After testing more than half-a-dozen mounted cameras that beam live video from a nursery, the best baby monitor we've tested is Netgear's Arlo Baby. Netgear's baby monitor packs in a number of must-have features such as clear 1080p video, two-way audio and a host of sensors. Everything's easily accessible from a well-organized mobile app that puts the Arlo Baby's controls at your fingertips.
We tested each product we purchased in key metrics that allow them to function as expected, or provides an additional feature or benefit. Monitors act as something of a lifeline for parents, so it is important that they work well, have adequate range, provide useful images, and are easy to use. If a product doesn't work well enough to instill confidence, then it will fail to offer parents the one thing they really want, more sleep.
It uses 2.4GHz FHSS technology that offers a private connection between the monitor in your baby's room and the dedicated viewer in your hand. The FHSS connection should minimize interference, and most reviewers say the audio is clear. In BabyGearLab's testing, the reviewer found that the Phillips AVENT had the best audio signal of any of the monitors it tested.
If initial impressions mean anything, this is definitely one of the biggest bang-for-the-buck baby monitors on the market. It has some fantastic features, and is offered at a great price point at around $70! Here are some of the best features: first, it has very clear daytime video and crystal clear sound. Using 2.4Ghz communications, like most others on this list, it does a great job connecting, staying connected, and providing superb sound quality. It also is expandable with additional cameras - up to 4 additional cameras to be exact, which means you can really get one of these everywhere. Need one in the playroom, nursery, by the bassinet? Having up to 4 cameras connected is awesome, and the base station provides the easy ability to switch which camera you're looking at. Of course, it only comes with one out of the box, but you can buy extra cameras for about $40 each. We also liked that there is no complicated setup like with some of the IP cameras on this list, which means that there is no connecting to your internet router, or trying to get a phone app to connect. Of course, that also means you can only watch from the base station, not on your phone. About that base station. You can control whether you want digital video and sound, or sound only, and you can also remotely zoom in on your baby as needed (only 2 zoom levels though), but you cannot remotely pan or tilt the camera. There is a 2-way intercom (twoway talk) so you can talk to baby, or play one of the included lullabies. With the screen on, we were able to get the base station's battery to last for about 7 hours, and with just sound the battery lasted for about 11 hours. So definitely long enough for nap times during the day! Like many of the other ones on this list, you can put it into standby mode and have it voice activate automatically when the camera's microphone hears something in the room (like a fussy baby). We thought this feature worked really well and wasn't overly-sensitive and false alarming all night, which could get really annoying. So there are a lot of things to love about this baby video monitor. With such a low price, the feature list is obviously limited. We also thought the nighttime video quality really left something to be desired. We kept trying to increase the brightness to help, but it still was pretty poor relative to other units on this list. Finally, when we first reviewed this system we purchased 3 of them. After 1.5 years, only 1 of them is still working perfectly, 1 of them is a bit glitchy from time to time, and the other one had a screen failure. So we see some reliability and consistency issues with these baby video monitors, and that's the primary reason that it's not higher up on our list. In any event, we do recommend this camera, especially given the overall bang for the buck. But given how cheap it is, don't expect any miracles, or to be buying something to last you until you have grandchildren!
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
Today’s best baby monitors are not your mama’s baby monitors! High-definition video monitoring is becoming the norm, and many baby monitors are now app-enabled or have wi-fi capabilities. Even basic audio monitors have stepped up their game, with many implementing DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) technology to eliminate the interference and the lack of security that comes from monitors using the 2.4 GHz frequency band. If you’ve ever heard your neighbors chatting through your baby monitor, you’ll appreciate this change! DECT also prevents super-creepy baby monitor hackers from spying on baby—or you!
The Nest Cam lets you view live video in 1080-pixel high definition, and it has many of the same features as a standard video baby monitor. For instance, it can alert you in the event of movement, and there’s a two-way talk function built in. Nest Cams also have impressive night vision, allowing you to check in on your little ones as they sleep. Because this camera uses WiFi to send you video, there’s no range limit on it — as long as both the phone and camera are connected to the internet, you’ll be able to see what’s going on.
