Test Review of the New Suunto EON Core Dive Computer
There are sometimes when you get your hands on a product and you just know it’s going to be good. It has a certain look and feel about it which speaks instantly of quality, and Suunto’s new EON Core – a 'cut-down' version of the popular EON Steel technical computer – fits this category. Given the opportunity to take one diving for a couple of weeks, we’ve had a closer look at Suunto’s new computer and found that’s its use-ability matches the build quality.
One of the first impressions I take from any dive computer is how intuitive the menu system is to use, without having to refer to the manual. This is, of course, extremely unscientific, but it comes from years of working as a dive professional and having people ask me how to set their dive computer, an hour out to sea and with no instructions, because as the fount of all diving knowledge, instructors must surely know how to operate every dive computer that’s ever been manufactured.
Stabbing randomly at buttons to see what does what, is hardly compliant with the user instructions, but not an uncommon occurrence for me back in the day. At the EON Core’s UK product release, however, I had all the basics figured out within about 60 seconds of button pushing.
They are solid, easy to press and with a very definite action, eliminating the frustration of thinking you’ve pushed something which hasn’t registered, or registering something unintentionally, and then having to go through the menu system all over again just to bump up your nitrox setting an extra percentage point. The various functions are activated by a short or long press, and the timing is such that there is no confusion between the two.
The screen is wide and clear and comes with a white, lime green or black bezel. The elastomer strap is fairly standard and very long. Bungees are available as optional extras for those who prefer them. There are 17 different languages settings available.
Straight out of the box, the EON Core displays all the most useful information for recreational diving in a bright, backlit LED screen 5cm x 3.8cm in size at 320x240 resolution. The numbers are bold and in high-contrast colours, which change depending on proximity to, or violation of, various diving limits. When everything is within normal parameters underwater, the display is in green and blue and white; notifications are in yellow – such as when you reach safety stop depth and the circular graph which previously represented time to NDL (in default mode) turns a pleasing yellow colour and automatically counts down the stop. Alarms are in red, meaning there can be no confusion between time to deco and NDL violation, as sometimes is the case with the classic LCD displays.
The brightness of the display can be adjusted (although not during the dive) between high, low and ‘default’ to suit the environment in which you’re diving. I found the brightest setting most suited to the sunny, tropical diving I was doing, but herein was also the only real problem I had with the computer. Not the display as such, but the screen is quite reflective, and in shallow water with bright sunlight, the view was like looking at an old TV screen on a sunny day. It was not a major problem, but ‘quick glance at computer’ turned into ‘move computer into shade while glancing quickly at the screen’. At depth this was not a problem, but of the three computers I dived with during the test week, it was the only one where I had to fiddle with position a little to get a clear view of the otherwise excellent screen.
The display can be flipped so that the buttons are effectively on whichever side of the computer you prefer them to be, and the display can be re-programmed and customised using Suunto's Dive Manager software
I know some people dislike the Suunto Fused RGBM model for being ‘too conservative’, however in my previous line of work, three dives per day every day for ten days straight (and that’s just the customers), conservatism in recreational diving is the order of the day. Dedicated techies may prefer the Bühlmann-based algorithms to squeeze in those extra few minutes of dive time, but pushing limits is not on my list of things to do. I did, however, find the EON Core gave slightly more time to (recreational) deco than my 2005 era Vyper. We were not really pushing deco at any time but at the closest point to reaching NDL, my Vyper read 5 minutes and the EON Core read 9. It also cleared a lot faster after reaching 12m than the Vyper, with the EON Core reading 45 mins just before reaching 10m while the Vyper hadn’t started counting back up.
The magnetic charger clicks into place with a very satisfactory contact, and the battery took about 5 hours to charge fully from almost completely drained, giving an indicated 14 hours in the highest brightness setting, 19 in ‘default’ and 27 in low brightness. Practically speaking, with my EON Core display brightness set to high at all times, plus surface interval fiddling, I got 8 dives with an average dive time of 52 minutes before it needed recharging, which is in accordance with Suunto’s ’10-20 hour’ battery life specification.
