The Best Video Baby Monitor Review

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The Dropcam Pro requires parents to use their own personal device as a parent unit
Credit: Micah James
What's the top video monitor for watching baby? In this review, we put 14 of the most popular video baby monitors through a rigorous series of tests to compare range, clarity, ease-of-use, functionality, features, and more. We performed tests on indoor and open-field range, compared video images, sound, features, and ease of use. Our testing and analysis aims to find the best video monitor on the market from both dedicated monitors and Wi-Fi ready options. Read on to see which ones earned enough points to be called the very best.

If you are not sure you need, or want, to invest in video monitoring, take a look at our review of sound monitors: The Best Baby Monitor Review. You might also want to check our our Movement Monitor Review of products that are intended to alert you to the absence of movement in the crib.

Read the full review below >

Review by: and Wendy Schmitz

Top Ranked Video Monitors

Displaying 1 - 5 of 14 << Previous | View All | Next >>
Our Ranking #1 #2 #3 #4 #5
Product Name
DropCam Pro
DropCam Pro
Read the Review
Withings Smart Baby
Withings Smart Baby
Read the Review
Lorex Sweet Peep
Lorex Sweet Peep
Read the Review
Samsung SafeVIEW
Samsung SafeVIEW
Read the Review
Philips Avent Digital Video Baby Monitor
Philips Avent Digital Video Baby Monitor
Read the Review
Editors' Awards  Editors' Choice Award    Best Value Award     
Street Price $200 List
$265 from Amazon
$250 List$120 List
$95 from Amazon
$210 List
$173 from Amazon
$220 List
$130 from Amazon
Overall Score 
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Editors' Rating
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Pros Wi-Fi range, long battery life, great video and soundGreat when it works, has option for wired connection for low-EMF monitoring, allows use of iOS devices to monitor anywhereGood sound, long battery life, nice featuresLarge parent screen, easy to useGood sound, easy to use, long battery
Cons Must have Internet connection and personal deviceNo Android support, reliability issues common with disconnecting signalDisappointing video and range, manual camera adjustmentPoor video, short battery life, short rangeDisappointing video, few features
Bottom Line The best video camera for monitoring baby, hands downWe wanted to love the Withings, but reliability problems and app issues, prevent us from recommending itGood monitor with sound activation at a good priceNot the best video camera for the buckThe disappointing video score and lack of features make this monitor a no go
Date Reviewed Jan 22, 2015Jan 25, 2015Jan 26, 2015Jan 26, 2015Jan 26, 2015
Weighted Scores DropCam Pro Withings Smart Baby Lorex Sweet Peep Samsung SafeVIEW Philips Avent Digital Video Baby Monitor
Range - 30%
10
0
10
10
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10
10
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5
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5
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5
Sound - 20%
10
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7
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4
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7
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9
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8
Video - 20%
10
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8
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8
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6
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5
Ease of Use - 15%
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8
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2
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Features - 5%
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Battery life - 10%
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Product Specs DropCam Pro Withings Smart Baby Lorex Sweet Peep Samsung SafeVIEW Philips Avent Digital Video Baby Monitor
Communication Technology Wifi Wifi or wired LAN cable 2.4 GHz FHSS 2.4 GHz FHSS 2.4 GHz
Indoor Range Test (walls & feet) Anywhere you have wifi internet connectivity. Anywhere you have wifi internet connectivity. 15 meters (50 ft) with Bluetooth. 62 ft - 4 Walls 62 ft - 4 Walls 62 ft - 4 Walls
Open Field Range Test Anywhere you have wifi internet connectivity. Anywhere you have wifi internet connectivity. 15 meters (50 ft) with Bluetooth. 660 ft 812 ft 484 ft
Manufacturer's Claimed Range (*buyer beware!) Anywhere you have wifi internet connectivity. Anywhere you have wifi internet connectivity. 15 meters with Bluetooth. 450 ft 900 ft 500 ft
Max/Min Sound (db) Max 83 db
Min 45 db
Max 84 db
Min 72 db
Max 100 db
Min 0 db
Max 106 db
Min 88 db
Max 101 db
Min 74 db
Screen Size Relies on your Android, iOS device, Mac, or PC screen. Relies on your iOS device, Mac, or PC screen. 2.4" 3.5" 2.4"
Max # of Cameras Unlimited Unlimited 4 4 1
Temperature Sensor No Yes - Temp and Humidity Yes No No
Movement Detection Yes Yes No No No
Sound Activation Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Adjustable Microphone Sensitivity Yes No Yes Yes No
Sound Filtering Test Results Very good Poor Excellent Excellent Excellent
Talk-to-Baby Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Pan/Tilt/ Zoom 8x Digital Zoom 4x Digital Zoom Digital zoom Pan/Tilt/2x Digital Zoom No
Battery Life (hours) N/A N/A 8 hrs 4.5 hrs 8 hrs
EMF @ 6 Feet from Camera (V/m) 0.78 2.58 (or if connected wired, no increase over ambient) 1.43 3.00 1.29
Movement Detection Yes - Sends email notification. Yes - Alert sounds on parent device. No No No
Field Of View 130 Degree 90 horizontally, 120 diagonally H: 41degree, V: 31 degree: D: 50degree 56 degrees, Pan to 300 degrees, tilt to 100 degrees Not Listed
Warranty 1 Year 1 Year + 1 extra Month when ordered from withings.com 1 year 1 Year 2 Year

