Levana Ovia Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Levana Ovia PTZ Baby Video Monitor works with up to 4 cameras and can record video on a SD card to preserve memories. This parent unit has an intuitive touch panel control system, and has a talk to baby feature that allows parents to soothe baby from another room. The camera has true pan/tilt and 2x zoom features, controlled on the parent unit which has a 4.3 inch LCD screen for detailed viewing. The manufacturer claims a 24 hour battery life in "Peep" mode where the screen is activated by baby's sound, and 5 hours when in full use. It claims a 750 feet digital range, but an optimum range of 150 feet when passing through walls, floors, or other interfering appliances. The invisible night vision LEDs can work up to 15 feet away keeping the nursery dark and allowing for a greater options for camera mounting. The parent unit has an LED monitor ring that indicates how loud baby is crying, even in mute mode. It comes with 3 pre-programmed lullabies that can be controlled from the parent unit. It comes with 2 power adapters, a 2.0 GB memory card, rechargeable battery, and a 1 year warranty.
The Ovia manufacturer claims this monitor has a range of 750 feet, and 150 feet through walls and floors. The 750 figure is a line of sight measurement that is calculated without obstacles and interference, and can be misleading to consumers trying to decide which product to purchase based on how far they need it to work in their home. Our line of sight test did not perform as well as the manufacturer said it would and stopped working at about 553 feet. So while we are disappointed in the claim not matching our test results, it isn't too shabby of a result compared to the other products in this review. Only 3 non-WiFi products had a greater line of sight range. The dedicated monitor with the longest range is the Foscam with a range of 841 feet.
Results from our indoor range test were significantly lower, which is understandable given the potential for obstacles and interference being greater, but they also did not match the manufacturer claim of 150 feet. This monitor worked well up to 4 walls and 62 feet. In fairness, we will say it really wanted to work after the 5th wall and struggled to make the connection, but it just couldn't pull out the big guns to get it done. This was a relatively average distance compared to the other monitors, with 6 product having similar numbers. The dedicated monitors with the longest indoor range were the Infant Optics DXR-8 and the Motorolawhich were able to work through 5 walls and 80 feet.
Audio / Video
This monitor has a maximum decibel level of 83db, which was the lowest in all monitors tying with the Nest Cam. The average for the monitors in our review was closer to 100db. The highest decibel level output for any of the monitors was the Samsung SafeVIEW, which had a maximum level of 106.
The sound clarity on the Ovia was disappointing. It struggled to offer clear well rounded sound and scored only 4 of 10 in sound clarity. This is the lowest score for this metric. But don't feel too sorry for this monitor yet, it had lots of company down at the bottom with both the Uniden Lullaboo Guardian and Lorex Sweet Peep tying the score of 4.
This monitor did have an adjustable sound sensitivity feature that is supposed to help decrease the amount of unimportant noise parents hear through the parent unit. With the sensitivity turned up, theoretically parents should hear little to no background or white noise intrinsic in most homes. Unfortunately, this monitor had difficulty executing this feature well. So while it had the feature, the parent unit still had lots of white noise coming through its speakers; enough to make us question if the feature was working at all. As a result we wonder if lighter sleepers might have difficulty falling asleep with this monitor right next to their head. And let's face it, if you can't get some shut eye with the monitor on, then what good is the monitor?
There were enough monitors in our review that did have adequate sound sensitivity producing a monitor that is essentially silent, that it certainly appears to be a feature that can work well when done right. Six monitors in our review had the sound activation feature and did it very well scoring 10 of 10 in our tests. This feature allows parents to set the sound sensitivity of the baby's unit for the level of sound they want the monitor to react and alert to. This feature is nice because the unit is silent unless activated by genuine baby sounds as opposed to just house sounds.
This monitor struggled in the visual department, which is sort of a bummer for a video product. While it did better in the detail test than some of the others, it still didn't do well overall in providing a clear easy to see picture. In the clarity test we were able to see 2 lines of the eye chart with the camera 10 feet away from the subject, this got better when using the zoom feature, but still only bumped up to about average compared to the other monitors. The zoom feature itself is a nice 1 button touch, which is better than the products that require toggling through a menu. The button is easy to find at night even in a sleepy state.
