How To Pick A Dive Computer When You’re A Beginner

Thanks to modern technology, currently available dive computers are your best dive buddies and keep you safe within the limits of your training.

It can be tough to know which dive computer is right for you when you’re new to diving. After all, there are a lot of different models on the market, and they can be pricey. In this post, we’ll look at the best dive computers for beginners, and we’ll help you find one that won’t break the bank. 

Is it Safe to Rent a Dive Computer?

As a beginner diver, you might be facing questions and doubts about your dive equipment. What should you buy, what can you rent instead?

Sharing dive computers is not only a bad idea, but it can actually put you in danger. How? By giving you a poor reading of your nitrogen absorption, which can result in slowing down rescue and assistance procedures in case of emergency.

While it is often possible to rent a dive computer at your local dive shop, you never know who used it before you. The logbook will reflect previous dives and affect your performance underwater. If the previous user did not respect safety rules or breached a no-decompression time, for instance, you will be strongly penalized. Having your personal dive computer makes your dives more enjoyable and safer.

How do Dive Computers Help Beginners?

Dive computers are extremely personal pieces of equipment, as you might have already learned during your PADI Open Water course.

Dive computers give you an accurate, real-time reading of your depth, dive time, and gas blends for your particular dive.

A dive computer is an incredible safety tool that gives you peace of mind and allows you to fully enjoy your dives: you can observe the underwater world around you, without having to constantly monitor a dive watch and calculate your dive with tables like old-fashioned divers used
to do.

Must-Have Features of a Dive Computer for Beginners

Dive computers all have certain features in common: they log all your dives and assist you with single and repetitive dives.

But what features do you specifically need on a dive computer if you’re a beginner?

Basic Monitoring

Your beginner’s dive computer needs to monitor the level of oxygen and nitrogen in your body during a dive or a set of dives. Based on these readings, you want it to give you rules and limits that you must respect. You’ll want your dive computer to alert you if you go too close to these limits and calculate/offer solutions in case you breach them. 

Conservative Algorithm

Another thing to consider is the algorithm behind the dive computer. The less experienced a diver, the more conservative the algorithm should be. You don’t want to take any chances and, to stay safe, chose a stricter computer: your safety should always come first.

Gauge Mode

The gauge mode is an interesting tool that most dive computers have. A gauge mode allows you to monitor your depth, time and performance while you free dive in apnea, without tanks.

40% Oxygen Readings

The ideal dive computer reads air only or maybe the most common nitrogen blends (up to 40% oxygen). It calculates safety stops and emergency decompression stops, and correctly accounts for surface breaks between dives.

Audible Alarms And Clear Display

You want a product with audible alarms and a neat and clear screen so you can easily hear and read the dive computer underwater. Another thing you will have to consider is the backlight in case of night dives or poor visibility. A well-lit screen is easier to read than a dark, monochromatic one.


Dive computers also need to be easy to use, and the access to the logbook has to be immediate and user-friendly: you will need to recover all your dive information to transfer them to your digital or paper logbook. You might also need a doctor or nurse to be able to access the same information in case of a dive-related medical emergency. 

Dive Computer Features Beginners Can Compromise on to Save Money

Entry-level divers don’t need special additional dive computer features that unnecessarily increase the cost of getting equipped for scuba diving.

One Or Two Buttons Are Enough

When you’re a beginner, you can ignore complex dive computers that have a dozen buttons, and you can instead stick to dive computers with just one or two buttons. Those dive computers are easier to use when you start.

Stick To Basic Gas Blend Readings

You will not need a dive computer that reads more than one gas at a time: at least, not until you become a technical diver and descend with three or four different tanks.

Also, it is totally unnecessary – at an entry-level – to have a dive computer that reads and calculates the effects of gas blends with more than 40% oxygen. Even if you get certified as a Nitrox diver one day, recreational divers do not use more than 40% oxygen. Clearly, once again, you’ll need to become a tech diver to need more than this.

You Will Follow A Guide, Not Your GPS

As a beginner diver, you will most likely dive with a guide, following them and letting them show you the wonders of the sea. If that is the case, an underwater GPS is probably not needed!

You Don’t Need An Extravagant Display

Another feature you can leave behind and that would add cost to your purchase, is reduced-volume or color-screen: fancy modern dive computers look like fitness watches or smartwatches; their reduced volume makes them look nice and elegant and they can be worn in your everyday life. You might want to stick to a more traditional dive computer size for a more affordable option.

Last but not least, LED screens can be very attractive but, of course, pricey as well! Just make sure your screen is big enough and the digits or characters are well visible even in poor light conditions. You don’t need color screens at an early stage, and might probably never really need that anyway in your entire dive career.

Budgeting Tips for a Beginner’s Dive Computer

When trying to find the right dive computer for your needs, you should of course consider your budget. In the beginning, you don’t know yet if you are going to dive every weekend or once a year. You don’t even know if you will become an advanced or professional diver one day.

It is recommended that you respect your budget and purchase a product that is simple and user-friendly: this will increase your comfort and confidence in the water, and will allow you to learn and improve faster, too!

Dive computers have a tremendous second-hand market, so don’t worry about buying a product and then deciding to upgrade shortly after: you will be able to sell your first dive computer for a good price! Or, you will be able to use it as a backup diving computer.

