Looking for the best video monitors of 2017
Which is the best video baby monitor? After evaluating more than 50 video monitors, we put the top 9 through a rigorous series of tests, over several months, to rate and compare range, sound clarity, video quality, ease-of-use, features, and more. Our 2 month long, side-by-side testing process, and hands-on analysis, is designed to help you find the ideal baby monitor for your family and your budget. We'll help you decide between dedicated monitors and Wi-Fi ready options you can use with your iPhone. Read on and let us help you find the perfect monitor for your needs.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Best Baby Wi-Fi Monitor
iBaby M6S Wi-Fi
The iBaby M6S Wi-Fi is the number one video monitor of 9 competitors in our tests. This monitor has top scores for range, ease of use, features and battery life, with a second place score for video quality. The iBaby's impressive performance during testing, and subsequent overall high score resulted in it winning an Editors' Choice award for best Wi-Fi monitor. This cool Wi-Fi product is the only one we tested specifically designed with baby in mind. It features humidity, temperature, and air quality sensors to help ensure baby stays cozy, and it comes with 10 lullabies and the ability to add your own music and voice. The iBaby is easy to use, has true to life images, and works as it should. It offers sound activation, motion detection, 2 way talk to baby, and a remote controlled camera. The iBaby will even continue to monitor baby with another app running. If that weren't enough, this fun looking camera has a reasonable price point, coming in cheaper than half the competition we reviewed.
Great video quality
Lots of cool features
Easy to use
Remote controlled camera
Inaccurate temperature sensor
Poor sound clarity
Read Full Review: iBaby M6S Wi-Fi
Great for Long Term Use
Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi
The Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi tied for the high score in this review with the iBaby M6S Wi-Fi. This monitor earned the high score for video quality, range, and battery life, with second place scores for ease of use and features. Its impressive performance helped it win the Top Pick award for Long-term Use. This monitor is a cool surveillance camera you can use to watch baby, but given that it wasn't specifically designed with baby in mind, it lacks some of the fun features parents may want like lullabies. The Nest Cam does offer motion detection, sound activation, 2 way talk to baby, and 8x digital zoom. The Nest Cam camera can not be controlled remotely, but instead relies on a large field of view you can zoom into and then search in a way that looks similar to pan and tilt. The downside to this camera is it does not continue to monitor if you use another app or take a phone call. We recommend using a device other than your phone for consistent baby viewing. The Nest Cam is the most expensive Wi-Fi monitor in the group, but it is still cheaper than 3 of the dedicated monitors, and its long-term use possibilities make it an investment we think parents will use for years to come as a nanny cam, home security feature, or checking in on pets.
Easy to use
Features work well
Manual camera adjustment
Poor sound clarity
Read Full Review: Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi
Budget Friendly Wi-Fi
LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi
The LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi earned a 3rd place rank out of 9 products thanks to high scores for range and battery life, and impressive scores for video quality and features. This monitor earned a Best Value for Wi-Fi monitors thanks to a very budget friendly list price that is the least expensive in the group and its higher rank. This means you can get a great, high performing monitor, at a reasonable price. This monitor has motion detection, sound activation, 2 way talk to baby, zoom, and a remote controlled camera for real pan and tilt capabilities. The downside to this camera is a lag time when using the pan and tilt feature, and it is a little harder to use than the other Wi-Fi options we tested, but given the low price, we suspect parents will forgive these flaws.
Nice video quality
Remote controlled camera
Hardest to use Wi-Fi monitor
Poor sound clarity
Read Full Review: LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi
Best Overall Dedicated Monitor
Philips Avent SCD630
The Philips Avent SCD630 earned a 4th place rank in our review, but it the number 1 ranked dedicated monitor we tested. It has the highest range and ease of use scores for the dedicated options and the highest score for sound clarity out of all monitors. This monitor won an Editors' Choice award for Best Dedicated Monitor. The Philips has lullabies, a night light, 2 way talk to baby, automatic screen wakeup/sleep, sound activation, 2x zoom, and a temperature sensor. While it did struggle to offer true to life images and has fewer features than most of the competition, it is hard to deny that this plug and play monitor is a simple solution for baby monitoring needs, and will get the job done with little fuss and a small learning curve. However, if you want a remote controlled camera, you should look elsewhere, as this one is manual only and has a small field of view.
Best range for dedicated monitor
Plug and play setup
Manual camera adjustment
Shorter battery life
Read Full Review: Philips Avent SCD630
Best Dedicated Monitor on a Budget
The Levana Lila is the second highest ranked dedicated monitor in the review, and 5th overall out of 9 competitors. This budget friendly option has the longest battery life of any dedicated monitor we tested and scored well enough for ease of use and sound clarity. Unfortunately, this monitor has a shorter range than the Philips Avent SCD630 and the fewest features in the group. So it may not be a good choice for parents that want all the bells and whistles. This monitor has 2 way talk to baby, sound activation, and automatic screen wake/sleep. The Lila has no zoom, and the field of view is rather small for a camera that is not remotely operated (no pan or tilt). However, if you want a dedicated monitor for the simplicity and peace of mind of less chance for a dropped signal, but budget is a factor, then the Lila can't be beaten.
