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Saturday, 3 May 2014

Shearwater Petrel: Why you Want one!

Towards the end of last year I finally decided that I had spent enough time completing all my Technical Dives using computer generated tables and it was about time I invested in my very own Tech Computer.

After having a look at the different makes and models on the market, I decided to opt for the Shearwater Petrel.

I have used the Petrel's predecessors before (the Shearwater Predator and the Pursuit) and I always found them pretty intuitive and easy to use and the Petrel was no different. Without even looking at a manual, you can easily navigate through the menus and set up the dive and plan it, although I would recommend that you always read the manuals for a dive computer, as it is giving you very important information and you need to know exactly how it works and what it is telling you at any given moment.

shearwater colour screenThe Petrel, unlike the Predator, has an LCD display, which is 2.4 inches and is full colour HD with a low power consumption. It is smaller and lighter, more compact but very easy to read whether you are at the surface, in Open Water or deep inside a wreck. Also, the clarity and size of the screen makes it easier for buddies and instructors to monitor where you are at any given time.

It also gives colour coded warnings, so if a value shows in Red or Yellow, it means something isn't quite right, there is a problem.

You can easily change the battery yourself and it is powered by any AA battery; lithium, alkaline or saft. The battery Fuel Gauge is a useful way of knowing when the power is getting low too.

conservatism set to gradient factor 30/70
Where many of the other Technical Diving Computers require you to upgrade your computer by buying a PIN to unlock the software, the Petrel comes straight out of the box open for Open Circuit and Closed Circuit, Air, Nitrox and Trimix.

The Decompression Software uses Buhlmann ZHL-16C with Gradient Factors, which come preset at 30/70 but can be user adjusted to complement the type of diving you do. There is an optional upgrade to VPM-B, if desired. I like the way it comes!

A recent firmware upgrade (which is free and downloadable via bluetooth) has introduced a new recreational Nitrox mode.

Shearwater Petrel Recreational DisplayIn this mode, the menus are simpler and the display is less cluttered and customisable. It allows for 3 breathing gases, as opposed to the Technical Mode's 5 gases, and the emphasis is for Maximum Operating Depths (MODs) and No Decompression Limits (NDLs).

There isn't quite the same control over the conservatism settings as you have in Tech mode, but you can still select between 3 levels of conservatism and the Petrel will gove you a safety stop countdown for 3 minutes when you come above 6 metres or, of you exceed a NDL, the display turns red and warns you must complete a mandatory decompression stop with depths and times shown.

The Shearwater Petrel is one of the best dive computers I have dived with and I have taken to using it on all dives from shallow beginners to penetrating the Zenobia wreck, air diving to trimix. It is versatile, adaptable and above all, exceedingly easy to read and use.

For the price tag of approximately €840, this computer offers exceptional value for money!