A review of Suunto’s new Zoop Novo dive computer – a budget dive computer for recreational diving with a lot of the features of more expensive models.
By Magnus Larsson
Ten years ago I bought my first dive computer, a Suunto Gekko and my second computer was a Suunto Zoop, virtually the same computer as the Gekko, but a different name and all yellow.
My argument for choosing the Zoop has always been that it has all the things you need for recreational diving: air/nitrox mode, planning mode (mainly used when showing students how to plan dives) and logbook plus it is all shown on a large display.
These were all the things you definitely needed as a recreational scuba diver, but they were not necessarily all the thing you actually wanted as a diver!
Now we have the Suunto Zoop Novo – a budget computer with features previously only found on more expensive computers: freediving mode, gauge mode and deep stop.
A first glance the Zoop Novo is very similar in design to the old Zoop, but your avid Zoop user will spot some changes straight away. Coming in black, blue and lime, the Zoop Novo has a slightly more square design than the older version; the protection glass for the screen sits out more on top and the bracelet has a new more square design to go with the rest.
On the new version, the PC-connector on the side is the same bayonet connection as found on the more expensive D-series from Suunto. It has four control buttons instead of three, and an extra loop for the long end of the wrist strap. Turning it over you notice that battery cover has a new design, being screwed on by star head screws.
From sheer looks, I must say I prefer the slightly more rounded shapes of the old Zoop, but let’s face it; you don’t get this computer to impress your buddies with a slick design (check out the D-series for that).
The changes in design seem to come from functionality rather than style: the protection glass on the old Zoop could be a nightmare trying to take off (you needed to wipe it clean sometimes) and I was always afraid I would break a pin taking it on or off. The new glass comes off way easier and the pins holding it in place are larger and seem less fragile.
The slimmer corrugation on the strap and the extra loop lets tuck that long strap in when you are not diving in a dry suit.
The battery replacement on the old version was a bit tricky since you had to take off the strap before you could get in to change the battery. Now you need a star screwdriver, but overall, battery changes should be easier and more idiot-proof with the new model (although I still recommend not doing it by yourself). All in all, I think they have done a great job at fine tuning a good design, improving minor points and making it more user-friendly.
Now to the performance…
The Zoop Novo has all the functions that previously were only available with Suunto’s more high-end computers: free-diving, deep stop, gauge mode and off mode. In doing so they have made this entry-level computer more versatile. It leaves the other models in Suunto’s range for tech needs, air integration and, of course, look and style.
With the additional button, the Zoop Novo now has the same menu system as the rest of the Suuntu line with five different diving modes to choose from:
- Air mode – default mode for making normal dives on air. When set in air mode the computer will show depth, dive time, time and of course your no-deco time.
- Nitrox mode – allows you to set your computer for 21-50 per cent oxygen content.
- Gauge mode – the computer will work as a bottom timer, showing depth, time and temperature of your dive. This is used when you want to plan your dives using tables, computer software or ratio decompression (calculating decompression time by yourself, mostly used by DIR divers) rather than the Suunto RGBM algorithm for your decompression time.
- Free-dive mode – shows depth, max depth, dive time and surface time of your free dives.
- Off Mode – this turns off all dive modes so that the computer so it won’t be activated in the water.
Most of the diving will be done with the computer in Air or Nitrox mode, letting the computer calculate your no decompression limits using the Suunto RGBM algorithm.
There are three levels of personal adjustments, for more conservative dive profiles if your physique or the dive conditions make you more predisposed to decompression sickness, as well as three levels of altitude adjustments for diving on a higher altitude.
The best part about dive computers is you don’t need to do much with them, just strap it to your arm and get in the water!
The Novo will start automatically when you get in the water and will go into dive mode as soon as you descend, showing your current depth, max depth, dive time, water temperature and no-decompression time at your current depth on the large display.
New to the Novo is that while diving you can turn on the backlight of the display, add a bookmark (saving the current time, depth and temperature) for the dive log and access the stopwatch.
Another new feature is additional deep-stop for dives deeper than 20m.
The ascent rate is indicated by bars on the right side of the display and if you exceed the 10m/min ascent rate you will be penalised with a mandatory safety stop to suppress any bubble formation. A safety stop will start counting down three minutes when you are between six and three metres before clearing you to surface, neglecting these will give you more nitrogen build up and the algorithm will give you less time on consecutive dives.
The logbook function has a 140-hour memory and you can connect it via USB to download your dive profiles and logs to a computer.
All in all, Suunto has stepped up their most basic dive computer allowing you to use it for new types of diving. While it’s not for the hardcore free- or tech-diver (it’s not streamlined enough and no gas switching or tech algorithm) it does allow you use it without ending up in Error mode for not following a recreational dive algorithm. This, and the design fixes, consolidates the Zoop Novo position as one of the best value for money dive computers on the market.