Remember when we were all banging around on 2G phones, playing snake on monochrome screens and changing the color of Nokia’s ‘Xpress-On’ faceplates with clumsy, if somewhat satisfying, manual clicks?
Since those dark days technology has moved fast and smartphones have transformed our lives in the process. How we ever survived without an Apple or Samsung strapped to the palm of our hand is a mystery, it seems.
Now dive computers are following suit. Coming after a period of technological limbo, relatively speaking, manufacturers have been ramping up over the last 18 months or so to give birth to a new breed of computer. It’s exciting stuff, especially considering that only 25 years ago there weren’t even uniform standards or decompression algorithm guidelines.
The leader of the Pack
Leading the advancement is sports watch giant, Suunto. The Finnish company’s tech geniuses have recognized that many divers – by the very nature of our sport – are early adopters when it comes to technology as we look for new means to dive deeper, longer and more safely. After several years of class-leading development, the direct result is the Suunto Eon Steel.
Built on an entirely new platform, the Suunto Eon Steel represents the next generation of a dive computer.
It’s billed as being fully customizable, with a magnitude of fancy features (more on those later) that are impressive enough – even on paper alone – but let’s start with aesthetics. With a full-color screen and brushed stainless steel bezel, the Eon is perhaps the best-looking dive computer on the market, bar none. I’m sure few will disagree, based on the opinion of almost everyone I’ve shown the watch to – including seven divers on board the boat before the first day’s testing who unanimously agreed.
Bigger is Best
The first thing you’ll notice about the Eon in the flesh is its sheer size – over 4 inches from left to right – followed by the quality of build. At 347g, it’s far from the lightest computer on the market but its bulk underlines that this is a product made with first-rate stainless steel. Its weightiness, rather than being negative, adds to the package, making it feel substantial, durable and every part the premium bit of kit is is. And that’s even before jumping in the water.
Turn the Eon on via the middle of its three-button interface and the bright, high-contrast color screen starts to display information immediately. That information includes depth, no decompression planning, time and dive time, temperature reading, surface interval recording and no-fly zoning. However, the Eon also comes with the added benefit of a 3D tilt-compensated digital compass and the ability to hold 200 hours of logged dives. It’s in the water that the whopping screen really comes into its own; no squinting required here!
Navigating its functions is remarkably straightforward but the even smarter stuff comes into play when you plug the Eon into your laptop. Not only can you log your dives but by using a simple tick-box menu found on the downloadable software, the Eon can be fully customized to display specific functions in all manner of on-screen configurations. Depending on personal preference, you can also choose whether you want the Eon to show its information using a classic, numbers-only display or optically pleasing digi-graphics.
As expected with most top-of-the-range systems nowadays, Suunto has incorporated wireless tank integration into the fold, pairing its flagship computer with an appropriately state-of-the-art wireless Tank Pod pressure transmitter – complete with LED function lights to let you know when it’s sending data. A reworked, intuitive pairing procedure means the process couldn’t be simpler – just hold the Eon next to the transmitter when attached to a tank and after a few seconds the Eon’s screen will show pressure and battery readings. For such a sophisticated computer, its one of the most user-friendly systems I’ve ever used.
Showing its advanced capabilities, the Eon can monitor readings from 10 different transmitters using 10 different gases, with labeling fields to identify each different diver. It’s an impressive haul considering the Eon / Tank Pod pairing is good for air, nitrox, trimix and fixed-point rebreather, with custom setpoint capabilities (and automatic switching).
Suunto says that its trademarked ‘Fused’ RGBM algorithm maximizes bottom time but what’s more, the Eon will also show real-time gas consumption to monitor the wearer’s breathing rate. It’s a very notable tool, perfect for any diver that uses a lot of air or one who is actively conscious of trying to improve consumption and prolong each dive.
