The new Mares Matrix gets its moniker from its high-resolution, full dot matrix display. It’s a nice looking gauge strapped to your wrist but does it have what it takes to get you down and back?
As a watch the Matrix has all you need including some rugged good looks. It uses four buttons to navigate through menus and settings. The operating system is an easy study with the Quick Start Guide and Manual provided. On the surface the Mares Matrix offers two different watch displays. The first shows the time in the center with a choice of alternate data above and below. Day/Date, or alarm can be seen above while Temp, or Battery life can be seen below. Press a button and the face changes to an analog dial. The day/date are seen in a window at the three-o-clock position. A digital compass can be accessed in the watch mode allowing you to set a bearing even before you suit up. The Matrix also has dual-time and stopwatch functions.
Mares Matrix Product Information
As a scuba diving dive computer the Matrix offers all the features most sport divers would need. Dive Mode can be set to Air, Nitrox, or Gauge. In Dive Mode the main information displayed is Depth, Dive Time, NDL plus a tissue loading bar graph. Along with this information you can select a variety of data to be shown such as Max Depth, Avg Depth, Temp, and Time. In Nitrox mode you can also see MOD Depth, O2%, ppO2%, and CNS%. There is an alternate screen that offers a “Profile” view with the current Depth and Dive Time displayed.· The Matrix can track up to 3-gas mixes from 21% to 99%, and offers automatic Safety Stop and Deep Stop functions. The Matrix uses the RGBM Mares-Wienke decompression model of 10 compartments, plus you can set an additional Personal safety factor in the Dive Setting menu.
The digital compass has a nice display despite the limited size of a watch face. It uses a compass rose graphic with the four cardinal points and marks every 30-degrees. The numeric heading is displayed at the center of the screen with current depth, NDL, and stopwatch at the bottom. The “Full Tilt” function allows use up to an almost vertical position. In watch mode the compass times-out in 8-seconds but there is no time-out in dive mode making it easy to stay on course. A reference bearing can be set and additional symbols appear indicating 90, 120, and 180-degree marks if you wish to navigate a square, triangle or reciprocal course respectively.
The Mares Matrix has the usual compliment of alarms and warnings. One we hadn’t seen before is their Fast Ascent safety feature, which will lock the computer into Gauge Mode for 24 hours if the diver makes a rapid, uncontrolled ascent. This occurs if the diver ascends at a speed of 40-feet per minute or faster for over two-thirds of the ascent from a depth greater than 40-feet. This feature is designed to caution the diver from making a repetitive dive after such an ascent but it can be selected off before the dive.
The Matrix logbook can store up to 35 hours of dive time. It offers two screens of dive data plus a history of total dive stats. The included PC/MAC interface can be used to download and store all your logbook information. The Matrix uses a rechargeable lithium battery that can be charged from your laptop or outlet using the USB charging cable provided. You can expect about 10 hours of diving on a full charge but backlight and compass usage affects battery duration. If you are wearing the Matrix as a watch then you should get about two weeks of run time between recharges. If you are going on a week long dive vacation make sure to bring an outlet plug like what the iPhone uses to recharge if you don’t want to bring your laptop.
So how did it work in the real world?
We took the Matrix out for a weekend of diving to see for ourselves. After going through the owner’s manual and setting the Matrix up to our liking we placed the watch in its charging cradle to make sure we had a full charge.
The rubber strap is soft and comfy with enough adjustment to fit over a wetsuit cuff with a few notches to spare. The screen is easy to read in bright sunlight and is uncluttered and clean with just the most important information displayed. Instead of having alternate display pages the Mares Matrix keeps the most critical data on the main page and allows you to choose what other info will be seen on the main page. This is the same in Dive mode with the exception of a “Profile” page that gives you a graph of the dive.
To prepare for the first dive we set the Mares Matrix into Pre-Dive mode. This let us check battery status and the parameters we had previously set. The Matrix is wet-activated and will switch to Dive Mode upon descent if you forget. The main Menu page was very easy to navigate and made adjustments quick and simple. You scroll through the menu options and select by pressing and holding one button. At any point you can back out of the menu one page at a time or all the way. There is even an “Off Mode” in the “Settings” menu so you can conserve battery life.
The display in Dive mode is bold and easy to read. Depth is seen at the top while NDL is displayed in the center with dive time and other selected data at the bottom. A large tissue loading bar graph on the left side is easily understood at a glance, and the backlight offered good illumination when needed.
We liked that the compass stayed on when activated and remained on until we turned it off. It displayed critical data, Depth and NDL along with the compass rose and numeric heading. This is one of the best compass displays we have used in a “Watch” computer. The compass graphic was intuitive and the bearing reference and symbols took the math out of course changes. The dial is responsive and the fact that it actually looks like a regular compass was a plus. During our ascent the speed was displayed numerically and was sensitive to changes. There is a warning if you exceed 30-ft/min. An alarm goes off and the message “Slow Down” is displayed until the ascent slows. If the rate of ascent exceeds 40-ft/min the message “Too Fast” is shown. If this rate continues for two thirds of the ascent from a depth greater than 40-feet the Matrix will lock out and function only as a depth gauge and timer after surfacing. We didn’t test this function and take them at their word. The automatic Safety Stop feature came on at 20-feet to remind us to take a few minutes before the final ascent.
Upon surfacing the Matrix entered “Surfacing Mode” which allows you to re-descend and continue your dive without starting a new dive profile if you just came up to get your bearings. It displayed a 3-minute countdown, a profile of the dive, max depth and dive time. After being on the surface for 3-minutes the Matrix went into Post Dive Mode and logged the dive.
The Logbook is selected from the main Menu page. The first line of the Logbook is a history page that tracks your total number of dives, hours diving, deepest depth, and longest dive. Each line after is a dive entry that includes two pages including 12 different data points plus a Profile graph of the dive. This information is also seen when connected to your computer. At the end of the weekend we still had 65% battery life. A low battery warning will appear if the battery level drops below 25% and the computer should be recharged before starting another dive.
We like the size and clarity of the display and how the information is laid out. The Mares Matrix had all the functionality we needed and then some. The compass was easy to read and functioned with the action of a traditional compass. The only thing we didn’t need was the multi gas feature, which would be fine for a more technical dive.
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.