Best Dive Computers for Beginners

Here are the current best dive computers for beginners:

Cressi Leonardo

Cressi Leonardo Beginner's Dive Computer

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The Cressi Leonardo dive computer is one of the best budget dive computers available on the market.

The 100% Italian Leonardo is extremely user-friendly. It is a modular dive computer that has complete Nitrox management, a backlight for low light conditions, and a gauge mode, which is great if you want to use your dive computer while swimming or free diving, as the computer will simply act as a depth gauge and bottom timer.

The battery is easy to replace without any assistance, and the algorithm pretty conservative.

Mares Puck Pro

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Famous for working on one of the most conservative algorithms that ever existed, Mares promises to keep you safe while diving.

The Mares Puck Pro is one of the most popular dive computers for beginners thanks to its low price and intuitive interface. Its slim design and unmatched readability, together with one of the most competitive prices on the market, make it one of the best budget dive computers for beginners. It comes in several colors and the battery is relatively easily replaceable. The backlight works well during night dives.

Mares Smart

Mares Smart Beginner's Dive Computer

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The Mares Smart wrist dive computer is suitable for entry-level to more advanced divers.

It has an exemplary ergonomic design. The display has clearly visible characters, and the two buttons offer great ease of navigation and little to no confusion. As the name suggests, this elegant wrist dive computer is considered the most “intelligent” yet still budget-friendly dive computer.

Underwater, you can switch between depth information, decompression state and bottom time. It is a very versatile computer that can also be used for multi-mix and free diving.

SUUNTO Zoop Novo

Suunto Zoop Beginner's Dive Computer

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The Suunto Zoop Novo is definitely one of the best budget dive computers in the Suunto family, a great product with good value for money. 

The Zoop Novo continues the legacy of the much-beloved – but no longer in commerce – Suunto Zoop. The historical Zoop used to be a true statement for beginner divers, the typical rental computer in dive shops worldwide. Its RGBM – Reduced Gradient Bubble Model – algorithm is the fruit of over a decade of developments with Dr. Wienke.

SUUNTO Eon Core Wrist

Suunto Eon Core Wrist Dive Computer

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The Suunto Eon Core Wrist dive computer is indicated for beginner divers but also for more experienced ones.

It’s a compact and versatile wearable. The screen readability makes it your perfect companion in case of low visibility or during night dives, thanks also to the fact that it is in full colors. The rechargeable batteries, light weight and its wireless connectivity add up to its features, and the Suunto Fused™ RGBM algorithm keeps you safe and sound.

The Suunto EON Core is easily customizable and the Tank POD makes it even safer to use: all benefits that justify its significantly higher price compared to other dive computers for beginners in this list.


Suunto D5 Dive Computer

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The Suunto D5 dive computer is the evolution of previous beloved models such as the timeless D4 It’s very elegant, and is a watch-sized dive computer.

Slightly cheaper than the EON Core, it is still a pricier dive computer than its competitors, but it is not for beginners only. With D5, you have a high-standard wrist computer. It comes with a USB cable, a guard sticker and a colorful silicone strap that you can replace in many color options.

The stylish experience goes along with high-level features such as a digital compass and wireless mobile connection. Its clear display and easy-to-use system make it pleasant to visualize and immediate to understand.

Garmin Descent MK2

Garmin Descent MK2 Dive Watch

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The most expensive dive computer on our list, this watch-style dive computer is much more than what meets the eyes. This is a more advanced dive computer, with color sunlight-readable display and satellite support for its precise underwater compass. The logbook stores up to 200 dives, and it can be used with multiple gas blends including rebreathers. The Garmin Descent MK2 is also a multisport training and smart watch, a great companion for your active lifestyle.

If you’re a beginner, there are plenty of great dive computers on the market that will do everything you need them to. Remember that safety should be your number one concern when diving!  Respect your budget, and beware of the fancy and more expensive features you may not ever need.

Frequently Asked Questions on Beginner’s Dive Computers

Do beginner scuba divers need to have a dive computer?

The dive computer is a mandatory piece of equipment, for safety reasons. It reads bottom time, depth and nitrogen consumption, and gives you effective real-time limits to stick to. Whilst you can rent one, it is strongly recommended you use your own for safety reasons.

Is a dive compute easy to use?

The dive computers on our beginner’s list are all quite easy to use. When you begin diving, avoid complex devices that have too many buttons and unnecessary features. Overcomplicated dive computers will be frustrating and overwhelming to use, and as a beginner, you already have a lot of dive rules and gear to get familiar with.

How much do beginners pay for a dive computer?

The best dive computers for beginners cost anywhere between USD $150 to $1000. The simplest dive computers cost in the range of USD $150 and $400.

Do you need to know how to read decompression tables if you have a dive computer?

Dive tables are still taught during the Open Water Diver course, even though dive computers are taking over. It is recommended you learn how to use a Recreational Dive Planner, timer and depth gauge, even if you’re planning to use a dive computer for the rest of your life. Computers can break or stop working for a variety of reasons, from a battery failure to a crack in the screen. Having a back-up computer, or knowing how to read tables and alternative instruments, might be a true life-saver.

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