All of the products in our review have features for convenience and overall function, but some also offer features for fun or additional information. All of the products have night vision with sensors for automatic adjustment with light changes, and all offer 2-way communication with baby through the camera. Some of them come with lullabies, and others have nifty temperature and humidity sensors. Overall, whatever you might be looking for, or never knew existed but now want, can probably be found in the products we tested.
While buying an audio-only monitor in 2018 is slightly akin to buying a flip phone, the Philips Avent has pretty much all the same features as top-of-the-line camera baby monitors, sans camera. Even better, it uses DECT (Digital Enhanced Cordless Communications) technology to guarantee zero interference ⏤ so it won’t get crossed with other signals in your house and/or your neighbor’s cordless phone. The Philips has a range of more than 90-ft inside, a 10-hour battery life, and it uses a “cry mode” so you’re only alerted to real cries for attention rather than background noise. As for extra features, it includes a night light, in-room temperature monitor, and plays lullabies ⏤ if only you could just see the baby.
We began by shopping for baby monitors like anyone else would if they had dozens of hours to do it. The process started with a long list of best sellers at Amazon, Walmart, Target, BuyBuy Baby, Babies“R”Us, and Costco. We found monitors recommended in editorial reviews, such as PCMag, Reviewed.com, and Tom’s Guide. We also read a ton of discussion among parents in the Amazon reviews—what features they found especially useful, and what problems tend to occur. Thinking of all this, and comparing those concerns against the things we’ve appreciated and despised in our own years of monitor use, we developed the following selection criteria:
This is the baby monitor that everybody wants to love, with its unique and cute style, its wifi capability, and its huge list of awesome features. The iBaby M7 is the newest addition to the iBaby Care line of wifi baby monitors, released in 2018 and slowly gaining traction and popularity among discerning parents. It builds upon the popular M6S baby monitor by adding a few features, including support for both 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz wifi signals (dual band), a moonlight soother projection system, air quality sensor, and diaper and feeding time alerts. When we setup the camera and installed the app on our Andoid device (also compatible with Apple iOS), we first had some difficulty getting the camera to connect. It turns out that our camera was too far from our wireless router - the manufacturer recommends that the camera is within about 15-25 feet of the router or it will have a poor connection. As a little hint, there is a black reset button on the back of the camera, and if you hold it down for about 45 seconds you'll hear a little jingle and that will reset it. We needed to use that trick to get it working. Once we got it working, it was easy to add the iBaby camera to the app and we were off to the races. And we were impressed with all the features. You could play lullabies, music, white noise, and even bedtime stories like Mother Goose (though the Jack be Nimble option wasn't so calming for bedtime!); you can even add your own music to the options, which is a really cool capability. Up on top of the camera is a little projector that will beam the "moonlight soother" projection onto the ceiling; it can be still, rotating, or off completely. Another hint is that the "help" button on the camera unit will actually turn the projector on or off when you don't have your mobile device. Additional features include motion alerts, temperature and air quality alerts, and diaper and feeding alerts (which once we set up, were actually pretty useful rather than having them on a different app). Speaking of the app, we actually liked it quite a bit - it was intuitive, reliable, and easy to use. Multiple users can access it simultaneously from different devices (use the "Invite & View Users" option), and the same app can be used to cycle between different iBaby cameras you have set up around the house (even the older M6 model can also be added). We thought the video quality was very good, it uses high definition and its night vision was clearer than many of the other options on this list. You can have your device's screen off and the app will prompt an alert when there is noise or movement, so you don't need to keep your phone's screen on all night. The app also lets you save photos and videos to your device, and you can be confident with its security because it's streaming encrypted to the state-of-the-art Amazon AWS servers. So we said it's the baby monitor everyone wants to love, and it should be clear why - the features are truly remarkable, especially for a wifi baby monitor that is only about $170. The only major downfall of this wifi camera system is the connectivity: you need to have it very close to your home's router for it to get a good connection, and it can be finicky with connectivity at times. Once it's connected, we were really happy with it, but it did intermittently disconnect at times which was definitely frustrating. So overall, this is a feature-rich wifi baby monitor that has some great things going for it, and is worthy of this spot on our list. Once they get the connectivity issues fully resolved, this will definitely creep up higher on our list. Interested? You can check out the iBaby Care M7 Baby Monitor here.
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.
For the parent devices of dedicated monitors, the battery life ranged anywhere between 6.75 and 12.75 hours. The Wi-Fi options are harder to gauge given that the battery life depends on the kind of device used, whether or not it is being used for other applications simultaneously, and how old the battery is in the device. In general, however, we feel it is relatively safe to say that most will work longer than the best dedicated monitor battery if the device is dedicated for use with the monitor only and is not running other applications simultaneously.
Reliability. This is a tough one, as it requires long-term knowledge of system reliability, through thick and thin. There are many baby monitors on the market that start out excellent but tend to glitch out or completely fail within the first several months of ownership. This is especially the case for many unrecognized brand names that are saturating the market. If you're buying this as a baby registry gift the last thing you want to do is make the new parents think you cheaped out on a junky baby monitor! All of the best video monitors that make it onto our list have withstood the test of time, lasting at least 6 months, and in some cases several years at this point (like the Infant Optics option!). Another point about reliability that's worth mentioning is that most modern wifi baby monitors will keep a local connection to your app even when the internet is down. So as long as you're still in your house, you can continue streaming video even when the internet is down.
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.
The Snuza Hero SE is a wearable device that clips to baby's diaper or bottoms. It has a unique vibration alert that attempts to rouse little ones into moving enough to stop the impending alarm that will sound audibly if the baby doesn't move. This vibration feature means that false alarms may be less likely to result in a crying baby, though they could cause lack of deep sleep if they happen continually. The Snuza is a nice wearable choice that is easy to use, portable, and didn't have many false alarms during our testing. While it is not a replacement for safer sleep practices, it could provide some parents with increased peace of mind for a better night's sleep.
The Philips Avent SCD630 is the easiest to use dedicated option with a score of 8 of 10. This monitor is a plug and play that pairs the camera and parent unit by itself. The parent unit has very few buttons, with the most frequently used buttons are on the face of the unit. The menu options are relatively intuitive with not much chance of taking a wrong turn or getting buried in a file menu system you can't get out of. The menu could be easier to use, but we think most parents will stick to the buttons on the front of the unit after a few weeks of regular use. The Levana Lila has fewer features and is even easier to use, thanks to a lack of convoluted menu options.
This monitor is known for its zoom lens, included in the box, that lets you see your baby up close even if you have to position it farther away from the crib. You can use the monitor to remotely adjust the camera, and you don’t have to worry about plugging the monitor in overnight—it can sit on your nightstand for up to 10 hours in the power-saving mode (similar to sleep mode on your computer, but it still provides sound monitoring while the display is off) and up to six hours with the display screen constantly on.