Appeared in DIVER January 2006

COMPUTER Scubapro Smart Tec
Sergio Angelini is Uwatecs whizz kid. I first met him during a two-week liveaboard trip, so got to know about his love for motorbikes and California (even though he is an Italian now based in Switzerland). He had with him a Scubapro Smart Tec computer that he was beta-testing.
     He explained all about it but, at the time, distracted as I was coping with all the other kit I was actually reviewing, it amounted to too much information. I did note, however, that departing from Uwatec tradition, it had some push-buttons.
     Two years later, I met Sergio at the launch of Scubapro Uwatecs new range of computers, including the Smart Tec. It was several months before I had one to take diving.
     The Smart Tec is designed to be used with three different nitrox mixes and to be gas-integrated by radio transmitter to each different supply. To this end it can be supplied with three transmitters but I was content to try it out with independent twins and two different nitrox mixes.
     It was necessary to pair the unit first with the transmitter for gas 1 and then with the transmitter for gas D (for deco). The third transmitter is paired for gas 2. Remember, these are all nitrox mixes.
     Despite Uwatec bringing out a range of hockey-puck-style computers with user-changeable batteries, the Smart Tec continues with the familiar shape of older models with the transparent hinged display-cover.
     However there is a distinct difference from these older models in that the Smart Tec has, in addition to the usual four wet contacts, three push-buttons with functions dependant on whether you are submerged on not.
     These include for selecting nitrox mixes during the dive, activating the safety-stop timer or for using as a stopwatch, and for setting bookmarks during a dive for use with data when downloading to PC later. SmartTRAK software is bundled with the computer when you buy it.
     The third button allows you to toggle between maximum depth and water temperature and switching on the display backlight or for setting reduced micro-bubble levels before diving. The display will be familiar to any previous Aladin owner, except that there are a few more icons and details such as the setting for five different levels of micro-bubble suppression. This is the new buzz-expression among decompression algorithm writers.
     Very little empirical research has been done but the theory seems sound. It is that asymptomatic bubbles remaining within the tissues after a dive can be added to by bubbles formed from subsequent exposure to gas at high pressure, resulting in clusters of bubbles or bubbles that grow in size, and that this can cause decompression illness.
     As I understand it, micro-bubble suppression is of consequence only to those who do repetitive diving. You can always opt to omit this feature for a single dive.
     The other problem is that there is no way to know which of the five levels of micro-bubble suppression suits you. It seems that you must take pot-luck. The only guidance in the manual suggests that if you have a hole in the heart you should use the highest level. I would be inclined to advise that if you suffer repeated decompression illness, you should take up an alternative activity!

Protests from buddies
I used it set at the lowest micro-bubble setting (L1) as opposed to the standard Buhlmann ZH8L-ADT program (L0) that offers no micro-bubble protection. Setting higher levels of micro-bubble protection invites protests from buddies and may find you doing long deco-stops on your own.
     Level 1 brought it more or less into line with the Suunto RGBM100 program on the D9 that I used alongside it. The Smart Tec invites further comparison with its Suunto rivals.
     I have to say that there were times when the wet-finger contacts were in danger of driving me to despair. This was especially so when trying to set an analysed nitrox mix at the last moment before jumping into the water. I was near to being driven finger-lickin crazy. The Suuntos use push-buttons exclusively.
     The Smart Tec is not cheap, but it does cost less than the Suunto D9, when bought with only one transmitter, and it represents a viable alternative to the Vytec in that it has a slightly clearer, more readable display. Which you prefer may depend on what you are used to.
Unlike both the Suuntos, the Smart Tec can also track gas-consumption, whichever tank you breathe from, provided you buy the extra transmitters. It costs£749 with a single transmitter. Extra transmitters cost£249 each. The cost of replacing the battery was not available at the time of writing.
  • Scubapro UK 01256 812636,

  • Divernet Divernet
    + All you need in a nitrox computer

    - Expensive, if not as dear as some rivals