Easy to use
So so images
Read Full Review: Levana Lila
Analysis and Test Results
In this review, we tested and compared 9 of the most popular video monitors using a comprehensive series of tests over several months of continued use. These tests were designed to provide parents with the information they need to make an informed decision on which product to buy. Each monitor is scored based on performance observed during our hands-on testing process. The test results are used to determine the metric scores, and those scores combine to create overall scores and rank. Award-winning monitors are those that performed well and offer parents and babies the features they need or want. The table below shows an overview of the overall scores and rank of each monitor we tested. These overall scores are a combination of metric scores. Metric scores are derived from hands-on test results from either our in-house lab or user experience "in the field." Overall scores were weighted with a preference to range, video quality, and sound clarity.
Video monitors give a quick and silent look into baby's world without getting out of bed or disturbing baby. If a trip to the nursery is warranted, you haven't lost much time, but if baby is just adjusting, then you can go back to sleep without getting up. Getting good sleep, or as much sleep as possible can be the difference between a great newborn experience and feeling like a new parent failure.
Need Buying Advice?
If you need help deciding what features are important, or what kind of monitor you should consider, take a look at our buying advice articles that break down buying into easy to follow steps:
We purchased and tested each product in key metrics that help them function as expected, or provide an additional feature or benefit. Monitors act as something of a lifeline for parents, so it is very important that the products work well, have adequate range, offer good images, and are easy to use. If a product doesn't work well enough for parents to have confidence in it, then it will fail to offer parents the one thing they really want, more sleep.
How far away baby's monitor can be from the parent unit is what determines a product's range. While many manufacturers offer a "line of sight" range to describe a monitor's range, it is not a good indication of how well it will work in your home with walls and interference. It doesn't matter how much you like a specific model or brand, if it doesn't work in your house, it simply isn't going to work. We tested both indoor range and open field tests to provide the most information, but remember that the values inside your home matter far more than those in an open field, unless of course you are leaving baby alone in an open field (which we don't recommend).
Larger homes or locations with more than 4 or 5 walls between the camera and parent unit might be stuck with a Wi-Fi monitor. Most of the dedicated monitors only worked up to 4 walls, with the exception of the Project Nursery 4.3 that stopped working at 3. The Philips Avent SCD630 has the longest range for dedicated monitors in this review, with an impressive 92 ft through 5 walls, so if your needs are greater than that, then none of the dedicated monitors we tested are likely to work for you. Wi-Fi connected cameras, on the other hand, are limited only by the wireless router location in relation to the camera and parent unit, and the strength and speed of your Wi-Fi connection. If necessary, routers can often be moved, or range extenders added, to increase the range between items if the Wi-Fi monitor struggles to keep a clear or consistent connection.
Audio and Visual Quality
Monitors for baby should have good video images that are clear and true to life, but they must also have sound that is easy to hear and clear enough that parents can quickly decide if they need to look at the viewing screen, go back to sleep, or get running to the nursery. So while you might consider video quality to be the most important metric for this kind of product, we rated both video and sound equally because, without one, the other doesn't much matter. If the sound is muffled, difficult to decipher, or not loud enough, then parents might miss baby's cries. If sound activation or thresholds for background noise don't work as described, then parents might lose sleep because of a loud monitor. However, once alerted, you need a clear view of baby with enough details to determine baby's needs, day or night, or the monitor isn't much better than a sound only monitor.
Most of the monitors we tested have average sound quality and clarity that isn't too muffled or muted. Most had bright high tones without a lot of mid-range or lower tones. This isn't a deal breaker, but it does make baby's cries even harsher than they already are.
The best monitor for sound in our tests is the Philips Avent SCD630, with a score of 8 of 10. This monitor has the best sound activation and background cancellation features in the group, and while the sound is bright, it is also clear and without echo. Most of the competition earned 4s and 5s for sound, with all of the Wi-Fi monitors only earning 4s. It seemed that no matter how good your parent device might be, the Wi-Fi cameras struggle to transmit clear sound with good sound features.
Infant Optics DXR-8 (above right), which earned the highest video quality score for the dedicated monitors.
Video quality is a metric these products should do well in, but most of them failed to offer a true to life image even in the daytime. It is disappointing to discover that most dedicated video products aren't doing much more than providing a blurry image that shows the baby in the room, but don't 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 baby has no face.
