Best Dive Computer for Beginners in 2024

Rok Valencic

Finding the best dive computer for beginners is challenging because you may not be familiar with the computer brands and models. Even if you were, how would you know which to choose without prior experience with either of the dive computers?

I know how you feel. We’ve all been there. Luckily, there are scuba diving communities and experienced scuba divers like myself who have tried out numerous computers over the years in various situations.

One important thing to keep in mind before you choose is that the best beginner dive computer doesn’t have to be the same as the best dive computer in general because your needs are much different than those of an experienced diver.

However, you might want to consider a diving computer that will last well into your diving journey, not just through the beginner stage. But before I get ahead of myself, I address this important question at the end of this guide, where I will also help you make an educated decision so you won’t have regrets a year or two from now.

The Best Dive Computer for Beginners is…

#drumroll

This dive computer is recommended for beginners by over 66% of scuba divers (by far the most) across forums and groups online, and I agree with them completely!

Which dive computer is best for beginners Facebook poll

1. Shearwater Peregrine

Shearwater Peregrine dive computer

Features & Specs

Price: $500+ (mid-range)

Dive Modes: Air, Nitrox (up to 40%), 3 Gas Nitrox (up to 100% O2), Gauge

Screen: 2.2” color with backlight

Alerts: visual and vibration

  • Safety stop: YES
  • Deco stop: YES
  • Too fast ascent rate: YES
  • Reached max. depth: YES
  • Low NDL time: YES
  • Custom time alerts: YES

Battery: (Wireless) Rechargeable Li-ion (up to 30 hours)

The Shearwater Peregrine dive computer is probably the most widely owned computer among recreational scuba divers and for a good reason.

It has everything that an average diver needs, including different gas modes for entry-level tech scuba diving if you ever decide to give that a try.

I guarantee you, you won’t find a Peregrine owner who has had issues with it or regrets buying it.

It took me some time to encounter my first Shearwater dive computer because I wasn’t familiar with the brand when I was starting out, but the difference and the quality were immediately evident when I started playing around with it.

Reddit comments about Shearwater Peregrine
Facebook comments about Shearwater Peregrine

Why the Peregrine is perfect for beginner scuba divers is because it’s very easy and intuitive to use. The two-button navigation is simple, and you won’t be losing yourself in settings you don’t need or don’t understand.

The big color display labels everything clearly because there is enough space for that, something that many dive computers lack. It will also allow you to see clearly in low-visibility waters or if your eyesight is poor.

That means you don’t have to worry about missing an alert or trying to decifer what a blinking indicator means, which is important when you’re still figuring things out, and it sets your mind at ease.

Which leads me to the next very important thing: there are numerous things you must pay attention to when scuba diving, like

  • not exceeding your maximum depth,
  • not exceeding the no-decompression limit,
  • when to perform a safety stop,
  • when to end it,
  • not to ascend too fast, …

It can be overwhelming when you’re starting out, and if you’re nervous, something can easily slip your mind. I know because that happened to me when I was on my first independent dive.

I dove too deep and missed my safety stop. And I had a diving computer on me! But because it didn’t have alerts, I was left to my preoccupied mind.

The Peregrine will display a notification or an alert visibly on the screen AND vibrate strongly enough that you can feel it over a 5 mm suit.

That doesn’t mean that you should just let your mind wander, but in case you forget about anything, you know the Peregrine will remind you because it keeps track of everything important.

Don’t Take This For Granted!
It’s one of the very few dive computers that includes alerts for every important event during your dive and is still beginner-friendly. Usually, you will find this kind of wide-coverage of alerts only on high-end computers, well beyond what you need as a beginner.

Lastly, the maintenance is easy. Because it has Bluetooth connectivity and wireless charging, there are no metal connections that can become corroded. There are also no concerns about changing the battery and making sure everything’s waterproof afterward.

The battery life is around 30 hours, which is more than enough to last you through an entire day and night of full-time use, no matter how many dives you do.

What’s Great

  • Bright, readable display with a customizable layout
  • Incredible support
  • Alerts for every important thing so that you can enjoy your dive
  • Vibration alerts that you can feel underwater
  • USB wireless station charging
  • Multiple dive modes
  • Easy to use
  • Long battery life
  • Very robust
  • Best dive computer for recreational diving

What Could Be Better

  • Very bulky

The only thing that this dive computer doesn’t have and some others do, is a no-fly time calculator.

