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COMPUTERAladin Prime
IMAGINE THIS. I WAS ONCE RETURNING FROM SHARM EL SHEIKH, back in the days when one needed to drive up to Eilat to get a flight from Ovda in Israel. While waiting in a bar in Eilat, a man showed me his new Aladin Pro diving computer.I had never seen one before.
     It was fantastic. It did things that made the few other computers available then look like clockwork toys. Everyone wanted one and very soon everyone had one. It seems like yesterday but it was nearly 20 years ago.
     Times change, and nowhere more so than in the world of the microchip. Although the successors of that original Aladin Pro sold well, Uwatec, under the ownership of Scubapro, surrendered its market leadership to Suunto. A lot of other computers, including those from Mares, Seiko, Cochran and even a British manufacturer, Delta P, arrived for sale in dive shops. One might say that Scubapro/Uwatec had lost its way.
     Now Sergio Angelini has taken the reigns of the diving computer manufacturer in Switzerland. I know him, because Ive enjoyed two weeks of his company on a liveaboard. Hes young, Italian, competitive, lived for many years in California and theres nothing angelic about him! Its no coincidence that a whole raft of new Uwatec computers has arrived at the same time.
     One reason that other computers became so popular was that they allowed users to change the battery safely themselves. Because Aladins needed to go back for the distributor to perform this task, battery changes tended to be expensive. Users carried on using their computers until they failed, rather than getting a battery changed in good time.
     All the other computers on the market have a user-replaceable battery installed in an integral watertight compartment. Do a bad job and you lose only the battery, not the computer. The new Aladin Prime now follows this trend and I believe it will be the major difference that will make the company competitive again in this market.
     The Aladin Prime is also set up using buttons. Hooray. That wet-finger business drove me crazy. It also displays date and time when not being used for diving, and it has an independent back-light for its display. These were all the features that I thought were missing in the old Uwatec computers.
     Now there is an Aladin Prime and an Aladin Prime Tec. I am going to tell you about the entry-level Aladin Prime. The first problem I encountered was an instruction manual that catered for both and which was therefore quite confusing to digest.
     The fact is that the more expensive Aladin Prime Tec offers many more options than the Prime, but thats another story. Suffice to say that new purchasers of the Prime will quickly wish theyd bought a Prime Tec if they get seduced by the manual.
     On the other hand, if you are the sort of diver who lets the shop set up your computer for you and simply strap it to your wrist and go diving, the Prime is for you. Get a dive-professional, your dive-guide, to change the nitrox mix when you need to and never bother to read the book. Youll probably survive!
     For those more persistent, there is the usual problem of distinguishing between long and short pushes on the buttons, and this takes a bit of getting used to. Persevere with the manual, go through it with a highlighter pen to identify the small part devoted to the Prime as opposed to the Prime Tec, and youll soon get the hang of it.
     The Prime simply allows you to set nitrox mixes from 21% (air) to 50%. It works at a fixed maximum ppO2 of 1.4bar and is permanently calibrated for use in sea water.

Why turn it off
It also allows you to set clock and alarm-clock functions and to turn off the activation on contact with the water. I would advise anyone, inexperienced computer-users or not, to avoid doing that last thing. Why would you risk jumping in with it turned off You can also reset de-saturation logged, but that is mainly for dive centres which might be frequently renting computers to different divers on a dive-by-dive basis.
     The Aladin Prime uses the well-tried Buhlmann ZH-L8 ADT algorithm, which is now thought to be less cautious than some other contemporary European-produced programs, including that of the Prime Tec when set in a reduced micro-bubble mode. However, after 20 or more years, this algorithm has been successfully used without incident by a very large number of divers.
     The Prime also has a safety-stop timer that can be activated after an ascent and when at less than 6.5m. It has to be manually activated. You give a short push to the left-side button and it counts down three minutes, so long as you stay above the stop depth and below 3m and the displayed remaining no-stop time is at 99 minutes.
     Of course, I couldnt remember which button to press when it came to it, but pressing the wrong one caused no problems.
     During the dive, the information was simply and clearly displayed, just as I had expected. The little nitrogen-loading bar graphic is obviously a concession to those markets where divers are not very good at reading numbers! Its variable ascent rate (according to depth) is displayed as a percentage of the maximum permissible. Stay away from 100% and you wont see the word SLOW appear.
     One assumes, as an entry-level item, that this computer will tend to be purchased by those who stay within diving no-stop times. It is a full-function decompression computer, however, and displays stop depths, stop times and total ascent times when in deco mode. It also displays O2 CNS loading, although the typical user will find that this never amounts to much.
     After the dive, information can be downloaded to a PC equipped with an infra-red interface and loaded with the software provided with the Aladin Prime.
The Aladin Prime represents very good value. It costs £219.
  • Scubapro Uwatec UK 01256 812636, www.scubapro.co.uk


  • The
    The Aladin Prime - this is a good-value entry-level computer, but dont read all the stuff in the manual about its Tec brother, or you might wish you had splashed out a bit more!
    Divernet
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    + Clear, easy to use entry-level nitrox computer
    + Economic price


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    - Manual shared with Prime Tec is hard to digest