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 Infant Optics’s range within our test houses was never an issue, and, as with other monitors we tested, we had to walk outside and down the street before losing the signal. The image quality was good enough to make out facial details 6 feet away in a completely dark room (as it was on others we tested). You can easily add more cameras to the set—you can use up to four Infant Optics add-on cameras, which are separate purchases, usually for about $100. You can mount the camera on a wall easily; pan and tilt 270 and 120 degrees, respectively; and set the parent unit to scan between multiple cameras to keep an eye or ear on everybody at once—another nice feature that’s not unique to this model.
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.
Type: After considering the options, weighing the relative advantages, and experiencing many firsthand, we determined that our ideal monitor would be an RF (radio frequency) video monitor rather than one of the two main alternatives: a Wi-Fi (or cloud-based) model that you can check on your phone, and bare-bones audio-only speakers. We approached our research with an open mind, gave an equal chance to all three types, and ended up with a pick from each category.
The longest battery life for the dedicated products in our review is the Levana Lila, which ran for 12.75 hours in full use mode. The manufacturer claims this unit will work up to 72 hours in power saving mode, but we only tested the monitors in full use. The Infant Optics DXR-8 came in second place with a shorter run time of closer to 11.5 hours. The Motorola MBP36S earned the lowest score for battery life with a runtime just under 7 hours. While not necessarily a deal breaker, there are plenty of other reasons to dislike the Motorola MBP36S, and the battery life is just a small part of a disappointing overall picture (no pun intended).
To test each camera’s night vision, we used the monitors in darkened bedrooms with blackout curtains, with and without night-lights. For a more extreme test, we set the cameras up in a windowless room in a basement with a towel blocking light from the door. We aimed all of the cameras at a doll’s face approximately 6 feet across the room, looked at the monitors, and tried not to creep ourselves out.
If initial impressions mean anything, this is definitely one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck baby monitors on the market. It has some fantastic features, and is offered at a great price point at around $70! Here are some of the best features: first, it has very clear daytime video and crystal clear sound. Using 2.4Ghz communications, like most others on this list, it does a great job connecting, staying connected, and providing superb sound quality. It also is expandable with additional cameras - up to 4 additional cameras to be exact, which means you can really get one of these everywhere. Need one in the playroom, nursery, by the bassinet? Having up to 4 cameras connected is awesome, and the base station provides the easy ability to switch which camera you're looking at. Of course, it only comes with one out of the box, but you can buy extra cameras for about $40 each. We also liked that there is no complicated setup like with some of the IP cameras on this list, which means that there is no connecting to your internet router, or trying to get a phone app to connect. Of course, that also means you can only watch from the base station, not on your phone. About that base station. You can control whether you want digital video and sound, or sound only, and you can also remotely zoom in on your baby as needed (only 2 zoom levels though), but you cannot remotely pan or tilt the camera. There is a 2-way intercom (twoway talk) so you can talk to baby, or play one of the included lullabies. With the screen on, we were able to get the base station's battery to last for about 7 hours, and with just sound the battery lasted for about 11 hours. So definitely long enough for nap times during the day! Like many of the other ones on this list, you can put it into standby mode and have it voice activate automatically when the camera's microphone hears something in the room (like a fussy baby). We thought this feature worked really well and wasn't overly-sensitive and false alarming all night, which could get really annoying. So there are a lot of things to love about this baby video monitor. With such a low price, the feature list is obviously limited. We also thought the nighttime video quality really left something to be desired. We kept trying to increase the brightness to help, but it still was pretty poor relative to other units on this list. Finally, when we first reviewed this system we purchased 3 of them. After 1.5 years, only 1 of them is still working perfectly, 1 of them is a bit glitchy from time to time, and the other one had a screen failure. So we see some reliability and consistency issues with these baby video monitors, and that's the primary reason that it's not higher up on our list. In any event, we do recommend this camera, especially given the overall bang for the buck. But given how cheap it is, don't expect any miracles, or to be buying something to last you until you have grandchildren!
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.
To use it, just place the sock on your baby’s foot to keep track of your little one’s heart rate and oxygen levels. All night long, the sock will send that health data to an app on your phone, which means you can check on your baby without ever getting out of bed. Moms love the easy-to-use app and rave about finally being able to get a peaceful night’s sleep. If, for some reason, the sock comes undone or your baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels go outside the normal range, you’ll get an alert. You can stay asleep until you absolutely need to be awake—and those valuable minutes count!
While we chose the Withings Home as our top pick, we know that not everyone wants a camera that connects to their phone. One expensive alternative that we grew to love was the Motorola MBP36 ($230). Its video sharpness doesn’t compete with the Withings Home, nor can it see nearly as wide, but the 3.5-inch screen still captured subtle movements, and you can change the camera angle remotely. Oddly enough, though, our absolute favorite feature was the design of its LED audio monitor. Both clear and soothing (the LEDs aren’t blinding, they’re just gentle, subtle lights), we kept it running long after formal testing was complete. We also found its range to be above average, as we were able to sneak down two flights of stairs in an old brick building and maintain signal. Three flights down, outside our building, we found the connection to mostly freeze, but the monitor never gives up—it keeps scanning for hints of frequency to give you audio and video updates. As a company, Motorola is a long-time pro at juggling radio frequencies across their products. Here, it shows.
