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March 2013    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 28, No. 3   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Comparing Dive Computer Watches

Suunto, the originator, versus everyone else

from the March, 2013 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

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In 1997, the Finnish company Suunto first made a deco computer doubling as a watch, calling it the Spyder. Suunto later added a nitrox logarithm and the Stinger was born. Now there is a plethora of computer watches to choose from -- if you're going to the trouble to develop a diving computer, why not make one as a computer-watch variant too? Suunto still dominates in Europe and Asia, but Oceanic's associated company, Pelagic, is popular in the Americas. And now Scubapro and Mares have their own ideas of how it should be done. Let me offer a comparison of key models, in case you are in the market.

Suunto Computer Watches

Not to be outdone, Suunto offers gas-integration by radio transmitter as an extra-cost option in its D4i, D6i and D9tx models. They not only tell your decompression status and current tank pressure, but also calculate how long your gas will last at your depth, and at the rate you're breathing. You can program in a reserve pressure, too. If you keep your remaining gas time longer than total time to the surface, you shouldn't get into trouble.

Deep stops can be selected on the D4i and D6i, although divers can choose to ignore them when the time comes, so these don't seem crucial to the algorithm, rather like the three-minute safety stop at 15 feet. Now you get both displayed, rather than one or the other as with previous models. You used to have to pre-select one or two minutes as a deep stop, but now the algorithm calculates what is appropriate and credits you in the shallows. The actual surface interval is also now displayed between dives, and time-to-fly has been relegated to an icon. The memory logbook shows average depth, plus maximum depth on a dive, and there's a bar-graph representation of the dive.

Suunto D6iWhen it comes to the gas-integration option, Suunto's new computerwatches pair permanently the first time and stay paired, unless you choose to change a transmitter code because, say, another diver on your boat is wearing the same watch model as you. The electronic compass display is switched on when you want it and stays on until you decide you don't need it -- unlike the old D6's annoying compass -- and it's three-dimensional tilt-compensated, too. Detailed graphical logs and dive data can be available on your laptop using Suunto DM4 software.

All Suunto computers use Bruce Wienke's RGBM (Reduced Gradient Bubble Model) algorithm that kicks in with repetitive dives. The new alarms attempt to be audible reminders of what they're trying to tell you. For example, if the computer thinks you should be going up, it has a series of beeps with a rising note, and vice versa. There's a different beep for gas-switch alerts. But when wearing a hood, you need excellent hearing to notice these....

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