VR3 Dive Computer

Why should I be reviewing a dive computer which is no longer manufactured and the product support may be phased out? Well read on and see why!

The VR3 computer is no longer manufactured, it was replaced firstly by the VRX and latterly by the NHe03 so the hardware technology is dated or should that read mature? One of the banes of my professional life is purpose made and manufactured computer hardware, it seems no sooner than it's delivered than it's obsolete and the design boys are trying to 'sell' something new. The fact that the old, obsolete equipment is now fully debugged and working great seems to be forgotton in the drive for new smaller, whizzier things.

So it is with the VR3 it's a mature design that works, on a world-wide stage there have been 'tens of thousands' of these computers sold. I would say that in my tech-dive team it is the back up computer of choice with all of the guys and gals owning at least one, yeah I have a shearwater and Andy uses a X1 but we also carry a VR3 as a back up-back up. Look around any UK dive boat and you will see a surprising amount of divers still using the VR3, it's popular, robust and still out there.
If you look at on-line forums you will be amazed at the amount of negative comments aimed at the VR3, 'they break down', 'the service support is terrible', etc. My take is that if there are 1% of customers who are unhappy then there will be 'a few hundred' divers out there who want to tell the world their horror story. I can only say that the customer service I have encountered has been excellent and I have had no issues with the operation of the computer, it works every time and gives loads of warning about low battery levels.

The computer is very well built with reviewers and on-line forums joking that it can be used to break open lobsters and the like, yes it's robust but that is no excuse to abuse it, take care with the push-buttons and make sure that you have a screen protector fitted to ensure that it retains some value!

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Glue the adjustable end down when you have a snug fit
Its a funny shape and to date I have not managed to find any aftermarket bungee mounting arrangement so favoured of tekkies, this means you are stuck with the existing 'stretchie' wrist band and awkward plastic clips, to make sure that the strap doesnt loosen mid-dive I have applied a liberal coating of aquasure to the clips, this means its a wee bit slack when I wear without my dry-suit but I don't do a huge amount of warm water diving so this isn't an issue.
One area where I do have a bit of a gripe is that there are no obvious attachement points for a secondary strap, I have ended up using a small moulded loop, that I think is supposed to be for the connector cap strap, and securing onto this a lanyard using fishing line and crimps, not really ideal but as a secondary loop, well acceptable.

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The built in restraint, not really big enough.....

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The same clip with lanyards attached

Fortunately the battery change is easily done at home, with a small tool provided. I would recommend that you look on youtube to see how the change is carried out and please change the o ring. Using the old o ring is a false economy which increases the risk of the battery compartment flooding.

The VR3 uses a modified Buhlmann ZHL16 algorithm, the use of this model does cause some on-line arguments with its detractors complaining about extended shallow decompression obligations with long stops at 4.5m in comparison with computers using other algorithms. My take is that I would rather spend time in water than in a helicopter and the pure maths, based on the quantity of computers out there and the dives conducted, is that the algorithm works so use it. If you would rather wait in the boat whilst I complete my deco, then fine use a computer with a more aggressive deco model.

The computer holds up to 10 gas mixes so even the most ardent of twin-set-tekkie should find that his deco gases are covered along with any slightly different mixes which may be used in emergency situations. Navigation to select the gases is simple for the more technically minded, however if you are a technophobe make sure you know the sequence of buttons to push and the prompts that you will see on the screen!

I would say that you should aim for a computer with the '08 software update, the screen is colour and the set-up is a wee bit easier, not that the set-up is an issue second hand units are already set-up!

Now costs, back in the day a fully pimped VR3 will have cost you around £1000, now you can obtain the same computer with box and manual for around £250 from Ebay, or similar on-line auction site. Now that's a lot of computer for your money and it's already set-up! At the moment the VR3 does have a trade in value of 25% of the cost of the Liquivision X1 which retails at about £1200, so if the X1 is the computer of your dreams it may be worth buying a cheap 'n' battered ol' VR3 to save a few quid.

Richies Ratings value 10/10 You get a lot of computer for your money :-)
Richies Rating features 7/10 It's all there just not easy to navigate around, not a computer for the technophobe!

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