But to be honest, those that have it only use the 12-hour limit recommended by reputable dive agencies for NDL dives and count down from that. There is no additional calculation going on. I trust you can remember that even without a dive computer! 💪

Is It Worth the Price?
It’s worth noting that the Peregrine is at the top of the prince range of what are considered the best dive computers for beginners. It’s about $200 pricier than the other models here. But it’s also the best, and given what you get, it’s well worth the price.

2. Suunto Zoop Novo

Suunto Zoop Novo dive computer

Features & Specs

Price: $300+ (budget)

Dive Modes: Air, Nitrox (up to 50%), Gauge, Freediving

Screen: 1.5” monochromatic with backlight

Alerts: visual and audible

  • Safety stop: only if you violate the stop
  • Deco stop: only if you violate the stop
  • Too fast ascent rate: YES
  • Reached max. depth: YES
  • Low NDL time: NO, alerts only when the NDL is over
  • Custom time alerts: YES

Battery: Replaceable CR 2450 coin battery (up to 150 dives)

This is one of the diving computers many dive centers have because they’re easy to use and affordable. That’s how I first got in touch with a Zoop Novo, and it seemed like a perfectly fine computer to me.

I still think it’s a fine device, but I wouldn’t choose it over the Shearwater Peregrine if I began scuba diving from the start again for a few reasons:

Yes, it’s much more affordable, but it lacks some features that you want if you don’t intend to stay a beginner diver forever, like multiple gas mixes, a configurable decompression algorithm, and reliable alerts.

It’s true that the gas mixes and a configurable algorithm aren’t important for beginners because you really don’t need this (and shouldn’t have to) until you start flirting with tech diving.

However, I would like better alerts. What’s the point of alerting me that my dive just became a decompression dive because I exceeded the NDL limit? It’s too late, then, and as a beginner, you want to stay within the NDL limit.

This means you must pay frequent attention to what the computer displays to avoid missing anything important. But if you ask me, the whole point of alerts is that you don’t have to keep looking at the screen.

The same goes for safety stops. Zoop Novo will start one automatically when you reach the required depth, but it won’t alert you to it; you have to know it’s happening.

The alerts are audible alarms, which means you can hear them, but you can also miss them because underwater sound isn’t the most reliable thing.

Most frequent divers that have a Zoop Novo upgrade it to a more advanced computer somewhere along their journey because Zoop is a beginner diving computer and not much more. But if you see yourself diving only a couple of times a year, then this is a solid choice.

Suunto also gets very mixed reviews. Some say it’s ok, while some don’t like it, primarily because of their heavily conservative algorithm and locking you out of the dive when something unexpected happens:

Reddit comment about Suunto Zoop Novo
Reddit comment about Suunto Zoop Novo

The display on the Zoop Novo is still large enough to display all important information clearly. What I like most about this is that Suunto decided to include only the most important data on the screen during a dive.

This means less confusion when reading it, especially when you’re still getting used to what everything means during a dive.

Dive computers with replaceable batteries have the best battery lifetimes, and the same applies to Zoop Novo.

Although Suunto recommends taking the computer to an authorized service center for battery replacement to avoid water leakage, most divers replace batteries themselves.

This is because the service centers can take forever to do this and charge a fortune. The battery replacement is very simple; I just recommend you buy an extra battery and an O-ring kit to have it on hand when needed.

You have to pay some more attention to maintenance because, along with the battery, there is also a USB connector for log transfers, which means more metal connections prone to corrosion and more places for water to get into the computer.

What’s Great

  • Easy-to-read display with only essential data displayed
  • Easy battery replacement
  • Multiple dive modes, including freediving mode
  • Easy to use
  • Long battery life
  • Very robust

What Could Be Better

  • Very bulky
  • Some alerts only go off when you’re already in violation of something
  • No vibration alerts, so you have to pay more attention

Lastly, there is a freediving mode if you want to free dive as well, something most computers don’t offer.

