Please note: this review is not a guide to use. I strongly recommend all users to read the official manual before using their dive computer.
The Suunto Zoop is the entry level Suunto dive computer and is extremely popular with recreational divers of all levels. Almost every time I’ve gone diving with more than half a dozen people, someone has had a Zoop, and even quite experienced divers like it.
The Zoop comes packaged in a nice minimalist little box, and the content is even more minimalist.
- The computer, of course
- Warranty booklet
- Random Suunto sticker
- Quickstart guide
- Manual, on CD…
Providing the manual on CD annoyed me – I like to be able to flick through it and, more importantly, my laptop doesn’t have a CD drive. However, it’s available online as a PDF so I just read that in the end. Note that this isn’t really the kind of technology you can just figure out as you go along (unless you are very familiar with other Suunto dive computers, maybe). Understanding what the screen displays could literally save your life and, while it is as intuitive as possible, some symbols or alerts may not be entirely clear, especially if you see them for the first time unexpectedly mid-dive. So you absolutely must take the time to understand how the computer works.
The quickstart guide does give a summary of all the symbols, but this alone probably isn’t quite enough, especially if this is your first dive computer. It also provides a summary of all the menus, and where different options can be found, which is handy as some of them aren’t entirely logical.
And obviously the device itself. It’s chunky, with a nice big screen for easy viewing underwater, a colourful surround (mine is orange, but it also comes in yellow and black), a detachable/replaceable screen cover to protect it from scrapes and bumps, and the usual oversize strap so it can go round various exposure suits of different thicknesses.
On the back is the battery cover. Batteries are user-replaceable, with the correct tool, although as they only need replacing every 2-3 years it may be simpler to get an authorised repairer to do it, and to service the computer at the same time.
Note that although the Zoop can download data to your computer, no data transfer cable is supplied. This is a separate purchase, and a relatively expensive one at around £30. As an owner of many running watches, which you expect to be able to transfer data out of the box, this slightly annoyed me to begin with. However in reality analysing data on the computer afterwards is a much more niche requirement for dive computers than it is for running watches. So arguably if not adding the cable in keeps the cost of the device down for the majority of users who have no requirement to transfer data to their computer, so be it.
The Zoop doesn’t need a great deal of setup or customisation, which is good as it’s not particularly intuitive. The basic problem is that there are only three buttons. In normal use this is a good thing, as it keeps thing simple and there’s no real need for more, but when navigating menus it becomes a little confusing as the primary ‘smart’ button is both select and quit/back depending on the scenario. When you first enter a menu it is ‘quit’, and only changes to ‘select’ when you start scrolling through menu items. That means that if you wanted to select the first menu item, you need to scroll forward and back first. Then once it has changed to select, there is no way to quit or go back except by selecting something. It’s not a big problem, but it is a little clunky.
Anyway, there won’t be much you need to set up initially except to input the correct date and time and choose your preferred units. Note that it’s either Metric or Imperial across the board, so you can’t have feet and Celsius or metres and Fahrenheit, in case you’re the kind of weirdo that would want that.
You can also change to Nitrox mode and, within Nitrox mode select the oxygen percentage, but more on that later.
The only other settings are to set depth and dive time alarms, and then the ‘adjustments’ menu which allows you to change the altitude, and/or choose one of three ‘personal’ settings. These set progressively more conservative limits and are intended to be used by people who might be predisposed to DCI and should therefore dive more conservatively.
The other main menu is the memory, which is split into three: Data transfer, history and logbook.
Logbook gives you four pages of data about each dive, including maximum depth, temperature, surface interval, and so on. It can also scroll through the whole dive in 30 second increments, if that sort of thing is useful to you. If it is, I’d strongly suggest you pay for the data transfer cable or else it’s going to get pretty painful.
History gives you summary information for all dives using that computer up to 999 dives or 999 diving hours. It shows the total dive time, maximum depth ever reached, and total number of dives.
Data transfer just allows you to transfer dive data to your PC, using the non-included cable.
When switched on fully, but not below 1.2m/4 feet, the Zoop will display the Surface Mode. If you have already dived once in the last few hours, the screen will show your dive time and max depth. If not, it will show these details as 0, and simply show the current temperature. In either case, if you are in nitrox mode, it will show the oxygen %. A press of the ‘time’ button (the right hand one of the two on the bottom of the display) will alternatively show the current time of day in place of the dive elapsed time.
