June 7th, 2006
Update May 2011: For a review of Oceanic’s newest version of this dive computer, the VT 4.0, please visit AtlasOmega.
This post is a final farewell to my trusty Oceanic VT Pro wireless, air-integrated dive computer. The VT Pro has been my dependable dive buddy for a number of years and has always treated me right and kept me safe. This review will be mostly about the VT Pro, which I’ve put about 150 dives on, but I’ll finish it out with some information on the model that is replacing it, the VT3 (which I haven’t had the pleasure to dive with, yet).
The VT Pro is a standard-sized (large) wrist mount unit, sometimes affectionately called a ‘hockey puck’ form factor. This can be quite unfashionable as a watch on the surface, but remains a great sized design under the surface, where it matters. The larger size allows for plenty of room in the display for all the essential info, and the buttons are manageable and the computer doesn’t feel like it will shatter if you drop it. Solid, dependable and rugged.
Oceanic has a no-nonsense approach to their designs. The display has all the essential information presented in an intuitive and sparse manner. Everything you need is right on the default screen while on the surface or diving and nothing but that critical information clutters your view. The VT Pro has the same basic software and setup as most other models in the Veo line of Oceanic dive computers. Graphic displays on the sides of the unit display information about nitrogen loading (deco), O2 loading, air remaining and ascent rate, all intelligible at a glance. In the center of the display you’ll find your depth, dive time remaining (either in relation to air remaining or no-deco limit, whichever is the lesser of the two), and tank pressure. A couple pushes of the center button adds temperature, time, dive time and maximum depth. Pushing the side button illuminates the display with IndiGlo.
Wireless Air Integration
The primary reason anyone would want this unit is that it is one of the most affordable models in its class. Air integration has become a very desirable feature in dive computers in the past few years, eliminating the need for an analog SPG (submersible pressure gauge). The benefit of air integration is that your numeric display can give you the most pertinent information at a glance, by showing you only the limiting factor in your dive profile (no decompression time remaining vs. time based on air remaining and current consumption based on depth). This feature is Oceanic’s Patented Air Time Remaining Algorithm. It frees the diver up to concentrate on other things, namely, enjoying the dive. The VT Pro is not only air integrated, but it reads the tank pressure from a remote transmitter that sits comfortably on the first stage of your regulator. This arrangement succeeds in eliminating another hose from your rig, which you’ll appreciate as much for traveling as you will for simply having a more streamlined regulator.
The signal can be lost between the wrist unit and the transmitter from time to time, but this is quickly remedied by moving one’s hand into a different position to pick up the signal again. A thoughtful safety feature the VT Pro has is that when the unit loses the signal the display reads the last known tank pressure. This is also important if there is a more serious malfunction or if there is a dive accident. You can track up to three transmitters with the single wrist unit, which is great for diving stage bottles, doubles, having more than one regulator or just keeping track of another diver.
This dive computer delivers with simplicity and ease. The audible and visual alarms (beeping and blinking) are key for alerting the diver. You can even set values to be notified about (max planned depth, air remaining, etc.). I love the ease with which you keep track of your information by glancing down at your wrist, instead of fishing around for that pesky console that keeps knocking into all the beautiful coral. It really doesn’t get much easier interface-wise than this unit. Oceanic computers are generally thought to be on the more liberal side of the spectrum when it comes to measuring nitrogen loading and calculating no decompression limits, with the newer Suunto models using RGBM algorithms. You might think that this is a bad thing, but I guarantee you that your friend with the snazzy (expensive) unit is going to be cursing when his computer is beeping and calling the dive off and yours is giving you some more precious time in the water. The US Navy dive tables were modified for diving within recreational limits and this is what the Oceanic uses, which has been good enough for me for years of diving to depth and not getting DCS. The VT Pro is Nitrox-ready and supports up to EANx50 (gas containing 50% Oxygen).
You can also use the VT Pro without the (costly) transmitter, just as a dive computer without the air integration. I don’t recommend it though, since the wireless air integration is the whole point. The unit can be even further reduced down to Guage Mode, which will provide only the most basic information.