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DropCam Pro
DropCam Pro
$200
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Editors' Choice Award
Lorex Sweet Peep
Lorex Sweet Peep
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Best Value Award

BabyGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review



It's Like a Window into Baby's Room


A great video baby monitor can play a key role in helping parents and baby get more sleep. Just because baby wakes up doesn't mean they need your immediate attention, and being able to see into baby's room to assess their level of need can mean the difference between a momentary wake up for you and baby, and a complete disruption to the sleep cycle that has you wide awake hours after the initial baby cry. Babies often wake up momentarily and drift back to sleep on their own as part of their natural sleep cycle. They usually do not need help from parents or require any intervention for them to fall back to sleep, but most parents rush into babies room at the slightest noise because they can't tell just by sound what is happening or if baby really needs help. This results in lost sleep for everyone, which is a one way trip to grumpy town for most moms and dads riding the sleep deprivation train.

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Video monitors can give you a quick silent look into baby's world without getting out of bed and without disturbing baby unnecessarily. If a trip to the nursery is warranted, you haven't lost much time, but if baby is just adjusting or chewing on toes you can go back to bed without a trip across the house. For parents, getting a good nights sleep, or at least as much sleep as possible, can be the difference between a great new born experience and feeling like a prisoner at Gitmo.

Dropcam Pro Upgrade Announced by Google — June 2015
Google has announced the new Nest Cam, the replacement for the Dropcam Pro which won our Editors' Choice award. The Nest Cam is largely a rebranding of the Dropcam Pro, and offers only slight improvements the Dropcam Pro. It sells for the same $199 price as the Dropcam Pro, offers an updated industrial design, and pushes the maximum resolution to 1080p (Dropcam Pro offered 720p). If you were contemplating buying the Dropcam Pro, we'd recommend you buy the newer Nest Cam instead. We've ordered a Nest Cam for testing and comparison. Look for an update soon once our Nest Cam arrives.


In this review we have compared 14 of the most popular video monitors in a comprehensive series of tests in various metrics designed to provide the information parents really need to make an informed decision on which product to buy and why. We scored each monitor based on our hands-on testing results and selected winners that performed well and offer parents and babies the features they will need or possibly want.

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The rubber meets the road at night, the prime-time for using a baby monitor. Above you can see the Dropcam Pro's impressive nighttime display with up to 8x zoom, as shown on an iPhone 5s.

If you need help deciding what features are important, or what attributes you should consider, take a look at our buying advice articles that break down the options into easy to understand steps that can help you quickly sort through the possibilities to find the right product for you:
  • Baby Monitor Buying Advice — this article gives the low-down on both sound and video monitors, what features to be aware of, and why it might be worth investing more in a baby monitor than you first realized.
  • How to Choose the Best Video Baby Monitor for You — this article focuses on video exclusively and examines what things you should be looking for if you've decided a video solution is the right one for you. With so many options and relatively new technologies on the market, this article can help you figure out the differences between options and why one might work better for your needs than another.

Selecting the Right Monitor


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Nighttime views from left to right: Motorola, Lorex, Levana, Infant Optix.

Selecting the right video monitor can be overwhelming, but it really just comes down to a few key choices that can narrow your field significantly to a manageable size. There are two distinct types of products currently available and once you make that decision it really comes down to how well they function or what features they offer. While the market is full of options, not all of them work well and not all of them will be right for your needs or desires. Reviewing the aforementioned Buying Advice article, and our How We Test companion piece, can give you a better idea of what is "out there" and what questions you should ask yourself when faced with products in this category.

