Best Dive Computers for Beginners

Just the phrase “dive computer” sounds quite intimidating, doesn’t it?

But, thankfully, it’s not quite as complicated as it sounds, it’s basically just a wrist watch that records all your diving stats for you.

If you’ve been looking around already, you may have noticed that there’s no shortage of dive computers available on the market at the moment.

We’ve had a good scout around, and we’ve picked out a few of them, which we think will be great for beginners. Showing your data clearly, in a way that’s easily digestible for newbies to diving.  

Best Dive Computers for Beginners

Our reviews on those are coming up very shortly, and they are made up of digital dive computers that can be worn on the wrist.

Then we’re going to follow that up with a buying guide, which walks you through everything you might want to think about before you buy your dive computer.

Then we’re going to top that off with another handy section, where we’ll be answering some of your most frequently asked questions on the subject.

Now, let’s dive straight in!

OUR TOP PICK

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EDITORS CHOICE

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BEST VALUE

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OUR TOP PICK

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Now this is a fantastic dive computer for beginners. And it’s by far one of the better sellers with online retailers.

It has a large, user friendly, backlit display. Your various dive data is displayed in high contrast with large letters and numbers, making it very easy to read.

Moreover the amount of data that is displayed is minimized. And you can choose between metric and imperial measurements.

There’s also a battery life indicator, and a CNS oxygen toxicity graphic indicator.

As for safety warnings, there are visual and distinct alarms combined with very easy to hear audible alarms.

It’s super easy to use too - there’s just one single button to get used to using. And there’s a very intuitive menu. 

There are just 3 different operating modes, and these are Air, Nitrox and Gauge.

You can if you like, hook the dive computer up to your PC, and examine your dive data. The software is compatible with all versions of Windows and Mac.

You have a choice of 13 different strap styles to choose from, all of which are unisex.

As far as dive computers go, they don’t tend to get much more affordable than this.

Pros

  • Great value for money

  • Air and nitrox readings

  • Connect to PC/Mac

  • Very easy to read display

  • Easy single button control

Cons

  • Some customers have said that the strap is a little too big

EDITORS CHOICE

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For those who’d feel more comfortable with a very large and wide display for all their dive data metrics, then this dive computer is certainly worth a thought.

The display is rectangular and is much larger than with your regular round dive computers. It has a high contrast data display using large size characters. And you can even read it at an angle. Plus it has backlighting too.

The 4 buttons are spaced well apart, so you can rest assured that you won’t accidentally press the wrong button by mistake.

You can select from 3 different operating modes: air, nitrox, and BT.

It records and logs all of your dive data for you. It’s also altitude adjustable, and features deep stops and safety stop functions.

There’s also a battery power indicator, temperature display, and audible warning alarms that come on when needed.

We also like that it has a hypoallergenic strap - nice touch.

Great for beginners. And when you’re ready for something more advanced, you can simply upgrade the software on this one rather than buying a whole new dive computer.

Pros

  • Very large display screen

  • Very easy to operate & use

  • Fair and reasonable price

  • Air and nitrox modes

  • Log book functionality

Cons

  • Doesn’t appear to work with MacDive software

BEST VALUE

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Now, this dive computer has some great features, but is also great for beginners.

It has 4 operating modes. There’s the regular WATCH mode, which is just as straightforward as it sounds.

Then there’s the NORM mode, which displays your air and nitrox settings.

Then you’ve got the GAUGE mode, and finally, there’s the FREE mode, which enables you to track your dive, even if you switch back and forth between NORM and FREE. 

All your stop times are taken care of, and you can turn on a countdown timer for your stop times. Any warnings are conveyed by way of both audible alarm and flashing LED light.

Where the Oceanic Geo 2.0 is different to other dive computers, is it’s use of dual algorithms. There’s the Pelagic DSAT algorithm which is good for more shallow, repetitive multi-dive days, or there’s the Pelagic Z+ algorithm, which is better for deeper dives with longer surface intervals.

All your last dive data is retained for review, even if the battery is changed. There’s a built in log book on History Mode, which allows you to look back on all of your dives, including your maximum depth, lowest temperature etc. You can even hook it up to your PC too.

Despite its many features, it is very easy to use. But you don’t have to take our word for it - check out this link for a quick YouTube tutorial.

It has a nice interface, with 4 easy to access control buttons around the bezel, and a round display of 1.5 inches. It has just the key data showing, rather than bombarding you with lots of different figures. 

It’s one of the best selling dive computers with online retailers currently, and customer feedback has been very impressive. On Amazon for example, three quarters of customers gave it 5 stars out of 5.

Pros

  • Dual algorithm

  • Very easy to use

  • Air and nitrox settings

  • Hook up to your PC

Cons

  • The instructional manual is not the best, which is why we provided you with a link to a really good video tutorial for the dive computer

RUNNER UP

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This dive computer from Cressi may not have seen quite as many sales as their Leonardo series, but it has made the bestseller list with online retailers, and customer feedback has been very positive.

On the Amazon page for example, after about 200 individual customer ratings, the average customer rating still comes out at 4 and a half stars out of a possible 5 stars.

It has a large, high visibility, backlit display screen, with large numerical displays for all your dive data. The 3 button interface is easily accessible at the bottom of the display.

It can be used to bring up various dive data, such as depth, dive time, ascent rate, need for decompression, etc.

As far as safety goes, you’re presented with both visual and audible warning alarms when needed.

There are just three simple main operating modes: air, nitrox and gauge.

And with the former two, the Giotto can make saturation and desaturation calculations of dives carried out both with air and with Nitrox at any point throughout the dive.

And, you can choose which parameters to use for your oxygen, oxygen percentage, or oxygen partial pressure. You can also choose whether to have the deep stop on or off.

