Garmin Descent MK1 Review [A PADI Instructor’s Test]

The combination of a dive computer with a smartwatch really takes the world of dive computers to the next level.

Garmin is a brand you may well have heard of before, but have you ever tried their dive computer tech?

If you’re completely new to the idea of dive computers, don’t worry. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned scuba diver, there are plenty of reasons why the Garmin Descent MK1 might be the best fit for your data crunching needs.

I’ve been lucky enough to take a look at the Garmin Descent, and while it is a bit pricier than a lot of the market out there, it really does give you a lot for your money.

Garmin Descent MK1
  • Built in GPS tracking
  • Paired with compatible smartphones
  • 1.2" high resolution display
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Colour mapping
  • Waypoint marking
  • Everyday watch
  • Easy to navigate between screens
  • Excellent dive planner function
  • Extensive dive logging
  • Garmin is still relatively new to the dive market
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Whether you are looking for a watch to provide you with a reliable heart rate monitor or a computer that will tell you when your approaching your limits, it’s time to review the Garmin Descent MK1 in detail.

Perfect For: The Garmin Descent MK1 will suit divers that are looking for a reliable computer that can get an equal amount of use out of water as it does in water.

Unboxing the Garmin Descent MK1

Ok – so what can you expect when you actually take the Garmin Descent MK1 out of its box?

It’s a high end dive computer both in terms of technology and design. It looks great as literal watch as well as a dive computer, meaning that you’ll likely get plenty out of this watch face out of the water.

The watch face when powered on boasts all you need to know on one screen. Naturally, it’s easy enough to toggle through the dive features on the watch, but based on the main screen alone, you can clearly see the important stats you’re likely to be dealing with.

This diving computer gives you details on your depth, your battery life, time of dive, active time, temperature, and max depth.

Beyond this, you can easily unlock a stack of diving features which I’ll go into more detail about shortly. On the face of it, the stainless steel diving watch you get out of the box is smart enough to warrant the price tag.

It’s Garmin’s first foray into dive watches of any kind. The brand is normally known for marine tech, but you might have already heard of them thanks to their fantastic Fenix 5x sports watch.

The Fenix 5x is a fitness tracker which brought high end design and heart rate monitor technology to a wider market. It seems as though the Garmin Descent MK1 is looking to make a similar splash on the dive watch front, and I’m pretty sure it’ll manage it.

Click here to check the prices of the Garmin Descent MK1 on Mikes Dive Store.  They often have the best sales on dive gear and will always provide you with top customer service!



Screen Intuition

One of the best features of this dive watch is the fact that you get a touch screen and scroll functionality. How good is that?

This is a bit of a rarity for diving computers, and it may well be the first dive computer you’ve come across that acts like a smartphone.

Instead of you having to muddle around through diving menus with boring buttons, simply tap and swipe. You’re probably used to doing that a lot on dry land, so it makes sense you’ll be able to use this watch pretty easily.

It’s seriously intuitive – Garmin have got usability spot on in this regard.


Another big selling point for the Garmin Descent MK1 is the fact that it connects via GPS.

This means you can set entry and exit locations with ease. It means you can also use the brilliant 3 axis compass built-in with greater accuracy.

Of all the diving features the Descent MK1 has to offer, many of them revolve around the fantastic GPS.

Easily set yourself where you want to dive, and clearly plan out routes and actions before you submerge.

You’ll also likely want to take a look at the dive storage, too. This dive computer will do more than most in that it will help you store up to 200 different dives in your history with 16GB of storage built-in.

Safety First

The Garmin Descent MK1 also makes for a great safety device. Just as the Fenix 5x gives you stacks of data on your heart rate and more besides, the Descent MK1 will let you know exactly what to expect from your dive.

The fact that this dive computer is intuitive enough to auto-start and complete is a massive plus. You can even set up the computer to automatically adjust when altitudes change, too.

Not only that, but you’ll be able to set up deep stops and custom points, allowing you to create a bubble as conservative as you like.

Ultimately, the personalisation in the Garmin Descent MK1 will enable you to completely manage your whole trip. I’ve not even mentioned the fact that it’s built around the world-leading Buhlmann ZHL16C algorithm. But now I have!

The Smartest Watch You'll Ever Get Wet

It seems a bit of a shame to get the Garmin Descent MK1 wet at all, but here we are. You can easily sync up your watch and dive computer to your phone through the Garmin Connect mobile app. Simply download it for free and sync whenever you need to.

This dive computer goes even further on the smartwatch front by bringing in SMS support. Yes – this is a water friendly smartwatch which will allow you to send text messages to other people.

Beyond this, you will also find that the GPS functionality and Connect features let you use the dive computer as an everyday sports watch.

As with the Fenix 5X, you can use the Garmin Descent MK1 to track your heart rate and map your exercise. You’ll even be able to use this computer for other sports!

For example, a really interesting feature in this device is the golf course finder. It’s all thanks to the data you can claim through the GPS. It’s really worth looking into, although I can’t say I will ever need to search for a golf course!

Battery Life

The battery life of the Garmin Descent MK1 generally stands up against the market with 40 hours of dive mode use.

That means off one charge, you can get into dive mode and set up the dive computer to follow you into the sea for a total of 40 hours. Now, I’m sure you’re probably not going to try that length of diving trip in one go, but still, it’s worth knowing you won’t need to charge it for a while.

Not many dive computers do well on the battery front mainly thanks to the sheer number of calculations they have to keep processing.

The Garmin Descent MK1 puts them all in the shade – so far, at least!

What’s in the Box

  • Garmin Descent MK1 Dive Computer and Smartwatch
  • Instruction Booklet
  • Charging Cable
  • Rubber Diving Bands
  • Strap
  • Titanium Bands (Premium Add-on)

Garmin Descent MK1 Review

Ok – so, let’s take a closer look at how the Garmin Descent MK1 actually performs from dive to dive.

As we’ve seen, it offers plenty of features, and plenty of pizzazz. However, it’s going to need to stand up to its promises.

If you’re already a fan of the Garmin Fenix 5X, then I’m pretty sure this watch is going to be a big winner for you.

However, keep reading before you buy, as there’s a few bits and pieces I need to let you in on first.

Ensuring the best scuba diving equipment is super-important and makes all the difference for scuba diving enthusiasts, regardless of level.

The Look

Whether you choose the fancy titanium bands or the basic straps, the Garmin Descent MK1 looks great.

It’s a premium watch with a premium price tag, but on looks alone, it’s worth it.

I don’t just refer to the stainless steel exterior, either. The dive computer display is well-organised, allowing you to clearly see what’s going on in low and intense lights.

It’s full colour, too, but then again – did you really expect it to come in black and white? Probably not.

Dive Modes

There are six dive modes available for you to set through the Garmin Descent MK1.

These include:

  • Apnea
  • Apnea Hunt
  • Gauge
  • Single Gas
  • Multi Gas
  • Plan

If you’re no stranger to dive computers, then you’ll probably recognise a lot of these settings. Simply choose the appropriate mode. It has everything that a regular dive computer can offer, and more.

The apnea hunt mode is worth a look, because it’s built for – well – hunting. If you’ve ever gone fishing with a spear before, this dive mode will give you full tracking and will automatically mute any alerts to avoid spooking your prey.

Although I would never use the apnea hunt mode, I’m really impressed by the mode diversity here. A lot of the functionality is automated, too, with feature such as automatic altitude coming into play. Whether you’d like to use your Garmin Descent MK1 to track bottom time or rate of descent, you have a lot of functionality at your fingertips.


Fitness Performance

From the company that brought us the Fenix range, it’s pretty safe to say the first dive computer Garmin had to offer was going to be great at fitness tracking.

The heart rate monitor on board the MK1 is just as impressive as what you’d expect from the Fenix 5X. Having tried both for myself, I can safely say that Garmin has worked hard to produce a really intuitive monitoring system. I do like it a lot, and it’s great to be able to track my diving fitness as well as depth and time spent.