Types of Video Monitors


There are two main types of video products on the market today; the traditional dedicated monitor that includes both a baby camera and a parent device that are linked and only work with each other, and Wi-Fi internet based cameras that work with your smartphone or tablet. Which type you choose may simply be personal preference, or you might need a specific kind based on how you plan to use the product or where your nursery is located in relation to the parent device. Alternatively, it could be you hadn't considered an internet based model because you thought they were too expensive or required knowledge you may not have. Either way we think you'll find everything thing you need in this comprehensive review to walk away with the best product for you.

Dedicated Monitors


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The Motorola Digital Video monitor offers a large 3.5 inch color LCD screen (measured diagonally).
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff
The term "dedicated" refers to the parent unit, which allows you to hear and see the baby. A dedicated monitor has a small parent unit about the size of a smartphone with an LCD screen and a rechargeable battery. It connects to the camera unit in the baby's room through wireless radio signals, similar to those used by portable phones. The parent unit is "dedicated" to task of monitoring and nothing else. As a result, the dedicated monitors are potentially simpler and more reliable than the so called "WiFi" monitors, which rely on a WiFi camera and require the use a smartphone or tablet to view and hear the baby over the internet (and thus you can monitor from anywhere you can get a reasonably fast connection).

Dedicated monitors usually use 2.4 GHz FHSS communication technology to link the camera in baby's room with the parent device in another part of the house. This kind of monitor can be a nice plug and play option that is not too challenging technology wise, but still probably offers useful features like two way communication and sound activation, or temperature sensors and nightlights. These are the video products that have been around for while and they work relatively well under most circumstances. If looking at your baby is what you want, and you don't need this ability away from home and your range isn't too far, this kind of monitor might do the trick while adding nice features or fun options like remote controlled lullabies and the addition of multiple cameras to the same parent unit.

Here are some things to consider when thinking about traditional monitors:
  • Limited range capabilities
  • Easier setup
  • Nothing else to buy or own
  • No Internet required
  • Shorter battery life

Wi-Fi Monitors


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The Dropcam Pro earned the highest score in our testing for video products
Credit: Micah James
WiFi monitors allow you to monitor using your smartphone, tablet, or computer from anywhere you have a reliable and relatively fast internet connection. The camera connects using WiFi (or in the case of the Withings monitor, a LAN cable can be used instead), and you use an app on your phone or tablet to connect.

The internet based monitors have come a long way since our last review of video products, and unlike the previous generation, the newer technology really does offer a monitor that is reliable and easy to operate for most parents. This type of monitor can solve several problems parents might have with the dedicated monitors like offering a significant increase in range for larger homes, and watching baby from other locations outside the home. The Wi-Fi monitors allow you to view baby from work, or share connection with grandparents and other family. It allows parents the option to use personal devices they already own that feel intuitive and offer a larger viewing screen than the dedicated monitors. While this kind of technology might feel overwhelming, we found at least one option that we think most parents will be able to set up and operate with relative ease. If you use a smartphone without frustration, then you can probably manage at least some of the Wi-Fi enabled monitors.

Here are some things to consider when thinking about Wi-Fi monitors:
  • Must have Internet and wireless router (potential hacking concerns)
  • Internet connectivity and speed will effect how well the monitor works
  • Must own or purchase a supported personal device (smartphone or tablet)to use as a parent unit
  • Significantly larger range, limited only by the wireless router
  • View from anywhere with Internet
  • Multiple people can view at the same time

Security/Privacy Concerns


As with any product, safety and security is important to us. The dedicated monitors are relatively safe using DECT technology to encrypt their signal, but some WiFi monitors have been victim to well publicized hacks with hackers watching and talking to baby and parents.

Because all WiFi monitors transmit a video signal over the internet, they can potentially be interrupted by hackers. Different monitors offer very different security profiles based on how the video is transmitted and the kind of encryption technology they use. Given that no monitor connected to the internet is 100% safe, parents should educate themselves and consider some precautions.
For more information on the previous monitor hacking and details on security for online cameras see our Buying Guide.

Criteria for Evaluation


For testing these products we focused on the key metrics that either help monitors to function better, or provide an additional feature or benefit to parents or baby. Given that this kind of product acts as something of a lifeline for parents to keep tabs on their baby from another room, it is very important that the products work well, offer good images, and are easy to use. If connectivity is an issue or the range is significantly limited by distance or interference, then parents will not be able to rely on their monitor to alert them to trouble. If the user interface is hard to navigate, or the monitor lacks useful features like sound activation or two way communication, parents might be frustrated by its limitations or find it doesn't actually suit their needs and help them get a better nights sleep. If the product doesn't work well enough for parents to have confidence in it, then it will likely fail to offer parents the one thing they really want, sleep.

