Thinking Diver

Where divers think about stuff


Dive computers Reviews – Part Two – the Liquivision X1

by Erik Dasque

Disclaimers

  • A decompression computer is not a substitute for planning your dive and carrying decompression tables. Plan your dive, dive your plan and carry backups tables.
  • I paid full price for my Liquivision X1 (bought it used off a bloke in Canada) but I will be getting a Liquivision X-link for 50% of the list price because I am working on a 2 pager about using the X-link with a Dive Rite O2ptima for Liquivision.
  • My experience is with the X1 is only with the V-Planner Live software installed. This post relates to this particular configuration unless otherwise noted.

Experience

When I bought my rebreather, I already had a Delta-P VR3. In addition to that deco computer (which I bought the Trimix and Rebreather/PPO2 software pins for) my O2ptima comes with a Hammerhead primary handset that’s deco-enabled (Buhlman GF). Having just spent so much money on This is how bright the X1 display is !diving equipment I wasn’t looking to buy a new deco computer.

Six months later, my dive buddy Sam bought a Megalodon Copis rebreather. Since the basic Copis doesn’t come with a deco capable computer (really just a PPO2 display) he chose to buy the new Liquivision X1. At the time, not much was known about the X1 but he had seen me struggle with the VR3 and thought the user interface was awful. The idea of being able to chose which software to put on the X1 was attractive as was its user interface both in terms of tapping and screen display.

I actually didn’t think the X1 was a great choice for him at the time as the X-link wasn’t available (it still isn’t at the time of this writing but should ship mid-december 2008) so the X1 could only give him deco information based on a pre-set PPO2 as opposed to reading it real time the way my connected VR3 did. P1010902I thought this was especially true of a manual CCR like the Copis he bought. In any case, he loved his X1 and after diving a few times with him as my VR3 failed again and again I went ahead and bought a used (but never wet) X1.

Today I am really glad I made this choice. I have made 23 dives and spent 30 hours in the water (saltwater dives from 20ft to 173ft) with the X1, had no issues with it and I must say I am loving it.

V-Planner Live

Sam and I have been planning our dives using the V-Planner software for a little while now. People have varied degrees of success planning a dive with V-Planner in a way that’s consistent to a VR3 (even a VPM enabled one). Also the VR3 is very very conservative and when I was diving it in conjunction with the X1 and the Hammerhead, the VR3 would always keep me in the water much much longer than any of the other two. As mentioned previously, the X1 comes with no software (but a simple Bottom Timer), you chose what you want to put on it. Two different programs exist for it. I bought V-Planner Live which gives me the exact same profile than V-Planner the desktop version. An alternative to V-planner exists in GAP X1, based on Buhlmann GF (currently priced at ?80 – will eventually be ?120) but I have no experience with it. V-Planner Live on the X1 is extremely easy to use. The diver interacts with the computer by gently tapping it. While it can be odd at first, it becomes natural very quickly. The display is astonishingly bright and the V-Planner UI is very clear and shows on the small X1 screen all the information you need on a dive.

Pros/Cons

Pros

  • Extremely clear and bright display
  • Choice of software and deco models
  • Small unit, easy to throw in your laptop bag
  • USB Connection and dive log transfer (PC only, I use VMWare Fusion on a Mac)
  • Support for the X1 and V-Planner live available on Liquivision Forums
  • On V-Planner Live, bailout gas and dive planning are very easy to configure. Bailout to OC is very easy to do.
  • Great UI with V-Planner combined with the great physical interface (tapping & OLED screen) of the X1
  • V-Planner Live is updated often as is the X1 firmware and easy to upload on the X1
  • Integrated electronic compass (though I had difficulties with it)
  • PPO2 monitor available soon (Dec 2008) which monitors up to 3 O2 sensors (and CO2 when available)
  • Battery will hold charge for a week of diving in most cases


X1 Simulation Dive

Cons

  • Wristband looks inadequate. I replaced mine with a depth compensating (found on the VR3 or Hammerhead handsets). DSS also makes a bungee mount for the X1.
  • Battery is potted in and as such not user replaceable. A replacement program exists but many are concerned by the long term impact.
  • In a humid environment the wet switches prevent the X1 from shutting down the display which can affect battery performance.
  • Pricey at US$1750 but similar in price to Trimix-enabled, constant PPO2 VR3. ShearWater Pursuit is $150 cheaper.
  • No dive planning feature in V-Planer Live

