Scubapro Galileo HUD
The Farnes were blown out, white horses charging across angry water, so we took a chance on launching at South Shields for the wreck of the Oslofjord.
Bad idea. The sea was cold and sullen, and it was black as night in the water. Blacker. I could see nothing. I knew I was on the bottom only because I hit it.
I pointed my lit torch toward my eyes at arm’s length. Nothing. Not a glimmer. The lamp was within a foot before I could see even a faint glow.
With no chance of seeing the wreck, unable to read my contents gauge or computer, I called the dive and headed up.
Well, maybe up. I knew I was off the bottom because I couldn’t touch it any more, but I had no idea if I was going up, down or sideways.
Fortunately the Oslofjord is largely flattened, lies in less than 15m, and I’d only been in for a couple of minutes, so a squirt of air into my suit guaranteed an ascent. It was faster than I might have liked, but I was just happy to be out.
I wouldn’t have bothered staying any longer had I been using Scubapro’s new Galileo HUD computer, because there was no point, but at least I’d have been able to monitor my depth and gas status and make a more controlled ascent despite the atrocious conditions. However, there was nothing like it available back then.
The Galileo HUD is a full-function gas-integrated open- and closed-circuit dive-computer, like the wrist and console versions, but now with a head-up display. The unit fits to the top of your mask, and promises to make important dive-data accessible at all times with nothing more than an upward glance.
Open the fitted case in which it’s supplied and the HUD unit looks a bit like a big wedge of matt-black Toblerone, with a bite taken out of it and a Scubapro logo moulded on one side.
A long, threaded horizontal bar protrudes from one side of the wedge, and a shorter twiddly knob sticks out of the opposite side. The long bar is used to attach the computer to a special fitting on your mask; the smaller knob is used to turn the HUD on, select menus and sub-menus and make and adjust settings using a combination of short and long presses and turns.
The computer at the heart of the HUD can be set to open- or closed-circuit modes, allows you to pre-set up to eight gas mixes and has switchable high and low CCR set-points.
For gases you can set air, any nitrox blend between 21 and 100% oxygen or trimix, then select any pre-set gas to breathe at any time during your dive – although the unit will warn you about an inappropriate switch and will also prompt you to switch to a more appropriate decompression gas should you forget.
With the appropriate senders you can monitor the contents of each cylinder you’re carrying, with the display showing only the pressure of the currently selected breathing gas for simplicity, along with a note of what that gas actually is, plus any decompression appropriate to finishing the dive on that gas.
Incur mandatory deco at depth and switch to a richer mix on ascent and you’ll see the deco time displayed reduce as the computer recalculates based on the new gas you’re now breathing.
The deco model used, as with the other Galileo computers, is Buhlman, with preset options for added conservatism, or user-settable gradient factors if you prefer to take control of your own deco profiles.
As usual you can set alarms for depth and time, select a safety-stop timer if you like, and more, or switch pretty much all of them off.
All in all, let’s just say that if the HUD doesn’t do it, you don’t need it done.
The first job was to charge the unit using the supplied cable. One end has the usual USB plug to fit a charger unit, not supplied. The other end has a flat blue plastic plate with four connectors that slides into matching grooves on the HUD.
Charging is very quick, and there’s a battery-level indicator on the display. When the battery runs down the HUD won’t turn on, and displays an angry red battery symbol with a bar across it to make clear that you really shouldn’t try to dive with it. I got three full days of liveaboard-diving in the Red Sea with battery life to spare, and finished the trip on the top-up charge.
Once charged, you turn the unit on with a press of the twiddly knob until it clicks.
The click bit is important. The knob depresses easily under finger-pressure, as though it were doing the job, but if you don’t follow through to the click, it doesn’t actually do anything.
Think half-pressing the shutter button on a camera and then completing the pressure to take the picture, except that the half-press achieves nothing.
Once I’d worked this out, the rest of the set-up was a breeze.
Once the HUD is turned on, you’ll need to hold the window in front of the display close to your eye to see what’s what and make settings.
At this point you might feel a little daft, but don’t be put off, and don’t even think about whether you like the unit or not at this stage.
Making and changing settings is quick and intuitive, even for a techno-numpty like me.
You click the adjustment knob to open the menu selection, turn the knob to highlight the sub-menu you need and click to select, then turn the knob to make changes and click to confirm.
A long press on the same button takes you back to the start.
The whole process has obviously been thought through by somebody who knows what they’re doing, and likes to make things simple for users. From a standing start it’ll take you minutes to get the computer set up exactly as you like it – and entirely without the aid of an instruction manual. A prompt at the bottom of the screen tells you whatever you need to do next.
I did download the manual to my phone just in case, but found no need to look at it.
The HUD does everything you need but, vitally, without so many bells and whistles that it gets confusing, or that you forget how to access some features.
Serious thought has gone into what a dive-computer really needs to do, perhaps from the same person responsible for the user interface.
And it’s worth mentioning that if the display colours aren’t to your liking – and a colour-blind colleague did find the HUD hard to read – an alternative can be downloaded.