Only the Wi-Fi cameras offered video images that reflect the room accurately with the Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi earning a perfect 10 of 10, and the iBaby M6S Wi-Fi and the LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi both earned 9s. All of these monitors offer nice images with enough detail to let you see baby breathe.
Motorola MBP36S (above right) that has the lowest night video quality score.
The high for dedicated monitors is only 6 earned by the Infant Optics DXR-8 that earned a 6. This monitor has images that are darker than the actual room and somewhat fuzzy, but they are nicer than the dedicated competition.
Ease of Use
Ease of use may not seem like a big deal because once you know how to use something, it doesn'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 comes with. While the dedicated monitors were plug in and go products, that even grandma can manage, some of them took a little more skill to navigate through the menus. 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 other 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.
If you struggle with technology and don't need or want to see your baby from any other location besides home, you might want to stick with the dedicated monitors that require little setup and have fairly intuitive user interfaces. This isn't to say that most people can't sort out the Wi-Fi monitors, but it is undeniably less work to just plug the camera into an outlet and go, than signing up and downloading software applications.
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 option that pairs the camera and parent unit itself. The parent unit has very few buttons, with the most frequently used buttons 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.
The iBaby M6S Wi-Fi is the easiest Wi-Fi monitor to setup and use with a score of 9 of 10. The Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi camera is hot on its heels with an 8. Both options walk users through the setup process step-by-step and have intuitive menus that will seem familiar to even the most novice user. Both come with a quick start guide that will have you up and watching baby in no time.
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.
Testing battery life for all the monitors was for the parent device only. While some of the dedicated options have a battery in the camera in the event of a power outage, most do not, and they are not intended for use as an all-night option. So while we would support a cordless camera for monitoring baby, due to safety concerns with babies and strangulation hazards, none of the products in our review offer this.
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 more than the longest dedicated monitor battery life, if the device is dedicated for use with the monitor only and is not running any other applications simultaneously.
The longest battery life for the dedicated products in our review goes to the Levana Lila, which ran for 12.75 hours in full use mode. The manufacturer claims this unit will work up to 72 hours in power saving mode, but we only tested the monitors in full use. The Infant Optics DXR-8 came in second place with a shorter run time of closer to 11.5 hours. The Motorola MBP36S earned the lowest score for battery life with a run time under 7 hours. While not necessarily a deal breaker, there are plenty of other reasons to dislike the Motorola MBP36S, the battery life is just a small part of a disappointing overall picture (no pun intended).
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.
The features we focused on were those we thought either increased the performance of the monitor or made it more user-friendly for parents and increased the odds of getting good quality sleep. We looked for monitors that have sound activation that keeps the parent unit quiet when baby isn't crying, so parents can potentially fall asleep faster because they don't have to listen to white noise. Some of the monitors were so loud, even at low volumes, that the white noise might keep light sleeping parents awake; this kind of defeats the purpose of having a video product, to begin with. We also liked the models that had screens that automatically "wake" and/or go to sleep. In general, the monitors that rank the highest have features that we believe parents will find useful, and work as expected.
The iBaby M6S Wi-Fi earned a 9 of 10 for features in our tests. This monitor offers features that increase convenience for parents and things that are fun for baby. For parent convenience, this camera works on any iOS device, can be accessed from anywhere with internet or cell phone reception (with a data plan), will work with multiple cameras, and has sound activation. The user interface is intuitive for experienced iOS users, and the zoom/pan/tilt features work well. This monitor features a true remote controlled camera with the widest field of view range in the group, motion detection, sound activation, and it has built in remote-controlled lullabies that include the ability to add your music of choice or your recorded voice. The iBaby M6S also monitors the temperature, humidity, and air quality of baby's room so parents can ensure baby is comfy and cozy. If all that weren't enough, the app will remain running when using other apps, and when parents turn the device's screen off. Possibly the only things lacking are an automatic screen wake and sleep, which we think isn't that big of a deal.
The Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi and the LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi came in a close second to the iBaby M6S Wi-Fi for features, both scoring an 8 of 10. Because these cameras are designed more with surveillance in mind and are not solely marketed for baby, they have several features that make parents lives easier, but not anything fancy and fun for baby. They do offer 2 way communication, but no lullabies or environment sensors. Given that many parents already have "noise makers" (aka lullabies) covered by way of another product, the lack of this feature isn't a deal breaker in our book. So while these Wi-Fi cameras lacked the gadgetry fun of humidity sensing and the other bells of the iBaby M6S Wi-Fi, they still got the job of monitoring done in a way that is easy for parents to use. The bonus of the Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi camera is that it can be used for multiple applications when baby gets older and no longer needs an overnight watchman. This monitor can easily shift for use as a nanny cam, security, or pet camera. We think this takes the sting (if there is some) out of its lack of baby fun features, which in the end, most parents usually stop using when the novelty wears off.
