The Nest Cam isn’t a dedicated baby monitor, but an all-around home protection device. Besides aiming the camera at the crib, you can also use it to keep an eye on the nanny, the dog or your empty home while you’re away. The video camera can be set up anywhere, and you can watch the live streaming from your smartphone. It also has two-way communication so you can soothe your little one to sleep, even if you’re offsite. If the device senses motion or sound, it’ll send a phone alert or an email to you. Missed what happened? From the app, you can view photos of any activity that took place over the last three hours. (There are Nest Aware subscriptions available that provide access to 5, 10 or 30 days of recordings, for $5, $10 or $30 a month, respectively). The picture quality is super sharp, too.
The baby monitor includes rechargeable batteries that provide up to 18 hours of monitoring time on a single charge. If you somehow lose the batteries or don’t have the time to charge them, you can always substitute with two AAA batteries. The system comes with a hands free belt clip on the parent unit, so you can carry it wherever you go without the hassle of holding it. It also doubles as a night-light.
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.
It includes a one-parent unit monitor and a one-baby unit audio monitor. It uses DECT 6.0 technology that provides clear transmission, eliminating any annoying white noise you might hear form other analog monitors. Graphic bars on the parent unit indicate the level of sound in your baby’s room, so you can visually monitor the noise level with the unit muted. It has a two-way talkback intercom, so you can communicate with your baby through its audio speakers.
The Motorola MBP36XL wasn’t the fastest-charging battery we tested, but it was reasonable. Most of our hands-on parent testers were happy with the battery life on the parent unit, and they were able to fully recharge it in under five hours. We really like that this monitor also has a rechargeable battery on the camera, which can be used for up to three hours—the more flexibility you have at nap time, the better. One feature this monitor doesn’t have that a few of our parent testers would have appreciated is a sleep or power-save mode.
While buying an audio-only monitor in 2018 is slightly akin to buying a flip phone, the Philips Avent has pretty much all the same features as top-of-the-line camera baby monitors, sans camera. Even better, it uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Communications) technology to guarantee zero interference ⏤ so it won’t get crossed with other signals in your house and/or your neighbor’s cordless phone. The Philips has a range of more than 90-ft inside, a 10-hour battery life, and it uses a “cry mode” so you’re only alerted to real cries for attention rather than background noise. As for extra features, it includes a night light, in-room temperature monitor, and plays lullabies ⏤ if only you could just see the baby.
However, some customers complained that the video feed can only be viewed live unless one wants to pay between US$100 – 300 per year for the Dropcam monthly recording service. While Dropcam will send a “tiny” thumbnail to an email address when motion is detected, it has been noted that the image is so small as to be “worthless.” Others cite streaming delays on LTE (4G) and Wi-Fi, problems with talkback and a “blurry” zoom image. Related to the first complaint is an observation that video can’t be saved on one’s smartphone or computer; for a monthly fee, it can only be retained “in the cloud” on Dropcam’s web database. To their credit, Dropcam’s engineering team has acknowledged the talkback audio and camera zoom problems and have taken steps to correct the issues.
The LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi earned a 3rd place rank thanks to high scores for range and battery life, and impressive results for video quality and features. This monitor earned a Best Value for Wi-Fi monitors for its budget-friendly list price that is the least expensive in the group and its higher rank. This means you can get a great, top performing monitor, at a reasonable price. The LeFun has motion detection, sound activation, 2-way talk to baby, zoom, and a remote-controlled camera with real pan and tilt capabilities. The downside to this camera is a lag time when using the pan and tilt feature, and it is a little harder to use than the other Wi-Fi options we tested, but given the low price, we suspect most parents will forgive these flaws.
Wireless encryption: This ensures that no one else can tap into your monitor’s “feed” and see what’s going on in your house. WiFi-enabled monitors are great for portability and range, but may be more susceptible to hacking. If you go this route, be sure to secure your home wireless network and keep the monitor’s firmware updated. Otherwise look for digital monitors with a 2.4 GHz FHSS wireless transmission.