We tested a Nest Camera for the sake of comparison, to see the advantages and disadvantages of a popular security camera versus baby monitors designed expressly for watching babies at home. We have also considered the Arlo Baby monitor, which we’ve seen in demos but not tested firsthand for this guide. Our findings are in Why not just use a security camera? For far more information on all the other similar options—including a detailed look at other Arlo indoor security options, like the Arlo Q—see our guide to the best wireless indoor home security camera.
Video monitors give a quick and silent look into baby's world without leaving your cozy bed or disturbing the baby. If a trip to the nursery is warranted, you haven't lost much time, but if the baby is just adjusting, then you can go back to sleep without getting up. Getting good sleep, or as much sleep as possible can be the difference between a great newborn experience and feeling like a new parent/zombie failure.
The Motorola MBP36S is a wireless video baby monitor that enables you to always keep an eye on things. The crystal clear two-way audio feature allows you to very clearly communicate as if you are in the same room with your little one. Rest assured that they are always safe and sound with the large 3.5 inch diagonal color screen, remote pan, tilt, and zoom, and infrared night vision for keeping an eye on things in very low light levels. The multiple camera viewing with picture-in-picture and auto-switch screen options allow you to add additional cameras to enable you to keep an eye on the entire family in up to 4 rooms of your home. With Motorola’s MBP36S you’re free to watch them dream.
During our tests, we found ourselves among the fraction of buyers having problems with the display on the DXR-8. Our first test unit worked fine out of the box, but after a couple of hours running on battery, the display became distorted and nothing would fix it. Likewise, you’ll find a few complaints on Amazon of users experiencing dead pixels after about a year of use (here’s one and here’s another). The good news: Those folks reported that Infant Optics replaced their monitors even though some were out of warranty. In fact, the company consistently receives decent feedback on customer service. Infant Optics quickly replaced our faulty unit (but as a media inquiry, that’s not comparable to typical customer service), and the new unit has performed fine.
The Infant Optics DXR-8 has a superior battery life to any of the other video monitors we tested, as well as a simpler monitor interface that's more intuitive and easier to navigate than those found on competitors. The range, image quality, price, and many other features are comparable with those of the best competitors. Other good qualities include a basic but secure RF connection, an ability to pair multiple cameras, and simple tactile buttons.
Security is one reason Stanislav personally uses an RF monitor (like our pick) with his own daughter. He added that even that is not completely secure—“there are absolutely ways to break into a signal with radio frequency,” he said. But, noting that you have to be physically close to the house, and have the motive and ability to do it, he says it’s “a very small risk to your average parent.” In addition to the actual risks of a Wi-Fi monitor, there’s a perception that they’re vulnerable—this suspicious tone comes up often in many conversations with parents about monitors, with statements like “we’ve all heard the horror stories”2 coloring the whole discussion and suggesting, to us, that most people are really put off by the vulnerability.
There is so much potential with the Netgear Arlo, providing some excellent features in an adorable package, with awesome versatility and compatibility with Alexa systems. We were excited to test it out, with our anticipation being a little tempered by some of the negative reviews online. Let's start with all the amazing features of this wifi baby monitor. First, it has air quality sensors including nursery temperature, air quality (VOC levels), and humidity. Second, it streams in high definition (1080p) digital video and you can access the video from anywhere in the world with an internet connection (like all of the wifi baby monitors). Third, it works with Amazon Alexa and Apple HomeKit, providing some great versatility for smart homes. Third, it automatically records and saves (in an encrypted cloud storage) the past 7 days of video footage, which is awesome for being able to go back and see what happened a couple days earlier, and there's no subscription cost for that included plan. It also comes equipped with a night light and speaker so you can play lullabies to your baby during nap time or the night. Did we mention how adorable it is with its cute bunny ears? Sorry, we can't resist. It also has a couple other amazing features worth mentioning: it has a rechargeable battery in it just in case the cord gets pulled out or you want to temporarily reposition it somewhere else in your house, two-way talk, automatic alerts sent to your smart phone for sound or motion, local streaming just in case your internet goes down, white noise sound machine option, super clear night vision, a decently wide angle camera, and an adjustable camera head (move up/down to point at the crib) and remote zoom. So that's basically everything you could ever wish for in a smart baby monitor, and maybe more than you ever thought of! So there's so much to love about this monitor, but unfortunately, the system fell short of our expectations during our hands-on review. Like some of the other wifi baby monitors, it can be very delayed in making a connection, and it can get really laggy at times (even when you're on the same network as it). But in addition to those annoyances, we found that it would often disconnect without reconnecting in the middle of the day and night, and there was no apparent solution offered by Netgear (even after updating the firmware). It got really frustrating really quickly, especially since it was really fantastic when it wasn't having any connectivity issues. Pretty disappointing, but our fingers are crossed that Netgear will fix their software soon and fix these limitations. Overall, it has a truly unmatched feature list and when it's working you will absolutely love it for all its features; but when it's not working, and unfortunately that is frequently, you'll get really frustrated with it!
