The Foscam (FBM3501) has been discontinued. Although newer models are available, we consider them poorly designed for use as a baby monitor and recommend pursuing other options.
REASONS TO BUY
REASONS TO AVOID
The Foscam (FBM3501) ranked near the bottom of the products in our review with only 2 products scoring lower, and 45 points lower than the top scoring monitor. While it offered some nice features like two way talk to baby, and a remote camera pan and tilt, it failed to measure up to the other products in our performance tests. With the shortest range of any of the products in the review, and the highest amount of interference, this monitor struggled with sending dependable information from the camera to the parent unit. Coupled with an image that is hard to see clearly with poor color quality and night vision properties, makes the Foscam a monitor we don't recommend.
Update — November 2016
Foscam is no longer selling the Foscam (FBM3501) baby monitor. The only baby monitors offered by Foscam are the Fosbaby and Fosbaby P1. Read on below to find out more about the new models.
Our Analysis and Test Results
Fosbaby and Fosbaby P1
Both the Fosbaby and the Fosbaby P1 new baby monitors from Foscam are WiFi monitors that replace the traditional parent unit with a smart phone or computer. This means that there is no range limit, but it also means that you will always either need a good WiFi connection or cellular data. Both units have 720p HD resolution, a two way talk feature, temperature sensor and night vision. The Fosbaby P1 comes with a few additional features over the base model, such as the ability to pan/tilt and a greater range of night vision. Most users found that the camera itself worked very well and produced a high quality image, but there were also complaints that the setup instructions for the app weren't very helpful and that it didn't work reliably even after setup. Below is the Fosbaby on the left and the Fosbaby P1 on the right.
Hands on Gear Review
The Foscam FBM3501 wireless baby monitor is a 2.4 ghz video unit with a 500 foot range depending on obstacles. It has a remote pan/tilt and digital zoom camera, with a 3.5 inch LCD screen on the parent unit. It features invisible infrared LED night vision, temperature sensor, voice activation, and feeding timer. It sports a two way talking feature that allows parents to talk to baby from a different room with just a touch of a button. This unit can expand up to 4 cameras (sold separately) which can be viewed as a quad screen or on a rotating scan option at a set interval. The unit includes a camera, parent unit, rechargeable battery, power adapters, and a 1 year replacement warranty.
This monitor has the worst range in our tests. While the manufacturer claims a range of 500 (980 with clear line of sight), we were not able to get anything even close to those values. For open field line of sight testing this monitor worked up to around 840 feet, which is actually ne of the best of the group, even if it isn't close to the claim. However, the indoor test with walls and other obstacles did not produce similar numbers to the 500 reported by the maker of the monitor. For indoor testing we were able to use this product at a limit of 55 feet and through 3 walls. This range is the worst in our review, with the closest product, the VTech Safe & Sound, working at 57 feet and 4 walls. The best monitors for range were the WiFi models that did not rely on the same technology, and the best dedicated monitor was the Motorola with 80 feet and 4 walls.
Audio / Visual
While most parents buy a video product so they can see their little ones on a screen, it is still important that the sound of the monitor live up to the image or better given that the sound is what will alert you to look or keep you up at night with background white noise. The Foscam did not do well in our tests for sound or visual.
The clarity and amplification of this model is about average with no real standout attributes and nothing so terrible to merit a lower score. It does offer a sound sensitivity setting of low, medium, and high which once set determines the level of noise you will be alerted to, but none of the setting tuned out the white noise that the parent unit seemed to constantly stream. Some of the other models we looked at would actually go silent when there was nothing to alert on, which is a nice feature for lighter sleepers who might have trouble falling asleep to the constant whirring of this monitor. The white noise remained even with the volume down around 40db, and we worry if the volume were any lower that parents might not wake up when baby cries, negating the need for a monitor.
If sound was just okay, the visual on this monitor was abysmal. The overall picture lacks clarity and trueness to color. In our test for reading details on an eye chart with the camera placed 10 feet from the chart we were only able to read 1 line, while other monitors allowed for clear viewing of 2 and even 3 lines. When we tested for color clarity with a color chart, the colors seen on the screen failed to match the actual colors on the chart, indicating that the accuracy of the image is limited. The Foscam actually had the second lowest score for color quality, with only the VTech Safe & Sound VM333 coming in lower.
For overall picture quality the Foscam came in last in our tests. The poor quality of the image, the lack of clarity on finer details, and the lack of color correctness came together to create an image that is sort of fuzzy and unimpressive when compared to the other options in this review. If you re used to looking at images on a smartphone, this is going to feel like a throwback to tube television sets from the 70s by comparison. While you may not need the same level of clarity you get on a iPad to check on your baby, you should be able to see if baby has open eyes and a rising rib cage. Even with the easy to use zoom feature, the details were blurry and hard to discern. The image was just as poor in night vision and black and white with an increase in the "fuzziness" of the picture overall. This monitor's score for video was just 3 of 10, with the top scoring non-WiFi product being the Summer Infant Clear Sight with an 8 of 10.
Ease of Use
For ease of use this monitor scored a 5 of 10 which was the 4th lowest in the group. The set up isn't too bad and is somewhat simple and straight forward. Where it gets a little cumbersome is the menu design and user interface on the parent unit.
The menu is not intuitive and there are lots of options most parents won't use but will be forced to toggle through to get to the options they do want to use. While it isn't an obvious at first system, it is something you can learn, but probably will never like. There are buttons on the top of parent unit and there are arrow buttons on the front display, this creates a lot of room for error and frustration pushing the wrong buttons in the middle of the night and needing to back track to do what you want. To make this worse the buttons are relatively small and close together making it harder for men with large hands to push just one at a time. It does have a 1 button zoom and talk to baby options which is nice and isn't available on all of the monitors in our review.