Each product in our review was not only rated on how well it performed during testing, but the products were also compared side-by-side when scored to give you a better feel for how one compares to another. The scores are weighted based on which metrics take precedence in how the monitors function or work. Range, sound, and video were weighted the highest in our review because performance in these metrics make or break whether or not a product is worth buying, or can even do the basic job of giving parents a peek at baby from another location.

Range


The back of the camera has inputs for a power cord and Ethernet cable....
The back of the camera has inputs for a power cord and Ethernet cable. While the device does come with a crib attachment we feel this puts cords too close to baby for safety
Credit: Micah James
Range is a make or break feature for monitors, it doesn't matter how much you like a specific model or brand, if it doesn't work in your house because your nursery is too far away or there are too many obstacles between parent unit and baby camera it just isn't going to work. What might be most important to note when discussing range is that the manufacturer claims are almost always open field/line of sight range claims that have little, if anything, to do with in home actual use capabilities. We tested both to provide the most information, but remember that the values inside your home matter far greater than those in an open field, unless of course you are leaving baby alone in an open field, but that's another story.

For larger homes or locations with lots of walls you might be stuck with a Wi-Fi model. The Motorola MBP36 has the longest range for dedicated monitors with an impressive 80 feet through 5 walls, so if your needs are greater than that, then none of the dedicated monitors we looked at are likely to work for you. The Foscam FBM3501 has the shortest range with a distance of just 55 feet and 3 walls; for smaller apartments this might be acceptable, but in general it is unlikely to be a range that works for most homes. Most of the monitors work in the 62 feet range with 4 walls between the baby and parent units as the average range. Wi-Fi options on the other hand, are limited only by the wireless router location in relation to the camera and parent unit; if necessary routers can often be moved or extenders added to increase the distance between items if the Wi-Fi monitor struggles to keep a clear or consistent connection. The Withings Smart Baby had the longest range between the router and camera for Wi-Fi monitors with a distance of 90 feet through 5 walls.

Audio and Visual Quality


When it comes to monitors for baby it is important that they not only 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 and easily decide if they need to look at the viewing screen, go back to sleep, or get running to the nursery. So while many parents might consider video to be the most important quality for this kind of product, we rated both aspects equally because without one the other doesn't much matter. If the sound is muffled, hard to understand, or not loud enough, then parents might miss being alerted to baby's cries. If sound features like activation or thresholds for background noise don't work as described, then parents might lose sleep not because of baby but due to a loud monitor. Alternatively, once alerted, parents need a clear view day or night of their baby that offers enough details to determine baby's needs, or the whole thing is no better than a simple audio monitor.

For audio most of the monitors have at least an average quality and clarity sound that isn't too muffled or muted. Most offered bright high tones without a lot of mid-range or lower tones. This isn't a deal breaker, but it does make the sound rather harsh and baby's cries crawl right up your spine in the middle of the night, as if it didn't enough already.

The Wifi Baby 3.0 earned a 0 for sound, but in fairness this is less a result of poor sound quality, and more a reflection on our inability to keep it operating for the sound tests. So honestly, we can't really remark on the sound Wifi Baby had to offer. When it came to sound performance the Levana Ovia had the worst sound and features for sound which earned it a 3 for this metric. It did not do well at filtering background noise resulting in a monitor that made constant noise, and its maximum decibels is the lowest in the group, which means its volume range is limited compared to the competition. The Samsung SEW-3037W and the VTech Safe & Sound VM333 both earned 9 out of 10 for sound, with tonal ranges that were better than the competition and adjustable thresholds that created a virtually silent monitor when baby was asleep, which allows parents to sleep more peacefully themselves. However, neither of these monitors scored that well overall, which means the sound might be great, but the rest of the monitor is likely to drive you mad.

For the higher ranking monitors in our review the best sound scores were earned by both award winners, the Dropcam Pro and the Lorex Sweet Peep BB2411 both earning 7s. While 7 might not seem that high, it is adequate to alert parents to crying and give a good impression on the kind of noises happening in baby's room. More importantly the Sweet Peep also has sound activation that works well and creates a silent monitor when baby is sleeping.
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This is a screen shot of the Dropcam video with full field of view, as seen on an iPhone 5s
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

For video, a metric these products really should do well in, not many of them really offer images that are easy to read or accurately reflect what is really going on in the room. It is a little disappointing to discover that video products aren't really 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 for many 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 the video is a hard to read and baby has no face. Over half the products we reviewed only earned score of 5 or below for video, with only 2 products managing higher than a 7.