Appeared in DIVER December 2019
Head Up Display
Once set to your preference, the HUD mounts quickly to your mask and is secure in use. You’ll need a compatible twin-lens mask, because the mount replaces the plastic latching piece top centre. Scubapro make such masks, one of which it supplied for the test.
I found it a good fit and, overall, a decent low-volume mask with which I’d be happy to continue diving, so if you’re buying a HUD you might as well go for a Scubapro mask to match, with lenses to your prescription if necessary.
I did try a couple of other-brand masks but the mounts weren’t compatible. You might be more fortunate, and Scubapro intends to offer more mounts in the future.
You can adjust the position of the HUD display window from side to side using spacers supplied on the mounting rod, and then tilt the unit until you can comfortably see the whole of the display. I found visibility of the screen was best with the HUD set as far left as possible, and the unit tilted just a little way off the lens of the mask.
Don’t worry that there’s a computer over your right eye – it’s set high, and your brain will process the data from your left eye so that you don’t even notice that the HUD is there unless you actively choose to look at it. Don’t worry about the weight, either – you won’t notice that.
One thing you do need to bear in mind is that you require good normal vision to read the display clearly. I’m short-sighted, and needed a contact lens before the figures on the display were clear. A correction lens in the right side of the mask would have done the job, so you’ll need to add that to your budget.
After all of which preamble, you, like me, might be feeling that it’s all a bit of a faff, and wondering what the fuss is about. After all, there are other computers out there that will do as much, and do it more cheaply.
But then you kit up and drop into the water, and a small miracle happens.
Right in front of your eye is a permanently visible computer screen showing your decompression status and gas volume available. It doesn’t intrude on your normal field of vision, and once you’ve made a dive or two with it you forget it’s there unless you want to read the display, when you simply glance briefly upward as you carry on with what you were doing.
In fact, the complete lack of distraction unless I chose to look at the unit was remarkable. It was as if it wasn’t there unless I chose to actively engage with the data, even on night-dives on which I thought an illuminated display might be annoying.
Display brightness is adjustable, and needs to be turned right up to be clearly visible in shallow, sunny, daytime tropical waters.
I didn’t find the same setting too bright on night-dives, so just left the display alone.
I’ll confess that I’ve never really been bothered about gas-integration. There never seemed to me to be much difference between looking at a gauge and looking at a computer screen, and if you need your computer to work out how much longer you can stay at depth without running out of gas, I’d suggest you find a new hobby.
However, with the Galileo HUD it suddenly makes sense. An upward glance reveals all.
Deco information is easily interpreted. Essentially, I could see the next stop depth and time, plus total time to surface – exactly what I need on a dive.
Compared against a non-Scubapro computer using the same deco algorithm and set to the same gradient factors, I was pleased to find both suggesting the same ascent strategy.
And the HUD has one more ace party trick. There are three screens available while diving, one showing depth, gas remaining and deco info, one showing depth, gas and deco info with a compass display in the centre of the screen, and one showing your dive profile. I used the screen with the compass display, and it made me look like the god of underwater navigation.
We were exploring the debris field around Thistlegorm, looking for bits of stuff blasted from the wreck, of which there are lots, large and small, and I found myself able to navigate precisely while looking out for interesting metalwork.
Yes, I could do the same with a separate compass, but this was so much easier, and made me look waaay cooler.
I could do it just as easily in the dark, too, not to mention that tracking ascent rate or holding stop depths with no visual reference was suddenly much easier. That was what reminded me of my long-ago Oslofjord dive.
I used the HUD in the UK, and then took it for a thorough work-out on a week’s diving in the Red Sea. Single-gas dives were easy and gas-switches were equally easy, even with thick gloves. The deco countdown was also easy to follow when required.
Unusually, with the safety stop turned on the unit requested a three-minute stop when the obligatory deco had completed.
Like all well-designed kit, the HUD simply faded into the background and allowed me to get on with diving. I did find that 30 years of wrist-mounted computers had engrained a muscle-memory glance at my wrist that took a couple of days to relearn, but the Galileo HUD quickly became a standard part of my diving protocol.
Toward the end of my liveaboard week I made a couple of dives without the HUD and each time found that I was missing it pretty much before the water closed over my head.
Overall, judged purely as a dive-computer, the Galileo HUD is the business. It does everything you want, is easy to set up and displays relevant information cleanly and clearly.
Add the Head Up Display, and it’s genuinely the best dive-computer I’ve ever used.
Downsides? Well, there’s a screen showing the dive profile for the current dive during the dive which as far as I’m concerned is totally redundant, though I’m sure someone will write in and explain why it’s useful, but there were no other downsides for me.
I still think the HUD could be a tough sell in dive-shops. It isn’t cheap, it feels a bit gimmicky despite the massive functionality of the unit and, most important of all, it’s different and makes you stand out. Try one in the water, however, and it’s a revelation.
Bottom line? The head-up display of the Galileo HUD is a genuine step forward. I liked it a lot.