Beyond that, we wanted to hear from an expert on the products’ (perceived and real) security risks. So we spoke to Mark Stanislav, the director of application security for Duo Security and the author of Hacking IoT: A Case Study on Baby Monitor Exposures and Vulnerabilities, whose research has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The Associated Press, CNET, Good Morning America, and Forbes.
Look for a monitoring system that is a good fit for your home and lifestyle. For example, if you’re in a small apartment in a busy city, having a monitor that has a long range won’t be as important to you, but one that screens out background noise will. For parents that frequently travel or work long days, being able to check on your child from anywhere and talk over the audio can help keep you connected. But, for those who are with their kids most of the time this might not matter much. The point is, consider what will make parenting easier and your family happiest and you can’t go wrong.
We wanted to recommend an inexpensive video monitor, but their flaws were so significant that we decided we’d rather spend less on a quality audio-only monitor like the VTech DM221. This is a well-reviewed best seller in the category, and it has crisp sound and better talk-back functionality than the best video monitors we found, as well as a longer range and better battery life than our video picks. It easily beats out its audio-only competitors for various basic reasons like being cordless, rechargeable, or less expensive.
You might see monitors on the market with claims that they can track a baby's breathing or movements, but unless the unit is registered with the FDA, it's not a medical device. Consumer Reports hasn't tested this type of monitor. Talk with your pediatrician if you think your child has a condition that warrants medical monitoring. He or she can give you advice on the best devices.
Child Safety: We care a lot about the safety and well-being of your babies, and our baby monitor reviews are no exception to that rule. Most of the safety issues with baby monitor systems revolve around the parent's due diligence: secure the wires out of reach and out of sight from your baby, make sure you put the camera out of reach (especially when you're mounting to the rail of a crib), and always keep them away from water and a running humidifier. In addition to these basic safety tips, the newer heart rate monitoring, breathing monitoring, and movement monitoring systems can add confidence to parents worried about their baby sleeping in a different room. A good example of a baby monitor with heart rate monitoring is the Owlet Smart Sock that can track heart rate and blood oxygenation levels, and stream that information to an app on your smart phone. Of course, don't be too confident because these devices are not hospital- or laboratory-grade monitoring systems, so keep that in mind.
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.
Video quality is a metric these products should perform well in, but most of them failed to offer a true to life image even in the daytime. It is disappointing that most dedicated video products aren't doing more than providing a blurry image of the baby in the room, and fail to show the baby's features or what the human eye would see in the room. The night vision is even worse than their day vision video, with some images being so blurry and hard to decipher that parents may end up going to baby's room simply because their baby has no face.
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.
Don't be fooled by its cute looks and adorable green bunny ears: Netgear's Arlo Baby is a very capable baby monitor that delivers sharp video of your nursery to your smartphone. The Arlo Baby includes features such as night vision, temperature and air quality sensors, a color-changing nightlight and a speaker that can play lullabies. All of this is very easy to manage thanks to a well-designed mobile app.
The Nanit couldn’t be more perfect for analytical types. The camera—when placed just so—uses computer vision to watch your baby’s every move, and then tell you what it means. You get a notice on your phone, which acts like a handheld monitor, when your child is awake, acting fussy or has fallen asleep. The Nanit also assigns a sleep score to each night based on how many hours your child was actually crashed out. Other stats include how many times you went into your child’s room and how long it took for your little one to fall asleep. Because the Nanit streams live video and audio to your phone, you can also check in on your kiddo when you’re away from home. It also has a nightlight and temperature and humidity sensors.