Traditional versus Wifi Baby Monitors: Starting around 2010, parents began to switch from using baby monitors with a yoked camera and screen, to using wifi cameras that can stream over smart phones, tablets, and personal computers. At the time, there weren't very many wifi cameras aimed towards the baby gear market, so people were going with familiar wifi camera brands like Nest and Samsung. Over the next few years, companies slowly began introducing baby-themed wifi cameras onto the market. While even high-quality HD wifi cameras can be found for under $50 (like this one) nowadays, companies began to realize they could package a wifi camera as a baby monitor, change the colors and themes of the app, and charge 3-4 times the price. And they continue to use this strategy to this day! So which is better? Well, this really comes down to one thing: do you want to be able to view the nursery while you're not at home? If you answer yes to this question, then you need to use a wifi monitor as opposed to a typical baby monitor. A wifi baby monitor (or any wifi camera) will connect to your internet (some are wired, some through wifi only) and stream live (well, slightly delated) video to an app on your phone. That will work in the house or out of the house, as long as you have a fast internet connection. So you can simply BYOP (bring your own phone) and leverage 20th century technology! That seems really appealing, and we highly recommend some of the newer ones (like the Cocoon Cam, Lollipop, and Nanit), but there are some things to keep in mind when figuring out the type of monitor to buy:
Wireless systems use radio frequencies that are designated by governments for unlicensed use. For example, in North America frequencies near 49 MHz, 902 MHz or 2.4 GHz are available. While these frequencies are not assigned to powerful television or radio broadcasting transmitters, interference from other wireless devices such as cordless telephones, wireless toys, computer wireless networks, radar, Smart Power Meters and microwave ovens is possible.
One thing to note: Most monitors operate on the same 2.4Ghz spectrum used by Wi-Fi (that’s true even for those that don’t connect to the internet). Interference with or from your home network is always a possibility. Having combed through countless real-world user reviews, depending on your (and your neighbors’) exact hardware setup, interference may happen. Buying from somewhere with a good return policy may be worth a few extra bucks on the purchase price.
Baby monitors these days have some seriously cool features. You can view your baby on a screen that has HD resolution and night vision, hear the tiniest of cries, talk into a microphone and play your favorite songs. With so many great options, it can be hard to narrow it down to decide what you need most in a monitor—which is why What to Expect moms did it for you. They nominated their favorite baby monitors, and these were the picks that topped the list.
The air-quality feature monitors Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) levels. These are organic chemicals like acetone or benzene. The EPA says these chemicals are found in paints, paint strippers, aerosols, cleaners, disinfectants, solvents, etc and can cause serious health issues including eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches, loss of coordination, nausea; damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system and even cancer. The Home will alert you to high VOC levels, which indicates it may be time to open a window or increase air circulation in your house. It does not monitor carbon monoxide.
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 owners 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 (as they did ours) even though some were out of warranty. In fact, the company consistently receives decent feedback on customer service.
That said, while video quality is an obvious necessity to any good video monitor, it isn’t the only important metric. In practice, you won’t find yourself watching your monitor all the time. More often, you’ll either be listening in bed, or keeping the monitor in the corner of your eye while reading, watching TV, or cleaning. You want to keep tabs on your baby without obsessing about every move and sound.
The Levana Lila is the second highest ranking dedicated monitor in the review, and 5th overall. This budget-friendly option has the longest battery life of any dedicated monitor we tested and scored well enough for ease of use and sound clarity that you won't be frustrated. Unfortunately, this monitor has a shorter range than the Philips Avent SCD630 and the fewest features in the group (which makes it easier to use). So it may not be a good choice for parents that want all the bells and whistles. This monitor does sport 2-way talk to baby, sound activation, and automatic screen wake/sleep, which are some of the most important features in our mind. The Lila has no zoom, and the field of view is rather small for a camera that is not remotely operated (no pan or tilt). However, if you want a dedicated monitor for the simplicity and peace of mind with less chance of a dropped signal, and budget is a factor, then the Lila can't be beaten.
If you struggle with technology and don't need or want to see your baby from any other location besides your home, you might want to stick with the dedicated monitors that require little setup and have fairly intuitive user interfaces. This isn't to say that most people can't sort out the Wi-Fi monitors, but it is undeniably less work to just plug the camera into an outlet and go than it is to sign up and download software applications.
The camera, which is the most elegant looking of the testing group, sits on a magnetic base that unfortunately cannot be mounted on the wall and must sit on a surface. The camera itself cannot be tilted or panned. It can only be adjusted manually within the concave base—meaning it can be pointed downward, at least a little bit, but its wide-angle lens lessens the needs for dramatic angle adjustments. The unit also include a “privacy mode” where the decorative cover can be rotated to block the camera and signal it to not record any audio or video.