There are two basic types: audio and video/audio. Some are analog, others are digital. All monitors operate within a selected radio frequency band to send sound from a baby's room to a receiver in another room. Each monitor consists of a transmitter (the child/nursery unit) and one or more receivers. Prices range from about $25 to $150 for audio monitors and about $80 to $300 for audio/video monitors.
The best baby monitor apps allow you to monitor baby using only your existing devices, like phones, tablets or even computers. One device acts a transmitter in baby’s room, and you use another device to monitor baby. Some apps only have audio functionality, but others have both audio and video. As a plus, the best baby monitor apps often have cool features that traditional baby monitors don’t have, like remote capabilities. However, some users complain that they can be somewhat unreliable.
We were also disappointed that the Angelcare’s parent unit lacks an out-of-range warning. If you’re in the backyard or basement and the monitor disconnects, it’s not clear whether you’re looking at a napping baby or a frozen screen. Still, it beat out the Baby Delight for sound and video quality and offers a few customizable features: You can adjust the volume on the baby unit as well as the parent unit, and set up timed alarms and temperature alerts.
The MPB36S has everything you might want in a video baby monitor. You don’t have to squint to see your baby because the LCD screen is a large 3.5 inches and shows a clear color picture. Alongside the screen, there are buttons that let you pan the camera from side to side and tilt it up and down to see every angle of the room. The zoom feature lets you get up close to make sure your baby is safe and fast asleep. You can soothe your baby by choosing among five pre-loaded lullabies or talking directly into the microphone.
The Nest boasts some impressive hardware specs, such as true 1080p/30fps video and a 3-megapixel camera sensor. Setting up the Nest Cam specifically to look in on a 2-year-old at night, we found the video quality on Nest's camera to be sharper and more detailed than on any baby video monitor we tested. The Nest Cam includes push-to-talk features as well as alerts triggered by motion or sounds. And when your child is past the age when you need a nighttime monitor, you can repurpose the Nest Cam to check in on other parts of your home.
Summer Infant has been making high-quality, reliable baby monitors for many years. One problem with the Summer Infant monitors is that it's difficult to figure out which one has the features and quality you want, given the very wide range of options. Some are much better than others, and this is definitely one of the better ones we've tested. This color baby monitor has a high-quality 5" high resolution LCD display, which is a similar quality to the Project Nursery monitor in terms of color, contrast, and brightness. When we first got our hands on this, we were excited that maybe it was a nice wide angle panorama camera. But it turns out what they meant by "panorama" is that you can remotely tilt, pan, and zoom. The panning does go nice and wide, allowing you to swing the camera side to side about 180-degrees. But the camera angle itself is no different than the other monitors on this list. That being said, this is a great baby monitor with some great features. In addition to being able to remotely pan, tilt, and zoom the camera, some of the best features were: 1) a subtle night light that you can turn on/off remotely, and can choose it to glow with a soft blue or red color, 2) a sensor that tells you the temperature of your baby's room at all times, 3) a sound-activated light bar on the top of the receiver that tells you when there's noise in the room (even when volume is off). We thought the big hand-held unit was great, with a convenient kick-stand to put it anywhere in the house, great battery life, and good range. We were able to walk around in the backyard with this unit and still get a good, stable image. Note that you can add an extra camera to this, and it will cycle through the two cameras automatically (it does not do split-screen to see both at once). Downfalls? Well, the night vision isn't quite as good as with higher-ranked monitors on this list, and even the lowest volume level seemed really loud for sleeping parents. Also, even though the screen is nice and big, the digital video quality is sub-par relative to several other options on this list. Overall, this is a great addition to our best baby monitor list, as it has great features and falls in the middle of the price range. For about the same price, we'd go with the Infant Optics or Samsung option, unless you value the larger screen size.
Baby video monitors with all the latest bells and whistles cost around $200, sometimes more depending on the feature set. However, you can find solid baby monitors for $100 to $150 less than that, though you'll sacrifice on video resolution and some features. Cloud storage can add to the cost of a baby monitor in the form of an ongoing subscription, though that feature is usually optional.
It may surprise you to hear that simply being able to last through the night, unplugged, with the display off, qualifies as exceptional battery life for a baby monitor. The Infant Optics was one of the only monitors in our testing that could easily do that, and then last a while longer the next day before needing a charge. (The manufacturer claims it lasts 10 hours with the display off—we got that amount of time off a full charge, even when checking the display intermittently.) This model also charges via a USB connection, which actually sets it apart from a variety of competitors, some of which use ineffective and inconvenient proprietary DC chargers or even disposable batteries.
As you’d expect, the talk back functionality and audio quality in general are great—easily better than the crude talk back features on our video monitor picks. With the battery lasting about 19 hours on a full charge, this monitor had the strongest battery life of any in our test (not entirely a fair comparison, as this is the only one with no screen to power). Rated to a range of 1,000 feet, it exceeds the range of our pick (700 feet) both as advertised and in practice during tests.
We tested monitors daily over a period of several months, in three houses: one nearly 100 years old with plaster walls, plus a newer home with standard drywall construction, and a two-level 1960s home with a driveway on another level from the kids’ rooms. We tried the cloud-based monitors with two routers to be sure that any connection issues were with the monitors themselves and not the Internet connection.
Check the return policy: Every family is different, so it can be hard to choose the perfect baby monitor for your needs. For that reason, we recommend you look into each product's return policy. Some companies are very good about letting you return baby monitors, but others are not. You may need to try a few different ones out before you find the winner. Obviously, we hope this guide assists you in making the right choice, but it's always good to have a backup plan. We've noted the return policy for each baby monitor we recommend in this guide.
The iBaby M6S Wi-Fi is the easiest Wi-Fi monitor to setup and use with a score of 9 of 10. The Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi camera is hot on its heels with an 8. Both options walk users through the setup process step-by-step and have intuitive menus that will seem familiar to even the most novice user who is familiar with a smartphone. Both options come with a quick start guide that will have you up and watching your baby in no time.
If you sleep in the same room as your baby or live in a small enough space that you can always hear or see what your baby is up to, you probably don’t need a monitor. Otherwise, most parents enjoy the convenience a baby monitor provides—instead of needing to stay close to the nursery or constantly checking on your child, you’re free to rest, catch up on Netflix or get things done around the house during naptime. Monitors can also double as a nanny cam to keep an eye on your child and their caretaker.