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SALT LAKE CITY — Baby monitor technology is constantly evolving, but are all the new features worth the money? That depends.
For a lot of families, the best solution is a basic audio-only monitor. They’re easy on your budget and can still offer an array of benefits. For other parents, the capabilities of a top-of-the-line video monitor are too good to pass up.
This article takes a look at a wide range of baby monitors. There are inexpensive audio monitors, Wi-Fi models that sync with your tablets and mobile devices, as well as in-home systems that can accommodate multiple cameras in different rooms.
One of the first things I look for in a monitor is ease of use. The litmus test is whether you can take the monitor out of the box for the first time and have it running in two minutes or less. The Safe&Sound from VTech definitely meets that criterion. It’s one of the most accessible monitors I’ve ever tried.
For budget-conscious parents, this is a great option. It costs less than $40 and still comes with some great features. It uses digital transmission so the sound is crisp and eliminates background noises. You can also put the parent unit on silent mode like a cellphone, so you’ll get a vibrating alert if there’s sound in your baby’s room.
If the Safe&Sound has a weakness, it’s range. When you’re on one side of the house and your baby is sleeping on the other side, the monitor sometimes struggles to deliver clear, distinct sound. That being said, it still has decent range and is good value for the price.
Dropcams have been around for a while, and they’re a great all-around solution. While they’re not made specifically to be baby monitors, they’re so well designed that they fill the role admirably.
First off, Dropcams give you excellent video quality. This is worth noting because many of the Wi-Fi cameras on the market advertise high quality but fail to deliver it. Another key benefit is how easy it is to link the camera to your computer or mobile device. If you’re using a Wi-Fi camera for the first time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by how smooth a process it is.
Dropcam offers cloud video recording, but if you’re on a budget then you should stick to live video (which is free). To record and save video, you have to subscribe for the service through their website and it comes with a hefty fee ($99 to $299 a year), and your files are only saved on the cloud for a maximum of 30 days. So, unless that sounds worthy of the cost, it’s advisable to only use the camera’s live feed.
This audio monitor comes with an affordable price tag and lots of great features. I was really impressed with the sound quality. A lot of monitors have difficulty focusing on baby sounds when there are other noises in the room. For example, a white noise machine can muddy the sound on a lot of monitors. But the BabyWave Deluxe has an excellent microphone that helps filter out ambient sounds.
Another thing that impressed me was the interface. It all starts with the huge on/off buttons on the front of both units. When it’s late at night and you’re fumbling around in the dark trying to find the power button, this will be really important.
Other great features include onscreen temperature readings, nightlight and two-way intercom. There’s also an alert for when the monitor is out of range. Some other models lack this, meaning you wouldn’t know that you’re too far away and unable to hear your baby. It’s parent-friendly features like this that earn the BabyWave Deluxe a top grade.
The Stella 2 from Levana boasts some serious benefits. For one, the cameras have a huge range of vision (270-degree horizontal and 110-degree vertical). They also have wide bases, which translates into greater stability. The parent unit has a 4.3-inch display screen, which is one of the largest I’ve seen. It also has a 750-foot wireless range, easily accommodating most homes.
While the unique egg-shaped cameras of the Stella 2 provide great video coverage, they’re a bit louder as they pan and tilt than other camera units on this list. That most likely won’t be a problem, especially if you use a white noise machine or other ambient noise, but it’s something to be aware of.
Other features from the Stella 2 include two-way communication, a color-changing indicator light that alerts you to the amplitude of your child’s sounds, extended battery life and compatibility with up to four cameras.
This is one sleek baby monitor. It’s got an unusual design that definitely establishes it as a member of the Apple products family. But the unusual design isn’t purely aesthetical — it allows the M6 to give you nearly unheard of coverage: 360-degree pan and 110-degree tilt. Yes, it can turn around completely and let you see every nook and cranny of a room.