The top ease of use score for dedicated monitor went to the Summer Infant Clear Sight which earned an 8 for being very straightforward and simple. The Nest Cam also earned an 8 which was the highest for the WiFi monitors.
The Foscam earned a 6 of 10 for features, which doesn't sound all that great, but the top score in this metric was 7 so it isn't all that bad compared to the other products in this review. Both the Nest Cam and Withings Baby earned 7s, but the only dedicated monitor to earn 7 was the Uniden Lullaboo Guardian.
This monitor comes with a 3.5 inch screen which is one of the largest in this review (not counting personal tablets associated with WiFi monitors). It has the capacity to connect 4 cameras to the parent unit and they can be view in quad mode or on a rotating interval. Unfortunately, as already noted, despite the larger size of the screen the image is hard to see and not as good as some of the smaller screens on other units. In addition, the larger screen means a larger parent unit which doesn't fit in most pant pockets. This could potentially make portability a little bit of a hassle. Given that the parent unit doesn't have a belt clip or any other feature for hands free transporting, parents will have to have one hand free at all times to move the unit. This might be a problem if you are doing chores like laundry or cleaning.
It offers many of the coveted optional features like 2 way communication for soothing baby from another room, sound activation adjustment intended to help reduce white noise, and screen auto sleep and wake features to conserve battery life and decrease on bright lights in a dark bedroom. Unfortunately, it didn't really do many of the features well and we found the sound activation didn't really eliminate the white noise, the 2 way talk is somewhat muddled, and the auto sleep feature takes longer than we'd like to activate.
It also has some other interesting feature parents might find useful but certainly don't "need" in ordinary situations. This monitor includes a temperature sensor so parents will know if baby's room is too hot or too cold, it offers an alert option to inform you if the room does get too cold or too hot, and it has a feeding timer to wake parents on a schedule to feed baby, should that be necessary. While it might be nice to know the temperature of a room, most homes already have a thermostat so we aren't sure how useful this feature is. In addition, the alarm to feed baby also seems sort of useless. Most parents don't feed baby on a schedule during sleeping hours, and even if they do most smart phones have easier to operate alarms with more options that every 2 hours like the feeding timer on the Foscam. So while they might be nice, they certainly are reasons to purchase this monitor over simpler, less "fancy", options.
This monitor does offer true pan and tilt with the ability to control the camera in baby's room from the parent unit. Not many of the monitors in this review had this option, but it is sort of a nice feature to have and allows parents to truly see almost if not all of baby's room if necessary. However, this feature is often included on models that have a fairly strict field of view that limits how much of the room can be seen in standard mode. This camera had a relatively average field of view, so the pan option was a bonus.
The zoom feature is a 1 button push feature that is easy for parents to locate and use in the dark sleepy moments of the night, but unfortunately the infrared night vision video on this monitor is not that great and digitally zooming in just creates an even more pixilated version of the same picture with less detail than before, so we don't think it is a zoom that parents are likely to use very often. If the goal of zoom is to see things up close for more information, this one does not offer that.
This monitor starts out with the average 6+ EMF with the reader right next to the camera. At 3 feet away it drops by about half hitting 3. At 6 feet form the camera it drops again to about 1.59 EMF on the reader. This was better than a lot of the other monitors in the review, but not as good as the Nest Cam with a low reading of 0.78 or 3 of the dedicated monitors. The Levana Ayden and Philips Avent Digital both had a reading of 1.29, the lowest for the dedicated monitors, and the Withings Smart Baby was essentially 0 when connected via Ethernet cable.
The manufacturer claims this unit has a battery life of 10 hours in standby mode and 6 hours in full use with the screen on. When we ran our test in the lab this unit ran out of juice closer to the 4 1/2 hour mark than the 6. This is significantly different than what the claim is, and is almost the worst run time in the review tying with the Samsung SafeVIEW, and doing just slightly better than the Uniden Lullaboo Guardian G403 which only ran for 3.5 hours. The longest battery life went to the WiFi options with personal devices like smartphones having significantly longer run times than the dedicated monitors. The top dedicated monitor in this metric is the Levana Ayden which ran for 9.5 and could likely last a parent all night without being plugged in.
There probably isn't a best application for this particular monitor. While it looks pretty good on paper and checks many of the boxes for features parents want, it failed to live up to its potential in our tests and scored poorly overall compared to the other options. In general, there are other monitors available that have the same or similar features, but managed to execute them better. While the price might draw some parents in, it is not even the best value going in its price range.
The photos above show the Foscam (left) and the Lorex Sweet Peep(right).
This product feels like a good value with a list price of $130, which is significantly less than the average video product. However, given its lackluster performance and overall low score it just doesn't live up to even the low price it sports. In contrast, the Lorex Sweet Peep is about $10 cheaper than the Foscam and it is one of the top scoring dedicated monitor in our review and won our Best Value award. The Sweet Peep is a basic monitor with fewer bells and whistles than the Foscam, but it performs great where it really counts by providing good images in day or night situations, and clear sound with great sound activation that works as it should.
The Foscam performed poorly in our tests for just about every metric, and had some of the worst scores where it really mattered, in audio and visual testing. So while it felt like it should be a great monitor, and it had some interesting features, it didn't impress us in design or execution of the basic principles of a monitor, like offering a clear detailed image parents could rely on to truly see what baby is up to. This makes this particular monitor one we do not recommend.