We tested monitors daily over a period of several months, in three houses: one nearly 100 years old with plaster walls, 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 Wi-Fi–enabled monitors with two routers, in separate test locations, to be sure that any connection issues were with the monitors themselves and not the Internet connection.
Long Range: Monitors that don’t connect to WiFi have a limited range, usually around 600 to 1,000 feet. While this is large enough for all but the biggest houses, we asked our testers to find out how far they could wander away — and how many walls they could put between them and the baby unit — before they went out of range, as well as to report back on what happened when they did. Sometimes there was an alarm or a notification, but other times the screen simply froze.
Portable Base Unit with Good Range: Babies go to bed earlier than parents, and they also nap during the day. Unless you want to spend your time sitting next to the baby monitor base unit watching the video stream, you're going to want a unit that has far range and good battery life. This will let you take the unit and, say, take out the trash or let the dog out, while still being able to see your baby. Better yet, many of our best-rated baby monitors are completely wireless and operate by running iPhone or Android apps on your smartphone to wirelessly view the digital color video stream wherever you are. In this way, you're no longer buying a camera and monitor, you're only buying the same cameras that modern security cameras use. This gives you a more universal baby monitor and makes portable wifi baby monitoring more convenient than ever, and we're definitely in support of this new trend. Want to keep an eye on your child while you're on date night? No problem, but only with one of these modern systems.
Alex Colon is the managing editor of PCMag's consumer electronics team. He previously covered mobile technology for PCMag and Gigaom. Though he does the majority of his reading and writing on various digital displays, Alex still loves to sit down with a good, old-fashioned, paper and ink book in his free time. (Not that there's anything wrong wit... See Full Bio
Video is streamed wirelessly in real time to a slim 3.5-inch LCD color display module, providing a crystal-clear image without grainy or pixelated images. There’s a 2.4 GHz FHSS wireless transmission that provides both privacy and delay-free video and audio feedback. The monitor system has a portable power source that lasts an average of 10 hours in power saving mode, and six hours with the display screen constantly on. It can be charge anywhere that has a USB import, such as laptops or desktop computers.
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The monitor has really clear sound quality, allowing me to hear my baby as soon as he stirs and get to him quicker. It has also made the bedtime routine much easier as I can play a lullaby and put the lightshow on to soothe my baby to sleep. The monitor reaches all over the house, so I have the peace of mind that wherever I go, I’ll still hear my baby if he wakes up.
Just because you’re pulling double diaper duty doesn’t mean you need to buy two baby monitors. If you’re a twin mom, simply look for a monitor that can accommodate add-on cameras. The Babysense Video Monitor comes with two digital cameras right out of the box (and can handle up to four), making this the best baby monitor for twins. With the push of a button, you can toggle between views of your twin babes. Plus, this monitor features digital pan/tilt and zoom, two-way communication, room temperature monitoring and a 900-foot range.
Intuitive and User-Friendly Menu and Features: What good are 25 fancy features if you can't figure out how to navigate the menu and customize settings or change options? All of the best baby monitors reviewed above have great utility, with high video quality and a nice feature set, but some of them have relatively high usability, which comes in handy when you don't want to spend too much time shuffling through menus to change one silly setting.
For parents of newborns, few things can be more important than knowing you’ll be there the moment your baby needs you. No wonder a baby monitor usually appears pretty high on the “must buy” list for families with expectant mothers. But don’t rush into buying the most expensive, assuming it’s the best – this is a purchase where you need to think about which features you actually need, and which ones you don’t.
If you’re looking for a feature-packed audio monitor that also gets the basics right, this is great. Importantly, it has good, clear instructions to get you going, as well as boasting a great signal range and battery life, plus two-way talk function. It’s robust and it’s so simple to use that even if a technophobic relative is babysitting, they’ll get the hang of it (as well as being grateful for the large 1.8in screen). Added extras can be gimmicky, but we rather liked the night light, star and moon lightshow and there’s a good choice of lullabies, nature sounds, classical music and white noise. At low volumes, you might struggle to hear clearly, though.
Credit: NetgearCuteness aside, the Arlo Baby is compact enough to fit into even the most crowded nursery; a wall mount is included if you prefer that option. While you plug the camera in to power it, you can also detach the camera and move it into any room where an impromptu nap occurs, though we only saw three hours of battery life when we tried this out.
Baby monitors may have a visible signal as well as repeating the sound. This is often in the form of a set of lights to indicate the noise level, allowing the device to be used when it is inappropriate or impractical for the receiver to play the sound. Other monitors have a vibrating alert on the receiver making it particularly useful for people with hearing difficulties.
We wanted to recommend an inexpensive video monitor, but their flaws are so significant that we decided we’d rather spend less on a quality audio-only monitor like the VTech DM221. This is a well-reviewed best seller in the category, and it has crisp sound and better talk-back functionality than the best video monitors we found, as well as a longer range and better battery life than our video picks. It easily beats out its audio-only competitors for various basic reasons like being cordless, rechargeable, or less expensive.
At night, switch to "audio only" mode to use it as a traditional monitor, or use the camera's infrared night vision to keep an eye on your little one even when it's dark. If your baby needs comforting, the two-way talk feature lets you communicate with them even if you aren’t in the same room. The Shiloh also has built-in temperature monitoring that lets you know if your baby's room is getting uncomfortably hot or cold. The battery lasts for up to 12 hours at a time.