As you’d expect, the talk back functionality and audio quality in general are great—easily better than the crude talk back features on our video monitor picks. With the battery lasting about 19 hours on a full charge, this monitor had the strongest battery life of any in our test (not entirely a fair comparison, as this is the only one with no screen to power). Rated to a range of 1,000 feet, it exceeds the range of our pick (700 feet) both as advertised and in practice during tests.
To test each camera’s night vision, we used them in darkened bedrooms with blackout curtains, with and without nightlights. For a more extreme test, we set the cameras up in a windowless room in a basement with a towel blocking light from the door. We aimed all the cameras at a doll’s face approximately 6 feet across the room, looked at the monitors, and tried not to creep ourselves out.
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.
Here is a great bang-for-the-buck best baby monitor that has some great features. It is sold under two different brand names, one is Babysense, and the other is Smilism. We purchased both, and they were basically exactly the same other than the different logos. We're assuming they are the same company selling under two different brand names, but we can't be sure. Let's begin with the "bang" part of bang-for-the-buck. This baby monitor has a lot of good features, including two-way intercom, room temperature monitoring, "eco" mode that keeps the screen off until it hears your baby make a sound, remote zoom, and a few music (lullaby) options. It is also expandable up to 4 cameras, using the same base unit. From the base unit, you can cycle through which camera you want to view at any given time; you cannot view them all simultaneously on the same base unit (like picture-in-picture). We really liked the eco mode, and also liked that on the top of the unit there is a little flashing light to reassure you that it's on during eco mode, even though the screen is off. So there are a lot of great features here, especially for the low price of only about $75! That's right, only about $75, and each add-on camera is about $40. So there's a great deal for a nicely featured camera. What are the missing features? Well, the remote tilt and pan function was not included, so you have to position the camera the right way in your baby's room or you're out of luck in the middle of the night. Second, in our testing it took a bit too much time to cycle between each of the baby cameras: the screen would turn white and you need to wait several seconds for the other camera to show on the screen. This same white screen happens during start-up of the unit. We also weren't totally impressed by the range of the base unit on this Babysense video baby monitor. It works great if you're 1-2 rooms away, but if you go upstairs or several rooms away, the signal drops intermittently. Even with those little downfalls, this is a great budget pick for a well-featured baby video monitor with some good reliability, enough to put it up at this spot on our best-of list. Note that Babysense also makes a great new under-mattress movement monitor as well. We've been using it for 10 months now and it's still going strong with no issues. Interested? You can check out the Babysense Baby Monitor here.
Ease of use may not seem like a big deal because once you know how to use something, it won't seem that hard, and after you use it for a while it can feel intuitive even if it isn't. However, with this type of product, there can be a learning curve depending on what kind you choose and how many features it has. While the dedicated monitors were plug in and go options that even grandma can manage, some of them took a little more skill to navigate and learn. The Wi-Fi options, on the other hand, do require some knowledge of technology and the way apps work. With all of them, you will need to set up the camera with your computer or another device, and you will need to set up an account and be able to manage things like Wi-Fi passwords and various settings inside the application. While this may seem like no big deal to some parents, it could be challenging for those that are less tech-savvy.
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.
Like many monitors in this price range, the SafeVIEW provides a lot of bells and whistles: remote zoom, tilt and pan of the camera, two-way communication and a range of 900 feet so you don’t have to stress about chatting with your neighbor outside during naptime. The SafeVIEW also has a built-in nightlight that you can turn on and off using the monitor. And, if the monitor is going nuts every time a big truck drives by or during a thunderstorm, you can decrease its sound sensitivity to not pick up the background noise.