Range: Range is the main drawback of an RF model, as audio monitors can roam farther out, and a Wi-Fi connection can theoretically be checked anywhere. We wanted an adequate range for a typical home—to be able to maintain a signal up or down a flight of stairs, across the house, and out on a patio or driveway, but we didn’t expect much beyond that. We zeroed in on monitors rated to about 700 feet of range or greater.1
Winner of this year’s JPMA innovation award for safety, the Nanit Smart Baby Monitor is an over-the-crib Wi-Fi video monitor that uses computer vision technology to track a baby’s sleep habits/patterns and provide data-crazed parents with stats and customized sleep tips in the morning, most of which are written by medical professionals. The only catch is that to receive these reports and tips, you need to pay $100 a year for Nanit Insights, the company’s subscription-based service. For parents who’d rather not pay the monthly fee, Nanit is still a sleek HD video monitor with night vision, one-way audio, and a soft glow LED nightlight.
The time you use your device depends on your needs and what type of device you choose. Movement products have the shortest lifespan and only work up to about 6-9 months old or when your little one starts rolling and moving. Sound and video options can be used for years depending on your needs. Video products can arguably be used for the longest period because it can help you keep tabs on older children as they nap and play. Wi-Fi options have the most extended use as they can also keep an eye on a nanny or work for security purposes. The Nest Cam is designed for security use and can be used for years to come in lots of applications. If the duration is a top concern for you, then the Wi-Fi video products, like the Nest cam or LeFun, should be your go-to choice.
As you'd expect, the talk-back functionality and audio quality on the VTech are great—easily better than the rudimentary talk-back features on our video monitor picks. With the battery lasting about 19 hours on a full charge, this monitor has the strongest battery life of any in our test. Rated to a range of 1,000 feet, it exceeds the range of our pick (700 feet) both as advertised and in practice during tests.
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.
One detail that really sets the Arlo apart from the other Wi-Fi–enabled monitors we’ve tried sounds pretty simple but it’s actually a big deal if you’re using a monitor on a nightly basis: The Arlo can stream audio via your phone’s speaker while the app is in the background, unlike many other monitors we’ve seen that operate via smartphone, which work only while the app is in the foreground. This allows you to use the Arlo more easily while you sleep, which is how we’ve always used traditional monitors like the Infant Optics or VTech, our other picks. Just be sure you’re charging the phone overnight while doing this. Like the other video monitors we tested, our phones struggled to last a full night on battery alone when used in this way; running the monitor audio-only in the background (on an iPhone X in summer 2018 tests) often drained the phone battery by more than 70 percent between when we went to bed and when we got up seven hours later.
Parents love the ability to swap out the three available lenses. If you’re trying to keep track of an active toddler, use the wide-angle lenses to view the whole room. Try the normal or zoom lens when the camera is pointed at the crib to keep an eye on your sleeping baby. You can also change the camera’s viewing angle remotely from the parent unit.
The Philips Avent DECT SCD570/10 is a sleek looking, quality sound device that has a more extended range than much of the sound competition. It has a battery life of over 30 hours and excellent sound clarity for true-to-life sounds. The nursery unit has a nightlight, lullabies, mic sensitivity function, and a 2way talk to baby feature providing the most popular features for today's demanding parents.
Project Nursery offers a variety of monitor options that include fantastic features like remote camera control, two-way communication, motion, sound and temperature alerts and the ability to play white noise or lullabies. But what we like best about this one is that it comes with a traditional 5-inch screen monitor and a 1.5-inch mini video monitor that you can wear like a bracelet. Both monitors have a long battery life, too.
One minor distinction about the DXR-8 is that it comes with two interchangeable optical lenses (a standard lens and a zoom lens) and you can also buy a wide-angle lens. Having three different lens options is nice, but in practice we felt that the zoom on the standard lens was sufficient, and we expect most buyers would probably not bother changing the lenses frequently, if ever.
Like many monitors in this price range, the SafeVIEW provides a lot of bells and whistles: remote zoom, tilt and pan of the camera, two-way communication and a range of 900 feet so you don’t have to stress about chatting with your neighbor outside during naptime. The SafeVIEW also has a built-in nightlight that you can turn on and off using the monitor. And, if the monitor is going nuts every time a big truck drives by or during a thunderstorm, you can decrease its sound sensitivity to not pick up the background noise.
But although the Arlo can be really impressive, it can also be annoying. Leaving aside that surprisingly impressive night-light, we found in testing that we weren’t using most of those extra features beyond trying them out for novelty’s sake. The Arlo is clearly the way to go if you want to access your camera while away from home. But baby monitors are far more commonly used in our own homes, often by our beds, running all night, with the video off and the audio on, and we peek in if there’s a sign of trouble. That’s about it.
This year alone we have seen over 30 new baby monitors enter the market, most of which are low-quality products being mass produced in China. They are cheap and might even work well for a few weeks or months, but give them a little more time and they will start to have all sorts of issues. We've seen way too many melting chargers, malfunctioning screens, and units that are completely dead after a few months. Don't waste your money! Here's some of the factors we consider in our testing: