Summer Worsley, Dive Instructor

PRODUCT REVIEW

The Suunto D6i Novo

Suunto’s D series range of computers uses the same trusted Suunto algorithms. But these computers look more like watches than the bulky bits of kit you might have previously worn. Sleek and stylish, the D series is favored by dive professionals around the world. The D6i Novo is the mid-range version, offering more features for advanced divers while still retaining usability at an affordable price.

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Suunto D6i Novo on the go!

Photograph from suunto.com

Suunto D6i Novo Dive Computer: Key Specifications

  • Full continuous decompression algorithm – Suunto RGBM
  • Gas switching (up to 3 gas mixes, Air and Nitrox only)
  • Five modes: air, nitrox, gauge, freedive, and off)
  • In-built tilt-compensated 3D compass
  • Dive plan mode
  • Optional wireless air integration
  • Ability to upload detailed graphical logs and dive to your PC/Mac using Suunto DM5 software
  • Crystal display screen
  • User adjustable alarms
  • Max operating depth of 120m/393ft (depth rated to 150m)
  • Surface countdown timer
  • Apnea timer

Which is Better: The D6i Novo or the Shearwater Teric?

The Shearwater Teric is one of the closest competitors to the D6i Novo on the market. However, it’s feature rich (with a price to match) and may offer too many options for the average recreational diver.

The D6i is a solid recreational computer, sturdy, not too heavy, and able to keep you safe under all conditions. The Teric is predominantly aimed at divers who switch between recreational, technical, and occasional CCR (Closed Circuit Rebreather) diving.

While this may appeal to some, the majority of divers are looking for something that is easy to use at a reasonable cost. For the style conscious diver, the Teric’s slightly garish screen may also put them off. In addition, the Teric’s bells and whistles might be fun, but it’s sheer overkill for the majority of recreational divers.

Suunto D6i with watch-sized dive computer for those who take their diving seriously!
Photograph from Suunto.com.com

What You Need to Know About the Suunto D6i Novo

The D6i Novo has several impressive features. One of our review team members has been using this computer for a year and a half now. We asked them what they feel are the most useful and we’ve detailed those below.

Multiple Dive Modes

The D6i has five dive modes: air, Nitrox, freedive, gauge, and off. All of these are incredibly useful. Each mode allows divers to use their computers in whichever discipline they practice or across multiple diving disciplines.

For divers using standard compressed air on their dives, (or those who want to dive Nitrox on an air profile for added conservatism) the default air setting provides Suunto’s usual RGBM based decompression model. The clear and uncluttered display gives you exactly the information you need on your dive.

In Nitrox mode, the D6i will provide all the information given in the air mode with additional information on the ppO2 setting and the oxygen limit fraction (OLF) percentage. This computer calculates central nervous system (CNS) oxygen toxicity and oxygen toxicity units separately. It will display the larger of the two percentages in the OLF% field.

While we applaud Suunto and its reputation for safety, one minor issue the review team found during testing is that the ppO2 calculations regarding the maximum operating depth (MOD) are somewhat conservative.

Experienced divers may find that having their MOD further limited, when they know what the MOD is based on Dalton’s formula, is frustrating. One additional useful feature of the Nitrox mode is the possibility to gas switch (more about that below).

The Freedive mode allows the user to set up to five depth notifications as well as having a depth alarm. It can also be used as a surface interval timer.

Gauge mode turns off the decompression algorithm and allows a diver to use the computer as a bottom timer without it providing any decompression information. Useful for those who want a back up to another computer

Off mode allows for a lazy day splashing about in the pool or sea without worrying about accidentally activating the dive mode.

Gas Switching

The D6i allows you to switch between three gases. While not a full trimix tech computer, this can be useful for those doing deep air dives with multiple gases. The decompression model is based on your primary gas mix but allows you to switch to a mixed gas comprising up 99% oxygen. It’s also possible to specify the ppO2 and mix for each dive and cycle through them.

In-Built Compass

The compass feature on the D6i is one of the things that sets it apart from some of the other D series computers. Tilt compensation means that even if the compass is not completely level it still gives you an accurate reading.

Not only does it reduce the number of things you need to carry on your wrist, it means that no matter how you hold the computer you should still be heading in the right direction, as long as you’ve set your declination correctly of course!

Look and Feel

The D6i Novo has a classic design, which makes it look at home wherever you wear it. With its stainless steel bezel and sapphire crystal screen, it can be worn everywhere.

However, this display is not just cosmetic. Our reviewer is… well, to put it nicely, “gravitationally challenged”... okay they’re clumsy. However, despite all their spills and tumbles, they claim that never once have they managed to damage their computer. Its sturdy and rugged design ensures that it is protected.

Suunto D6i built sturdy underwater!
Photograph from Suunto.com

The Suunto D6i's Decompression Model

The D6i uses a proprietary form of the Reduced Gradient Bubble Model (RGBM) originally produced by Dr. Bruce Wienke in the early 2000s. Dr. Wienke has been working with Suunto on its decompression model since the 1990s.

The basis of all decompression theory is that nitrogen bubbles form in body tissues during a dive. As divers ascend, these bubbles need to be expelled from the body otherwise they grow too large and can cause decompression sickness (DCS). The various tissues in the body absorb and release nitrogen at varying speeds and these need to be accounted for while planning a dive as the deeper and/ or longer a dive, the more bubbles a diver accumulates.

The father of decompression theory, John Haldane, observed that DCS symptoms did not present if decompression ceilings were limited to half the previous ambient pressure. This lead to his development of schedules for five tissue compartments, where when the pressure has changed, the half-life of the compartment would see it gain or lose one half of the inert gas it could gain at the current pressure.

