The fun they had at TEKCamp

An awesome week of meeting the best UK technical divers and learning from them

Diving in The Red Sea

Warm water, clear visibility makes for a great holiday!

Malinbeg Harbour

Often, the simplest local dives are the best.

Review: xDeep Black BT OLED bottom timer

source: xDeep


My twitter chums will know I've been after a trimix computer with one of those fancy displays for a long, long, long, ... long, time. Subsequently I never bought one; the reason being I prescribed to a GUE tech 1 class and chose to technical dive with the aid of a simple bottom timer. As a result, all I wanted was a simple bottom timer. That said, not all bottom timers are simple; and some are less simple than others. The xDeep Black BT is one such device; it's a bottom timer ... and then some.



Price


£219



What's included


In the box


  • Bottom timer 
  • Strap 
  • USB connector 
  • USB cable (also acts as charging cable) 


Construction

xDeep Black BT


The glass display is housed in a black square of monolithic polyacetal (looks like metal, but it's not); made up of two pieces held together by some attractive metal screws. There are two silver push buttons (one on each side), drilled holes in each corner to facilitate bungee, and 2 slots to allow the use of the enclosed strap. The unit feels surprisingly lighter than expected, but not fragile.

USB connection

Push button controls




Looks

xDeep Black BT


The unit looks fantastic. The black finish isn't gloss, but it's not matt either; a sort of brushed effect with 'BLACK' etched into the casing. The glass display reflects nicely, and once lit up, looks great.



Features


  • Depth 
  • Max depth 
  • Average depth - resettable 
  • Time elapsed 
  • Stopwatch - resettable, pause, restart 
  • Clock 
  • Temperature 
  • Compass 
  • Logbook 
  • VSI - Vertical Speed Indicator 
  • Profile graph 
  • Alarms; depth, ascent, time, clock 
  • Battery level (in %) 
  • Rechargeable via USB 


Navigating the menus


I decided not to read the instructions and see how intuitive the timer was. Well, that's my excuse; In all honesty I was too lazy, but it was a good test nonetheless. The basic sequence is 'short press / long press' of the generous buttons that protrude slightly from the bottom of the display. The internet tells me that early VR computers used this system and it upset users greatly, but I found the xDeep Black BT easy enough to use. I was able to find everything I needed; and I'm a simpleton.


I quickly sussed how to access a demo dive, so I could establish how the compass worked, along with how to reset the stopwatch and average depth.

Main Menu

Settings Menu

Demo Mode


It was soon clear the xDeep Black BT is very customisable. You can choose any colour imaginable for whichever reading you like, or choose from the preset "themes."

"Pink Theme"

"Desert Theme"



Diving


The most important test was obviously how the unit dived. I opted for the bungee mount; the included strap was atrocious. The unit is lovely and neat, and quickly settled on my right forearm between the crook of my elbow and the dry ring system. I was initially concerned the folds of my drysuit would press the buttons, but no matter what way I bent my arm the timer remained in timer mode.


In water the timer came to life almost immediately. By 20m I was in the dull familiar surroundings of the lough, with 2-3m of muddy visibility. The timer was like a lighthouse; especially compared to my LCD mares puck. No more shining my dive light at funny angle in a vain attempt to read the display without washing it out.


Oled and led displays are common among the new breed of computers, and the OLED display of the xDeep Black BT is definitely a contender. My buddy was diving an OSTC and neither of us could see any real difference. Wifebuddy has a Liquivision Xen, and the xDeep Black BT is very similar. The viewing angle on the xDeep Black BT isn't as good as the OSTC or Liquivison Xen, but the timer was almost turned away from me when the display disappeared.


The display is logically laid out; a quick look at the timer supplied the critical information I needed during the dive. At the deco stop I played about with the resettable stop watch, and it worked a treat; two go's and I was able to speedily reset and return to the main screen.

Compass


I imagined the compass to be more of a gimmick, but to be honest, it was very good. I checked it against my tried and tested suunto sk7, and the bearings where identical. The compass display is also very clear; depth and dive time were still displayed along the top of the screen. It is also possible to pre program bearings to allow a route to be followed during the dive, and a return path is generated automatically. Very clever, but I'm not sure I could be bothered.



The VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator) is a bar that runs up the left hand side of the screen monitoring a divers ascent rate, and can be customised to monitor varying ascent rates at different depth ranges. It was accurate, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it once I'd noted it's function.


Logbook


Post dive, everything is there on one screen. It is logically displayed and has everything you could want to complete your log book.





PC connection


Thankfully the xDeep Black BT package contains a USB cable, that not only charges the unit, but also acts as a data cable allowing the logbook to be exported in .UDDF format. xDeep Black BT also informed me that any USB plug can be used as a charger if the voltage is correct; including phone charger plugs - but do check the voltage!

USB adapter clicks into place

USB cables plugs into adapter


Once connected via USB to the computer, the USB must be activated on the xDeep Black BT, then the computer will recognise it as a mass storage device. Amazingly it worked first go and was chatting away to my imac instantly. Simple instructions on the xDeep website also alllowed me to quickly register the unit and complete a firmware update.

"Start" USB for computer to recognise unit

"Stop" USB before disconnecting

iMac display once connected






Verdict


For £219 the xDeep Black BT is a bargain. The features are fantastic and the display is excellent - what else do you need from a bottom timer? I found the buttons easy to use and the menu system easy to navigate. The built in bungee mount works perfectly, i strongly recommend throwing away the strap; it's very, very bad.

The xDeep Black BT is definitely a valid contender to the Liquivision Xen; a question that most divers are pondering. The Xen has a bigger price tag at a £389, offers similar options, but lacks the compass. Is the xDeep Black BT as good? Better? It's a tough question. The only thing about the Xen is it feels weightier in the hand, and exudes pure luxury. It's kinda like comparing an iphone to other smart phones; they all do the same job, some phones offer more, but the iphone just 'feels' better. I suspect the Xen will survive the new rival.

Xen vs. Black BT


Bang for your buck; the xDeep Black BT is fantastic value for money, and it will win over divers wanting an OLED back up timer to their trimix computer, or those on a budget. The 'bottom timer only' divers may decide differently, but you would need to dive each unit independently to appreciate the subtle advantages of the Xen.




A word of warning though - I put a few scratches on the screen almost instantly; and I haven't a clue how. If you buy an xDeep Black BT; put a screen guard sticker on ASAP.


I like it!

PROS: OLED, rechargeable via USB, PC connection included, excellent value, upgradable to trimix computer.


CONS: viewing angle not as good as other OLED gauges, screen easily scratched, rubbish strap.




Safe diving folks!

I are diver gets arrested




Over the years I've been reasonably consistent in upholding the law, and generally staying out of trouble. Well, aside from a substantial number of parking tickets which almost resulted in my arrest on Xmas eve; but that's a tale for another day. The last few weeks have seen me once again in the sights of the justice department, except this time it's a little less physical. The internet police got me.



Bastards.





As I'm sure you're aware I'm prone to using pictures in my posts. I've also, on occasion, modified a few pictures with my astute photoshop skills. Seamless skills in fact huh?

Anyway ... It has transpired someone has taken the hump and reported this avid dive blogger to the internet police. The internet police aren't best happy and I had several posts removed.









Since my 'cease and desist' order I have been repairing 'infected' posts and restoring equilibrium to the blogosphere. It has taken time, plus I've been working much too hard lately to help pay for the upcoming dive plans. These factors, and a few others, have stalled my blog post production output from mediocre, to miserable.


So, that's where I'm at. I've been caught mucking about with pictures I don't own, and with increasing hits every month it appears I need to stop. I understand it's all my fault, I fully admit to simply lifting random pictures of bacon from the internet and using them on my blog. Doesn't mean I like getting caught though.


I have attempted to come up with various solutions, but they were all crap. An evening with my twitter chums revealed I had no option other than to draw my own pictures. I can't draw. I don't even own a pencil. 



So, it's Microsoft paint.








Ta da!



So, from now on all my images will be all my own work or photos I have taken personally. They're all copyrighted too, so if you steal them I'll have the internet police arrest you; on Xmas eve.