Battery: We wanted a monitor battery that could last overnight, or at least eight hours, without being plugged in. We thought the ideal product would automatically cut off an idle display screen to conserve battery, work at least a few hours unplugged with the screen on, and recharge fairly efficiently. We made a rechargeable battery a requirement. We preferred units designed to connect to power via a standard USB connector, and looked for reports that the baby monitors could reliably charge, recharge, and hold a charge long-term—a disappointingly rare ability in baby monitors.
A standard video baby monitor is the first step up from audio-only baby monitors. They all come with two parts: the parent unit, consisting of a portable display screen, and the baby unit, which includes the camera and its stand. If you just want the basics or have an unreliable internet connect, a standard video monitor will help you watch over your baby without the price tag of more feature-heavy WiFi monitors.
Some audio/video monitors filter out "normal" sounds and motions. The receiver is supposed to turn on only when your baby makes an unusual motion or sound, such as crying or rolling over when he's waking up from a nap. This feature is designed to extend battery life, although the receiver should be docked for overnight monitoring to keep the battery charged. We haven't tested any models with this feature, so we don't know how well it works.
The baby monitor market is really exploding with new high-quality options that use a wifi camera connected to an app on your smart phone. The Nanit smart baby monitor is a new addition to this market, and we're really excited about it! We got our hands on this baby monitor for testing in mid-2018. Out of the box, the system is really well designed and made with high-quality components. The camera itself looks sleek and modern, similar to the Lollipop baby monitor. Like the other wifi baby monitors on this list, the Nanit streams high definition (HD) digital video and digital audio right to an app on your phone, and the app is available for Android and Apple devices, including phones and tablets. It does this by connecting to your home's wifi and streaming video right through your existing router. In our testing, we found that if you're at home the video streaming is very fast (low latency) and high clarity. And if your internet goes down, it will still work as long as you're still connected to your home wifi. On a 4G LTE connection, the video is a bit choppy from time to time but we found that a common theme with any wifi-based camera system. Let's first talk about some of the features. First, there is an awesome digital zoom feature right from your app - you pinch the screen just like with anything else and get a clearer view of your baby. Second, it has temperature and humidity sensors so you can keep track of nursery conditions. We compared the temperature and humidity readings to our hygrometer and it was very accurate. Third, we loved the wall-mount because it gives you a really nice overhead vantage point on your baby, unlike some of the standing cameras that sit on a nearby surface - this has a much better view. Note that if you want to mount it on a nearby surface like a dresser or changing table, you can buy a separate Nanit table mount. Fourth, it includes the wall mounting hardware and the cord hiding strips to keep the wires out of baby's view and reach. Fifth, the camera quality was excellent in both day and night vision conditions. Finally, there are some other nifty features, like the ability to receive alerts for sound or motion, to have audio running in the background of your phone (which is great for nighttime), a nightlight that you can control right from the app, and encrypted communication. So that's all excellent, and when you combine it with the monthly subscription ($10/month) for Nanit Insights, it's a great package that not only monitors but also can track your baby's sleep habits (including videos). A 1-month trial is included for this service so you can check it out and see if you want to consider - we suspect that most parents will be content with just the real-time monitoring without any habit tracking. In our testing, everything worked really well, and we were consistently impressed by the streaming video and sensors. The biggest drawback for this monitor is the price - it's about $250, which is up at the top of the price range for this entire list. We'll let you figure out whether it's worth the cost for your specific needs. Update: we have now been using this Nanit baby monitor for just over 3 months, and we continue to be very happy with it, it seems to be not only high quality but also reliable (so far!). Interested? you can check out the Nanit Baby Monitor here!
Video, Audio, or Both: First-time parents are suckers for high-definition, night-vision baby monitors where they can pick up on exactly how their child’s chest is rising and falling. You will do this dozens of times a night. Past the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome-scare age, you may just want an audio baby monitor (which a lot of video ones double as), because you’ll know an “I’m hungry” cry from an “I lost my sock” whine.