Baby's exposure could potentially be even lower if parents place the camera on a wall at least 15 feet from baby (a distance still good for night vision to work properly with most monitors). Given the sensitivity of baby's developing systems we recommend placing the monitor as far away from the baby as possible while still being able to utilize the night vision as intended and see baby's face to determine if they are awake or sleeping at a glance. For most of the products, this distance is between 10-15 feet from the baby.
Security is one reason Stanislav personally uses an RF monitor (like our pick) with his own daughter. He added that even that is not completely secure—“there are absolutely ways to break into a signal with radio frequency,” he said. But, noting that you have to be physically close to the house, and have the motive and ability to do it, he says it’s “a very small risk to your average parent.” In addition to the actual risks of a Wi-Fi monitor, there’s a perception that they’re vulnerable—this suspicious tone comes up often in many conversations with parents about monitors, with statements like “we’ve all heard the horror stories”2 coloring the whole discussion and suggesting, to us, that most people are really put off by the vulnerability.
As you'd expect, the talk-back functionality and audio quality on the VTech are great—easily better than the rudimentary talk-back features on our video monitor picks. With the battery lasting about 19 hours on a full charge, this monitor has the strongest battery life of any in our test. 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.
We have been following news that the Amazon Echo Spot, available in December 2017, can work as a baby monitor. While we plan to test these claims firsthand, our initial interview with Amazon confirmed a few hunches, and we believe certain shortcomings will make the Echo Spot hard to recommend as a baby monitor. First, it’s not a “baby monitor” per se; the Echo Spot will project video from an existing home security camera or other Wi-Fi camera through its screen. This approach has a few disadvantages, which we outline in the What about a Wi-Fi baby monitor? section. Amazon also confirmed that the Echo Spot would broadcast the same footage you would see on that camera’s app, and that it would not work as a display for RF monitors, like our pick in this guide. The Spot can use voice commands (for example, “Alexa, show me the nursery”), and we’ll determine in testing if that capability overcomes a common flaw in other Wi-Fi monitors and security cameras, namely a sluggish response time when loading video over a standard app. You can also “drop in on the nursery” to hear audio, and potentially talk back, depending on the camera’s functions. As with the voice function, the ability to see the temperature of the baby’s room, plus pan/tilt, play music, and other functions, will be dependent on the camera the Echo Spot is attached to.
If your internet goes down, your baby monitor goes down. A wifi baby monitor uses your home's internet connection to communicate to servers, then to your app. So if your internet connection goes down, then you will no longer be able to stream video of your baby. That's a huge consideration to keep in mind because you never know when your internet will slow down or simply stop working for several minutes or hours, and you will be stuck without a working baby monitor. There are a few wifi baby monitors that will still communicate locally (within your home's network) when the internet goes down, such as the Lollipop or Nanit. They do this by switching from internet to local area network when an outage is detected, so you can have confidence that if you're connected to your home wifi you'll still see your baby.
The Babysense 7 movement product is a sensor pad mattress product that isn't portable but seems to have fewer false alarms than wearable products. The BabySense 7 is easy to use and doesn't require much setup or preparation outside of placing the sensor and control unit. This unit even works well after your baby learns to roll over, unlike the wearable options that become less reliable as your little one's age.
The BabySense (and other mattress sensors) require a hard surface under the mattress to work, and they don't work with all mattress types so you'll need to research your mattress to ensure it is compatible. This option is also not good for travel because of these special considerations. This product doesn't have a parent unit which means the alarm happens in the nursery with your little one and could be traumatic to sleeping little ones. If you want a movement device that works well and has a longer life than the wearable options, then the BabySense 7 is a great way to get the job done with minimal fuss.
Portable Base Unit with Good Range: Babies go to bed earlier than parents, and they also nap during the day. Unless you want to spend your time sitting next to the baby monitor base unit watching the video stream, you're going to want a unit that has far range and good battery life. This will let you take the unit and, say, take out the trash or let the dog out, while still being able to see your baby. Better yet, many of our best-rated baby monitors are completely wireless and operate by running iPhone or Android apps on your smartphone to wirelessly view the digital color video stream wherever you are. In this way, you're no longer buying a camera and monitor, you're only buying the same cameras that modern security cameras use. This gives you a more universal baby monitor and makes portable wifi baby monitoring more convenient than ever, and we're definitely in support of this new trend. Want to keep an eye on your child while you're on date night? No problem, but only with one of these modern systems.