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The color video for the Withings Smart Baby is one of the best in our review
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff
The Dropcam Pro and the Withings Smart Baby both earned 8 out of 10 for video. Out of all the products they had the clearest visuals with the most readable details both on our eye chart and the baby's face. They also had easy to use zoom features that improved the clarity and made the images easier to see, as opposed to several products whose zoom made images worse. These models also offered better color accuracy than the competition by depicting the color chart in the crib as similar to reality.

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Above you can see the impressive nighttime capability of the Dropcam Pro, which can see nearly as well at night as in day, and offers a very high quality 8x zoom.

The dedicated monitor with the highest score for video is the Summer Infant with a score of 7 and has great night vision images and good color representation. It has a smaller than average viewing screen, of only 2 inches, but the images it offers are some of the best in the bunch.
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The Foscam day time video had the worst score in our tests with color that the images almost looks black and white
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff
The worst video score in this group is the Foscam FBM3501 with a score of 3 out of 10. The images with the Foscam are unclear and hazy with color so bad it almost looks like a weird version of black and white with purple undertones.

Wifi Baby had the lowest score in this metric with a 0, because it generally didn't working during testing. In general, it feels like some of the products took more time and care with features and added bells than they did with their video quality. We think it sort of stinks that products designed with viewing baby in mind don't try harder to present images parents will enjoy looking at. The visuals shown on most of the product packages and websites are not on par with what we actually experienced in our tests. So while the higher tech gadgets like the Dropcam and Withings managed to give us more of what we are looking for, we think all the products could stand an upgrade when it comes to visual quality.

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The photos above show a few of the parent unit images in night vision mode. From left to right they are the Dropcam Pro, Lorex Sweet Peep, Foscam, and VTech.

Ease of Use


Ease of use may not seem like a big deal because most of the time we can get used to just about anything. Once you know how to use something it doesn't seem that hard, and after you use it for awhile it can feel intuitive even if it truly 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 many of the dedicated monitors were truly plug them in and go products, that even your little old grandma could manage, some of them took a little more skill and know how to setup or to download and manage the corresponding app. Even some of the dedicated monitors we looked at required parents to manually pair the camera and parent unit, something that while easy if the directions are good, might be challenging for non tech savvy people who might stare at the word "Pair" all day and still never really understand what it is the directions want them to do.

If you struggle with technology and don't really need or want to see your baby from any other location besides your home you might want to stick with the dedicated monitors that require little setup and have more intuitive user interfaces. This isn't to say that the average person can't sort out the Dropcam and its user friendly setup procedures, but it is undeniably less work to just plug the camera into an outlet and go, than signing up and downloading software applications. Most of the dedicated monitors came pre-paired, and those that required manual pairing were simple push button operations that some folks might even be able to manage without the directions.
All of the buttons on the Summer parent unit are easy to find and push
All of the buttons on the Summer parent unit are easy to find and push
Credit: Micah James
For dedicated monitors the Summer Infant Clear Sight earned the highest score in our ease of use tests. It is a manual paring monitor, but the setup instructions are only 4 steps and require no advanced degrees to operate. But it is the Summer's daily user interface that really won it points for ease of use. The parent unit has very few buttons and the ones it has 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 Uniden Lullaboo Guardian G403 earned the lowest score in this metric for the dedicated monitors earning just a 3 out of 10 in our tests. The user interface is not intuitive, requires far more pressure to activate than you will think, and includes a menu system that can confuse even the savviest of users. The parent unit is large and heavy with a big external antiquated looking antenna. The zoom feature is buried in a menu option and there is no quick 1 button push possibility with this unit. It also has the annoying habit of reverting to a quad view screen even when there is only 1 camera or we chose just 1 camera to view. If there is a way to stop this we couldn't find it and the manual didn't describe it. Overall, it was frustrating to use this monitor and while parents can probably get used to it once they work out the details, we feel like they shouldn't have to with so many easier to use products available.

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Whether you set up the camera via computer or Bluetooth, the process is relatively easy with a few guided steps
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff
For Wi-Fi cameras the Dropcam Pro earned top score with an 8 out 10 leaving the other products in the dust. The Wifi Baby 3.0 managed a 1 in this metric, and the Withings earned only 2 points for its attempt at simplicity. The Dropcam is relatively easy to setup, it comes with a quick start guide and the computer walks you through the process of setup. It only takes a few minutes from start to finish, with a little bit of additional time for downloading the app and logging in. Even with the additional effort of navigating the app for the first use, it is still a relatively user friendly experience that multiple testers managed with ease and no complications. The user interface for daily functions is also easy to operate and intuitive to anyone who uses smartphones or tablets for other reasons.
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If for some reason your Dropcam is disconnected, this warning screen will appear and walk you through its troubleshooting menu or offer to connect you to help from a live person
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Alternatively, the Wifi Baby and Withings Smart Baby both gave us problems that resulted in contacting customer support to resolve. We struggled the most with the Wifi Baby setup and we never did get it right on our own. Even when we thought we had it up and running correctly, it failed repeatedly to stay connected and required an appointment with a Wifi Baby technician to resolve. The technician we worked with was very knowledgeable and friendly, but it did take him over an hour to resolve our issue and over 5 days from our initial request for help to arrange the appointment and actually meet.

