Product Review
Oceanic VT3 Dive Computer

Product Tested
Oceanic VT3

Product Description
Oceanic's VT3 is a wireless air-integrated wrist mounted dive computer that can accommodate up to three different nitrox mixes and offers wireless capability with up to 3 transmitters. Features include:

-- Air, Nitrox, Gauge, and Free Dive Modes
-- Switch between up to 3 independent transmitters, tracking up to 3 Nitrox mixes or your buddy's tank pressure
-- Patented Air Time Remaining Algorithm
-- Audible Alarms with User Acknowledgment
-- SmartGlo® Backlighting
-- Includes OceanLog® Software and USB cable
-- Adjustable safety stop time and depth
-- Use With or Without Wireless Transmitter
-- Diver-Replaceable Batteries

Cost
$675*

Would recommend buying this dive computer?
Recreational diver: YES Technical diver: NO (Except as a backup timing device)

*Prices are approximations and near what an average consumer might pay.

Oceanic VT3
Oceanic VT3 with transmitter
$675*
Oceanic transmitters
Additional VT3 transmitters
$399

The Review
This was a tough review for 2 reasons. First, we are fans of Oceanic products, so we had high expectations of any Oceanic product working as advertisement implies. Second, this product implies that it's geared for mixed gas technical diving in that it supports 3 gasses with O2 mixes up to 100%, gas switching at depth, PO2 set points, etc. Because this computer is good in our opinion for recreational diving but not technical dives, we will break the review into two sections.

VT3 as a technical computer
Now, all technical divers are taught to run tables and dive your computers as backups, but we all know that most tech divers will run tables, but then fly their computers for the actual runtimes, deco stops etc. In a nutshell, it is our opinion that the VT3 should NOT be used as a primary computer for any technical or decompression dive, PERIOD. Why? For starters, the VT3 only shows a virtual ceiling when the diver has a decompression obligation. As an example, if the diver did an air dive with no deco gas to 150 feet for 10 minutes, they would have roughly a 20 minute deco obligation. The VT3 would ONLY show the diver a ceiling and a time to not go shallower than that ceiling as opposed to the actual deco stops that should be made. The display would say something similar to "DECO STOP 10 FEET" and show "20" for minutes. For those of you that aren't familiar with how a true technical dive computer such as a Liquivsion X1, VR3, etc would show the obligation, they display the true depths and times for the required deco stops. i.e: 50 feet for 1 minute, 40 feet for 2 minutes, 30 feet for 2 minutes, 20 feet for 18 minutes. Here's some bullets of some of the additional reasons in our opinion the VT3 shoud not be used for technical or decompression diving.

  • 10 foot ceiling is used - Technical community generally accepts 20 feett as the shallowest stop.
  • No deco stops - only ceilings
  • Cannot turn off "END OF DIVE", "LOW AIR", etc warnings. The VT3 doesn't know how much gas you are carrying, but it will still show warnings when Oceanic's patented Air Time Remaining algorithm decides you don't have enough air to finish the dive.
  • High PO2 warnings will override critical data displays. For example - Say you drop to 225 feet on air, the VT3 will nag you with high PO2 warnings and not show deco obligation and other critical data until you go shallower. Don't go to 225 on air you say?? What if you're at 100 feet and you HAVE to switch to your 50% because you lost your back gas and your team, and you can't see the appropriate data to manage the remaining dive properly? Yes, you're going shallower, but to not have critical data for that 40 seconds when the shit has already hit the fan is a big deal. Also... you get the high PO2 message on/around 20 feet when on 100% O2. When you're lingering on your 20 foot stop for 20-30 minutes, this can be really annoying.
  • Backlight max is 10 seconds. For freshwater technical diving, just about everthing deeper than 160 feet requires a backlight. Having to use your other hand to hit the light button to check stats and depth regularly is pretty lame. How about a setting of "Deeper than ___ feet light always on". That fixes dummies running the battery down if it had a 30 second or 1 minute light feature.
  • Try diving your VT3 as a bottom timer only without using any transmitters.
  • Easy to fool the decompression obligation. Try doing an air break off of O2 at 20 feet with the VT3. Zowy!
  • Better carry lots of extra gas for any repetitive dives! The VT3 handicaps your repetitive dives when your first is a decompression dive. This could get you in a load of trouble if you weren't aware it was going to do this. For example, you do you first dive to 170 feet for 15 minutes on air and deco on 50% and O2.. You take a 2 hour surface interval and then go to 150 for 10 minutes on air. Uh oh. You brought plenty of gas for yourself and thirds according to your deco software, but is it enough to clear the ceiling in the VT3? Well, good luck finding out until you dive it and make notes yourself, because both Oceanic and Pelagic both cannot give us any handicapping forumla to plan air and deco times to match the VT3s ultra conservative repetive dive forumla. "It's for your own safety" they say. Agreed, but good tech divers plan their dives, but if we cannot match what our computer will tell us, then, well, you get the point.

 

VT3 as a recreational dive computer
The VT3 makes a wonderful recreational dive computer, but many of the features are just not necessary for recreational divers, and others, i.e: "Buddy air monitoring", is unrealistic and not really useable. For the recreational diver, multiple gasses is just not, and should not, be used. There are less expensive Oceanic wrist mounted dive computers that will work great and create less confusion for the typical diver.

My inlaws bought a pair of VT3s from their favorite dive shop because they decided it would be safer to monitor each other's air pressure with the buddy check feature. What the dive shop, and Oceanic literature for that matter didn't tell them was that you had to practically mount your buddy while diving before your VT3 will receive the signal from your buddy's transmitter. Seriously. It's common to temporarilly lose signal even between your own VT3 and transmitter periodically, and they are just 2-3 feet apart.

Bugs and issues with the VT3 other than we already discussed? Yep. the buddy pressure firmware fix that was put out years ago.... I haven't met a single dive shop that knew anything about it, and literally half the time I meet someone diving a VT3, they have the older firmware with the buddy air bug. Additionally there is an issue with logging dives with Oceanlog when you have your sample rate set to 2 seconds. (It will record air pressure incorrectly) Be sure to have your computer set to sample at 15 seconds or more to avoid problems.

Final Notes
Well, it sounds like we're just bashing the VT3, but it really is a nice computer for recreational diving. I feel that dive shops and Oceanic are misleading people as to what it's truly capable of for the typical diver. I'm sure there are plenty of people that, like my inlaws, purchased the VT3 based on assumptions that it would deliver realistic and easy buddy air check feature.

 

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