From surface mode you can navigate through the various options mentioned above in set-up. In particular, if this is your first dive of the day and you are diving on nitrox you will need to specify your gas mix since the nitrox is reset to 21% (i.e., air) after two hours if you don’t start a new dive.
This probably isn’t a bad place to talk about the nitrox settings, in fact. The computer can be used in air or nitrox mode and, within nitrox mode, the % of oxygen can be specified. However, as I said above, at the end of a series of dives (i.e. dives with less than 2hrs between them) the nitrox will reset to 21%. I take that to be a safety feature to help prevent you accidentally diving on a nitrox profile while breathing air, as this is arguably more dangerous than vice versa (this isn’t the place to explain why, so if you don’t understand, or disagree with me, say so in the comments and we can argue there!). Anyway, the point is that there is absolutely no difference between being in air mode, and being in nitrox mode with a setting of 21% oxygen, with the exception that in Nitrox mode the screen will display the oxygen percentage, whilst in air mode it won’t. That makes the air mode actually kind of redundant except perhaps as a way to simplify things for divers not trained on nitrox. It certainly means that as a regular nitrox diver I will probably never switch the computer back to air mode since there is no point. In fact I quite like the fact that even when I am diving on air, the screen shows 21% as it means I can confirm at a glance that the computer is correctly set.
From surface mode you can also enter dive planning mode which shows you your no-stop time for a given depth, based on the gas blend and other parameters, and any previous dives that day (and, indeed, in the past five days I believe). You can scroll to deeper depths in increments of 3m (10ft) up to 45m.
Once you descend below 1.2m, the computer will enter diving mode. At this point the watch will display rather more information. Namely the following (as long as you remain on a no-deco profile):
- Top left: current depth
- Top right (smaller text): max depth that dive
- Centre left: oxygen percentage, if in Nitrox mode
- Centre right: no-stop time remaining at present depth
- Bottom left: water temperature
- Bottom right: dive time (can be alternated with time of day by pressing time).
- Right-hand colour-coded gauge: ascent rate indicator
- Left-hand colour-coded gauge: essentially a visual indicator of how much bottom time you have used up, based on both nitrogen and oxygen exposure.
This display is basically not customisable, but it shows all the information you would expect from a basic dive watch, and I find it very easy to refer to despite the fact that it shows quite a lot of information at once.
Aside from this, the other displays are warning messages and alerts for particular events in the dive. Once again, I urge you to read the manual carefully as you need to be familiar with these, and I am not going to cover them all in detail below. However, they include:
- A safety stop display with timer that kicks in at 5.9 metres. The computer has parameters for both mandatory and optional safety stops, based on criteria similar to those applied on the RDP, though more advanced as it tracks more information throughout the dive. The timer only shows whole minutes remaining (3, 2, 1) so it’s not accurate to the second but I’m not sure it really needs to be. I’ve never found this a problem.
- An ascent-rate ‘SLOW’ warning if you ascend too quickly.
- Flashing Po2 figure if you descend below your pre-set Po2 floor while diving on Nitrox.
The computer can also handle decompression dives and, if you exceed the no-stop time, the display will change to show you your minimum time before you can surface, if you begin deco at that point, and will guide you to ascend to decompression stops. The displays are not overly complex but they probably aren’t entirely self-explanatory so make sure you read the manual and understand what they mean. There are some decent diagrams in the supplied manual that make it pretty clear.
There are also audible warnings for ascending too quickly, violating a mandatory safety stop or decompression stop, violating the Po2 limit, and exceeding no-stop time / entering decompression dive. Finally, you can add your own audible warnings for your pre-defined maximum depth or dive time.
This is an excellent, clear, simple dive computer that will no-deco and decompression dives on air and nitrox up to a max depth of 45 metres. It is therefore absolutely suitable for any recreational PADI diver up to, probably, the Tec40 qualification and possible the Tec45 qualification. However, once you started wanting to gas-switch mid dive, or certainly if you want to use trimix or helitrox, you’re going to need a different computer. However, that means this watch would get you a long way. It’s main drawbacks even within those limits are the lack of wireless pressure gauge compatibility and no customisable display. I also found the sub-menus and set-up somewhat hard to use, especially the logbook and history features, however none of that is a problem while actually diving.