COMPUTERScubapro Uwatec Smart Pro

Microbubble is the current buzzword among diving-computer algorithm writers. Physiologists have discovered that nitrogen coming out of solution in your body during decompression tends to form tiny bubbles in your bloodstream rather than diffusing directly to gas at the alveoli in the lungs, as was once thought.
     So there you are, letting a few of these microbubbles rattle round your system at the surface after a dive when you decide to pop back in and add a few extra with a repeat dive.
     These sub-clinical microbubbles may not give you any symptoms or cause any damage but they are very friendly towards each other. Given half a chance, they get together with any new bubbles you might make and form bigger ones. And if that happens - whammo! They party, and youre suddenly taking a ride in a helicopter to that friendly man with the small iron room closed by a big door.
     So the latest generation of computers has algorithms that take this into account and gives you reduced no-stop times and increased deco-stops for repetitive dives, to help prevent the worst from happening.
     The Uwatec Aladin was once the diving computer by which others were judged. In recent years, however, its popularity has waned, to the advantage of companies making computers that take more notice of the consequence of repetitive diving on existing microbubbles in the body.
     The effect is that those using older computers are out of the water, showered and changed for dinner while those using new-wave computers are still hanging about, going crinkly in the shallows.
     There may be some bold young divers who think that being first at the dinner table is important. Call me old-fashioned, but I opt for caution when my health is in the balance.
     But its not goodbye Uwatec Aladin and thanks for all the time with the fish. The vast range of Aladin models with the Buhlmann ZH-L8 ADT algorithm continues alongside a new generation of Uwatec Smart computers with the new ZH-L8 MB. This incorporates more advanced recognition of the circumstances that cause the formation of microbubbles.
     The user can select one of five additional microbubble-suppression levels, and have a better chance of beating his buddy to the shower.
     The new Scubapro Uwatec Smart Pro looks like the Aladin Pro Ultra, with its built-in screen-guard and adjustable elasticated strap, but it has some new features.
     These include a unique 32-bit microprocessor which gives the facility for a faster sampling rate than before, plus the increased memory that is essential to go with it. While some computers sample the circumstances of your dive twice a minute, the Smart Pro computer checks depth/time details up to 120 times a minute for fine-tuned calculations.
     When it comes to downloading this on to a PC later, a 4sec sampling rate is used for practicality. The SmartTrak software for this is included with the computer.
     Other advances include an infra-red wireless link to the PC, a more easily read LCD, a nitrox function that can be set in 1% increments from 21% to 100% O2, a gauge mode for those not using other gas mixes, and a user-adjustable maximum-depth warning.
     To meet the added-value challenge from competing brands, the Smart Pro also displays water temperature. There are only three water temperatures so far as I am concerned: comfortable, cold and Im out of here! A more useful icon is the one that tells you to what altitude you may climb after diving, invaluable for anyone who has to drive over a mountain on the way home.
     In the inevitable direct comparison to the Suunto RGBM100 algorithm used in the Vyper, the Uwatec Smart with a normal setting seemed slightly more cautious for a first dive but a lot less cautious as one got into a series of repetitive dives.
     I guessed rightly that it was the same as the original Aladin Buhlmann ZH-L8 ADT algorithm.
     Choosing one of the five more cautious microbubble levels will bring the Smart Pro closer into line, and possibly well behind it. However, pre-selection of which MB level is right can only depend on personal experimentation and the gut-feeling of the user.
     The computer also introduces the level-stop, said to be there to avoid microbubbles, marked MB. This is in addition to deco-stops, but the difference is not explained.
     Level-stops can be as short as a minute and cut in at depths deeper than you might be used to. However, I only saw a level-stop come up at 3m and, for me, a stop is a stop. I guess that missing a level-stop is not as bad as missing a deco-stop.
     You have to choose to set an MB-level. I used the Smart Pro for a week before I realised that I was missing this important feature. The manual explains how to change MB-levels but does not explain that this feature is not present at stage one.
     It also does little to explain how you should choose the MB-level thats right for you, apart from a vague reference to divers who might have a PFO, or hole-in-the-heart.
     In practice, I imagine this will depend on the computer your buddy is using and whether your surface interval is shorter than you would otherwise like. This might happen on a paid-for two-tank dive on which other divers have been a lot shallower.
     After exhaustive testing and comparison, I found that MB levels 1 and 2 approximated the same result in the stops that were required by the Suunto RGBM100.
     With these MB levels, level-stops often showed up as being needed at 3m while I was at, say, 20m, but cleared off long before they became significant.
     Most divers who buy a Smart Pro will probably never get round to selecting any of the MB-levels and will happily go on using it just as they would have used the older Aladin range. And why not It seems to work!
     I used to find the Aladin computer display one of the clearest to read, though there are certainly now some more legible ones on the market. The Smart Pro proved slightly less than clear when it came to setting up the unit with my personal preferences. I needed a magnifying glass to interpret the icons.
     Uwatec has once again stuck with wet-contacts for all the Smart Pros operations, but with so many rivals now using two or three buttons, this is no longer finger-licking good enough. Scubapro/Uwatec will surely have to follow the trend sooner or later. And operating the unit between dives was not as intuitive as is a menu-driven system, and I resorted to carrying the instruction manual with me.
     You need to interface the Smart Pro with a PC to change some of the user settings such as maximum PO2 level. Many divers who buy the Smart Pro might already be fans of Uwatec products and own the SmartTrak interface, but the manufacturer includes the necessary software as part of the package.
     I understand there will shortly be a Smart Com, the Smart equivalent of the older Aladin Air and air-integrated by hose. Surely a radio-linked Smart equivalent to the Aladin Air Z cannot be far behind.
The Scubapro Uwatec Smart Pro costs £375.

  • Scubapro UK 01256 812636,

  • Divernet Divernet
    + Algorithm with MB-levels safer for repeat dives, if you select it
    + Original algorithm still available for those doing single dives

    - How do you know which MB-level to set
    - If late to dinner, please start without me!