. Know and understand all your computer can do and everything it can tell you.
What kind of computer(s) do you us and why? Let us know in the comments below
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This article is written by Rutger and published by The Scuba Page, the online magazine for Scuba Dive lovers around the world. The Scuba Page is part of RUSHKULT: the online booking platform for adventure sports. Visit the RUSHKULT platform to book your next Scuba Dive training, guided trip and accommodation.