Setting up the M6 is pretty simple. Once you download the app and connect the cables to the monitor, it takes over and initiates the setup. Wi-Fi cameras usually struggle to deliver HD quality to your mobile device, but the M6 makes a valiant effort. The end result is video footage that’s slightly less crisp than a top-of-the-line in-home system, but far better than your average Wi-Fi model.
As with other Wi-Fi monitors, the M6 lets you capture video and snapshots of your child. iBaby takes this concept to a new level by integrating social networking platform into the software. Additional features include the ability to record and play back your voice singing or reading stories to your child, as well as an alert system where the camera will automatically record your child (with photos or video) when motion is detected.
The DCS-825L from D-Link has some interesting features that make it unique to this list. First of all, the camera doesn’t pan or tilt. Because it’s stationary, it is designed to give you an extra wide viewing range. This works fine for many parents, because they’ll simply put the camera in a part of the room that gives them maximum coverage. But it’s not always practical and some users find themselves wishing that the camera could be controlled from afar.
Another unique feature of the DCS-825L is that it not only plays lullabies, which some of the other models on this list do, but you can customize the songs that it plays. There’s a MicroSD/SDHC card slot that allows you to add new songs to the playlist. And if there’s a MicroSD/SDHC in the camera, you can also record snapshots and video (for no additional fee, unlike Dropcam).
Setting up the DCS-825L is a pretty straightforward process, but if you’re not a tech-savvy person, then it may be a little challenging. Once you’ve synced the camera to your tablet or mobile device, you can start using the advanced features such as two-way audio, temperature sensor and motion detection.
One complaint that parents often have with their baby monitor is that the camera motors are too loud. Panning and tilting sometimes sounds like you’re grinding coffee, which can wake your little one. Among the DualView’s great benefits is that it’s as stealthy as ever. You can control the camera movements all you want and it’s always whisper quiet.
I was also impressed by the sharp video resolution. The night vision is particularly notable. The DualView comes with two cameras, but can sync up with as many as four inside your home. It even has split-screen technology so you can monitor two rooms simultaneously.
The DualView advertises that is has a 600-foot range on the parent unit, and that seems to be accurate. It has a 3.5-inch LCD video display, which is one of the best I’ve seen. Another nice feature on the parent unit is the kickstand on the back that allows you to prop up the screen on a flat surface.
The Safe&Sound from V-Tech has excellent range. It can transmit video up to 1,000 feet, which is certainly on the higher end of the spectrum. More importantly, it can deliver quality video at that distance. Some other monitors that advertise 1,000-foot range seem to base that distance on a best-case scenario. Throw in a few walls between your baby’s room and yours, and suddenly that 1,000 feet becomes more like 700. But this monitor is powerful enough that it could work if your baby were inside the house and you were relaxing in the backyard.
Other nice features include the temperature gauge, four-camera compatibility, split view on the parent unit and a patrol mode that transitions between each camera every seven seconds.
As for the quality of the camera, it’s one of the better you’ll find. It captures 25 frames per second, which translates into crisp video with lots of detail. And that clarity continues when you turn out the lights and the night vision (assisted by two infrared LEDs) kicks in.
Motorola has upgraded to 2.4GHz FHSS technology for the MBP36S, and it offers some real benefits. For one thing, the audio is really sharp. Since this monitor offers two-way communication, that mean you’ll hear your babies crystal clear and they’ll hear you just as clearly when you speak through the intercom. Also, the audio is encrypted so the signal is safe and secure.
The MBP36S also provides great video quality. It does well in low-light situations and makes it easy to check in on your child at any time of night. The 3.5-inch viewing screen is impressive and even allows picture-in-picture viewing. You can add up to four cameras to the system.
With its impressive signal clarity, you’d expect the MBP36S to have better range than 600 feet. That being said, it’s still adequate for most households. And there’s an alert for when you’re out of range, so you won’t accidentally lose connection with the camera unit. All in all, this is a very solid system.
Grant Olsen joined the KSL.com contributor team in 2012. He covers outdoor adventures, travel, product reviews and other interesting things. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.