Uemis Zurich SDA computer review

The Zurich SDA, from Swiss newcomers uemis, is no run-of-the-mill dive computer – beginning with the quirky maker’s name (more on that later) to its announcement as the worlds first ‘Scuba Diver Assistant’ (SDA), this chunky wrist-mounted device is making divers and rival manufacturers sit up and notice.

Encapsulated within a high grade, monobloc plastic body utilizing technology pioneered in the aerospace industry, the Zurich is depth-rated to 250 metres and is available as a standalone unit or with optional tank transmitter for full air integration.

It may sound nothing out of the ordinary so far, but the SDA does host a number of innovative features claimed by uemis to be 'firsts' in the field of diving instrumentation.

First off, the unit’s highly visible organic light emitting diode (OLED) display is a revelation.

This gives far superior readability than conventional LED technology, and even in extreme low-light conditions needs no other form of illumination to monitor your data through the scratchproof mineral glass screen.

Secondly, is the ‘why didn't someone come up with this before’ solar module - a dinky little solar cell allowing the topping-up of the battery between dives and ideally suited to liveaboards where electricity can be infrequent and unreliable.

A relatively bright day even here in the UK will allow the unit to charge between dives.

The manufacturer-replaceable battery has a projected life span of five years and the supplied USB cable will operate using any available USB port or via an optional mains travel adapter.

Depth, dive duration, tank pressure, temperature and remaining gas, along with stop and no-stop time are all clearly visible in the standard screen mode.

A traffic light system gives the current dive status: green for ok, orange for attention and red when a parameter such as ascent rate or decompression stop has been breached.

Up to three tank transmitters will synchronize per unit and can be set up pre-dive for the required gas mix.

A series of ‘soft keys’ allow essential information such as individual tank pressures, breathing rate and tissue saturation among others to be accessed easily and quickly during the dive.

Up to 2000 dives can be stored in the fully featured internal logbook via a series of user-friendly menus and QWERTY ‘keyboard’.

Buddies using compatible SDA’s can share their own vital data underwater at the push of a button, while another interesting feature is the ability to 'mark' particular points of interest on the dive for future reference.

Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the design of the Zurich and even the strap has been re-imagined - a heavy-duty polyester web loop and effective quick release buckle replaces the conventional thick rubber strapping of yesteryear.

A nice touch is a choice of six coloured interchangeable faces for the fashion conscious diver to choose from - although I'd hesitate a guess that black will come out top in the popularity stakes!

Connectivity is obviously a major part of the uemis' development and the use of a dedicated internet-based logbook browser means that no software or specific operating system is required to transfer data to a home PC or Mac.

A unique username and password allows easy synchronization of the SDA to uemis’ own secure server and also gives the advantage of being able to access your logbook from any online computer within seconds.

For the ‘Facebook Generation’ the opportunity also exists to share as much, or as little, of your own personal information, logs, qualifications, experiences and photographs with fellow uemis users via the worldwide web.

As with any new product there’s always scope for a little tweaking here and there and while there are currently no dive planning, trimix, or gauge-only modes, all three are in development for 2010, with the trimix upgrade expected around March and rebreather software planned for the following year.

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