Atomic Cobalt Computer – Editor’s Choice Award!: It is so much more than brilliant

While the Atomic Aquatics Cobalt dive computer’s brilliant, full color high contrast AMOLED screen is what draws divers to this remarkable computer, its most innovative feature may be its least visible. We are taking about a feature that should be standard, but is sadly lacking on most dive computers … EASE-OF-USE.

Way back around of the turn of this century Pacific Northwest divers Elizabeth and Ron Russel were frustrated with complexity of dive computers. They decided that they could do better and set off to design the first dive computer that was simple to use. When they had their first prototype back in 2001, it was well before OLED was a practical technology for a dive computer. Much later, when Atomic Aquatics decided they wanted the Russels’ design to be their first dive computer offering and that Atomic wanted it to be a color screen, the Russels’ integrated the brilliance of OLED.

Atomic Cobalt ComputerSimple OOB (out of the box)

We always try to have both men and women test dive products for ScubaGadget articles. This is a perfect case to that point.

Chaela and I both opened our Cobalts at the same time. I, the geek of the family, started in on the manual, step by step. Normally, I do this with technical products and then explain to her how to use it. But a few minutes later, Chaela remarked, “This is simple to setup. I’m done.” Without glancing at the manual she had the Cobalt setup nearly complete and was ready to go diving. We both echoed the likely sentiments of Ron and Elizabeth before the birth of the Cobalt… “dive computers should all be easy to use.” Now we have one that is.

We have since shown the Cobalt to many divers and after they see the screen and say, “I want one,” they try playing around with the computer and like us, comment on how simple it is to find their way through the various screen settings. Besides the full text menus (no cryptics like TR-PC), everyone loves the huge buttons that are easy to feel and press.

Only one diver said to use, “no that is too bright, I do not want that distracting me during my dive.” But the screen brightness is fully adjustable for any light condition.

OLED is more than cute

As we at ScubaGadget have written many times before, and we repeat it here again, we cannot understand why dim, small font computers are still made. The Cobalt screen not only bright and multi-color, it is large and the numbers are big. It is actually the same screen found on the UEMIS Zurich computer that we loved until it went out of business. The value of having an OLED screen for me and likely most MNIDs (Mike Nelson Inspired Divers) is that we can read the numbers on the screen without glasses. You may think a large screen LCD screen would serve the purpose, but it is not so. The OLED super brightness and high contrast is what overcomes aging vision.

The OLED screen also helps avoid confusion that can happen when flashing number signs to your buddy to indicate your remaining air. With the Cobalt you can hold up your computer and it will be readable by your buddy from any respectable buddy distance.

Built in Compass

The computer features an easy to use compass that works at nearly any angle. To set it, you point it in the direction you want, and press the Select button on the console. Then, just keep the small green dot between the compass markers at the top of the display to keep to that heading. A reciprocal setting is automatically made for 180 degrees opposite your original setting. When you are ready to head back, you just keep the small red triangle in the middle of the compass markers. You can also click the compass off during the dive if unneeded. Without the compass the some of the numbers are large.

Other things we like

  • The Cobalt is air integrated via Kevlar hose that is thinner than the standard rubber hose. Any other HP hose will also work
  • The countdown for safety and deco stops are in seconds instead of having to wait the long pause between the minute only displays of other computers.
  • It comes with USB adapter for charging and syncing with a PC. It will not only sync with Atomic desktop software, but also with the popular Diving Log for Windows or Mac.
  • Two standard screen protectors are included. Unlike other computers that use snap on, hard plastic and very scratch prone screen protectors, the Cobalt includes the standard stick on screen protectors common with smart phones.
A few things that we would like to see or may be coming
The Cobalt firmware is easily upgraded. New features are in the works and will be available to current users at no cost.
  • A case: We were surprised that there was no soft carrying case like the one that comes with a Suunto Cobra. The Cobra case protects the computer both on and off of the regulator. We have heard that Atomic has realized this oversight and will provide one in the future.
  • The Cobalt does show the name of the user if you know where to look. But we would like to see it on the home screen so you can easily tell yours apart from your partners or among a group of friend’s Cobalts the minute you turn it on. You should not have to drill down to find the user’s name.
  • We like that Cobalt provides a screen protector skin, but we are going to try the Skinomi brand, which is more robust and easier to apply.

Bottom Line

We give the Atomic Cobalt 4.8 out of five stars, as well as our Editor’s Choice Award. It leads the field and sets the high bar for dive computer simplicity and the super bright screen makes it easy on the eyes for both reading and just for looks. We applaud Atomic for making their first computer offering an industry leader. It is great choice for any level air or nitrox diver. New divers should consider spending a bit more to get one from the start. Divers that were considering a UEMIS SDA before the bankruptcy of that company should look at the Cobalt.

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If you are at DEMA show 2011, you can visit the Atomic booth at #2477