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Video Baby Monitor Review
Which Video Baby Monitor Is Best?
Since 2016, we've tested 13 video baby monitors by assessing each product's video, audio, connection, ease of use and battery life. After examining at our latest test results, we found that the Infant Optics DXR-8 stands out from its peers and is the best video baby monitor for most people. It has the clearest image and best audio, and it is astoundingly easy to use. Even though it has some minor flaws and is missing some extras, it's our top recommendation.
The Philips Avent is the best Wi-Fi video baby monitor we tested. In addition to video and audio monitoring, it tracks the temperature and humidity in your baby's nursery and sends push notifications to your phone. However, it's more difficult to set up than other models we reviewed.
The Summer Infant Wide View is the best value option of the video baby monitors we reviewed. Although its video quality isn't as good as that on some other units we tested, it is good enough for basic monitoring. This device stands out because it has excellent battery life, despite its large screen size. In addition to common monitoring capabilities, it comes with fun features; for example, you can record video and save snapshots.
You’ll find callouts for the rest of the video baby monitors we tested in the article below, where we also discuss features to consider as you make your purchase. For more detailed information, check out our individual reviews for each baby monitor.
How We Chose Video Baby Monitors to Test
As we selected video baby monitors for our review, we kept the price under $200, though most average around $100. While this left out a few more expensive models, such as the Arlo Baby, those we included are more affordable for new parents who already have a host of new expenses. Each monitor in our review has either a portable screen you can use to view video or a smartphone app that lets you watch your baby.
While some video baby monitors can track a baby's vital signs, we did not include them in our review. This type of monitor is meant to help prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which causes death in seemingly healthy babies with no explanation.
The Reality of Wi-Fi Baby Cameras
While we tested Wi-Fi video baby monitors alongside traditional ones, they often have a steep learning curve if you aren't tech savvy. For example, the Philips Avent worked well in our tests but not every tester was able to connect it to their Wi-Fi network. There are also more security concerns with your home network and the monitor. However, you can prevent most problems by changing default passwords to strong, unique ones.
If you want a Wi-Fi video baby monitor, you would do well with either the Philips Avent or the Motorola Connect. The Motorola model lets you view the video feed using either the handheld screen or your smartphone. The handheld unit has an excellent battery life and one of the biggest screens we saw, and it plays five different lullabies.
Video Baby Monitors: What We Tested, Why It's Important
We tested each product’s video quality, audio quality, connection quality, ease of use and battery life. While none of the video baby monitors in our review earned a perfect score across the board, each has unique strengths that make it worth considering for your nursery.
Our hands-on testing is designed to simulate everyday experiences with baby monitors. We borrowed some of the monitors we tested from companies and purchased others. The manufacturers have no input on our testing practices, and we do not share our test results or rankings with them prior to publication.
Video Quality Is Important, HD Isn't
Video baby monitors are meant to be simple, inexpensive tools for watching your child. HD video, contrary to the marketing hype, is not a necessity for this. In our video testing, the Infant Optics DXR-8 had the best video quality, but it still pales in comparison to video on smartphones.
While some baby cameras are better than others, each one we reviewed is suitable for watching your infant. Every model we tested had at least a little bit of lag or interference, but the best one only had a single visual hiccup.
We learned that screen resolution is not necessarily an indicator of image quality. As such, we didn't give weight to resolution and instead relied purely on video performance as observed in our tests.
Speakers and microphones on baby monitors don't need to be audiophile quality to let you know your child is upset. Most of the monitors we tested had regular lag and sounded like a phone call. Those with poor performance often had three- to five-second audio lag and a faraway sound like a CB radio.
While most of the monitors we reviewed have usable audio, some are easier on the ears such as the Infant Optics DXR-8, Philips Avent, Levana Keera and Motorola MBP36S. Less pleasant audio, like that of the VTech Safe & Sound, had more distortions such as static, crackles and pops.
Connection Quality Matters More Than Range
To test connectivity, we placed the handheld unit 30 feet from the camera with one wall between them. We looked for interference from other devices, lag, choppiness, and any change in the video or sound quality. While we rated it separately, we also conducted tests to estimate the maximum indoor range of each baby cam.
