Monday, January 28, 2008

The VR3 vs the new X1 (aka Picking a Helium Computer)

Want a VR3 but can’t afford one ?
There are a number of items that seem to be permanent fixtures on any technical diver’s wish list… a dry suit (because 3 hrs in the water is a long, long time and hypothermia is still not a fun way to spend an afternoon), a rebreather (come on, you can admit to wanting one, even if you currently think all rebreather divers are elitist because they can stay down for longer and do less deco) and of course, a Helium computer.
Up until the arrival of the VR3 if you wanted to dive Helium you had to do it the old fashioned way - with tables you cut on land using something like GAP or V-planner. This meant that you had little flexibility in the water, especially if something went wrong. Now I guess I need to confess up front that I sometimes fall into the category of old fashioned and suspicious of ‘new;’ things when it comes to some aspects of diving. I had heard about VR3’s but did not really see why I should drop 17k on one. Especially as I would need two (in case one did some unplanned load shedding (South African joke… we are going through power cuts thanks to the lack of planning by our national electricity provider)). I did not need a fancy computer that did all that for me underwater. I already had a decompression program and as all deep diving needs up front planning, what was the point ? Dynamically diving helium just seemed like a recipe for disaster. I could see diver's willy nilly doing 2 hour dives just on their computers and running out of gas having not done any up front planning.
Then I went as surface marshall on Dave Shaw’s dive and was blown away by the sheer power and flexibility of the VR3. Every diver had one, and thanks to those elegant little devices, I was able to leverage every spare minute out of every spare diver I had. I needed to. When Dave did not return all the deep support divers overstayed waiting for him (thanks to their VR3’s (and their rebreathers, but once again, that is a different story)). When Don Shirley blew his electronics at 127 meters and did his emergency ascent, followed by a near lethal ICDS hit (long explanation short, an inner ear bend) the day really fell apart. Out of 8 support divers I had 6 that had been to 100 meters and deeper, leaving me with two divers who had not started their dives and now had to manage continuous support for at least 4 hours (which was how long it would take to get one of the other guys out of the water and some surface interval time). Oh, and they had to do the first three hours of this in the 30 meter to 50 meter zone. Suddenly the idea of a VR3 was not so silly. I bought one.
And boy has it changed the way I dive. The decision to dive helium as opposed to air has always been one I have left to deep dives (deeper than 65 meters). And because of the inconvenience of having to bend my normal computer, cost, planning etc the number of deep dives I used to do was minimal. These days (thanks also to a rebreather which makes the cost of helium affordable as I hardly use any on a dive) my VR3 means I get to dive more. I need another one in fact, if it was not for the price.
As a technical dive school Liquid Edge firmly believes in two things. 1) Removing limits (Score one for the VR3) and 2), Finding and providing dive gear at affordable prices. Which is where VR3 loses out. If you were to ask local shops for a price on a VR3 you should expect an answer of around 17k for a ‘fully loaded’ (rebreather, helium capable) VR3. If you balked at that (which I certainly did) and started to do some internet research you would find that divers warehouse in the UK ( will sell you the same item for £749 (excl UK VAT). Now, even at the pound exchange rate (R14,3 on a good day), shipping (add £70) and Vat on this side (14%) you are looking at R13,400. That is way more reasonable than 17k.
But we wanted to know if their was an alternative and guess what we found ? A brand new Helium computer that is looks like it out classes VR3 in all aspects, not the least of which is price. The Liquivision X1 (
Here is a quick product comparison:
- Downloadable (VR3 - Add £80)
- Depth Rating 350 m (VR3 - 150m)
- Tested to 450m
- Sealed unit (VR3 not)
- Uses either Gap or Vplanner (VR3 uses decoplanner)
- Tap Switches with x, y axis (VR3 is push buttons)
- Rechargeable Battery (40 hr life) (VR3, user replace'able)
- Upgradeable from internet (VR3 - not)
- Price R13k (VR3 R14.7k)
(Please note prices above are based on R7.40 to the $ and R14.3 to the £)
Finally, some choices! I have mine on order and will certainly tell you guys all about it when it gets here.

No comments: