In this Cressi Leonardo review, we will be going over what makes this device one of the top beginner dive computers on the market today. For beginner divers shopping for their first dive computer, the Cressi Leonardo is a good place to start. It is designed for casual and recreational divers in mind by Cressi, a well-known and trusted manufacturer of Scuba equipment.
The Cressi Leonardo is designed with safety, efficiency, and affordability in mind. You can depend on it to accurately track and calculate your dive data to make the best recommendations to keep you safe underwater. The device is easy-to-use and very intuitive. It doesn’t have all of the shiny bells and whistles, but it has all of the basic functionality a beginner needs to get in the water, have a good time, and most importantly to stay safe.
Cressi Leonardo Overview
In this section, we will provide a comprehensive overview of the features the Cressi Leonardo has.
Technical Specs and Features
- RGBM Algorithm based on the Haldane model, comes with three conservatism settings.
- One-button navigation.
- Comes in a wristwatch or console setup.
- Maximum operating depth of 120m (393ft).
- Audible and visual alarms.
- Numerous altitude adjustments up to 3,700m (12,139ft).
- Dive log capacity of 60 dives (around 70 hours).
- Switch between Imperial and Metric units.
- Tracks time, date, and temperature.
- Powered by a 3-volt CR2430 battery that is user-replaceable. Lasts approximately 3 years at 50 dives a year.
- Stopwatch functionality.
- Back-lit screen (activated by holding button down for 5 seconds).
- A full-reset feature is available to wipe the data after each dive. This option must be activated as it is off by default. Perfect for dive instructors or rental shops that loan dive computers.
The Cressi Leonardo is available as a console computer or a compact wrist-watch. The latter is a good choice if you want convenience and comfort. The former is better if you prefer to have all the detailed information on one console. You can get the Leonardo in numerous colors to show off your personality, or just to make it stand out more in the water.
We like how the Leonardo has a large, high-definition edge-to-edge LCD screen to maximize the screen real estate. Furthermore, Cressi has emphasized legibility by focusing on digit size, screen contrast, and proportions. The information is sectioned clearly using thick lines. This can help divers easily find the correct data even during stressful situations. The large, bold digits emphasize the most critical information that you need to monitor.
Next, we appreciate that the battery indicator icon is clear and displayed prominently on the main screen. The front screen also shows time, depth, and temperature. The secondary screen displays information related to the ppO2 setting, gas mix (Nitrox or air) and conservatism setting if any are applied.
For night diving or low visibility conditions, you can activate the back-light by holding down the button for five seconds. Additionally, it activates on its own if the alarm is triggering.
Since this may be your first dive computer, Cressi has simplified the design so that it is intuitive and user-friendly. The interface is designed to be navigable with only one button. Since there is only one button, Cressi has made it very large and easy to press. No more fumbling around trying to figure out which button does what. Even with thick gloves on, with only one button in the front, it is pretty much impossible to miss it.
There is one major downside to this which is that there is no “back” button. You can only scroll in one direction, and if you accidentally pass a menu, you have to keep scrolling through each menu until you return to the one you want. People with twitchy fingers may accidentally press the button one time too many and experience the frustration of having to do this.
On the other hand, if a beginner were presented with 4-buttons to work with, as is the case of the Suunto Zoop Novo, then perhaps they may get confused as to which button does what.
The Leonardo has three diving modes: Air, Nitrox, and Gauge mode. In Nitrox mode, divers can adjust the ppO2 to between 1.4 and 1.6 bar and it can handle oxygen mixes up to 50%.
When you reach below 1.2m (4ft) the air diving mode is automatically activated. Once you ascend above this depth, the surface interval timer starts automatically. The minimum surface interval is only two minutes. What this means is that if you dive again before the time is up, it will count your current dive as a continuation of your previous one. Diving after two minutes has elapsed counts as a new dive.
Next, gauge mode functions as a bottom timer and shows the dive time in minutes and seconds. You can basically use this mode as a freediving mode. With that said, the Leonardo does not have a dedicated apnea timer whereas some of its competitors do.
Audible and Visual Alarms
The alarms are an incredibly important feature on dive computers, because it is how they can warn you about safety violations. In the case of the Leonardo, they are distinct and very audible so that they will definitely grab your attention underwater. Furthermore, they are adjustable so you don’t have to worry about them going off every two minutes (which would only happen if you were ignoring all of its warnings in the first place).
There’s a few ways to trigger the alarms, and the alarms will vary in intensity depending on how severe the warning is. For instance, exceeding the maximum ascent rate of 10m/32ft per minute is cause for a loud alarm. The alarm will also trigger when you reach depth or if you are approaching the no-decompression limit (NDL). Additionally, there’s also a safety stop alarm as well as a stop icon accompanied by the time and depth for any dive performed beneath 32ft.
The Leonardo is able to warn you visually by displaying on-screen warnings. For example, in the case of depth or ascent-rate violations, the screen will display a SLOW icon. Combine that with its audible alarms and even a newbie will take notice.
If you feel that the Leonardo is beeping at you too frequently, first make sure that you are diving safely within your limits. Otherwise, many of these alarms can be turned off, though we do not recommend it for beginner divers.
An experienced diver might complain that the Cressi Leonardo is too conservative, but then again what’s an experienced diver doing using it in the first place? The Leonardo is designed for beginners and it ensures they stay safe because of its conservative recreational settings.
You can select between three conservatism settings, with the default one being the least conservative. For beginners who are still learning the ropes, it will help you stay within your NDL easily.
If you have a dive buddy with a more liberal dive computer, you may notice that you approach deco much sooner than your buddy. Do not make the mistake of using your buddy’s dive computer as a reference point. Each dive computer is tracking the data of the person wearing it and making recommendations based on it. Simply set your Leonardo’s conservative level to SF0 and heed its warnings.
The Cressi Leonardo uses a 3-volt CR2430 lithium battery. This battery is easy to replace on your own and can be done without tools. Of course, you could also send it to a service center if you are afraid you might damage something. However, we appreciate that this dive computer gives you the opportunity to learn how to replace your own battery, which is a useful skill to have.
Some dive computers force the users to send in their device to a service center. They will also do many inspections and calibrations which your device may or may not need, and it will cost you. There is also the time spent waiting for your dive computer to be shipped there and back.
The average battery life is roughly three years assuming you do around 50 dives a year. Avid divers who do 100 or more dives a year may have to replace the battery shortly after the first year, whereas holiday divers can expect it to last the distance.
Next, the Leonardo uses Cressi’s RGBM algorithm which was made in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Wienke. Based on the Haldane model, the new RGBM algorithm is adapted from Suunto’s RGBM model which was also made in collaboration with Dr. Bruce Wienke, who has been pioneering this algorithm since the 90s.
So what’s good about the RGBM algorithm? First, it is capable of accurately calculating your decompression limits even if you dive multiple times in a day, or multiple days in a row. The software will continuously monitor your body’s theoretical Nitrogen absorption and release by using a depth sensor, timer, and some calculations behind the scenes .
Furthermore, the Leonardo will factor in the amount of inert gases in the gas mixes that you are using. To make it even safer, the conservatism settings can be increased up by changing the Safety Factor from 0 to 1 or 2. All of these precautions will help you drastically reduce the chances of experiencing decompression sickness.
Again, some people may find the conservatism of the Leonardo to be annoying when diving with buddies that have more liberal computers, but if you are a beginner it is better to be safe than sorry. Based on these calculations, the Leonardo can help you safely do multiple dives over multiple days, so it can more than make up for shorter dive times by giving you more opportunities to dive.
Even though dive computers are designed to function in extreme conditions, it is still a delicate piece of technology when all is said and done. As such, you should take care when handling it and protect it from direct impact. Keep it away from extreme heat sources and make sure to use it within its maximum operating depth of 120m (393ft).
After each dive, remember to wash the Leonardo thoroughly in freshwater. Make sure to scrub off any debris because you don’t want any to accumulate on the watch over time. Afterwards, dry it thoroughly and story it in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. Keep it away from heavy equipment (also, lay your cylinder down).
Aside from occasionally replacing the battery, do not try to open up the device or fix anything yourself. Any damage caused by improperly handling it will void the 2-year warranty. Take it to Cressi authorized service center. Follow the instructions laid out in the manual carefully when replacing the battery.
Dive Log and Connectivity
In addition to monitoring your wellbeing, dive computers also have a built-in dive log that records all of the data of your past 60 dives or 75 hours spent underwater. At a sampling rate of 20 seconds, the current data is logged in 20 second intervals to keep track of your past dives. Keeping a dive log is important because you can analyze it later.
For example, the dive log can be transferred to your PC or Mac. You can then plan future dives, run dive simulations and thoroughly examine the data to see your progress. With that said, you must purchase a USB cable in order to download the data to your computer. Some dive computers have wireless Bluetooth connectivity, but unfortunately it is not included in the Leonardo. You can also copy down the dive log by hand if you want to play it old school.
Since the Cressi Leonardo is designed to be affordable and catered to beginners, it should not come as a surprise that it does not have the advanced features a high-end model has. Each advanced feature increases not only the cost, but the complexity of the device as well. Thus, even though this computer is missing features, a recreational diver would likely neither miss it nor want to have it. Below are some features it is missing.
No Air Integration or Digital Compass
Some dive computers have the option of getting air integration support. The Leonardo does not support air integration, however missing this feature should not be an issue if you are a casual diver or just starting out. Air integration allows you to easily track the remaining dive time in your Scuba tanks.
Furthermore, the Leonardo is missing a digital compass. This feature lets you see the surrounding environment in 3D and gives you a better sense of where you are in relation to your surroundings.
Dive computers with these features are really useful, but they also cost more than triple the price. Beginner divers don’t need to worry about these features until they’ve gained more experience. The Cressi Leonardo is capable of getting a newbie through their first 100 or more dives, which could take 2-3 years for a recreational diver. Until then, just focus on the basics.
Back-light Could Be Better
This is not a missing feature, however we would like it if the back-light on the Leonardo were brighter. In murky water, it can be difficult to read the display even when the back-light is on. Under normal conditions it is good enough, however the conditions are not always perfect so having a more reliable back-light would be reassuring.
Cressi Leonardo Review: The Verdict
- Extremely beginner friendly thanks to its one-button navigation and intuitive interface.
- Uses Cressi’s RGBM algorithm which can track multiple dives in a day or dives spread over multiple days.
- Numerous conservatism settings to provide early warnings and keep you safe.
- Three diving modes: Air, Nitrox, Gauge.
- Dive data can be completely reset after each dive, which is ideal for dive shops and dive instructors.
- Overall a reliable and solid product at a low price point, which is perfect for beginners.
- Does not have advanced functionality like air integration, digital compass, or ability to track multiple gas mixes.
- Weak back-light does not do much in murky water.
- One button navigation can be clunky at times, especially if you pass the menu you want. You have to scroll through all of the other menus to get back to it.
Based on customer reviews, the vast majority of the owners are satisfied with their purchase. Due to the features mentioned above, it is not surprising that the Cressi Leonardo is one of the highest rated and best-selling Scuba decompression calculators on the market.
The few complaints to be found are related to its back-light or its single button navigation. In low-light environments, the back-light simply isn’t reliable. With that said, new divers are unlikely to be diving in such extreme conditions in the first place until they’ve gained experience. However, it is a legitimate complaint and something to keep in mind.
Since the Leonardo might be your first dive computer, Cressi tried to simplify their navigation and now we have the one-button navigation. Customers wished that there was at least a back button, since it is frustrating to accidentally scroll past a menu and not be able to go back. However, once you get the hang of it, the interface is quite intuitive and gets the job done.
Any complaints regarding lack of functionality we feel are unfair. The Leonardo has all of the basic features covered, and it is more than enough for beginners. Experienced divers should look for high-end models like the Suunto Vyper Novo or Suunto D4i Novo instead. These devices will be able to provide the features experienced divers want.
To conclude, we found that the Cressi Leonardo is a reliable and affordable dive computer that has all of the basic functionality a beginner Scuba diver would want without breaking the bank. It is an ideal first dive computer for those who don’t want the added features (or cost) of a more advanced device.
The one button navigation is easy to learn how to use and makes it impossible to press the wrong button. Even with thick gloves on, you can always press it easily. The data it provides on the screen is sectioned clearly and easy to read. Safety is obviously a priority with how conservative the device is, but it also allows you to do multiple dives in a row if you want to. This can help you quickly gain experience by spending more time in the water.
With that in mind, once you gain more experience and progress further as a diver, you may start to notice the limitations of this device. It does not handle multiple gas mixes or switching during a dive. It does not have air integration or an integrated compass, and so on. Once you reach that point, it may be time to retire the Leonardo. However, you can still keep it close-by as a backup dive computer.
However, the Leonardo can help beginners get through their first year or two of diving. Holiday divers will find that it is more than enough for their needs. The Leonardo is at the lower end of the price range and will not break the bank. That makes it an attractive option since you are already paying loads on other gear for this hobby. The ability to reset the dive data makes the Leonardo a must-have for dive centers or rental shops.
Overall, we feel that the Cressi Leonardo is a robust and reliable dive computer that does what it says on the tin at a very affordable price. It is a fantastic option for your first dive computer. If you like the Leonardo but want a dive computer with more functionality, then you may be interested in the Cressi Giotto which you can read about here.
Interested in how the Cressi Leonardo compares to other dive computers? You should check out these articles:
- Click here to read our Cressi Leonardo vs. Suunto Zoop Novo review.
- Click here to read our Cressi Leonardo vs. Cressi Giotto review.
- Click here to read our Cressi Leonardo vs. Mares Puck Pro review
- Click here to check out how the Leonardo compares to other sub-$500 dive computers.
- Click here to see how the Leonardo fares against other entry-level dive computers.