It will also show you the no-fly time after each dive, as I mentioned at the end of the Peregrine review. Nothing fancy, but can be useful if you’re memory of numbers is bad like mine 🙂

Is It Worth the Price?
This is one of the cheapest dive computers out there, perfect if you’re on a budget. And it doesn’t lack that many features considering the low price. So yes, while it’s not the best dive computer, it’s worth the price for what you get.

3. Mares Puck Pro +

Mares Puck Pro + Dive Computer

Features & Specs

Price: $300+ (budget)

Dive Modes: Air, up to two Nitrox blends (21-99%), Gauge

Screen: 1.4” monochrome with backlight

Alerts: visual and audible

  • Safety stop: NO
  • Deco stop: only if you violate the stop
  • Too fast ascent rate: YES
  • Reached max. depth: NO
  • Low NDL time: NO
  • Custom time alerts: NO

Battery: Replaceable 3V coin battery (200-300 dives)

If simplicity and ease of use are the most important to you, then Mares Puck Pro + is the right choice.

It has an intuitive interface and only one button, which some people like and some don’t, but it definitely means that less can go wrong.

I’ve never owned one, but I rented it many times from different dive centers and can confirm that it’s reliable and straightforward to use.

User comment about Mares Puck Pro +
User comment about Mares Puck Pro +

It has a few more diving modes than the Suunto Zoop Novo and a similarly conservative decompression algorithm.

In other words, this isn’t a computer that will be your constant companion as you evolve into a more experienced diver because it lacks the features you’ll want for tech diving.

I criticized the alerts of the Zoop Novo. Well, the Puck Pro + has even less of them. This means you won’t be able to just let your mind wander and enjoy the dive without a care in the world because you will have to keep an eye on the screen to monitor your depth, NDL time, and safety stops at all times.

The only beginner-relevant warnings it will give you are if you ascend too fast or violate a deco dive. But as a beginner diver, you won’t be doing deco dives, so that one isn’t as relevant.

The alerts are sound and blinking on the screen, like on the Zoop. But since you have to pay attention to the screen anyway, it doesn’t really matter that you can’t feel them.

The screen is just a little smaller than on the Zoop but still large enough to be easily readable unless you have poor eyesight. But in that case, you should be looking at the biggest color screens anyway, which would bring you back to the Shearwater Peregrine.

What’s Great

  • Large, backlit display
  • Easy battery replacement
  • Multiple dive modes
  • Easy to use, one-button interface
  • Long battery life
  • Bluetooth connectivity

What Could Be Better

  • Only fast ascent and deco stop violation alerts
  • No vibration alerts, so you have to pay more attention

Maintenance is also the same as for the Zoop Novo. You have to be careful when replacing the battery and the O-ring, and regularly clean the contacts for the Bluetooth clip so they don’t corrode.

Is It Worth the Price?
The only reason why I would recommend choosing the Puck Pro + over the Zoop Novo is if Bluetooth connectivity is important to you or if you want to have two Nitrox blends available for future tech diving instead of one. Everything else is either the same or less than on the Zoop Novo. The price is basically the same, though.

4. Aqualung i300c

Aqualung i300c Dive Computer

Features & Specs

Price: $300+ (budget)

Dive Modes: Air, up to 3 Nitrox gases (up to 100% O2), Gauge, Freedive

Screen: 1.33” monochrome with backlight

Alerts: visual and audible

  • Safety stop: YES
  • Deco stop: YES
  • Too fast ascent rate: YES
  • Reached max. depth: YES
  • Low NDL time: NO, alerts only when the NDL is over
  • Custom time alerts: YES

Battery: Replaceable 3V coin battery

The Aqualung i300c is an interesting dive computer. It is very similar compared to the Zoop Novo and the Puck Pro +.

It has even more gas mixtures available than both of them if you ever decide to try tech diving. It also has a free dive mode, like the Zoop.

It has almost all relevant alerts for beginner divers, except the low NDL time alert. Although they aren’t vibration alerts, this is still quite impressive for a budget computer.

Reddit comment about Aqualung i300c
Reddit comment about Aqualung i300c

And this is still a budget computer. It’s maybe $50 pricier than the Zoop or Puck, but also offers better features.

The screen size is slightly smaller than on the Zoop or the Puck, but also backlit and clear to read.