Liquivision X1 vs Delta-P VR3

P1010907

Delta-P VR3 Liquivision X1 Comment
Form Factor Large, irregular shape, heavy Small, compact Smaller is probably better in this case since the screen is very readable
Battery User replaceable AA (kinda) Potted, Lithium, Rechargeable All AA batteries do not work well in the VR3
Physical Interface Buttons tend to stick. Long hold / Short Press Tap. Can be too sensitive and get selected by mistake
Display Readable, adequate Very bright Older eyes tend to prefer the color VR3 instead of the monochrome version
Deco Algorithm, Muti-gas Buhlman standard (VPM available with additional license purchase). Time tested implementation with great record. Trimix with additional software license VPM or Buhlman GF. Time tested in V-Planner but fairly recent in V-Planner Live. Trimix & Nitrox. VR3 is know to be very conservative, too conservative possibly
Support, firmware/software No repair center available in the North America. Must ship to the UK. Firmware/software not user updatable. Health check with Firmware Update is $199.95 !!! Ship back to the manufacturer in Canada for any issues. Firmware/software is user updatable Of course what works for me in the US wouldn’t be ideal for a Europe or Asia based customer
Configuration of gases, bailout, dive parameters Most difficult Very easy But some people don’t care about UI
Interface to computer Antiquated software (no really, Windows 3.1 style), some can never get it working. Windows Only. Requires separate cable and license purchase Out of the box, USB. Windows only. Integrates with V-Planner family Being able to download your dives easily has become a requirement, I believe.
Rebreather usage Fixed PPO2 (requires license purchase) or PPO2 monitor (One cell only, requires separate cable and license purchase) Fixed PPO2 or PPO2 monitor (3 O2 cells + 1 CO2 – requires purchase of X-Link module) The VR3 always read the 4th cell higher than the Harmmerhead read cells 1,2,3. Looking forward to monitoring cell 1,2,4 with the X-link module on the X1

Cost

As we can see the cost of the X1 and VR3, set up for external PPO2 CCR VPM Trimix deco diving are very similar (and outrageous):

Delta-P VR3 Liquivision X1 Shearwater Pursuit
Base Unit $1474 $1750 $1195
VPM $290 $125 (V-Planner Live) N/A
Trimix $200 built-in V-Planner $250
Download Support $230 comes with unit comes with unit
CCR (Constant PPO2) $100 comes with unit $250 *
CCR (PPO2 sensor support. no cable) $225 $675 $250*
Total for CCR setup $2519 $2550 $1745 (No VPM, pre-configured)*

* Shearwater Pursuit is $1745 if bought pre-configured as Trimix w/CCR External PO2 Unlock

Conclusions

The Liquivision has performed flawlessly for me. P1010910The combination of a great hardware platform with a great implementation of V-Planner on a dive computer is a killer combo. I have been diving the X1 as a backup first (with the Harmmerhead and the VR3) but since my VR3 failed again halfway through my trip it became my secondary deco computer quickly. I really look forward to the X-Link which will allow me to monitor 3 cells (1,2,4) and get deco information based on actual PPO2 throughout the dive. One might think that my opinion is biased by my dislike for the VR3 but don’t be fooled, the X1 really is the next generation of dive computers and I highly recommend it.

In an earlier post, a commenter said the following:

Why would anyone give a fuck about the interface

My response:

Because if I can’t remember from trip to trip how to do things on [the deco computer], all other aspects of the computer are irrelevant. If it takes forever to configure my bailout gases, calibrate, change any settings, it’s not a good interface therefore not a good computer, that’s why ? Is the interface irrelevant in Windows, Mac OS X ? No, it’s the most important thing for desktop operating systems. Here you have a device which you have to manipulate often, sometimes in very stressful situation (bailout…), in the water, with dry suit gloves on, in current. The interface has to be stellar, it’s a key component. Lots of people like to follow the bouncing ball with the VR3 but with the arrival of Shearwater, Nitek X and X1, they no longer _have_ to.

Also, and though all of my diving with the X1 was on a rebreather, the computer would perform equally wonderfully as an open circuit deco computer.

What’s next ?

I haven’t gotten my hands on the X-Link (PO2 module for the X1) yet so look forward to a review together with the new version of V-Planner Live. I would like to get my hands on a Shearwater Pursuit (which comes highly recommended and can be configured as a solenoid controller), Dive Rite Nitek X and an OSTC soon as well. I also look forward to trying out the new Delta-P VRx which I am hoping corrects many of the user interface issues I found on its older sibling.

Coming soon as well is an article by Soggy on why he doesn’t dive with a deco computer.




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