The dedicated monitors did not score as well as the Wi-Fi products for features. It isn't that they don't have features, it's just that they don't offer as many, don't have features that make the camera easier to use or the features they have don't work that well. All of the dedicated monitors have 2 way communication, but they all also can only be viewed on the parent device that comes with the monitor. Some offer temperature sensors and lullabies, but most of them don't offer motion detection or really great zoom. The highest score for features for the traditional video products was 5 of 10. Two monitors managed to earn the 5 rating, with the Infant Optics DXR-8 being the highest ranked overall with a feature score of 5. However, this monitor did not score well overall, or in key metrics we think are important for a good video monitor. So despite having a high score for features, we still would not recommend this monitor to a friend.
Features are important, but we encourage you to consider which features you think you will realistically use and which sound like fun in theory, but probably won't happen in practice. Many of the monitors carry a higher price tag that is often justified by the addition of features parents are unlikely to use in real life. Features like alarm clocks for feeding schedules, and alerts for low humidity might feel like something you should consider, but in practice, sound activation and quality images are more useful. In fact, often more features translate to being more difficult to use. A good example of this is the Philips Avent SCD630 with an ease of use score of 8, but a features score of only 4. Try not to fall for the propaganda of bells and whistles that you might only use for the first few weeks. In the end, what you want is a good monitor with great sound and video quality.
Sound Activation Vs. Notifications and Alerts
Sound activation is a feature we think parents should consider. This feature creates a quiet monitor unless baby is actively making noise. This feature translates to parents potentially getting more sleep because they aren't kept awake by ambient noises happening in baby's room. Having sound activation means you only hear what you want to. This feature can be found in dedicated and Wi-Fi monitors.
Notifications and alerts work by sending a message or email to your device when motion or sound has occurred. This feature is only found in the Wi-Fi monitors, and isn't the best feature for baby because it comes after the fact (sometimes up to 30 min or more after), it does not offer details of the type of sound or motion detected, and could get annoying with useless and excessive messages being sent.
For more information on these features or terminology see our Buying Advice article. In the end, we prefer sound activation over notifications and feel that alerts and notifications aren't all that useful for keeping tabs on baby.
Electromagnetic Field (EMF) Levels
Electromagnetic fields (EMF), or dirty electricity, is something we think needs to be discussed when talking about wireless baby monitors. Given that all wireless devices give off some level of EMF, we feel it would be negligent not to discuss the potential for possible health risks associated with the kind of radiation emitted by wireless products. While the jury is still out, and the studies being done are not conclusive yet, there is enough evidence that EMF might potentially cause health problems that we feel it is better to be cautious when it comes to children's exposure than to ignore the possibilities.
Wireless devices and dirty electricity are almost impossible to get away from in our current technological age, but it doesn't mean we can't take steps to limit the exposure to ourselves and our children. Even though the current evidence is somewhat conflicting, and shows we need more studies and research because the potential is there for harm, parents should make informed and thoughtful decisions regarding their children's exposure to potential health risks. We can't say for certain that monitors pose a health risk, but we also can't say for certain that they don't. Given this information, we feel it is important to test and report on the EMF levels of each monitor so parents can decide for themselves which product fits in best with their goals and concerns.
The Wi-Fi monitors all have lower EMF readings than the dedicated options with the lowest average EMF readings being 0.87 for the LeFun C2 720P Wi-Fi and 0.92 for the Nest Cam Indoor Wi-Fi with the reader 6 ft from the camera. The lowest average value for the dedicated monitors at 6 ft is 1.89 for the Infant Optics DXR-8 and 1.91 for the Philips Avent SCD630.
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 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 baby.
Currently, the jury is still out on the effects of EMF on the human body. However, this doesn't mean parents need to wait for more definitive proof before making thoughtful adjustments that err on the side of caution. Given that exposure compounds over time and with an increased number of devices emitting, you can help limit baby's exposure by turning off devices when they are not in use, unplugging wireless routers at night while children sleep, and keeping products as far from baby as possible when in use. Even if you are not convinced that there is potential for harm, it certainly can't hurt to make choices that potentially increase the health of your home.
Video products for monitoring baby are a growing industry, and it feels like every company is jumping on the bandwagon and offering up something into an overflowing market of monitors. This can make sorting through products difficult and narrowing the field feel impossible. Luckily, we have already done the legwork by doing an initial review of the top products and choosing 9 of the most popular and well-rated products to test and compare. After months of hands-on testing, we feel confident that no matter what you might be looking for in a video product for monitoring baby, that you can find it in one of our award winners or the top ranked products in this review.
If you still feel stymied or confused, don't panic! Head over to our How to Choose the Best Video Monitor for You and Your Baby for more information on what you should consider before buying a monitor, and a handy step-by-step guide to narrowing the field and finding the best product for your needs.
— Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz
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