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A Friend’s First Impressions of the VRx July 17, 2009

Posted by Chris Sullivan in Equipment.
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I received this email a few weeks ago from one of my diving buddies. He’s getting along with it a bit better now that he’s getting to know its quirks. In contrast, I knew everything about operating my Shearwater Pursuit before I got into the water. It hasn’t surprised me once. The variable response time I noticed when playing with it at a dive club meeting was the biggest turn-off for me personally, and he notes that in these comments. The Liquivision X1 appears to be a great computer as well, but at double the price of the Shearwater it’s a bit steep.

I thought I’d pass along my experience so far with my VRx.  The report is less than complete and less than uplifting.

It starts with the strap….

Apparently a good design the strap can be deceiving.  First, as you may have discovered, you have to remove those two screws in order to get the strap in place.  When I was at the St. Lawrence with Mari I tried to get the strap in without removing the screws.  I placed the VRx face down on the plastic bed liner in my SUV and futzed around with it for a while.  I was rewarded with micro-scratches on the surface of the VRx.  Whatever you do, DON’T LIE THE THING FACE DOWN.  Out of all my instruments this is the least durable.  I decided not to dive it that day as losing it in the river on its maiden voyage would suck.

I finally got the strap installed correctly a few days later.  What a major pain in the ass.  Here’s another thing I discovered;  The strap’s clip, which seems like a good idea, is a major pain in the ass when gearing up.  I have mine snug for my drysuit and you have to ask someone to hold one end for you lest you have to rest the fragile surface of the thing on something that might scratch it (ie: something not a gas, although I’ll bet gas could scratch it too).

As I’m sure you have, I’ve been farting around with the VRx and I believe I’ve got the profiles set up correctly.  I was going to Big Bay Point to DM for Len this past weekend.  I figured an Air profile would be good.  Nothing too complex.  One thing I did notice is that sometimes the thing slows down like a Windows machine that’s been running for a couple of weeks on end.  That scares me as the software is doing something bad.  Other times it’s very snappy though.  The menus are a bit arcane and I’ve found myself lost and/or confused several times.  That, however, can be fixed with training.

Ok, so now its on my left wrist in the pole position with the EMC-16 further up my left arm as backup.  Lenka (this new Divemaster Candidate) and I are off to set the flag.  SPLASH!  We start swimming out and a few feet down I see my Cochran in dive mode but not the VRx.  It seems to take longer (deeper) to decide the dive has begun.  Now for the problem;  I couldn’t read the freaking thing at all!  I don’t know if it was the color (more on that later) or the terribly small font on the tiny screen but I could barely make out the readings.  I could clearly read my Cochran and even the small hash marks on my compass.  Bear this in mind though;  I wear bifocals and my prescription should be updated.  I’ve been putting it off but plan to get re-tested.  At that point I’ll update my mask script too but even for now I can still use the EMC-16.

I don’t know how great an idea color actually is since wavelengths disappear with depth.  I guess if the “emitter” is close enough to your eye (say on your wrist for instance) you can still make it out.  I could clearly see the color red at 40 feet but I could barely make out the depth or dive time.  Good thing I didn’t have to go into deco.  The color issue, however, was resolved for me.  After the third dive the color feature turned off just like it said in the manual.  It’s only turned on for three dives as a teaser.

I did enter the PIN as instructed by the manual.  That was the biggest pain in the ass I’ve had in a while.  None of the advanced features turned on (eg: color, gas management, big fonts, games, etc…).  Brad said we got everything but the PDF reader.  That is odd as the PDF reader comes with the “Games” option.  The Gas Management comes bundled with Big Fonts.  I smell a [charlie foxtrot] coming on…

The Logbook feature of the VRx is pretty cool providing dive information (differing slightly in both times and depths from the EMC-16) and graphs of the dive.  It would be nice to be able to move backward through the logbook rather than only forward but the Cochran can’t do that either.  Overall the VRx has a sweet logbook function.  I’d like to see what it can do connected to a PC.

I’d like to give you a more complete (and more uplifting) report but being unable to read the display made diving the VRx a bit difficult.

What’s worse is I got to talk to one of that group of Tec divers that show up at BBP every now and again.  They had just done a long deco dive and we were talking about computers. They use the Liquivision X1.  The little thing is tiny with an easy to follow menu system (using English words rather than pictures) and I was able to read the OLED screen very clearly from several feet away (and up close) despite the unit’s tiny footprint.  It was pretty damn impressive!

I’m not put off by the VRx but I either have to get the big fonts going or my script replaced before I can actually use it.  I don’t ever want to find myself alone with a deco obligation and a computer showing me a schedule I can’t make out.

PS:  Let’s dive soon (I’m away this weekend though)
PPS:  Chris – stop saying “I told you so”

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