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Jumping into the once saturated dive computer market is the outdoor sports titan’s Garmin, with their Descent MK1.

Is the Descent MK1 worth the hype?

Is it right for you?

Do you even need a dive computer at all?

Here we offer a rundown of the features and functions of the Garmin Descent MK1, so you can decide for yourself if it is worth the investment.

Let’s dive right into it.

If the thought of delving into the world of dive computers gives you the jitters, we’ve compiled a list of the best dive computers to make your decision as easy as possible.

Initial Thoughts

The Garmin Descent MK1 combines the hugely successful Fenix 5X sports watch with diving capabilities similar to a Shearwater Teric.

Garmin are diving newbies but they have done very well here, making a computer that has pleased the critics, technical divers, and weekend warriors alike.

Though not technically perfect, the Garmin Descent MK1 appears to mark the start of a new era of multifunctional and stylish dive computers.

Why Get Your Own Dive Computer?

Once you’ve been diving for a while, you might start to wonder about what equipment you should buy for yourself – usually, a good place to start is finding the best mask for you. But after that, we very much recommend a dive computer.

Dive computers are an important bit of kit, though they can end up being the most expensive piece of equipment in your diving arsenal. That being said, the Suunto Zoop is a great starter watch at a low price.

Though buying your first dive computer can seem like an overwhelming task, there is a good reason for doing so. Back in the, possibly hazy, days of your open water qualification, you may recall using dive tables to calculate your no-decompression limits.


The tables are based off the same complex algorithms found within your computer, but this, minute-by-minute, account of your dive is much more accurate and based on real-time data, which means you can safely get the most bottom time out of your dive.

Additionally, a dive computer introduces extra safety features into your dive such as alarms and buzzers when you ascend too quickly, a measure much more sensitive than the simplistic and confusing “follow your smallest bubble”, which many are taught.

Most computers have an inbuilt memory system so you can access the data from your dives long after the boat has docked. Though some begin to erase dives after 100 or so, it gives you the time to scribble down your stats at your own pace or even upload the data to your laptop to observe your profile and dive stats in more detail.

Many liken diving without a dive computer to driving with no mirrors – once you dive with one, it’s hard to go back!

Garmin Descent MK1 Features

In addition to the standard catalog of capabilities found on any good dive computer, the Garmin Descent MK1 has a whole host of other tricks up its sleeve.

Before going into the exhaustive list, there are a few really cool things that the Descent MK1 does.

Garmin MK1 Dive ComputerIt combines the functionality of a fitness tracker, a smartwatch, and a dive computer. This means that, like an Apple Watch or the Garmin Fenix 5X, you can receive notifications, check the weather, change your music, access your calendar, and plenty more.

Its lustrous, sapphire crystal display is stylish, even if you know nothing about it’s diving capabilities. It can last over 19 days in this mode before needing a recharge.Garmin MK1 Dive Computer

Garmin is well known for their reliable and high-end fitness trackers and the Descent MK1 is no exception. It features an LED heart rate monitor on the back of the watch face as well as many different sports modes to choose from including swimming and climbing.

One of the most impressive diving features of the Garmin Descent MK1 is the navigational capabilities. With a full-color map face, underwater compass, and GPS entry and exit locations, you will never have to wonder where you are again.

It allows seamless changes between nitrox, trimix, apnea, and other modes, including the “apnea hunt” mode which ensures the watch is kept quiet and dim to avoid disrupting your prey. If you have yet to try enriched air diving, read our handy guide to scuba diving with nitrox.

A more complete list of the diving features can be found below:

  • Buhlmann ZHL-16c algorithm
  • Personalisable audio and vibration alerts
  • Single gas, multi-gas, gauge, apnea and apnea hunt modes
  • Customizable safety stops, deep
    stops and conservatism
  • Ascent and descent rate calculator
  • Auto start and end dive
  • Automatic altitude adjustments
  • 3-axis dive compass with changeable headings
  • 40 hours of battery life in dive mode
  • Compatible with all major smartphones
  • Stores up to 200 dives in 16GB
  • Easily changeable wrist straps + extra long strap

What Comes With It

Arriving in an elegant black box, the package arriving with the watch is minimal. In amongst the cardboard packaging nestles the watch itself, glimmering with its hardened crystal sapphire display.Garmin MK1 Dive Computer

The small booklet with instructions lies at the bottom, the first stop for getting your brand new watch in full working order. There is also the short, data/charging cable.

The standard model comes with black, rubber style bands, perfect for diving. All orders also come with an extra-long strap, a thoughtful addition to aid those diving in drysuits or bulky wetsuits.

Garmin MK1 Dive Computer

You can order this model with stylish titanium bands that are ideal for the office, but not for the ocean. As a result, these models come with the black silicone band too.

Background on Garmin

Garmin has long been a market leader when it comes to outdoor and sports technology. Aimed at the outdoorsy and adventurous, they have established a name for themselves as retailers of high-end, reliable technology.Garmin company

Their main export is sports watches but they offer a range of other technology, ranging from aviation navigational equipment to dog collar trackers.

Whilst rival companies like Fitbit have slowly been dominated by all-rounder technologies from the likes of Apple iWatch, Garmin diversified itself and now dominates its niche of more specialized technology for smaller groups of avid sportsmen and women.

With this first foray into the diving industry, it seems likely that they will expand into this new role as successfully as they have into other niches, though they will have to compete against established dive computer
companies like Shearwater, Suunto, Mares and Cressi.

The Competition


Nitrox Established Price
Yes 2008 $
Nitrox Established Price
Yes 2010 $

The Garmin Descent MK1 occupies a unique position within the market as an excellent “all-rounder” and if you are looking for a dive computer cum smartwatch cum fitness tracker, there is no better choice.

In fact, there is literally no other choice…

However, when it comes to the diving computer elements, it has several direct competitors with regard to functionality – The Suunto 9 and the Shearwater Teric.

Shearwater Teric Dive Computer

The Shearwater Teric is the most popular choice amongst serious technical divers and the most serious competitor.

It’s well established as a technical diving brand. Company and technology reliability is a key factor when you’re putting your life, quite literally, in their hands.

Unlike many other computers, the Descent MK1 has full technical-diving capabilities including nitrox, trimix and pure oxygen, as well as being able to handle up to six gas changes – compared to the Teric’s five.

In terms of choice between the Descent and the Teric – it really depends on your intentions. For the serious technical diver, the well established Teric is probably the way to go.

If you are more of an amateur tech diver, then perhaps the Garmin Descent MK1, as it has a wider range of functions and is also slightly cheaper than the Teric.

One of the arguments against the Descent MK1 in this case could be that it just doesn’t have the miles and experience that the Teric does. Tech divers may also be put off by the extra capabilities which may distract from the very important job at hand.

Other points for the Teric include the 200m proof exterior and wireless air integration. Considering the high market price of the Garmin, it seems odd that air integration is not a feature of the Descent MK1.

Suunto 9 Dive Computer

The Suunto 9 is one of the few competitors which matches up to the Descent MK1 in terms of design – they actually look almost identical.

In fact, they match up in many ways, with the Suunto 9 even boasting a smaller design and slightly higher resolution with touch screen capabilities.

The key issue is that is is not built for diving. It is waterproofed to 100m, the same as the Garmin, but that is about the extent of it’s diving abilities.

Conversely, the Suunto D6i Novo is built for diving but nothing else. If the two were combined, it might be able to compete with the Descent MK1. It’s also worth looking into the Suunto D5.

In November 2020, Garmin released the update of the Mk1. Following on from the Mk1’s huge success, they released the Mk2 and Mk2i.

The new iterations of the computer have much of the same functionality as the Mk1 but with some noticeable improvements. They listened to expert divers feedback on the Mk1 and used it to build an even better dive computer.

They have increased the display size by 1/3, so the screen is even easier to read – though this does make the computer a little bulkier on small wrists. They have also added pulse oximetry technology.

The two biggest improvements are the addition of Garmin Pay – a new contactless way of paying without your wallet. What could be more perfect for divers??

The other addition is the inclusion of air integration – but only on the Mk2i. Garmin decided that they could do better than the traditional VHF radio frequency air integration, so they created brand-new and proprietary sonar-based technology.

The new technology allows a much bigger range (up to 10m) and up to five inputs – opening the door to a potentially huge change in the way we scuba dive. Check out the full Garmin Descent Mk2i review here!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the Garmin Descent MK1 support multiple gases?

Yes! Not only does it support nitrox, trimix and 100% O2, it allows for up to 6 gas changes. It also has gauge, apnea and apnea hunt modes.

Can I use the Garmin Descent MK1 as an every day watch ?

Yes, it is designed as a sports and smart watch in addition to a diving computer, meaning that you can do everything you would with, say, a Fenix 5X including switching between different sports, GPS, and heart rate monitor. It also connects to a number of other devices.

How deep can I go with the Garmin Descent MK1?

It is safe up to 100m.

Can I see my dives on my phone?

Yes, there is a connectable app where you can upload your dives including profile, map coordinates, and entry/exit points.

Is there a Garmin Descent MK2?

Yes! The Garmin Descent Mk2 and Mk2i were released in November 2020. You can check out the full review here. Check out the unboxing video below!

How To Use The Garmin Descent MK1 With A Phone or Computer

In order to use it with your phone, you will need to download the Garmin Connect App and follow the instructions within the app.

For your computer, when you are first connecting it, you will need to download the Garmin Express Software. Connect your watch with the USB cable and select “Add Device”.

How do I update my Garmin Descent MK1 software?

Garmin MK1 Dive Computer

You can update the software through the mobile app or computer software, where you can search for updates and install them when the watch is connected.

Can I use the Garmin Fenix 5X for diving?

Though it has many of the same capabilities as the Descent MK1, the Fenix 5X is not built for diving and you risk damaging it.

Are there any problems with the Garmin Descent MK1?

There do not appear to be any major problems with the Descent MK1, and several are associated with Garmin’s inexperience in the industry. The customer support is sometimes not as thorough as other brands due to misunderstanding technical diving questions.

The software used to access the dive data loses some of its specificity as it is used for other sports also. Some report that the user interface isn’t as intuitive or attractive as similar models. All in all, the problems are minimal, easy to work around and sure to be fixed in time.

For more queries, there is a convenient Garmin support page.


So, the big question – is the Garmin Descent MK1 worth it.

Well, our answer is most definitely yes.

Rachel Thannhauser Administrator

Rachel is a divemaster and full-time writer from Southampton, England. She loves the ocean, CrossFit, cooking, and travelling as much as possible – pandemics allowing!

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