The Withings was a mixed bag for us with one user feeling it was relatively easy to setup and another spending over 5 hours without getting it to work. Additionally, the unit we purchased as new was already associated with another email account, and this issue had to be resolved by customer support before we could get it turned on and working. Given that Withings has no phone number for support or help we had to use their contact page. The process of back and forth emails took several days and required us to supply multiple photos and our invoice to resolve the issue. So while the problem we were having may not have been the manufacturers fault (we did buy it from somewhere else) we feel this kind of customer support is inadequate for a product of this type and this "built in" safeguard doesn't really work the way the manufacturer intended or is potentially a design flaw. Most parent will want to use their monitor right away, so they will need immediate support if something goes wrong. All the other products in our review offer an 800 number for help. Only these two companies expect parents to wait for multiple days for help with products that don't work. Withings took over 5 days from start to finish to resolve our initial problem of being unable to start the set up process. The other problem we had with setup we resolved without customer support after 5 hours of troubleshooting and guesswork. Wifi Baby 3.0 required multiple attempts to get help before we got a response, and then far too many days before getting direct help.

In general we feel that the kind of customer support offered by both Withings and Wifi Baby is a deal breaker and something parents should really consider before purchasing either product. Even though the Withings scored well in our tests, coming in 2nd place overall, we have significant misgivings that parents are going to be able to get it setup and working, keep it working, and have the time and patience required for getting help from Withings (two things most new parents are lacking). And we aren't alone, a significant percentage of Amazon reviewers also had difficulty with this monitor and getting it setup or working reliably, with many parents choosing to return the monitor rather than waiting for a response from the company.

The Wifi Baby customer service representative we worked with told us he estimates that only 1% of parents are able to setup the monitor without assistance, which means you will probably be waiting for help just like we did, resulting in days going by without being able to monitor your baby. In our opinion, neither company offers the level of support required for a product of this kind that parents need to work immediately and reliably over time. In fairness, it is hard to say what kind of customer support the other products really offer because we had no need to contact them, but what we can say is that ALL the other products offered a customer support phone number as opposed to a contact us form, and at least Dropcam's is manned 24 hours a day. Something that could will no doubt come in handy at 3 am when things have a tendency to go wrong.

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 fairly quickly, both the Summer Infant and Dropcam Pro will work.

Features


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With Dropcam you can choose what kind of alerts you want to receive (if any) to your handheld device or email, in addition to hearing baby cry immediately as it happens
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff
All of the products in our review have features either for convenience and overall function, or just for fun and added information. All of the products have night vision with sensors for automatic adjustment with light changes, and most offer 2 way communication with baby in their room. Some of them come with nightlights and remote controlled 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 reviewed.

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Uniden Lullaboo Guardian G403 has a quad screen view that it always reverts to
Credit: Uniden
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 their ability to get good quality sleep. We looked for monitors that had sound activation that kept the parent unit quiet when baby isn't crying, with this feature parents can potentially fall asleep faster because they don't have to listen to white noise. Some of the monitors were so loud when in use 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 turn on and go to sleep. In general, the monitors that rank the highest have easy to use features that we believe parents will find useful, as opposed to something that sounds like fun, but probably won't be used after the first week.
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The user interface on the Withings is tactile touch and easy to operate, but turning the unit off is a hassle
Credit: Micah James
The Withings earned a perfect 10 for features in our tests because it offers features that increase convenience for parents and offers things that are fun for baby. For parent convenience this camera works on any iOS device, can be accessed from anywhere with internet or 3G reception, will work with multiple cameras, and has sound activation. The user interface is intuitive for experienced iOS users and the zoom feature works well. For baby this camera has built in remote controlled lullabies and nature sounds, and a nightlight with variable colors and a soothing light show of changing colors. It also monitors the temperature and humidity of baby's room so parents can ensure baby is comfy and cozy. For the most part the only thing this monitor is missing is the screen sleep and wake features, but the app will remain open and running when parents turn their device screen off, so at least the parents room can be dark and still hear baby (something not possible on the Dropcam).

