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Hands-on Gear Review
Angelcare AC401 ReviewPrice: $110.00 List | $129.99 at Amazon
Pros: Reliable, AC w/ battery, temp, wireless parent unit
Cons: Confusing parent unit, may require crib modification
Bottom line: Reliable option that has a sound monitor and parent unit to avoid loud nursery alarms
The Angelcare AC401 is an award-ward winning movement and sound monitor. With no false alarms during testing, AC power plus battery back up, and a combined sound a movement monitor capabilities this unit impressed testers with its versatility and reliability. This monitor is similar in function to the Babysense 7, relying on an under the mattress sensor pad for movement detection, but the similarities stop there as the Babysense has no parent unit or out of the nursery alarm. This monitor has features not found in the competition which makes it a top contender compared to the competition. This monitor can do it all and negates the need for an additional purchase so you can hear what is happening in baby's room as well. We feel you would be hard-pressed to find a better unit in this category, and a host of bonus features pushed this one over the top.
The AC401 has been discontinued and replaced with the Angelcare AC403. This is a similar movement mattress sensor as the AC401 with what looks to be upgraded features. We have purchased this product and will test it to include in an updated review in the future. In the meantime, we believe the products to be similar enough that the link in this review takes you to the AC403 with 2 parent units.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Movement Monitor Review
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Angelcare has been in baby monitor business since 1997. They offer a comprehensive range of sound, video, and movement monitors. Angelcare is located throughout Canada, US, UK, Europe, and Asia and has a passion to help babies thrive. Angelcare's main goal is to give parents peace of mind with their research-based, safety-driven products for monitoring. Angelcare products help parents attend to their baby's comfort and well-being in a way that allows parents to enjoy parenthood.
This monitor is one we purchased and tested in previous comparison reviews, and nothing has changed over the years. Below are some of the details we discovered during extensive hands-on testing and comparison to some of the other products included in our roundup review of movement monitors.
The AC401 is a reliable sensor pad monitor with no false alarms when you set the sensitivity level correctly. The sensitivity dial found on the back of the nursery unit can adjust to an optimum level for your specific environment and mattress. During testing, we found that when the sensitivity was set above level 4, that the background vibrations from a heating vent close to the crib would be picked up. This "movement" will not create a false alarm, but it does limit the effectiveness of the monitor because it will not alert you if baby stops moving because the heater vibration will make the monitor think the baby is still breathing, even if they aren't. With the sensitivity set between two and three we had no false alarms and no interference from external sources, so the monitor could work as it was designed to do.
This monitor will not work with all mattress types and cannot be used with hollow core mattresses or any mattress where memory foam will have direct contact with the sensor.
While this monitor is one of the most reliable we considered, some users have reported increased false alarms once their child is able to roll over onto areas of the mattress not covered by the sensors. We did not experience this during testing, but we acknowledge that this could be an issue. However, as indicated on many movement monitor websites when a baby is able to roll and move this much, their brains are also usually developed enough to avoid some of the deep sleep patterns that lead to a cessation of breathing in the first place making monitoring less of a need. We hypothesize that all mattresses do not carry the vibrations caused by movement in an equal manner, so depending on the thickness and type of mattress you use, your results may vary once your baby is on the move.
We love the AC power with a battery back up on the AC401. The other units we tested rely solely on battery power which makes this a nice option that limits battery use and replacement but provides battery backup should your electricity go out. With the AC power and fresh batteries in the nursery unit, we could rest easy knowing that if the power went out during the night our monitor would continue working.
The parent unit is a feature not found on any other movement monitor we tested. If you already have a sound monitor, this may not be a feature you are looking for, but we found that having both sound and movement on one parent unit was convenient and streamlined the bedtime routine. Having a parent unit means you get better alerts, have more knowledge of what is going on in baby's bedroom, and your baby can avoid the loud nursery alarms present on some of the competition. Having a dedicated parent unit simplifies things by only having to activate one system instead of two if you opt for a wearable movement monitor and a sound or video unit for keeping tabs on what is happening in your baby's nursery.
Ease of Use
During testing, we found this unit to be relatively easy to use once we got familiar with the parent unit interface. Angelcare also offers several user videos that can help any parent that may still have questions given that the parent unit is a little complicated. Initially, we found changing the alarm settings and other functions such as audio sensitivity to be a bit confusing.
It is important to note that the difficulty we had getting familiar with the parent unit functions was due to the incredible level of customization the unit is capable of. Both visual and audio indicators are available for nearly every metric the monitor tracks. Once we mastered the use of the parent unit, we found it to be a pleasure to use. The parent unit runs on a rechargeable battery, and you can use it while sitting in the charging cradle in case you deplete the battery. You must power on the nursery unit each time you place your child in the crib and promptly turned off when you take them out to avoid the alarm that will sound after 20 seconds of no movement. We love the optional nightlight function on the nursery unit, which makes finding the on/off switch easily in the dark.
Installation and setup are similar to the Babysense 7 for the nursery components. You must have a hard surface with minimal flex under the mattress for the sensor to work correctly and Angelcare offers a wooden board to help with this, so you don't have to bother buying and cutting the board yourself. If your crib has slats or springs under the mattress, you will need to custom cut a piece of plywood or Masonite to fit in your crib. It is also important to note that the sensor will not work with hollow core mattresses or mattresses with memory foam that makes contact with the sensor according to the Angelcare website. A sensor pad goes under the mattress, and the wires are routed over to the nursery unit. We recommend routing the wire down the leg of the crib and Angelcare recommends that the nursery unit be a minimum of 39" from the crib. This means you need some sort of elevated surface to set the parent unit on, such as a table or bookshelf, so that it is within easy reach. The sensitivity function is located on the nursery unit, allowing you to dial in the sensor pad to filter out external vibration sources that may be present. As we stated before, the nursery unit has a battery backup for use without AC power, but it should be plugged into an outlet with the included AC adaptor, preserving the batteries for an emergency. The parent unit is rechargeable and has it's own charging cradle and power cord, which we recommend placing outside of your child's room so that it can charge without disturbing your sleeping child.
This monitor is not very portable. It has more components than any other monitor we looked at and requires more set up time. While we did take it on travel the compatibility with hotel cribs was hit and miss and it isn't practical to carry the board or your crib as well as the monitor. However, many parents are less concerned with monitoring their baby when they are in the same room.
Electromagnetic Field (EMF)
The AC401 does not emit any EMF (Volts/meter) according to our tests. This result makes it preferable to monitors that do emit EMF. Some of the wearables in this review emit significant EMF and are, therefore, in our opinion, not optimal.
In order to use the AC401 and other sensor pad type movement monitors you may need a hard surface under your crib mattress. Angelcare has taken the guesswork and labor out of fitting a board to your crib by offering a board accessory that is the same size as a standard crib for use with their movement monitor sensors. The Angelcare Wooden Board for Monitors has a reasonable price and when purchased with the AC401 still has an overall price that is less expensive than most of the competition and under $100 depending on sales.
Angelcare manufactures ten different monitors for movement some with additional features including sound or video and sound monitoring capabilities. Some are even wireless with touchscreen technology!
— Juliet Spurrier, MD and BabyGearLab Team
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