As more studies into decompression theory took place, questions arose about how bubbles in tissues formed. Following studies of pearl fishers and the fact they felt “better” if they incorporated a “deep stop” and did the deepest dive of the day first followed by progressively shallower dives, which seemed to go against conventional wisdom, people wondered if one of the issues that caused DCS was to do with “bubble seeds”.

While the origins of these bubble seeds are unknown, it is how they behave in relation to gas and pressure that has interested researchers. The idea is that as pressure decreases, dissolved gas in the tissues crosses the bubble boundary into the seed interior, increasing the internal pressure and causing the bubble to grow.

The RGBM model is based on the premise that during ascent and while at depth, the compression part of the dive, bubbles seeds will compress and stabilize at their reduced size. During the ascent/decompression part of the dive, off-gassing will occur at different rates according to the radius of the bubbles, meaning some will be off-gassing while others are potentially still on-gassing. The aim of RGBM is to minimize bubble growth and volume while also reducing overall decompression time.

What Does This Mean for the Diver?

So, what does all this mean for the average recreational diver using a D6i? It means that safety stops are mandatory, deep stops are encouraged, and divers will be penalized in terms of no-stop time and warnings if they do multiple deep dives with short surface intervals. Suunto’s modified RGBM is relatively conservative. Divers used to other algorithms may notice this.

All in all, it’s perfect for every day, recreational use and is one of the reasons Suunto computers, in general, are so favored by dive professionals.

Suunto’s After Sales and Servicing Support

Suunto has a good reputation for aftercare service. All of their dive computers come with a two-year guarantee from the date of purchase and this is extended to five years if the issue involves pressure sensor failure.

In the event a D6i Novo fails when out of guarantee, Suunto will still provide servicing. The computer will need to be sent to a service center where they will analyze it and provide the owner with an estimated cost of repair.

Should the owner not wish to repair the computer, it will be sent back. A fee will be charged for the analysis and postage costs. If Suunto can’t fix it then they will also offer a like for like replacement (if available) at a reduced cost. This means that even if the computer has been discontinued, they will offer you something very similar.

Obviously, normal wear and tear such as a broken strap or battery change are not covered by warranty.

A full list of Suunto’s worldwide service centers can be found on their website here

Suunto D6i - How to calibrate compass and set bearing

Any Ongoing Maintenance?

As with all scuba equipment, the D6i Novo should be washed in fresh water after diving. No one wants a computer clogged with salt! If any of the buttons or external parts seem crunchy or salty, use an old, soft toothbrush to help shift any stubborn crystals.

While this dive computer is quite sturdy, it is a precision piece of equipment and should not be dropped or knocked. It can stand the rigors of everyday life but care should be taken with it, however much our “gravitationally challenged” reviewer may swear by its prowess.

Although the silicone strap is durable, it should be checked on a semi-frequent basis for cracks and weak points. Jumping in and discovering that their computer has fallen off because the strap has broken is not a fun way for any diver to start their dive.

The D6i will display a warning signal when the battery needs changing. The average battery life is +/- 1.5 years.

Both battery and strap replacement should be done by a Suunto service center rather than attempted at home. Any leaks caused by opening up the computer at home will not be covered under the warranty.

A full copy of the D6i Novo manual can be found here

Summary

The D series has always been loved by those both those who dive professionally and those who want to subtly display that they are a diver. With the D6i Novo, Suunto has produced a good-looking, feature-rich piece of equipment that is simple to use and will fulfill most divers’ needs.

Manufacturer’s Specs and Features:

  • Size: 48.5 x 45.6 x 15.9mm / 1.91 x 1.8 x 0.63"
  • Weight: 128 g / 4.52 oz
  • Stainless steel bezel
  • Sapphire crystal display
  • Steel case
  • Silicone strap
  • Depth rated to 150m/450ft
  • Suunto’s RGBM decompression model
  • Gas switch compatible between three gases
  • Five distinct dive modes: air, nitrox, gauge, free, and off
  • Dedicated apnea timer plus a timer in air or Nitrox mode
  • 3D digital compass
  • User updateable firmware
  • Optional air integration system including current cylinder pressure and remaining air time
  • Dive planner mode
  • Detailed graphical logs and diving data downloadable to your PC or Mac with Suunto DM5 software
  • Comes with a USB data transfer cable

What We Like:

  • Ease of use – the same simple and intuitive menu design that can be found across all Suunto computers
  • Variety of modes
  • Tilt-compensated compass
  • Ability to switch between three gas mixes
  • Look and feel – a classic design that can be displayed in any setting

What We Don’t Like:

  • Slightly conservative interpretation of Dalton’s formula. This could be frustrating for certain divers
  • The anti-reflective coating on the screen is not great. On shallow dives and under bright sunlight glare is still a factor in reading the screen
  • The silicone strap can get a bit sweaty in hot weather

Buy This Computer If:

You’re a regular or experienced diver looking for a variety of features and possibly cross between multiple diving disciplines.

With its various modes, the D6i Novo is suitable for anyone who enjoys a range of diving activities. Its integrated tilt-compensated compass ensures you can find your way without having to clutter your wrist with extra items. Plus, with the known and trusted algorithm based on years of experience, the D6i Novo is perfect for the serious diver.

While it may not be completely suitable for tech diving, it can safely be used on deep air dives and offers a good back up in gauge mode to anyone using a technical computer. For frequent divers, it offers a decompression model that allows you to enjoy the underwater world safely, providing clear information.

And if none of that is enough to persuade you, well, it meets rule number three of diving: It looks cool!

D6i Novo has a classic design, which makes it look at home wherever you wear it. Photo from suunto.com

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