It was designed to be simple to use and has an intuitive two-button interface. Like all other computers I mention here, you won’t lose yourself in Aqualung’s settings or during the dive.

The battery is long-lasting and user replaceable. So the maintenance is similar as well. Actually, it’s a bit better considering Bluetooth is integrated, which means no metal contacts to corrode.

What’s Great

  • Medium but still large enough, backlit display
  • Easy battery replacement
  • Plenty of alerts to ease your mind as a beginner
  • Multiple dive modes
  • Easy to use, two-button interface
  • Long battery life
  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Graphical representation of the no-decompression limit

What Could Be Better

  • The screen could be larger
  • The buttons can be hard to press with gloves underwater
  • No vibration alerts, so you have to pay more attention

So why is this dive computer ranked lower than the Zoop and the Puck if everything (but the screen) is better?

Because not everything is in technical data. I admit that there is a lot of subjectivity involved here from many scuba divers, but most people prefer the i300c LESS than the dive computers I listed above.

Some divers report the i330c breaking down sooner than other computers or miscalculating some data. In other words, the quality of this device isn’t the best.

Negative Reddit comment on Aqualung i300c

Overall, I believe that aggregated opinions of actual users in the scuba diving community are worth more than spec data. Although I have never encountered a problem with the i300cs I’ve been using, I don’t want to force my own opinion over others, so I ranked it lower.

Is It Worth the Price?
If you’re okay with more features than the Zoop or the Puck (but still much fewer than the Peregrine) and lower quality, then yes. Don’t get me wrong, some divers have done hundreds of dives with it and are perfectly happy. At the end of the day, this isn’t a bad computer at all. It just isn’t the best beginner dive computer.

5. Cressi Leonardo

Cressi Leonardo Dive computer

Features & Specs

Price: $250+ (budget)

Dive Modes: Air, Nitrox (up to 50% O2), Gauge

Screen: 1.7” monochrome with backlight

Alerts: visual and audible

  • Safety stop: only visual
  • Deco stop: only if you violate the stop
  • Too fast ascent rate: YES
  • Reached max. depth: NO
  • Low NDL time: YES
  • Custom time alerts: NO

Battery: Replaceable 3V coin battery (up to 100 dives)

The Cressi Leonardo was one of the first dive computers I’ve used.

What I liked most was that it had a large display and bold numbers, which were clear to see. But because the numbers are so large, the display appears crammed, and as a result, there is a bunch of tiny units and abbreviations which aren’t easy to see.

There is also a backlight to help you see in low visibility, but it isn’t the brightest. The other models I listed here have better backlights. It’s ok, but if you have a prescription, this won’t be the best choice for you.

Like most beginner dive computers, the Leonardo was also designed to be easy to use. Its one-button interface is simple, and because there aren’t many features on this computer, you should be able to navigate it easily, even with no experience.

Reddit comment about Cressi Leonardo
Forum comment about Cressi Leonardo

There are only the basic dive modes, which is perfect for beginner divers but less perfect if you’re buying a computer to grow with you.

Surprisingly, it has an alert for when the NDL time gets below 3 minutes, which (as you can see) is rare among entry-level dive computers. Along with the ascent rate alert, which all computers here have, and the max. depth alert, which is missing on Leonardo, the low NDL time alert is one of the more important ones, in my opinion.

If you want to aim for a care-free diving experience, go for a diving computer with at least these three alerts:

  • fast ascent rate alert to prevent decompression sickness
  • max. depth alert, so you don’t have to constantly check that you’re not exceeding recreational limits if you like to go deep
  • low NDL time alert, so you avoid needing decompression stops, which aren’t meant for beginner-diving

The ascent rate alert can be annoying because it’s known to go off if you just move your arm too fast. You have to learn when to ignore it, which defeats the purpose of having an alarm in the first place.

Reddit comment about Cressi Leonardo

What’s Great

  • Large display
  • Easy to use, one-button interface
  • Low NDL time alert
  • Low-budget

What Could Be Better

  • Brighter display backlight
  • No vibration alerts, so you have to pay more attention
  • Could have more alerts for hassle-free diving
  • The ascent rate alert is very sensitive

The Cressi Leonardo works with a replaceable battery, which lasts fewer dives than the rest of the replaceable battery computers here but is still long enough for beginner recreational divers.

