COMPUTER Oceanic Versa Pro
Now that Suunto has taken over the world of diving computers with its menu-driven models, the other manufacturers have rushed back to the drawing board to devise something similar.
That includes Oceanic, the US company that probably has the lions share of its enormous home market. Its Versa Pro is a two-button, menu-driven, nitrox computer that complements the Versa, a cheaper, air-only, entry-level model.
Oceanic has gone out of its way to offer every diving computer ingredient - with one exception, which I will come to later.
It is operated by two buttons, and unlike previous Oceanic computers it is also water-activated, so no more forgetting to switch it on before diving! The buttons allow two groups of options to be set.
First are those you might set on a dive-to-dive basis, such as nitrox mix and maximum-depth alarm. Second are those you might set once and never alter, such as measurements in metric or imperial, or the date and time.
The thinking behind the design of the Versa Pro is all about these user-options and I counted at least 14 different ones, including the option to turn the water-activation feature off! There are tissue-loading and oxygen-accumulation bar graphs, and a variable ascent-rate indicator. You can choose whether you prefer the simplest amount of information, such as actual depth and remaining no-stop time, or whether to press a button during the dive and have this augmented by dive time and maximum depth achieved.
In decompression-stop diving mode, the computer has four different displays that can be brought up at will, and between them they dispense an awful lot of information.
You have the option to set a terrifying number of alarms, too. An innovative feature is the red light that comes on when an alarm is triggered, very useful on night dives or in low visibility.
The Versa Pro is straightforward to understand, thanks to its well-structured instruction manual, and has a dive-simulator mode that allows you to become familiar with it before you reach the water.
The display is big, well-lit and easily read. The Versa Pro looks great in its brushed aluminium and thermoplastic finish. It has a removable Perspex shield to protect its screen and it has a great strap. All in all, its a very desirable piece of kit, apart from that one exception, the clue to which lies in the Safety and Reference Manual provided alongside its instructions.
Page seven of this states: ÒThe decompression model used by an Oceanic dive computer is based on the no-decompression multi-level repetitive dive schedules successfully tested by Dr Ray Rogers and Dr Michael Powell. These tests did not include dives deeper than 90 feet (27m) or decompression (stop) dives.Ó
Decompression-stop dives are the type of dives I commonly do, and I took the Versa Pro on a series of 12 such dives (many repetitive) alongside a Cressi Archimede and a Suunto Vytec.
Only once did the Oceanic momentarily show me entering deco-mode, though the other two had me into deco-mode on nearly every dive.
Not only that, but the discrepancy between the amount of no-stop time remaining on the Oceanic Versa and the deco-stops demanded by the other two was alarming.
A diver has to rely on the deco information provided by a computer. You can never tell how close you come to getting bent. Some might say that the Suunto RGBM100 model is far too cautious. Many different computers on the market, including the Cressi, use the readily available Buhlmann ZH-L16 model.
They might all be wrong and the Oceanic right. I cant tell you.
However, I can state that there were times on dives when the Suunto and Cressi were showing the first stop at 3m while the Oceanic Versa Pro showed 45 minutes of no-stop time remaining.
On one particular 38m dive, the Suunto showed eight minutes and the Cressi five minutes of total ascent time needed, while the Versa Pro still showed 15 minutes of no-stop time remaining.
On the last notable occasion towards the end of my trip, when I still had the three computers side-by-side, I did two consecutive dives, one to 42m and the second to 32m, with only a one-hour interval. At the time I began my ascent, the Suunto showed 18 minutes and the Cressi 10 minutes of total ascent-time, while the Oceanic Versa Pro was still displaying plenty of no-stop time remaining.
So who is this computer for Surely its not merely for those who do short shallow dives well within normal no-deco limits
Could it be for those vacation divers who never go past 27m and never stay in long enough really to need a computer If you think long stops are boring and unnecessary, the Oceanic Versa Pro will suit you.
The Oceanic Versa Pro costs £299 and the air-only Versa costs £185.
  • Oceanic SW 01404 891819, www.oceanicworldwide.com

  • Divernet
    + Lots of options for you to personalise this computer
    + Water-activated
    + Red light visual alarm
    + Easy to understand
    + Easy to read

    - Less than cautious decompression algorithm