The world of diving equipment manufacture never stands still and Delta P Technology is no exception to this. The original VR3 brought in water mixed decompression calculations to reality, but to many people had a few shortcomings. Delta P have addressed these very aggressively and released a second-generation unit in January 2002 that to put it simply is truly outstanding.
This is not just a cosmetic update of an old unit it is a redesign from the ground up incorporating all of the best features of the old unit and fixing its many niggles.
It features a new smaller and lighter case and mobile phone style LCD panel with one of the best backlights I have ever seen on a dive computer. The orientation of the display can be changed by a couple of simple button presses, which may seem a simple thing but to a right handed computer user is an absolute boon, allowing me to run the PO2 cable up my right arm.
On the side of the case is a port for connection of an external O2 sensor that can be used to provide real time PO2 information to the VR3’s decompression algorithm. The sensor can be connected to virtually any rebreather, with appropriate fittings, which currently exist for the Inspiration (fittings available from both Delta P and Bob Howell), the Drager series of SCR and the KISS CCR (fittings available from Deep Down Diving).
The unit comes in several flavours ranging from a basic Nitrox Open Circuit version through to a Closed Circuit Rebreather enabled Tri-Mix version. All units are upgradeable without return to the factory via a simple PIN system. Planned for mid 2003 will be the facility to upgrade the unit’s firmware via an Internet enabled “cradle”.
Operation of the unit is achieved by pressing the two plunger style black buttons on the top of the unit and is the method used for initial setup and making gas or set-point switches during the dive. It is important to keep these switches clean and rinsed and the manual suggests that you put a little light machine oil on them occasionally to ensure smooth operation.
Setting up the unit is fairly simple process apart from the eternity it takes to enter the activation PIN!! I spent nearly an hour scrolling through what seemed like every alphabet on earth to enter the correct PIN code, thankfully a task that only needs to be endured once!!
The unit is capable of handling 10 gas mixes, which can also be changed on the fly in water as well as providing multiple set-points for CCR diving. The unit is delivered pre-programmed with a full range of the most “popular” choices of gas ranging from air, and Nitrox mixed through to Tri-Mix and O2. Creating custom mixes is simple and quick and can be of any combination of Helium, Oxygen and Nitrogen. Auto gas switching is achieved easily through the setting of Maximum Operating Depths for each gas. The VR3 then flashes a warning and asks you to confirm the gas switch failing to do so the unit will continue it’s calculations with the current gas. Confirmation of a gas switch is done simply by pressing the button.
For the rebreather diver the unit can have two “default” set-points for CCR diving which can also be varied in water quickly and easily. The unit also features a full open circuit bailout mode.
Ok, so what is it like to actually do the thing it was designed for….diving? To test this we took the unit for a week Tri-Mix diving in. A series of Closed Circuit Mixed Gas dives on some of Florida’s finest wrecks gave us ample opportunity to see the VR3 in action.
One of my long time complaints about the old VR3 was the overly conservative algorithm employed for its decompression calculations. In line with everything else new about this unit, the algorithm is also new and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the not only does the unit continue to offer “sensible” deep stops but also gave sensible run times, on square profiles comparable to my routine tables. Multi level profiles were appropriately accelerated.
The VR3 has one algorithm with a user defined conservatism option it has 10 different gas mixes which can also be modified on the “fly” under water. The VR3 is capable of connecting to an external O2 sensor to provide real-time decompression information.
Another feature of very worthy note is the vastly improved battery management on the new VR3 with its amazing ability to take any standard “AA” cell battery ranging from 1.2v to 3.6V. Delta P claim that on a 1.5V “AA” the unit will run for 100 hours of dive time or 1 year on stand-by, with a 3.6V battery these numbers could well be tripled, bringing the VR3 in line with the other major computer manufacturers for battery life.
In closing, as much as I tried to find fault with this amazing unit I was unable to! The manual still needs a little work to cater to the “manually challenged” like myself, but I did get an early version! The VR3 is an extremely well engineered and manufactured dive computer that will grow with the diver, whether they are just starting out or an advanced “techie” diver, living up to the claims on the box that it is the only dive computer you will ever need.
As far as I am concerned it is the only dive computer I will need………