Garmin, as a newcomer to dive computers, is really changing the game here.


As mentioned, the Garmin Descent MK1 runs on the ZHL 16C algorithm.

This means you will be able to set conservatives pretty easily and can rely on safety alarms to get you back up as and when you need to.

I do think the algorithm in this watch is worth relying on, though Garmin does have a little way to go before it irons out all its diving features for the better.

Modern Features

I really like the fact that you can pretty much use the Garmin Descent MK1 as a smartwatch all on its own.

Other diving computers tend to rely on dive information alone, whereas this Garmin watch – yet again, taking inspiration from the Fenix X5, really tries to multi-task as much as it possibly can.

This really isn’t a bad thing. I want a dive computer that tells me the depth of my diving, a GPS to show my dive locations, and I would also like to be able to tell the time and set my entries and exits with ease – in and out of the water.

It’s not too much to ask! Garmin’s watch pretty much ticks the right boxes on the smart functionality front.


If you have ever taken a look at some of the new smartwatch and dive computer technology out there, you’ll probably find buttons and their designs to be sticking points.

You’ll need a watch that’s as easy to use as your phone. Just because you’re down a fair depth in the water doesn’t mean you have to compromise. What’s really different about the Garmin Descent MK1 is that it still lets you swipe and tap even when you are beneath the water. This means you can easily scroll and toggle your dive mode and check all the data you need without being on dry land.

Even new Suunto models might struggle to meet this ease of use. I’ve nothing against Suunto, mind – my go to dive computer is the Suunto D5!

About Garmin

Garmin is a brand you would probably recognise from all kinds of high end marine tech and tracking.

However, their fitness trackers and sports watch technology is also becoming increasingly popular.

The Descent MK1 is a new venture for Garmin, as it’s actually their first property dive computer.

Regardless, it seamlessly stores data and information through the Garmin Connect app. One of the best bits about this smartwatch is the fact that it is so seamlessly connectible.

That tends to run pretty common across different Garmin devices, meaning you may well find some of their other tech interesting, too!

Garmin Descent MK1
  • Built in GPS tracking
  • Paired with compatible smartphones
  • 1.2" high resolution display
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Colour mapping
  • Waypoint marking
  • Everyday watch
  • Easy to navigate between screens
  • Excellent dive planner function
  • Extensive dive logging
  • Garmin is still relatively new to the dive market
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We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.


I genuinely think the Garmin Descent MK1 is a bit of a world beater, and maybe even a game changer. For a first try, it may be nothing short of a miracle!

That said, Garmin has a way to go before really perfecting the tech. The Garmin Connect app technology, gradient factors support, compass and otherwise help to build towards a pretty impressive piece of kit in any case.

Would I recommend this data watch for diving and GPS tracking? Yes! However, it’s a bit pricey, meaning you’re going to need to put a bit of money aside.  If this is something you  are not ready to invest in, how about looking at my Aqualung i200 Review or Best Dive Computers 2024 Review?  This way you can compare easily!

Or maybe you’re looking for something more recent to hit the shelves? Make sure you look at the Mk2S Descent review. I got the opportunity to test this our for a few months and, well, I’ll let you find out for yourself!

Take a look at buyer review ratings elsewhere, and connect up a great GPS watch that works wonders in and out of the water.

Reasons to Buy

  • Built in GPS tracking
  • Paired with compatible smartphones
  • 1.2″ high resolution display
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Colour mapping
  • Waypoint marking
  • Everyday watch
  • Easy to navigate between screens
  • Excellent dive planner function
  • Extensive dive logging

Reasons to Avoid

  • Garmin is still relatively new to the dive market
Written by Katy

Thank you for reading. I started to share my passion for diving. I am an environmental educator, scientist and now an MSDT diver.

This platform has been made to create, connect and share my knowledge in the world of diving.

AS SEEN in DiveIn, Columbia & Women In Ocean Science

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