Each camera we tested has a range of 100 feet or more, which is enough for an average home. Since we did our connection-quality testing at a closer distance, it offers a better glimpse into the video baby monitor’s overall performance than maximum range.
User-Friendly Baby Monitors
While this isn't as objective as our other testing categories, it provides an accurate picture of how easy a video baby monitor is to use. To find the simplest ones, we noted if each model’s setup process was straightforward and whether it was easy to master navigating the menu, changing settings and using the smartphone app, if applicable. After all, you want a baby monitor you can use right away without sinking into a sea of instructions.
Monitors with easy-to-decipher icons, such as the Infant Optics, did better overall. A few features, like the Levana Keera's touchscreen and the Motorola MBP36's vertical directional buttons, aren’t as intuitive and take some getting used to. Our tests showed that Wi-Fi baby video monitors like the Motorola Connect, Philips Avent and iBaby aren't as easy to use as non-Wi-Fi units.
For this test, we put each unit in sleep mode, allowing the video to shut off and the audio to stay on. We then interrupted sleep mode every two hours to represent a baby waking up during the night. To ensure accurate results, we recorded the whole test using a time-lapse video. The average battery life was eight hours, which is more useful for bouts of napping during the day than at night, when you'll probably charge the handheld unit on your nightstand. The Levana Ayden, along with our top pick, has the best battery life at 10 hours.
Video Baby Monitor Basics
As we researched and tested the best video baby monitors, we weren't surprised to find that most aren't very complicated. Beyond the features we tested, there are just a few other things to consider as you choose one.
Viewing Your Baby
Including the Summer Infant Wide View, which sports a 5-inch screen, all the handheld screens we tested are about the size of a smartphone and compact enough to carry around the house. Night vision is a standard feature that lets you observe your baby without disturbing them. This is possible because night vision uses a different type of light that's invisible to human eyes.
You can mount most baby cameras on the wall to keep them out of your child’s reach and to get a better view of the crib or play area. Only one baby camera we tested, the Levana Ayden, doesn't let you do this. Most monitors we tested let you remotely pan, tilt and zoom for a better view. As much as we liked the iBaby M6T's video, its camera only tilts up, not down, which isn't helpful for seeing inside a crib from above.
All video baby monitors have a sleep mode, which turns off the screen so you’re not disturbed by bright light while you sleep. If your baby fusses, the screen turns on or sends an audio notification. Some monitors also use vibration or flashing lights as notifications. If your baby needs to hear your voice to go back to sleep, you can press a button on the parent unit or mobile app to talk to them.
Warranty & Support
The industry average warranty is one year, though the Snug V2 and the Philips Avent come with two years of coverage. If you need assistance, you can often contact the manufacturers using social media, live chat, phone or email.
Extra Features You Might Want to Consider
The two reasons most people buy a video baby monitor are security and convenience, and all the models we reviewed fulfill those needs at least at a basic level. However, some manufacturers throw in extra features that aren't super important but can make your life easier and your baby more comfortable.
Soothing Your Baby
More than half of the units we tested, including the VTech VM343, have a thermometer that lets you check the temperature of your baby's room at a glance. That way, you know if the room is uncomfortably hot or cold.
Some of the cameras we tested include nightlights to help comfort your baby. In fact, the Philips Avent's nightlight has different color options and a timer for each so you can choose the most soothing light for your baby and shut it off automatically. You can also play a handful of recorded lullabies on many of the monitors we tested.
Getting Extra Cameras
With some monitors, you can add more cameras and view them all using the handheld screen or mobile app. This is helpful if you want to keep an eye on your child as they play. The number of cameras you need depends on why you want them, since one camera, when placed correctly, is sufficient for watching your baby as they sleep.
Recording Videos & Images
Many video baby monitors, such as the Motorola Connect and Snug Monitor, let you take snapshots or videos of your baby and save them to a storage device. However, security cameras, which have HD video quality and recording options, are a better option for saving these precious moments.
A good video baby monitor balances security and convenience to give you peace of mind as you care for your baby. No matter which monitor you choose, be sure to pick one with features that fit the needs of your family. We hope our comparison helps make that choice a little easier.
Contributing Reviewer/Writer: Amy Smith, Katherine McEntire