The Dropcam Pro came in a close second to the Withings for features scoring an 9 out of 10. Because this camera is really a general purpose camera, and not a camera solely marketed to babies, it has lots of features that make parents lives easier, but not really anything fancy and fun for baby. It does offer 2 way communication with baby, but it doesn't have lullabies or nightlights. However, we think most parents already have nightlights (if they want one) and noise makers covered, so this isn't a deal breaker in our book. We like that the Dropcam has easy to use 8x digital zoom that can be enhanced and show great detail compared to the other products in our tests. It also has sound activation, motion detection, and can be used with unlimited number of cameras and viewers. So while it lacked the gadgetry fun of humidity sensing and the other bells of the Withings, it more than got the job of monitoring done in a way that is easy for parents to use and very reliable. The bonus of this camera is that it can be used for multiple applications when baby gets older and no longer needs an overnight watchman; you can use this monitor as a nanny camera, security, or pet camera. We think this takes any of the sting (if there is some) out of its lack of baby fun features which in the end most parents may never use.

The dedicated monitors did not score as well as the Wi-Fi products for features. It isn't that they don't have features, its just that they either didn't offer as many, didn't have features that make the camera easier to use, or the features they have didn'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 nightlights or lullabies, but none of them have motion detection or really good digital zoom. The highest score for features for the traditional video products was a 6 out of 10. Four monitors managed to earn the 6 rating, with the Lorex Sweet Peep being the highest ranked overall with a feature score of 6. This monitor also won our Best Value award which means it offers the most bang for the buck by being reasonably priced and earning a relatively high score compared to the other products.

Features are definitely important, but we encourage you to really 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 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 a you should consider, but in practice sound activation and quality images are definitely more useful. 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 visuals.

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. It 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 isn't the best feature for baby because it comes after the fact, does not offer details of the type of sound or motion detected, and could get annoying with useless and excessive messages being sent. This feature is only found in the WiFi monitors.

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 really all that useful.

Electromagnetic Field Levels (EMF)


Electromagnetic fields, 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 far from 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 than 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 only monitor that did not increase the amount of ambient EMF during testing (most rooms have some level of ambient EMF) is the Withings Smart Baby when it is connected via Ethernet cable, not when used via Wi-Fi connection. This makes the Withings potentially safer for babies in the event that future studies show a link between EMF and damage to developing systems. However, it does increase the risk of potential strangulation by introducing a new cord into the mix. If parents choose this option they should take great care in keeping all cords out of baby's reach and tucked safety away.

The Dropcam Pro has a low EMF score at 6 feet from the camera with a reading of 0.78. This is potentially even less if parents place the camera on a wall at least 15 feet from baby (a distance still good for night vision to work properly). 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. For most of the products this distance is between 10-15 feet from baby.

All of the products in the review have EMF levels in excess of 6 on our reader (the highest our reader would go) when placed within 6 inches of the product. This reading dropped by about half for most products when placed 3 feet from the monitor, and the reading continued to drop at 6 feet for most monitors. The lowest value for the dedicated monitors is 1.29 for the Philips Avent SCD603/10 and the Levana Ayden. Our Editors' Choice, the Dropcam Pro has the lowest value in the test for the wireless monitors, and our Best Value monitor has a reading of 1.43. This isn't the best value, but it is lower than half of the competition.

Currently, the jury might still be 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 for the better. Given that exposure compounds over time and with an increased number of devices emitting, you can help limit babies 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 err on the side of caution by making choices that increase the health of your home overall.

Battery Life


The battery life for all the monitors we tested is for the parent device only. Most of the cameras did not offer this feature, and if they did have a battery its intended use is more for a loss of power temporary backup as opposed to an all night option for cordless use. So while we would definitely 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 parent devices the battery life ranged anywhere between 3.5 and 9.5 hours for the dedicated monitors. 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 considered the tablets and smartphones of the world to have longer battery life than 9 hours based on research and articles pertaining to battery life for these kinds of devices. We feel it is relatively safe to say that most will work in excess of the longest dedicated monitor battery life, so if battery life is a primary concern for your needs you should look at the Dropcam and the personal devise that work with it.

The longest battery life for the products in our review goes to the Levana Ayden which ran for 9.5 hours in full use mode. The company website claims this unit will work up to 24 hours in power saving mode, but we only tested the monitors in full use for a worst case scenario result. This is realistically the only monitor that could potentially make it through the entire night without being plugged in. The Lorex Sweet Peep BB2411 and the Philips Avent SCD603/10 came close with 8 hours of battery life, which helped the Lorex earn enough points to win Best Value.

