This may be one of the difficult answers to truly answer in the dive industry because it is subjective and always going to to be driven by personal opinion. Each dive shop will likely claim that the brand they carry has the most reliable, highest quality equipment that puts others to shame, and they will say this to sell the equipment. Some dive shops are unfortunately just like used car lots saying whatever they can to up sell you to the next item. Now most dive shops are not massive and it is impossible for any one shop to carry every brand, so most pick one, two or even three primary brands. The other dilemma is the actual number of brands I am going to focus on a few of the largest names including, Scubapro, Aqualung, Mares, and Huish Outdoors (Oceanic, Zeagle, Suunto, Atomic, Hollis). You should be able to find at least one of these brands at any dive shop that you may visit, there are others like Sherwood, Seac, and Tusa but are probably not going to be the primary brand especially for BCD’s, regulators, and Computers. Here is a brief overview of what to expect from each brand.
Scubapro is probably one of the most recognizable names in the industry right now and has some equipment that stands out. The first thing to know about Scubapro is that it is most likely going to be the most expensive option. They make a very high quality product but they have little to offer in terms of middle of the road pricing. Scubapro equipment is either the more expensive low end, or the most expensive high end. Now they do produce a very high quality product that is rigorously tested and reliable but you will pay a premium. Now in terms of equipment BCD’s are really where Scubapro shines in my opinion they have many options with multiple styles and prices ranging from about $450 on the low end to over $1000 on their high end bcd. Bcd’s are also were there is going to be the largest variation between these brands. While Scubapro does make a quality computer and regulator I feel you only have two choices for each very high end or low end no middle ground, and while this is true for the bcd’s there are enough options to minimize that gap.
Aqualung is a company that has been around since the beginning and may be one of the most recognizable brands. In terms of over all pricing Aqualung is a little more spread evenly with very budget friendly options especially with regulators and computers, and high end regs that don’t knock the wind out of you when you hear the price. In terms of their BCD’s they have the I3 inflator system that I am not personally sold on but have met a number of people that are very happy with it. The regulators are what really stand out for me, the dive computers are actually almost identical to oceanic dive computers because they purchase from the same company oceanic does. The regulators provide a large variety of options for divers on a budget and divers looking for a high quality versatile regulator.
Mares is a very large brand that most don’t realize is as big as it is. Owned by the Head company and this partnership also owns SSI the training agency. Now this is where i find it hard to hide my opinion because in terms of dive equipment I am not overly impressed with anything from Mares. I am not a fan of the quick disconnect pockets on their bcd’s, their regulators are underwhelming, they function but I would prefer another brand first, and their computers are functional. I would have to say that of everything Mares I would have one of their low budget computers as a starter or backup. Mares in general is a great starter equipment company but I have not seen the value in their equipment beyond that. Its not that I think that they make bad gear I just believe that these other brands make better gear.
Huish Outdoors (Oceanic, Suunto, Zeagle, Atomic, Hollis)
Huish Outdoors is a Unique situation and in a dive shop you are not going to see the Huish logo most likely but they do own all of these brands, (at least an exclusive distributor for Suunto). One of the reasons I wanted to include Huish is because I like the fact that they have accumulated brands that specialize. Now for the most part each of these brands has a primary focus, most of them do dabble in other areas but are known for one primary thing. Zeagle is known for BCD’s, Suunto for Computers, Hollis for Regulators, Atomic for Regulators, and Oceanic dabbles evenly in all three but has been known as an innovator for computers for many years. Unlike the other three brands above that are distributing R&D among all aspects of equipment Huish has brands that they have acquired that have a particular focus. Most of their equipment is reasonably priced With the exception of Atomic they make very high end regulators on par with Scubapro. If you get something from one of these brands especially in their wheelhouse you know it will be very high quality for the cost.
In the end it is a personal choice which brand is best it may be situational, when picking a brand it is important to consider the long term, how easily can I service this equipment, is there a shop that I can take this equipment to if I have an issue. I this equipment going to fit the style of diving that I intend to do and fit my personal budget. The key to all of this is to determine your needs, figure out what features you want and then talk to your local dive shop professional because in all honesty no matter which brand you ultimately decide on you will have quality gear. You just want to make sure you are comfortable in that equipment and how to properly use and care for the equipment.
So in order to avoid giving a BS answer that there is no best equipment I am going to break it down into tiers High, middle, and low, in terms of price and among those name brands for my preferred for BCD, Regulator, and computer. Now keep in mind that all of these brands make quality equipment and the ultimate choice comes down to personal preference in features and access, talk with your local dive shop cause they will likely be the ones servicing your equipment.
Computer: Suunto/Scubapro (the G2 is a pretty amazing computer)