THE ITALIAN MANUFACTURER MARES likes to start right back at the drawing board nowadays with a lot of its products, which can be a dangerous game.
Sometimes the gamble doesn’t come off, and exciting new products can get into production difficulties and never reach dealers’ shelves.
There was a brief interval about 20 years ago when Mares put its label on diving computers made by others, but those days are long gone.
I am told that no piece of software has ever emerged without some undiscovered bugs in it. That’s probably why we’ve had to wait so long for the Mares Matrix computer-watch. They’ve been ironing out the bugs.

The Computer
I’ve enjoyed wearing a computer-watch for some years. I got over thinking that digital watches were naff. The other problem was that you usually needed to return the watch to the manufacturer for battery replacement.
What makes this smart full-feature computer-watch from Italy unique is the fact that it uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery and has an analogue display for both time and compass modes, as well as a conventional digital display mode. This analogue display mode is formed up on the dot-matrix LCD, and it certainly makes both reading the time and understanding the compass easy for an old dinosaur like me.
Whatever you say about Italians, you cannot accuse them of being without style.
The Matrix, big though it is but finished in a mixture of black technopolymer and stainless-steel, has a certain Italian pizzazz.

Charging
A clear display reveals the state of charge of the battery, but you must remember to charge it. That’s easier said than done. I’m so busy recharging camera, flash and lamp batteries that it represents just one more thing for me to forget to do. A full charge is said to give you 15 hours of diving.
To charge it, you mount it into a special dock that has a USB2 connection for either a computer or a mains converter plug. This means that you never have to worry about a battery going flat during a dive trip, but on the other hand you need to remember to recharge it, preferably every night.
I’m more likely to forget to charge it when simply using it as a watch between dive trips, although it does have a very clear display of the status of its battery and, if it’s too low, a “No Dive” display comes up.

Setting Up
In common with many other diving computers, the Matrix has four buttons and is quite intuitive to set up, as long as you appreciate that it differs from mainstream computers.
You navigate using short and long pushes. After a few dives the buttons felt quite “clicky”. You can set the time, date and dual time.
You can also install personal emergency information such as your name and contact
and any allergy details. They call this ICE (In Case of Emergency).
The Matrix can be set for up to three nitrox mixes (in ascending order of O2 percentages) per dive and it bases its calculations on a 10-tissue RGBM algorithm specially written for Mares by Bruce Wienke.

Diving
The Pre-dive mode displays the nitrox mix set, MOD (maximum operating depth) and battery state as well as any personal adjustments you might have preset.
During a dive, the Matrix displays a summary of deco-stops required, at the press of a button.
It displays depth, remaining no-stop time and ascent rate as a primary display. Once into decompression stops, it shows the stop depth, stop time and total ascent time required.
Just to clarify things, if a stop is required, for example at 6m, it also displays “STOP AT 6M!”
Deep stops are not mandatory, but you can opt to make them one or two minutes long and there is a countdown timer displayed for that purpose, just as there is for the safety stop between 6m and 3m. Pressing a button will display an up-to-the-moment profile of the dive. Deep-stops of one or two minutes’ duration can be chosen, but these are not mandatory.
Ascent rate is clearly controlled and a three-minute safety stop displayed in minutes and seconds towards the end of the ascent. Gauge and freediving modes are also available.

The Compass
This is fabulous – it looks like a conventional compass! It can be used at almost any angle.
Set a bearing and it will remember it. The display times out after 8sec only when on the surface.
You need to set it for local calibration, and there’s the option to set declination. You can also set for deviation – it’s all very sophisticated.

Logbook
The Matrix can remember details of the past 35 hours of diving if you’ve used a default sampling rate of every 5sec.

Instructions
Instructions are not only supplied on CD and as a Quick Start guide but as a book, which is a godsend when you’re out in a boat.

OTHER COMPUTER-WATCHES TO CONSIDER:
Suunto D6i, £625 (without tank transmitter)
Scubapro Meridian, £399
Oceanic OCS, £415

SPECS
PRICE £420
TIME Digital and analogue displays
NITROX Up to three mixes per dive
ADJUSTABLE PO2 Yes
CONSERVATIVE SETTINGS Two additional
ALTITUDE Set manually
FAST-ASCENT WARNING LIGHT Yes
BACKLIGHT Yes
DESAT ERASURE For rental situations only
COMPASS Analogue tilt-compensated
MAX DEPTH DISPLAYED 150m
BATTERY Rechargeable lithium-polymer
CONTACT www.mares.com
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