I did make a fundamental user error when recharging the computer, as the cable clicks into place with a very satisfying contact even if it's facing in exactly the wrong direction. I didn't check the charging status and as a result the battery dropped below the required minimum charge of two hours. The manual states that you are 'unable to start a dive' if the battery level falls below this, but what this means from a practical perspective is that the EON Core defaults into 'gauge' mode and then locks all decompression calculations for 48 hours.
I suppose it would be nice if it was impossible to fit the cable the wrong way round, and user error is hardly the fault of the manufacturer, but I operate on the principle that I am not the only person who will make that mistake. Some may consider the 48-hour lockout to be excessive for recreational diving (other computers lock you out for 24), but it's a very safe margin for error, and the EON Core is not just a recreational computer.
Beyond Recreational Diving
The EON Core is marketed to ‘active’ divers – those who dive regularly and may seek to go beyond the realms of recreational diving. With an 80m depth rating, it is not a dedicated technical computer – that remains the domain of the 150m rated EON Steel – but it does allow divers to foray into advanced ‘Tec-Rec’, and although it handles air/nitrox out of the box, it can be customised using Suunto’s Dive Manager software to cater to technical Trimix and CCR diving. Up to 10 gas mixtures can be programmed (Oxygen 5 - 99% / Helium 0 - 95%), with the ppO2 adjustable from 0.5atm - 1.6atm
Dive Manager and PODs
'Simple, clear, concise and easy to use' is enough of a review for the DM5 software from Suunto. Install on a personal computer, connect EON Core; instantly access all dive profile information and dive computer settings. The software allows you to customise the display with different numerical or graphical details, swapping the positions of the various different readings to whichever position you find most practical. Suunto's associated Movescount software allows profiles to be stored in the cloud and shared over social media.
It is also through DM5 that you can create your profiles for diving with helium or on a rebreather, an excellent method of customisation meaning that a diver does not have to muddle through a series of potentially confusing menus until they have undertaken a course on the relevant subject matter.
Although I didn't get to try the gas-integrated Suunto POD, the optional wireless transmitter measures the pressure in up to 10 different POD fitted tanks.
The EON Core is, as advertised, a computer that ‘grows with you’. It is perfectly suited for the entry-level diver with its sleek, intuitive, compact and lightweight design, but those who dive once a year and have no intention of progressing further may find the Suunto Zoop more suited to their budget. For the more active diver, who thinks they might develop their diving beyond basic recreational requirements, the EON Core would be a worthwhile investment, allowing the possibility of adding functionality to their computer as they acquire the relevant skills.
Priced at £599, it's £250 less than the bulkier, heavier EON Steel, and £150 less than the popular D6i Novo, but very competitively priced among similar designs. The possibilities for customisation and the excellent display, however, give it a significant advantage over the standard LCD / dot matrix screens.
- Gauge/Air/Nitrox/Trimix/CCR (fixed point)
- Gas switching - up to 10 gases can be programmed (Oxygen 5 - 99% / Helium 0 -95%)
- ppO2 adjustable from 0.5atm - 1.6 atm
- CNS / OTU (OLF) calculation
- Suunto Fused™ RGBM for maximizing dive time
- No-decompression dive planner
- Tilt compensated 3D digital compass
- Personal adjustment + 3 altitude settings
- Deep Stops
Weight 154 g / 5.43 oz
- Battery type rechargeable lithium-ion
Languages EN, CS, DA, DE, ES, FI, FR, IT, JA, KO, NL, NO, PL, PT, RU, SV, ZH
- Backlit LED colour TFT at 320 x 240 resolution (display can be inverted)
- Guaranteed to 80 m depth
Full technical details can be found at www.suunto.com/eoncore
RRP EON Core: £599
RRP Tank POD: £250