Babble Best Baby Monitors of 2012
When buying a baby monitor, parents seeking out helpful advice are often met with sometimes-complicated tech terms and contradictory reviews. Most look to a monitor's "range" as an indication of a good monitor, but there are a lot of other factors to keep in mind - ones that might turn out to be deal breakers. Hence rule #1: Always keep your receipt.
One of the most important factors is frequency. The more electronics you have clogging up a particular frequency (whether it's 2.4 GHz, 900 MHz, etc.), the more interference you might have. That's the reason why some homes can't pick up a signal, even after reading loads of glowing product reviews. Yet the reality is that we often don't know what frequency our wireless devices run on
(cell phones, wireless routers, cordless phones, laptops, etc.) - including what our close neighbors are using - so it could be a trial-and-error process. During our tests, we fortunately didn't run into any major static issues, considering most monitors have a variety of channels to choose from - and most automatically change to the best channel for your home. But frequency definitely plays a part in
sound quality. Read More »
Static and signal issues could be coming from other sources too, like your house itself. A monitor's advertised range (how far a monitor's signal can reach) is measured in an obstacle-free environment (which most homes are not), so the number is fairly relative to where you're living - including building materials like aluminum siding. Because most people don't live in completely open environments, it can be hard to judge just how much range you really need. If you're getting a lot of static, try a monitor with longer range. While frequency will still play a bigger role, when in doubt, go with the longer range. A monitor that claims to work 2,000 ft. away from the baby unit will more likely have a stronger signal than one with a 350-ft. range. But if you only need a monitor for a few rooms away (rather than for a multi-story house, or to reach out in the backyard), then pretty much any range will do.
The third feature to consider is digital vs. analog monitors. Traditional analog monitors are basically radio transmitters - meaning there's a chance that a neighboring family can pick up your baby's cries on their monitor, or a trucker's radio scanner can tune into what's going on in your baby room. The newer (and more expensive) digital monitors encrypt the sound from monitor to receiver, making it impossible for outsiders to listen in.
The last thing to consider is which features you'll want. If you're heading back to work, you might want a wireless network monitor that allows you to check in from your smart phone or computer. If you have multiple kids or if you'd like to monitor several rooms at once (i.e. "The Nanny Cam"), choose a monitor that can be expanded to three or four cameras. If you know that constant surveillance will keep you on edge, opt for a basic audio monitor. If you want to know what's going on at all times, find a monitor with features like movement/temperature/humidity sensors.
Most importantly, always check in with customer service before writing off a monitor. Sometimes electronics have glitches - and those are unfortunately unavoidable across the gadget spectrum.
All of these baby monitors were tested in up to four different homes, looking for clarity (both audio and visual), ease of use, battery life, range, and unique features. If we missed one that you love, please nominate it here! - Michelle Horton
4 / 20
Best Value | Mobi Digital DL
If you want the most for your dollar, the 2.4 GHz MobiCam Digital DL has some serious options. For under $100, you get a well-performing digital baby monitor with comparable features to monitors that cost over $150 more – including a wider-than-normal LCD screen and adequately clear video. The camera and monitor are both portable (but you can plug them in if battery power starts to wane), and you can set the monitor to voice activation-only – which saves battery power. That being said, the Mobi just didn’t have the best battery life out of all the tested monitors. Beyond baby monitoring, you can even connect the Mobi cam to your computer for an instant webcam – compatible with Skype, Google Video, Yahoo Messenger, and Microsoft Messenger. This could be a major attraction for parents without some kind of webcam, especially those with out-of-state relatives. You can also stream the monitor through your TV for an extra-large view.
You can also invest a little more and hook up four more cameras (at $61.13 each) for multi-room monitoring. You can even buy separate software to stream your baby monitor on your smart phone or computer – which is a dream for working parents.
As for the nitty-gritties, we do wish the camera had a bit more flexibility, perhaps with panning and scanning capabilities. The video isn’t quite as clear as the Summer Infant BabyTouch, but it absolutely gets the job done – especially for the price. (And we did love the simple set-up and variety of options at an attractive price point.)
If you want to spend a little more on the DXR model, $176.69 (which we didn’t test), then you’ll get two-way communication as well as an SD card slot for recording. But if you’re going to spend that much money, you might as well go with the Lorex Live Sense SD 3.5.
Get it from Amazon, $115.11