You can expect to pay between $30 and $200 for a dedicated video baby monitor, with most branded units costing around $100 on average. Units that allow you to remotely reposition the camera with pan-tilt-zoom functionality are more expensive than those with a fixed view. Wi-Fi video baby monitors don't generally cost extra, because the lack of a specific parent unit balances out the costs of adding Wi-Fi functionality.
Battery: We wanted a monitor battery that could last overnight, or at least eight hours, without being plugged in. We thought the ideal product would automatically cut off an idle display screen to conserve battery, work at least a few hours unplugged with the screen on, and recharge fairly efficiently. We made a rechargeable battery a requirement. We preferred units designed to connect to power via a standard USB connector, and looked for reports that the baby monitors could reliably charge, recharge, and hold a charge long-term—a disappointingly rare ability in baby monitors.
Surprisingly, there are low-cost options to be found in the video monitors, some with prices similar to or better than their sound counterparts. These great buys include dedicated and Wi-Fi cameras for the basic and more tech-savvy parents alike. Consider the Best Value Levana Lila as a no-nonsense option that anyone can easily use with a price under $100. Or the LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi with a list price of $70 and video images good enough to get the job done. If you have a higher budget, and find value in products that will last for years to come, the Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi has a list price around $200, but for the money, you can use it for years in multiple capacities outside baby monitoring, including security and a nanny cam. With awesome products like these, it is easy to see why video monitors have gained in popularity in recent years.
But these nursery essentials can be as fussy as the babies they keep tabs on. And like virtually every other household appliance, they are growing increasingly more capable and complex. In addition to conventional video baby monitors that use a camera and a handheld LCD display, often called a “parent unit,” there are now also Wi-Fi-enabled systems that connect to your home network and use your smartphone as both the display and the controller, much like DIY home security cameras. These latter models offer high-defition video, intelligent alerts, and the ability to check on your child from anywhere you have an internet connection.
Wireless devices and dirty electricity are almost impossible to get away from in our current technological age, but it doesn't mean we can't take steps to limit the exposure to ourselves and our children. Even though the current evidence is somewhat conflicting, and shows we need more studies and research because the potential is there for harm, parents should make informed and thoughtful decisions regarding their children's exposure to potential health risks, especially given that their bodies are developing and more susceptible to this type of radiation. We can't say for certain that monitors pose a health risk, but we also can't say for certain that they don't. Given this information, we feel it is important to test and report on the EMF levels of each monitor so parents can decide for themselves which product fits in best with their goals and concerns.
The range of a product can make or break whether or not you can use certain options in your home. Depending on the distance from your room to the baby's nursery and the construction of your home or interfering appliances, you could be limited in your options of what will work for you. If your house is large or has more than a handful of walls between the two room, you'll be stuck with a Wi-Fi option only (assuming you have Internet). If your home is smaller or has fewer walls, then you'll have more options. Many of the wearable movement choices work in the baby's room and are not dependant on communicating with a parent device. However, if your room is out of earshot, then you'll never hear the alarm go off making the unit virtually useless without a sound monitoring addition. Choose your product carefully if you think the range will be an issue and purchase from retailers like Amazon that have a generous return policy. Also, don't let it sit in the box, try it out right away and send it back immediately if it doesn't work in your space. Do not rely on the manufacturer's range claim, as we have found these claims to be wildly inaccurate for many brands during our testing.
Gone are the days of silently peeking into the nursery to check on your napping baby and then, whoops, accidentally waking them up (“No, no, please no!”). A baby monitor uses a camera to watch over the crib, while you carry a handheld device that lets you know what’s going on with your child at any given moment, no matter where you are in your home. There are also other monitors that track sleep or breathing either with a clip or sock.
The superior wireless range of the MBP36S lets you keep connected to your baby up to 590 feet away. So even if you have a larger home, you don't have to give up safety or the ability to stay connected to your little one. An alarm sounds when you're getting out of range of the transmitting unit, so you'll never have to wonder if you're close enough to hear what's going on. A low battery alert also sounds when it's time to recharge the battery.
How far away baby's monitor can be from the parent unit is what determines a product's range. While many manufacturers offer a "line of sight" range to describe a monitor's range, it is not a good indication of how well it will work in your home with walls and interference. It doesn't matter how much you like a specific model or brand, if it doesn't work in your house, it simply isn't going to work. We tested both indoor range and open field tests to provide the best information, but remember that the values inside your home matter more than those in an open field, unless of course, you are leaving a baby alone in an open field (which we don't recommend).
So, we split our remaining finalists into three groups: WiFi Monitors for those who want to have an unlimited range or the ability to check in on their baby from anywhere, Movement Monitors for those who are comforted by hearing their baby’s vital signs, and a “standard” category for parents who want a quality monitor, but aren’t looking for that extra level of support.
The push notifications were a great way to keep tabs on the little one but not perfect. False alerts happened (e.g., shifting sunlight through the blinds dinged be a motion alert), but that was consistent with all of the smartphone-based monitors. Push notifications can sometimes make a parent feel blasé, but in practice, they make you no less attentive.