The Dropcam Echo is an example of a digital video camera system that uses your existing wireless network, allowing you to use your computer or other device as the receiver. (We haven't tested this type of monitor.) Parents go to the Dropcam website, sign in to their account, and then connect the Dropcam to their router using an Ethernet cable. (Once the connection is made, you don't need to use the cable again.) The Dropcam locates your wireless network, you enter your unit's serial number, and the unit begins streaming encrypted video that you can view on a computer, iPhone, iPad, or Android device. You mount the camera in your baby's room and plug it into an electrical outlet.
Motion and audio sensors: In the old days, parents were forced to endure a consistent ambient hiss from their audio monitors while they listened for their child’s stirrings or cries. Mercifully, many modern baby monitors will stay in “quiet mode” until they detect motion and/or sound, which will trigger an alert, such as activating the handheld video display or pushing a notification to your smartphone.
One of the biggest concerns with a baby monitor is going out of range and not hearing baby crying for you. Talk about a case of mom guilt! When shopping for the best long-range baby monitor, note that the range listed on the box doesn’t account for walls or doors; it’s a line-of-sight range. So, although you may not actually be able to travel 1,000 feet away from baby, you should be able to head to the basement to do laundry or be outside in the yard without worrying about missing baby’s cries.
The handheld unit's 5-inch screen is the largest in our review, complementing the camera's wide-angle lens. However, its resolution is the same as smaller units, so the video quality, while acceptable, is poorer. Also, you can't move the camera remotely, a feature you may not use if you only watch your baby as they sleep. The Wide View 2.0 makes up for its video quality with a user-friendly design. It only takes a few minutes to set up and a couple hours to charge the handheld unit. The handheld unit lets you adjust the volume and has an uncomplicated menu. This simplicity comes at the cost of common features – the Wide View 2.0 doesn't track room temperature, and it can't play lullabies through the camera unit. Because this is a simple video monitor, the battery lasted nine hours before it needed to recharge during our tests. The overall best baby monitor, the Infant Optics DXR-8, went 10 hours before shutting off, so this is a very good result. The Summer Infant Wide View 2.0's handheld unit has a limited indoor range compared to most other baby cameras – it’s good enough for most homes but insufficient in particularly large ones. Summer Infant offers a one-year warranty, which is average for video baby monitors.
Since 2016, we've looked at and tested the video, audio, connection, ease of use and battery life on 13 video baby monitors. When we finished our tests, we concluded that the Infant Optics DXR-8 is the overall best video baby monitor because it was the top performer is each of our tests. The DXR-8 has outstanding video and audio quality that no other baby camera matches, and it is also the easiest to use. It’s more expensive than most other models, but the quality you get is well worth it.
The VTech DM221 audio monitor is the best choice in the category—it's consistently a best seller at multiple retailers, with thousands of positive customer reviews. Losing video is a major sacrifice, of course, but we could see this monitor being a good choice for parents of toddlers who are considering replacing a failing monitor, or people who want a monitor only so they can hear their kid crying out from a distant bedroom.
We tested a Nest Camera for the sake of comparison, to see the advantages and disadvantages of a popular security camera versus baby monitors designed expressly for watching babies at home. We have also considered the Arlo Baby monitor, which we’ve seen in demos but not tested firsthand for this guide. Our findings are in Why not just use a security camera? For far more information on all the other similar options—including a detailed look at other Arlo indoor security options, like the Arlo Q—see our guide to the best wireless indoor home security camera.
Start by deciding whether you want an audio-only monitor or one that lets you see as well as hear your baby. Some parents are reassured by hearing and seeing every whimper and movement. Others find such close surveillance to be nerve-racking. Having a monitor should make life easier, not create a constant source of worry. You might find that you don't really need a monitor at all, especially if your home is small.
If you sleep in the same room as your baby or live in a small enough space that you can always hear or see what your baby is up to, you probably don’t need a monitor. Otherwise, most parents enjoy the convenience a baby monitor provides—instead of needing to stay close to the nursery or constantly checking on your child, you’re free to rest, catch up on Netflix or get things done around the house during naptime. Monitors can also double as a nanny cam to keep an eye on your child and their caretaker.