Built in, you get a log book for up to 70 hours of dive data, which you can download onto your PC if you also purchase the Cressi interface.

There are 9 color options to choose from - you’ll probably find one to match with your wetsuit.

Pros

  • Easy to read

  • Easy to use

  • Connect to PC/Mac

  • Air and nitrox data

Cons

  • Strap is a little large

RUNNER UP

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At the time of writing this article, the Mares Puck Pro had earned the title of Amazon’s Choice for Dive Computer.

Amazon only awards such titles when a product is a particularly good quality, and is also made available at a very fair and reasonable price.

We would go one step further though and argue that it’s at a bargain price. In fact we haven’t come across a more affordable brand new dive computer.

It’s great for beginners because it’s so simple, streamlined and straightforward.

It has a large display, only showing the most key dive data. This includes depth, time elapsed, and residual nitrogen gauge.

Plus it has a very intuitive interface which is very easy to use, using just one single button to work it.

And the other things we like about it is that it has upgradable firmware, and how it has multigas capability, so your gauge stays relevant, regardless of where you are in your dive.

It works up to depths of 150 meters, or 492 feet.

It’s available in a choice of 6 different colors, though the strap itself is always plain black.

Pros

  • Excellent value for money

  • An Amazon best seller

  • Sleek, smart & straight forward

  • Large easy to read display

  • Intuitive one button control

Cons

  • No stopwatch functionality

Best Dive Computers for Beginners Buying Guide

As promised, here’s your buying guide!

What to look for in a dive computer for beginners

Large, Easy to Read Display

The whole point of a dive computer is to provide you with important real-time data as you dive. This means that you will need to be able to read it clearly during your dives.

To that end, the larger the display is, the better, and the more prominent and larger the readings are displayed, the better.

You also need plenty of contrast in the display, and for it to be backlit when needed.

What Features Do You Need

At the more expensive end of the spectrum, there are a wide range of different features you can have on a dive computer. But if you’re a beginner, then all the different functions may not mean too much to you.

To be honest some features are way more important than others anyway. For a beginner, all you really need are the basic features, the safety features, and possibly a built in log book. 

The main readings you want are as follows:

  • Current depth achieved in dive
  • Temperature as per the current depth
  • Decompression stop and time
  • Air and nitrox readings

In terms of safety features, ideally you’d want your dive computer to provide both visual flashing alarm signals as well as an audible alarm.

With regards to a built in log book, you may think that this isn’t exactly a crucial feature. However, we would argue that it can be a very useful tool for looking back and reviewing your dives. It’s a learning tool.

And if you can import all of your dive data to your PC or Mac, then that’s a great little bonus.

You may also be interested in a dive computer with a battery power indicator, so you can be forewarned if you may be left without all that important data that you need to stay safe in your dive.

Top Tip

Dive computers can vary quite considerably in price, with some starting at just under $200, and others costing over $1000. 

We understand that no one has an unlimited budget for their dive computer. However we strongly recommend that you decide what features you want in your dive computer, before you settle on how much you’re going to pay.

That said, all of the dive computers in our top 5 picks are all from the more affordable range of what’s out there at the moment. 

Easy to use and understand

This is perhaps one of the most important aspects of buying a dive computer for a beginner. You may well feel that a one button control would be simpler than one with 3 or 4 buttons, but we would argue that that’s not necessarily the case. 

The main thing is that you learn what the buttons are for, which leads us onto our next point.

Important Note

Before you take your dive computer on your next dive, we strongly advise you to become familiar with the computer’s readings layout and controls beforehand.

This will help to ensure that you don’t mistake one reading for another during your dive and become confused and put yourself at risk.

Brand

In the world of dive computers there are clearly some brands that outperform the competition, both in terms of number of sales, number of years of experience in the industry, and in terms of the features included in the product.

The brands to really look out for include: Cressi, Oceanic, Suunto, and Mares.

Customer Reviews

When it comes to shopping online, there are some clear advantages. You can find out exactly what other customers thought of the said product, and you can then set your own expectations accordingly.

We’re not saying that you need to read as many customer reviews as possible on your dive computer, but you should be sure to get a good feel for what people think of it, perhaps by a glance at the customer ratings and the customer reviews that are identified as the most helpful.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between a diving watch and a dive computer?

That’s a good question, and we’re glad you asked. 

A dive watch has plenty of water resistance, shock resistance and other features that make it suitable for use while diving. It’s often used to count the diver’s time underwater.

A dive computer on the other hand, which can be worn like a watch, tracks a lot more of your diving data. A dive profile, for example, can bring up data such as:

  • Current depth achieved in dive
  • Maximum depth of dive
  • Decompression stop and time
  • Temperature as per the current depth
  • Time remaining of depth without decompression stops
  • And of course, Total dive time

Are dive computers suitable for beginners?

We would argue that dive computers are suitable for all divers, but especially for beginners. 

The data provided by drive computers can help to keep you safe as you dive.  It keeps you aware of your depth, no-decompression limits, and more. It can tell you if you’re ascending too quickly, or alert you if you need to make a safety stop.

As such, it makes complete sense that the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) recommends that all scuba divers have their own dive computer.

They can also be used as an important learning aid, because many dive computers can store dive log information and even transfer it to your PC. And you can use dive computers to plan out your next dive too.

What is the best dive computer for a beginner?

We would argue that the best dive computer for a beginner is our number 1 pick, the Cressi Leonardo Underwater Single Button Diving Computer.

We picked this as our number 1 for beginners, not just because of it’s large, easy to read display, streamlined data display, and single button control, but also because of what customers have said about it. Divers are all saying what a great dive computer it is for beginners.

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