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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.
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.
In addition to being untested for efficacy, physiologic monitors can increase both your stress and your baby’s stress with false alarms and unnecessary trips to the hospital. Dr. Christopher Bonafide, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia wrote that parents are increasingly bringing healthy babies to the hospital over a false alarm, noting that changes that often set off a monitor are “just normal fluctuations.”
The NightLight’s previous pick, The Dropcam Pro, was refreshed as the Nest Cam. This monitor includes a bump in image quality and an enhanced mount that supports camera tripod and magnetic surfaces. At the time of the update, Nest Cam review units were unavailable, but we were able to test the updated Nest app (Nest Home) with our Dropcam Pro review unit. It was based on those results we chose the Withings Home as our pick. We will be fully evaluating the Nest Cam when review units become available.
Security: Whether you’re skeptical of people hacking baby monitors or deeply concerned about it (and there are stories!), the bottom line is that some monitors are at more risk than others. A Wired story from 2015 refers to security firm Rapid7’s findings that Wi-Fi–enabled monitors were particularly vulnerable. We figured people would prefer the not-hackable type, and we talked to a security expert about how to protect your privacy.
At the end of the day, if all you want is a no muss no fuss monitor that most parents will be able to set up and use quickly, then either Wi-Fi option will work. However, if you just want to plug it in and have it work without the need to learn something new, then the award-winning Philips Avent SCD630 or the Best Value, Levana Lila, will get the job done simply and fast. The cheaper price tag and simplicity of fewer buttons (easier to use) on the Levana Lila make it a great option as a secondary monitor for Grandma or travel.
Wi-fi baby monitors are the latest innovation in high-tech baby gear, and they’re super convenient. A baby monitor with wi-fi allows you to connect anywhere that has Internet service or Bluetooth capability, and the monitor can often be controlled remotely using a smartphone or computer. This functionality makes the wi-fi baby monitor great for travelling (unless you’re heading to a remote location). Safety tip: No matter what connection you use, be sure that it’s a secure connection in order to prevent your monitor from being hacked.
Rechargeable batteries: Since the camera will most likely stay trained on your bundle of joy, it can remain plugged into AC power. But parent unit displays are designed to be always on and carried with you as you move from room to room. That can drain batteries quickly. Look for a parent unit that runs on rechargeable batteries, so you’re not constantly swapping them out.
We wanted to recommend a less expensive video monitor, but at any price notably lower than our pick, every product we tried had such serious problems—usually, poor video quality and ongoing connection issues—that we feel a higher end audio-only monitor offers a much better value for a limited budget. The VTech DM221 audio monitor is the best choice in the category—it’s consistently a best seller at multiple retailers, with strong reviews (four out five stars over 4,703 reviews on Amazon) and similarly high ratings at Walmart, Target, and BuyBuy Baby.
"This product has nearly saved my daughter’s life! It also helped me sleep at night. As a new mom I was already constantly waking up to check on my newborn baby girl. The owlet helped me get more sleep. Instead of waking up every 5 minutes to check on her, i would sleep peacefully while my baby slept knowing that the owlet would alert me if anything was wrong. It did go off once while I dosed off while breastfeeding and it literally saved her life. I love this product and feel that it was a great investment. My daughter is 8 months old is and we still use it!"
Watching your child from moment to moment is far more important than going over footage from previous nights, so baby monitors don't usually make a big deal about saving video for later, whether using built-in storage or through a cloud service. They can take snapshots and short clips when they detect movement, but they won't offer time-lapse videos of entire nights at once, or let you page through hours or days of footage. Those features are useful for identifying burglars, but they don't really help you watch your child unless you're in a Paranormal Activity sequel.
This is the #1 best baby monitor on our list, and on many of the major baby product websites. It's the Cadillac (or Lexus?) of baby monitors and has tons of fantastic features. In our testing, we found the video display to be very high quality during both daytime and nighttime conditions. The audio was very high quality as well, and the two-way intercom lets you talk to your baby or sing them a little goodnight lullaby without getting out of bed. We also thought it had great range and good battery life when it's not plugged in. We took it into the back and front yards, without any issues with reception. Bells and whistles abound: this unit has the remotely adjustable pan/tilt/zoom camera, integrated two-way audio intercom system (just push the talk button), baby room temperature monitor, the ability to do digital audio only (screen off for nighttime), and encrypted wireless communication. That adjustable pan allows you to pivot the camera remotely up to 270-degrees left-right, and the adjustable tilt allows you to pivot the camera up to 120-degrees up and down. Super convenient when the camera is positioned close up and your baby moves to the other side of the crib, or the camera gets accidentally bumped or repositioned during the day. The Infant Optics DXR-8 video baby monitor is also expandable up to 4 cameras to place in various locations in your home, and you just press a button on the receiver to toggle between the various camera locations. You can't see all of them at once on the screen of the handheld monitor, but it was easy enough to toggle through the different camera feeds. We also found that the menu is very user-friendly and it's easy to take advantage of all the advanced functions. But you will pay for all this greatness, coming in around $165-175. There is also a relatively inexpensive add-on wide angle lens (see the wide angle lens here) that gives you a much wider viewing angle (170-degrees, which is nearly the same angle as your eyes) to accommodate up-close scenes (like if you place the camera along the edge of the crib). Overall, this is a truly excellent, highly reliable baby monitor with some great features, a great reputation, and is the perfect trade-off for screen size versus portability and battery life. The parents who tested this baby monitor for us fell in love with it, and all had great things to say in their reviews, including its reliability, quality, ease of use, and the accuracy of the temperature display. We definitely can't say that for all of the baby monitors on this list! There is only one con that we found with this baby monitor: an audible beep when you turn the unit off (only on the base unit, not on the camera), which might wake your partner when you quickly turn the unit on/off just to check on your baby in the middle of the night. But that's pretty minor and only one of our testing parents brought it up in their review. Also, according to our Facebook followers the newest version no longer has that beep (we're getting a new testing unit now). In our opinion, this baby monitor passed our testing with flying colors, and we think it's worth every penny! Interested? You can check out the Infant Optics DXR-8 here. Want something about half the price with fewer features? Check out the earlier version of this baby monitor: the Infant Optics DXR-5, also a great option for a little less cash.