Lullabies: Monitors often include a selection of soothing sounds to help your baby drift off to slumberland. These can be traditional nursery rhymes of the rock-a-bye-baby variety, nature sounds, white noise, or some combination of all of them. It’s a good idea to check them out before you play them to your sleeping child to determine whether they might help or hinder their sleep.
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.
Searching for a big-screen video baby monitor that will stay put in one place, like on your bedside table, in the kitchen, or living room? And won't break the bank? Then this is the one for you. It has a sleek and truly large 7" display, that looks like a digital picture frame, and is about the size of an iPad Mini. We found the video to have a great quality signal, the monitor to be high resolution for good visibility, and the night vision to work reasonably well (it's grayscale, not greens, but still sufficient to watch baby sleep or check status). It was also really easy to setup, simply plug in the camera, and plug in the video monitor, and you're all set. It comes with great features: it has an integrated two-way audio intercom system, a sleep mode that dims the screen but leaves on the audio, adjustable volume, and adjustable wireless channels to ensure signal clarity even with interference from other devices. In our test, we found everything in this baby monitor system really easy to learn and use, and really enjoyed the "talk" feature that allowed us to talk to our baby in the other room. There were three primary drawbacks, however: first, it is a stationary system, meaning that the display does not have a battery. This is the biggest drawback relative to the above systems. You can move it from room to room, however, as long as you bring the (albeit short) power cord. Second, unlike most others on this list, it does not allow you to remotely control the camera tilt or zoom. Finally, the overall quality isn't up to par with the others on the list. The sound quality wasn't so great, the image sometimes choppy, and the night vision somewhat poor quality relative to others. Overall, it has some great features, and if you're looking to save a bunch of money for a decent video monitor that isn't super versatile, this is one of the best baby monitors for bang for the buck!
Not everyone needs a baby monitor. If you live in a smaller house or apartment, keep your infant in close proximity, or just generally don’t feel the need to monitor your baby as they’re sleeping (the infant cry is hard to miss!), you may find that a monitor is unnecessary. Other people may only want a monitor for occasional use, like when you’re out in your yard while your baby is napping and want to know when they’ve woken up.
Security: Whether you’re skeptical of people hacking baby monitors or deeply concerned about it (and there are stories!), the bottom line is that some monitors are at more risk than others. A Wired story from 2015 refers to security firm Rapid7’s findings that Wi-Fi–enabled monitors were particularly vulnerable. We figured people would prefer the not-hackable type, and we talked to a security expert about how to protect your privacy.
The main reason you’re going to need a baby monitor is to answer a simple, but time-honored, question: Why the hell is my baby crying? It’s only been in the last 30 years or so that parents have relied on the remote surveillance of their sleeping children. For the eons before that, it was a combination of natural, ear-piercing cries, and sleeping in the same yurt.
At the end of the day, if all you want is a no muss no fuss monitor that most parents will be able to set up and use quickly, then either Wi-Fi option will work. However, if you just want to plug it in and have it work without the need to learn something new, then the award-winning Philips Avent SCD630 or the Best Value, Levana Lila, will get the job done simply and fast. The cheaper price tag and simplicity of fewer buttons (easier to use) on the Levana Lila make it a great option as a secondary monitor for Grandma or travel.
Some baby cams can work at night with low light levels. Most video baby monitors today have a night vision feature. Infrared LEDs attached on the front of the camera allow a user to see the baby in a dark room. Video baby monitors that have night vision mode will switch to this mode automatically in the dark. Some advanced baby cams now work over Wi-Fi so parents can watch babies through their smartphone or computer.
The most important thing to look for in all kinds of baby monitors is audio quality. Regardless of whether you want a video-based baby monitor or not, you need clear audio so you can hear your baby properly. You'll also want one with sound activation so that you don't have to listen to white noise 90% of the time. With sound activation, you'll only hear the noises from your baby's room when there's something important to hear.
Watching your child from moment to moment is far more important than going over footage from previous nights, so baby monitors don't usually make a big deal about saving video for later, whether using built-in storage or through a cloud service. They can take snapshots and short clips when they detect movement, but they won't offer time-lapse videos of entire nights at once, or let you page through hours or days of footage. Those features are useful for identifying burglars, but they don't really help you watch your child unless you're in a Paranormal Activity sequel.