Unlike the previous monitors that work with complementary mobile apps, Dropcam is Internet-based, making its stream accessible to anyone via computer, tablet, or smartphone. Dropcam is an HD video camera that offers a quick set-up process and provides extra features like two-way audio, and movement and sound detection alerts. Because it's Internet-based, you can give access to grandparents, friends, and family through a secure encrypted site. Another neat feature is the ability to record video to Dropcam's online DVR, letting you save and watch (and rewatch) those adorable movements from baby's nap or right after she gets up.
For roughly a third of the price of our pick, the VTech is far more affordable. Losing video is a major sacrifice, of course, and we’re certain most parents looking for a first monitor will prefer being able to do a visual check-in on a baby. Budget advantages aside, we could see this being best for parents of toddlers who are considering replacing a failing monitor, and who know they will likely use a monitor only at night as a way to hear a kid crying out from a distant bedroom. Many reviewers have also found it useful as a way for adults to communicate, especially for caretakers who need to be able to hear when adults with mobility or medical issues need help in another room.
Don’t worry if your Wi-Fi tends to be spotty because this monitor operates on a secure radio frequency. Parents applaud its long range — up to 590 feet — and sensitivity to sound no matter where they are in the house. And if you’re in a far-off room, you’ll still know the temperature in the nursery because it’s displayed on the screen at all times.
Testing battery life for all the monitors was for the parent device only. While some of the dedicated options have a battery in the camera in the event of a power outage, most do not, and they are not intended for use as an all-night option. So while we would support a cordless camera for monitoring baby, due to safety concerns with babies and strangulation hazards, none of the products in our review offer this.
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.
Though it’s not a video monitor, the Owlet does track your baby’s heart rate and oxygen while they sleep, and notifies you if something appears to be wrong. Just slip a comfortable wrap with a sensor over your wee one’s foot (it works with babies 0–18 months) and download the app to your phone. You’ll receive alerts in real-time should your child’s vital signs change. It also comes with a base station that changes color when something is up.
General Usability: This one is two-fold. First we wanted to make sure each monitor could perform under bright, dim, and no light; and pick up even the faintest sounds. Then we looked at how easy it was to use the monitor. Could we adjust the screen brightness, or were we going to be half-blinded when we picked it up at 1AM? Was the monitor voice-activated, or does it pick up white noise in the background? How sensitive were the alarms, and did they sound like a baby-waking screech or a soft ping?
Alex Colon is the managing editor of PCMag's consumer electronics team. He previously covered mobile technology for PCMag and Gigaom. Though he does the majority of his reading and writing on various digital displays, Alex still loves to sit down with a good, old-fashioned, paper and ink book in his free time. (Not that there's anything wrong wit... See Full Bio
Most people don't have unlimited data plans for their smart phone, and are surprised to see very high data usage after just a few hours of streaming their wifi baby monitor. With HD video, you can go through a couple gigabytes of data in just a few hours, so keep that in mind. If your phone is connected to wifi that won't matter, but if you're using 3G or 4G LTE cellular service, you will definitely have slow video and tons of data usage.
This monitor is known for its zoom lens, included in the box, that lets you see your baby up close even if you have to position it farther away from the crib. You can use the monitor to remotely adjust the camera, and you don’t have to worry about plugging the monitor in overnight—it can sit on your nightstand for up to 10 hours in the power-saving mode (similar to sleep mode on your computer, but it still provides sound monitoring while the display is off) and up to six hours with the display screen constantly on.