Most monitor systems have an electrical cord or nonrechargeable battery option for the unit in the baby's room. And receivers typically have an electrical cord or rechargeable batteries. Some models are notorious for burning through batteries at an alarming rate. Parents have complained that even monitors sold with rechargeable batteries built in can drain quickly. Our Baby Monitor Ratings , available to subscribers, include an evaluation of battery life. Subscribers can also check out our battery report and Ratings (for subscribers).
The Dropcam Echo is an example of a digital video camera system that uses your existing wireless network, allowing you to use your computer or other device as the receiver. (We haven't tested this type of monitor.) Parents go to the Dropcam website, sign in to their account, and then connect the Dropcam to their router using an Ethernet cable. (Once the connection is made, you don't need to use the cable again.) The Dropcam locates your wireless network, you enter your unit's serial number, and the unit begins streaming encrypted video that you can view on a computer, iPhone, iPad, or Android device. You mount the camera in your baby's room and plug it into an electrical outlet.
Rather than requiring an independent video display, the Withings Home sends footage via the cloud to your iOS device (phone or tablet). Its HD video is sharp, colorful and on par with or better than any other camera in its class. And it’s loaded with useful features that feel like the future, like push notifications when your baby makes noise or moves, and the ability to monitor your baby with unlimited range through your smartphone’s data plan. And it was the only smartphone-based camera tested to have background-audio monitoring. (Most importantly, these features aren’t just features. They really work every bit as well as advertised!)
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.
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.