Other plus points include three altitude adjustment settings and robust in-dive notifications which elevate the Eon into new stratospheres when it comes to diver safety. The various alarm systems – from max depth warning to tank pressure limits, and everything in between – are good not only for almost all recreational diving but also for more advanced endeavors too, with the Eon operating to a max depth of 150m. Divers can expect battery life to last somewhere in the region of 20-40 hours of dive time – or 30 days out of the water – per full charge, which incidentally takes about 4 hours.
Clearly then, when those Finnish watchmaking Gods sat down to design the Eon, the team knew that not only did the Eon have to look the part but it also had to have the functionality to match and I have to say it does. This is a Grade A watch, with Grade A performance. Suunto has taken the time to think of everything a diver could want – from the silicone case that it comes with as standard (anyone worried about scratching that beautiful steel casing, rejoice), to an ability to rotate the display and consequently flip the button positions. The latter sounds novel but in reality, this user-friendly function means that anyone wearing the Eon on their right wrist doesn’t partially block the screen whilst navigating its menu, and therefore still gets the same ergonomic experience. Genius.
Bigger Not Always Best but Well worth the Premium Price
However, as good as the Eon is, it does have a few, minor flaws – the first of which is its size and weight. As I said earlier, the Eon’s bulk does help create a premium look and feel – undoubtedly so. But during diving, its substantial bulk forces the watch to slip, encroaching the palm/top of the hand, depending on if worn in the Orthodox fashion or in reverse.
For the most part, this isn’t an issue but it does somewhat interfere with inflation/deflation at times. Though this flaw wasn’t as troubling in a full-length wetsuit, the problem did persist with the watch being strapped to bare skin when wearing a shorty. That said, a quick fix comes by swapping to the bungee system which comes in the box – interchangeable with the conventional watch strap. Likewise, the Eon’s larger-than-conventional size meant that it wasn’t always comfortable wearing it on the boat between dives. Then again, this isn’t a conventional dive computer.
The only other negative is the price; it’s not exactly what you would call cheap. True, value is subjective but at EUR 999 it’s definitely one of the more expensive options on the market. However, you do get a whole lot of computer for your money and the technology incorporated will be good for many more years so if you do opt for an Eon, chances are you won’t be tempted to get another computer for a long time yet. Plus, you certainly won’t blend into the crowd; this watch is definitely a conversation starter with other divers who will look at you green with envy as they try their hardest not to ask how much it cost.
Overall then, Suunto must get top marks for the innovative design and functionality of its Eon Steel. By recreational dive computer standards, its performance is, quite frankly, top of class. Maps and/or real-time surface GPS positioning – as seen in a few next-generation computers aimed at the professional market – would have been an added feature that would have no doubt pleased a few more tech-heads among us but considering the cost this would have added, it’s understandable that Suunto didn’t incorporate the technology it uses in many of its land-focused watches.
The shortlist of computers playing in this space is, for want of a better word, short because many other manufacturers just can’t compete with the standards the likes of Suunto are setting. No doubt the others will catch up one day but for now, the Eon represents the next generation of dive computer and does so brilliantly. Anyone looking for a new computer that has the ability to up their diving and grow with a diver’s experience could do a lot worse than buying this computer. It’s one of the very best the diving community has access to.
- Customizable Suunto CustomDisplay™ to match your evolving needs
- Visually intuitive, consistent presentation
- Simple, easy interaction with menus and button plus User-updatable software
- Wide-angle Suunto BrightSee™ color screen with high contrast display for easy reading in any dive conditions + flip display
- Highly durable and resistant Xensation™ glass
- Robust mechanical construction
- Extensively tested and built to last
- Extreme durability with 150m depth range
- Brushed stainless steel bezel
- Use with strap or bungee (included)
- Rechargeable battery: 20-40 hours of dive time with one charge (one week at liveaboard)
|Bezel material:||Stainless steel|
|Lens material:||Xensation Glass|
|Water resistance||150 m (ISO 6425, EN 13319)|
|Battery life in time mode||30 days|
|Battery type||Rechargeable lithium-ion|
- Suunto Eon Steel: $1439.55 / EUR 999
- Suunto Tank Pod: $439 / EUR 299