We first checked out Atomic Aquatics’ Cobalt few days ago, back when they were still getting this fully-loaded data cruncher ready for market. At the time we were wowed by its cutting-edge design, but since it’s always nice to use a piece of gear in its finished form, now that it’s all buttoned up and in dive stores we thought we’d take another look at it.
The Cobalt we recently got a chance to test dive confirms what we concluded a year ago; that this is truly the ultimate in dive computer technology, and the epitome of a clean-sheet design. While there are many first-rate advanced-level dive computers available to recreational divers these days, from our perspective, you won’t find one with more features, that’s more intuitive, or that’s more user-friendly than the console-style Cobalt.
Atomic Aquatics Cobalt Product Information
The first thing that strikes you is its unique display. It uses a large OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen with big bright four-color digits against a black background. Digits are presented in various sizes and colors to draw attention to specific data. The contrast of bright digits against a black background makes the info literally pop off the screen and totally viewable regardless of angle when at depth, sitting in a boat’s cabin, or standing in shade. However, in direct sunlight the Cobalt’s screen can be a bit hard to read.
The display is divided into three basic sections. The top section gives green/yellow/red tissue loading bars over NDLs and dive time. When applicable, this is also where you’ll get safety stop and deep stop instructions, and if necessary, deco instructions. All are presented in the appropriate colors to reflect the importance of the info. The middle section contains current dive data like depth, max depth and temperature, along with a vertical ascent rate bar. This is also where the electronic compass is displayed when activated. The bottom section presents tank pressure (up to 5,000 psi at 1 psi increments), calculated gas time remaining, and other info related to gas mixtures.
But display screen aside, the real secret to this data cruncher is how simple it is to use. While it comes with one of the best owners manuals we’ve seen, full of four-color screen shots and virtually no computer-speak gobbledygook, this computer is so intuitive you don’t really need it.
Upon turning on the Cobalt you come to the Main menu, which gives you a choice of going right to Dive mode, or to a choice of five other modes, including Settings. From this mode you can program the entire computer—personal preferences, risk level, and all dive parameters—by following the screen prompts, each offering its own simple description. We can’t imagine how programming could be more straightforward than this.
The Cobalt is such a simple DC to use it’s easy to forget that it’s a full-blown advanced-level dive computer. It allows you to program up to three gas mixes to 99 percent O2 and to switch between them at depth. A full-function planner and 600-hour logbook are also on board, along with a great dive simulator and a 3D digital compass that will work at any angle and, once activated, will stay that way until you turn it off.
The Cobalt’s RGBM (Reduced Gradient Bubble Model) algorithm has been written especially for Atomic by Bruce Wienke and offers three use levels—standard (the most liberal), moderate, and conservative. These, too, are easy to program, plus you can add in personal information like age and exertion level which will have an impact on the algorithm’s conservatism level.
Last But Not Least
The Cobalt is powered by a lithium ion battery, and comes with an AC charger and a USB cord for charging off a PC. A PC download kit is included, and the DC is designed to allow periodic firmware updates to its operating system software to enhance performance and improve reliability. Depending on what you set the screen brightness to, the guys at Atomic say you can get 40 to 50 hours of dive time between charges. A really convenient practical feature of the Cobalt is its twist-on quick-disconnect fitting. This lets you detach the DC from your regulator system for between-dive data tracking or storage. After diving the Cobalt a few times we found that this quick-disconnect feature is something you’re going to want to make a habit of using, because water can get trapped inside the fitting. So not only does separating the DC from reg system make sense for secure storage, it also keeps the connection dry and corrosion-free.
If we were to designate a single scuba diving dive computer as the ultimate in cutting-edge technology, the Cobalt would have to be it. Even the most computer-challenged among us can operate this dive computer, without needing to open an owners manual, and without breaking a stress sweat. To our mind the Cobalt represents a giant step forward into the next generation of dive computing. Divers who want a feature-packed, easy-to-use, advanced-level, air-integrated, console-style dive computer simply can’t do any better than this.
I’ve been a diving addict since my 14th birthday when my parents took me to the Bahamas and had my first scuba diving experience. I’ve been an active diver ever since but in the last few years my focus shifted on sharing my thoughts and experience on diving gear, writing product reviews and gave up on organizing dive tours.