The shortest battery life in our tests belongs to the Uniden Lullaboo Guardian G403 which ran for only 3.5 hours and might not even last for the duration of a long nap. Parents can certainly plug this bad boy into an outlet if need be, but it takes away some of the freedom a monitor is supposed to offer parents by tying them to a specific location instead of allowing freedom of movement. The average battery life for all the products in the review is about 5 hours. How much battery life you need will depend on how you plan to use the product, while not necessarily a metric that results in a deal breaker, it can certainly influence how parents are able to use their monitor.

Editors' Choice — Dropcam Pro


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The Dropcam Pro is as easy to use as it is simple looking
Credit: Micah James
Just thinking about the Dropcam Pro and all its awesomeness makes our toes curl with delight. This camera does everything so well it is like it has a mainline to our hopes and dreams of everything monitor and brings our inner dreams to life. We think parents who choose this options will quickly understand why it scored the highest in our review and earned our coveted Editors' Choice award. Earning almost 10 points higher than its closest competitor, and 26 points higher than any of the dedicated type of monitors, the Dropcam proved that the Wi-Fi monitors have finally come of age and are ready to play with the big dogs of monitors.
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The main viewing screen has icons for talk to baby feature, settings for alert and threshold adjustments, as well as could recording options.
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff
From the ease of setup to the intuitive user interface the Dropcam makes even the most untech savvy parent feel comfortable and confident using the camera. It sports sound level adjustment, 2 way communication, 8x digital zoom with image enhancement, and it can be viewed from just about anywhere with an internet connection or 3G technology. The camera has 3 megapixels, a wide field of view, and works with iOS and Android devices equally well (unlike Withings Smart Baby which only works with iOS). We found that this monitor works reliably, offers useful troubleshooting help, and is a breeze to setup and move. For parents with range issues that prevent the use of dedicated monitors, or those just looking for a little something more that they can watch from work or view on their phone, it is hard to go wrong with a Dropcam Pro. It has the lowest wireless EMF readings, the longest potential battery life, and multiple people can view at the same time making it one of the most versatile monitors we reviewed. Add to this its potential to work as a nanny cam or surveillance camera when baby has outgrown the monitoring phase and you have a monitor that is as cost effective as it is simple.
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Whether small screen or large the Wi-Fi monitors offered better video images no matter what device we used to operate them
Credit: BabyGearLab Staff

Coming in with a list price almost $50 lower than the most expensive products in our review, it is hard to imagine that this camera will be as awesome as it is. With the exception of losing monitoring ability on the parent device when using other applications or making a phone call, we couldn't really find fault with this product and think most parents will feel the same.

Best Value — Lorex Sweet Peep


The parent unit is small and can fit in the palm of your hand
The parent unit is small and can fit in the palm of your hand
Credit: Micah James
The Sweet Peep comes standard with many of our most sought after features, and it even has a name that is hard not to love. for a list price of $120, it is hard to believe that you get so much for so little with this nice monitor. The Sweet Peep offers great sound activation that has a truly silent parent device when baby is quiet, it also sports automatic screen sleep and wake features to help parents get o sleep faster in a darker room and see baby quicker upon waking. The Peep has better than average sound, good video, and a long battery
Click to enlarge
Credit: Micah James
life compared to the competition in our tests. It is easy to set up, easy to use, and sports 2 way communication and a temperature sensor. This monitor has everything parents need and nothing extra they won't use. For the price it is a reliable monitor that works well and we feel is certain to impress.

For parents on a budget, or just looking for a nice dedicated monitor, the Sweet Peep scored the highest for this kind of monitor and luckily has one of the lowest prices to boot, proving a product does not have to be expensive to be good or have all the features necessary for a great working product. Two other products in our review tied with the Lorex in overall performance scores, but both had lower video test scores and they were more expensive. This makes the Lorex not only a great value, but one of the best monitors in our review, which means parents do not need to sacrifice features or function for a lower price.

Conclusion


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 the already overflowing market of monitors. This can make sorting through products difficult, or narrowing the field feel impossible. Luckily, we have already done the leg work for parents by doing an initial review of the top products and choosing the 14 most popular and well-rated products to test and compare. No matter what parents are looking for we feel confident they can get their needs met with one of our two award winners or the top ranked products in our review.

If you still feel stymied or a little confused, then check out our How to Choose the Best Video Monitor for You and Your Baby for more information on which features are the most important, and what you should consider before buying a monitor.

RJ Spurrier and Wendy Schmitz
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