Product Reviews Baby Monitors
Video monitors have become mainstream in recent years, as prices have dropped and cameras have become more sophisticated (you can even stream your baby’s nursery live to the grandparents, if you wish). Here’s a look at the best brands, models and our recommendations.
Our Pick: Brand Recommendations
There are three types of baby video monitors: fixed, PTZ and streaming. Fixed monitors have a camera that is, well, fixed and is the most economical choice. PTZ stands for point/tilt/zoom, where a camera can move and tilt: some parents prefer PTZ monitors since they can scan a room for a wayward baby or toddler. Finally, streaming baby monitors can send a video signal over the internet, so grandparents and relatives can see the baby’s nursery.
Best Bet: Fixed camera. The Infant Optics DXR-5 is an excellent, yet affordable fixed baby monitor at just $99. FHSS technology helps avoid interference and a 2.4” display provides a crisp picture. Simple set-up and voice-activated mode are two key features.
Runner-up: Summer Infant's In View monitor offers a five-inch parent unit, yet is priced under $100. This bare bones unit lacks HD quality or bells and whistles like two-way intercom—but if you just need a basic monitor, this will do the trick.
Best Bet: PTZ camera. The DXR-8 from Infant Optics ($170) comes with a separate 2x optical zoom lens to focus in on a crib—that's unique in this category. The DXR-8 also features a two-way intercom feature and room temperature.
Runner-up: The VTech VM343 ($150) has one of the better parent units (4.3") with a crisp (but not HD) picture. There is a two-talk feature, but the battery life is shorter than our top pick above.
Best Bet: Streaming camera. The Nest Cam is a $200 WiFi based camera that streams video to a smartphone or tablet. The HD quality of this camera is excellent, but using a streaming cam as a baby monitor has limitations—a few seconds delay, etc. An optional based cloud video storage option is an extra monthly charge.
Video baby monitors have become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to improved technology and lower prices, starting at just $100. Here are some key features to look for:
◆ Fixed . . . or not. There are three basic types of video monitors out there: fixed, PTZ and streaming. Fixed monitors have a camera that is, well, fixed and is the most economical choice. PTZ stands for point/tilt/zoom, where a camera can move and tilt: some parents prefer PTZ monitors since they can scan a room for a wayward baby or toddler. Finally, streaming baby monitors can send a video signal over the internet, so grandparents and relatives can see thebaby’s nursery. Each type has its trade-offs—most streaming monitors are fixed. And most PTZ monitors can be pricey.
◆ Zero Dark Nursery. One of the key times you use a monitor is at night—or to see in a darkened room, while baby is sleeping. To help make visible pictures, cameras use night vision—basically a series of LED lights that bathe a nursery in infrared light. While some cameras have better night vision than others (we’ll note this in reviews), realize that baby monitor night vision is rather rudimentary. The goal isn’t to have a super-crisp picture to see your baby’s facial expressions. You just want to see if baby is sleeping. Or playing. Or stand- ing up crying, etc. Of course, weak night vision that doesn’t let you even see if your baby is sleeping or sitting up is a problem. And night vision is often limited in distance—you can’t put the camera ten feet away from the crib and expect to see clearly in the dark.
◆ Battery life. In a word, it sucks for most video monitors. That’s because portable video screens are power hogs. Expect to plug in the monitor for over-night monitoring—that’s because most moni- tors only last two to four hours on battery power.
◆ Resolution. Don’t expect HDTV-quality pictures from most baby monitors. Remember, you are viewing most monitors on a small (2.4” to 3.5”) screen. The resolution should enable you to get a clear view of your baby’s crib or nursery, not to count the freckles on his cute little face (no matter how tempting). The best video monitors have a resolution of 640 x 280 pixels. HDTV, by contrast, is 1920 x 1080 pixels.
◆ VOX. Voice-on-exchange mode is an optional setting on many monitors that only turns on the screen when baby makes a sound above a preset level. This is helpful to conserve battery. Folks either love or hate VOX—fans love not having to hear every peep or squeak from baby. Critics say VOX mode can falsely trigger, awakening sleep- deprived parents when there isn’t a problem in the nursery.
◆ Zoom. The Z in PTZ cameras stands for zoom. And some cameras offer this feature to let you zoom in on a particular area in the nursery. Be aware that most cameras have a digital zoom. This means the pixels in the camera are enlarged when you zoom. As a result, the picture becomes grainy. Hence, the zoom feature is less helpful than you’d think.
◆ Stream. The latest trend in baby monitors are those that can stream a picture online—so you can check baby while you are at work. Or a grandparent can see the nursery. This type of monitor can be tricky to set up, as it requires a secure connection to the internet. Depending on your internet router, these monitors can work fabulously . . . or not at all. We’ll discuss the options in detail in the reviews.
A EXCELLENT-our top pick!
B GOOD-above average quality, prices, and creativity.
C FAIR-could stand some improvement.
D POOR-yuck! Could stand some major improvement.