If you want to connect it to a computer, you need a special cable, which is sold separately. This also means you need to take care of the device so any metal pins don’t get corroded.

Is It Worth the Price?
This is the cheapest beginner computer here, but you also get the least for your buck, so that makes sense. I would recommend getting a Mares Puck Pro + for $50 more if you’re on a budget because it has more features and will probably last longer. But if you’re on a really tight budget, Leonardo is still a nice gadget.

Features to Consider in Entry-Level Dive Computers

There are tons of different features you can find in a dive computer, but only a few are really important for beginner divers to ensure safety and ease of use.

Intuitive & Easy-to-Use Interface

This is the most important because if you lose yourself in the settings, or even worse, set something wrong, the dive computer ceases to be a tool to help you dive safely and becomes an annoyance or even a safety hazard.

More or less, all computers designed with beginners in mind check this box, so you shouldn’t worry too much about this no matter which computer listed here you pick.

But it’s good to keep in mind that if you decide to go for a better device (one from the top of the best dive computers list, for example), the ease of use goes down as the number of features increases. That’s because the computer interface hosts many more things.

Pro Tip
Buying a more advanced computer makes sense if you already know you’ll be taking up tech diving in a year or two, even if you’re still a beginner now. You will need a better computer to handle tech diving requirements. In this case, you don’t have a choice and must sacrifice some convenience for the features you need.

Large & Readable Display

This is just as important because most of us dive in cold waters or waters with a lot of sediment, resulting in lower visibility.

The last thing you want is to squint at the display, trying to figure out what you’re seeing.

As you progress as a diver, this becomes even more important because you will want to keep track of more things during a dive. This means changing the display during the dive, using the backlight more often, etc.

If you’re older and your vision isn’t perfect anymore, or you wear prescription glasses and dive with or without them, this becomes even more important.

Pro Tip
My suggestion is always to go for the biggest display you can afford and not choose the computer based on its design and look. What you’re buying is a safety device, and its performance is more important than how it looks on your wrist.

Safety Features

This is the main reason why you need a dive computer in the first place. All dive computers will calculate the NDL time according to your depth and give you safety and decompression stop information.

But not all computers will do it with the same efficiency or with the same number of features.

This is what I have focused on most in the short computer reviews in this guide: alerts.

After all, this is the point of every computer. To replace diving tables so you don’t have to know by heart how deep you’re allowed to go, for how long, and when to make a stop.

That’s why my go-to advice is to get a computer with as many alerts as possible and let the alerts be haptic (vibration). This way, you can be sure you won’t miss anything.

The Shearwater Peregrine is by far the best in this, followed by the Aqualung i300c.

Other features

Battery life: long battery life is convenient because you don’t have to deal with changing the battery and expose the computer’s insides, potentially sacrificing water tightness.

Or, get a computer with a rechargeable Li-ion battery. You will have to charge it more often but won’t have to worry about battery replacement.

All computers on this list have one or the other, so whichever you choose, you won’t go wrong.

Nitrox dive mode: all computers on this list have this, with varying levels of oxygen and a different number of gas mix modes. This is only important if you ever plan on trying out tech diving with your computer.

Air integration: air-integrated dive computers can connect to a transmitter you fix on your scuba tank and read the tank pressure. Essentially, this turns your computer into a pressure gauge.

None of the computers on this list have this because this is something only high-end computers have.

It’s meant to be more convenient because you have all the information in one place, and the computer can automatically warn you when you use half of your air supply, for example.

If this is important to you, I recommend looking into the Shearwater Perdix or the Garmin Descent Mk2i. Just a heads up, these aren’t beginner dive computers anymore. They are one of the best you can have, regardless of your diving needs. This also means a much higher price point.

Bluetooth connection: to download the dive logs wirelessly. This eliminates the need for cables and metal contacts prone to corrosion.

Although I recommend using dive logs to learn from your experience better, how you download them isn’t as important. Unless you’re a super detailed person who likes to examine each dive as soon as you’re on dry land. In that case, go for it.

How Much Should You Spend on a Beginner Dive Computer?

Dive computers range from about $250 to $1,500 (air-integrated with a transmitter).

You can already get a good dive computer for $300-350, which is also the range of budget computers.

Mid-range computers are $500-600 and already have much more and better features than entry-level computers. The Shearwater Peregrine is one such example.

That’s also why I recommend the Peregrine—not because it’s more expensive, but because you will get much more out of it, it will last longer, and it will be able to grow with you.

If you check some forums and groups, you will see that most divers regret buying a better computer from the start because they end up selling it soon after when it doesn’t fit their needs anymore.

User comments about buying dive computers for new divers

So, if you can, save about $500 and go for a solid computer. If you’re on a budget or are absolutely sure that you’re not interested in tech diving (and won’t be in the coming years), then the budget computers will work just fine for you.

How to Choose the Best Beginner Dive Computer?

This is where you must ask yourself: Where do you see yourself as a diver in a couple of years?

Will you only dive a few times every summer, or will you dive regularly?

Are you already planning to get the advanced OWD license (or already have one), and do you want to go cave diving, wreck diving, night diving, or any other tech scuba diving?

Also, how much are you willing to spend? $300, $500, or you don’t care and want the best?

And lastly, is it important to you to have a smartwatch that’s also a dive computer, or do you just want a dive computer and nothing else?

For an Occasional Diver
Getting a computer with all the bells and whistles is unnecessary in this case. Go for the Peregrine if you can afford it, or choose any of the other computers on the list if you’re on a budget.

None of the computers on this list are smartwatches because smartwatch dive computers aren’t exactly beginner computers, and they come with a higher price as well.

If you want a smartwatch dive computer for occasional diving, then check out the Apple Watch Ultra or the Garmin Descent G1.

For Soon-to-Be Tech Divers
I suggest looking at more advanced dive computers with more dive modes, better features, or even air integration. Unfortunately, looking for a budget computer here isn’t an option because tech diving requires features that cost more.

It’s fair to point out here that the Shearwater Peregrine is the only computer on this list that will be fit for an experienced technical diver due to having more dive modes and a better decompression algorithm. This is also what is considered a budget computer in this case.

And even the Peregrine might start falling short, depending on how advanced you decide to go. To keep your options open and have no regrets, go for the Shearwater Perdix or the Teric. They are both twice the price of the Peregrine but come with everything you will ever need.

Or, if you want to have an advanced smartwatch dive computer, the Garmin Descent Mk2i is also a very solid choice.

But we’re not talking about beginner dive computers anymore at this point.

How Did I Conduct My Research on Beginner Dive Computers?

I have either owned, still own or have rented numerous times all of the computers I listed here.

That means I have used them in all sorts of conditions: during the day, in the dark, in the murky waters of the Adriatic Sea, in the crystal clear waters of Thailand, on deep dives and shallow dives.

I believe using computers in real-life situations is better than testing them in some specific conditions a couple of times.

So, I decided to couple my experience with this dive gear and collect feedback from hundreds of other divers across scuba diving communities to select the best beginner dive computers.

That’s why I included screenshots of comments from different divers on different platforms, so you don’t have to trust what I say blindly.

Wrapping Up

Whichever computer you choose, I hope it will serve you well and long and keep you safe on countless dives to come.

If you need any help with using a dive computer, feel free to read my guide where I explained what to do before, during and after a dive. Interfaces will differ a bit, but the process of using computers will be the same.

Don’t forget to maintain your computer regularly. Rinse it with fresh water after each dive to keep it running longer and dive safe!

Rok Valencic

Rok Vale

I’m a sports enthusiast who enjoys spending as much time underwater as possible. Be that diving, snorkeling, swimming, or just falling off the surfboard. I’m a licensed PADI diver and a licensed fitness instructor. I also have a degree in physics to unnecessarily complicate my life.

FAQ

The best entry-level dive computer is the Shearwater Peregrine. It offers a range of features for safe scuba diving above the rest of the models and still remains intuitive and easy to use.

All divers require at least an Open Water Diver license where the recreational dive limit is 60 feet (80 m). I strongly suggest you enter this limit into your dive computer if it allows maximum depth settings.

Multiple dive computers are usually used by tech divers, where one device is used as a backup if the first one fails or malfunctions. This isn’t required for beginner divers because you should always stay within the NDL limit where the safety concerns are milder, but you can still go for two devices if you want to stay on the safer side.