One shortcoming that I’d like to point out is the fact that the computer’s log can only hold the most recent 24 dives, which is fine for most people. If you’re planning to dive overseas on a dive trip involving 4-6 dives a day, this can mean that you won’t have the data available for download to your desktop computer by the time you get home. But, the software isn’t all that anyways, as you’ll read below. (I’m not sure if this is improved in the VT3).
The VT Pro has user-replaceable batteries. This is huge, considering that some models require the unit to be sent back to the factory or an authorized service center to have the batteries replaced, which can render the unit useless on a dive trip.
The VT Pro comes with Oceanic’s proprietary software and you can buy an optional PC Interface (fancy name for ‘a wire’) to link the dive computer up to a desktop computer for downloading dive information onto your home computer. This software is quite hard to work with and the interface is not very user-friendly, to put it nicely. I opted to stick with the hardcopy dive log, one of the few areas of my life where I stick to the old school way of doing things.
In the unlikely event that you need to contact Oceanic customer service, you’re in for a pleasant interaction. I once had a problem with the temperature readings on my VT Pro and I sent it to them to take a look at it. I’m not sure if they ever isolated the cause of the problem or not, but they replaced all the internal components of my computer and even installed a new wrist-strap (seeing that mine had been cut to fit) and display cover, all at no charge to me. I got my computer back in a timely manner and was tremendously happy with the whole experience.
More recently, I came across this thread at ScubaBoard detailing (ironically enough) another Calvin’s problem obtaining a VT Pro at the now discounted price. An Oceanic regional rep responded to him immediately and solved the problem. Most companies don’t come close to this type of customer service. Another such benevolent manufacturer is Atomic Aquatics, who recently helped me out with my SS1.
The Oceanic VT Pro is a sophisticated, high quality, no-frills dive computer with all the latest (proven) technologies. It presents the perfect intersection between features, safety and value when compared to other models. Furthermore, the company firmly stands behind their products, making this is one piece of gear I can recommend with total confidence.
Looking Forward: Oceanic VT3
The Oceanic VT3 is the 2006 replacement of the VT Pro. In my opinion, the new features offered by the VT3 will be of most benefit to advanced or technical divers. For most divers the improvements are largely cosmetic. The display looks slightly more streamlined, with less coloring (just red, instead of the green-yellow-red in the previous model). The dial follows the same basic principles, with the tissue loading bar-graphs on the edges and the numeric display in the center. Additionally, the interface employs three buttons instead of two. Finally, some changes have been made to the placement of numeric data which doesn’t materially affect the accessibility of those values in any way that I can tell. I do have to admit that the new model looks quite sexy, for whatever that’s worth. 😉
The most significant improvement in terms of functionality between the two models is that the VT3 can read pressure data from three different transmitters instead of one, with the ability to switch between them mid-dive. Another notable difference is that the new unit can handle Enriched Air Nitrox up to 100% Oxygen (rather than 50%), but this won’t mean much for recreational divers. Another new feature is the Buddy Pressure Check (you’ll need another transmitter, of course). Finally, there is the Free Dive mode, in case you’re into that.
If you’re looking to get into a wireless air integrated computer, I’m still firmly of the opinion that the VT3 serves up a terrific value for the money, but the VT Pro has been recently discounted due to the changeover in models (contact an Oceanic dealer for more info). If you already own a VT Pro, I’d say there aren’t yet enough compelling reasons to spring for the newer model at this point unless you specifically need the features that cater to technical diving. I’ve heard that Oceanic has an upgrade program that can help reduce the cost of trading up to the VT3 if you currently own a VT Pro and you’re set on having the latest gear.
Lastly, you might be wondering why I’m getting rid of my trusty VT Pro. Well, I am switching to another great Oceanic wireless air-integrated dive computer, the Atom 2.0…… but that’s another story in the making.
Here’s a look at the different display modes available on the Oceanic VT3
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