The color quality in the daytime image is rather poor. When comparing how a color chart looks on the screen of the parent unit to the actual color chart, the colors didn't really match and were not true to the chart. This may not be a deal breaker, but it does impact whether or not an image is easy to see and how well it matches reality. The night vision video is somewhat better than the day, but the camera isn't working with color and is relying more on the infrared LEDs to produce the black and white images.
Overall this product only received a 5 of 10 in the visual metric. The top scoring dedicated monitor was the Summer Infant with a score of 8, which is pretty impressive for such an economical unit. The Foscam and the VTech Safe & Sound earned the lowest scores in this metric with 3s for each.
Ease of Use
This unit is not the easiest to use and we had trouble navigating the menu options. While the setup was pretty straight forward and simple, the subsequent use of the parent unit is a bit befuddling. First, the menus are not intuitive and they don't appear to do the same things twice (they probably do, but that is how confusing they are). It took lots of manipulation and random option choosing to get the functions we wanted, and then when we tried to recreate the steps it was as if we had never done them to begin with. We even had trouble adjusting the volume on the unit without consulting the manual, and that seems like it should be a fairly basic easy to do operation with up and down arrows for quick use. The on screen indicators for what is happening or what feature you are using are a hit or miss; we couldn't get volume indicator to show up on the screen, then once we managed it with the help of the user manual, we couldn't get it off the screen.
We also had trouble with the kick stand on this model. The parent unit is rather large and the back has a small kickstand off to the side which didn't do a great job of keeping the monitor upright. When fumbling in the dark to adjust the monitor we usually tipped it over instead of pushing buttons. Seems like a silly design flaw for a unit so big, but we suspect it could be really annoying over time.
This product only scored a 4 of 10 for ease of use due to the weird menus and hard to navigate interface. The lowest scoring product is the WiFi Baby 3.0, which is so difficult to use we couldn't keep it up and running long enough to perform most of the tests. Not a great feature for a baby monitor. The top scoring products in ease of use were the Nest Cam and the Summer Infant Clear Sight with an 8 for both. The Uniden Lullaboo Guardian was the hardest dedicated monitor to use and earned a score of 3.
The Ovia earned a 6 of 10 for features, which was the third highest score in this metric, and one shared by a few other products. It sports a 4.3 inch screen which is the largest in the review and similar to the Uniden. Having such a large screen might be a nice feature if it equated to a better picture, but given that this one does not, it just makes for a bulky unit that is hard to carry and doesn't fit in most pockets. It would have been better if it came with a belt clip for easier carrying, but as it is it only has that silly small kick stand.
This monitor will work with up to 4 cameras (sold separately), and offers a quad screen view or selection of just 1 camera to view. It does not have a camera scan feature. The quad view is probably the only reason to like the larger screen, because it could be hard to see on a smaller screen. It also features sound activation, a temperature sensor, sleep mode, automatic screen wake up with sound activation, and two way talk to baby with the push of a button on the front of the parent unit. It does not have movement detection, a belt clip, or any additional features for baby like a nightlight or lullabies.
The camera with this product offers true pan and tilt options where the parent unit acts as a remote for the camera in the baby's room. The camera can pan to 270 degrees and tilt to 110 degrees. It also has a 2x digital zoom. While this is the average level of zoom for these kinds of monitors, and some only have a 1x zoom, this zoom feature isn't that great on this monitor because the picture quality is already not great, so it just gets worse when using the zoom feature.
The camera has a 640x480 resolution and it comes with built in infrared LEDs for night vision up to 15 feet away from the unit. This is better than some of the monitors which worked best at closer to 10 feet, but not as good as some that claimed night vision up to 30 feet.
This camera also has the ability to record video with an included micro SD card. Video and photos functions are part of the menu options and can be operated remotely from the parent unit as long as the SD card is in place.The parent unit also has 3 remote controlled lullabies parents can play to soothe baby, and a sound level LED indicator ring for visual alerts to baby crying when the volume is off or low.
The lowest scoring product for features is the WiFi Baby 3.0. This limited use WiFi based monitor is really just a camera connected to the internet and doesn't sport many additional features beyond night vision and password protected viewing. The highest scoring monitor in this metric is the Withings Smart Baby and Nest Cam, earning a 10 and 9 respectfully. Monitors with more features are great as long as the features are useful and improve the baby monitoring experience, not all features do this and not all features are done well or are things parents would even be interested.
All of the units emit some EMF no matter how far away from the unit we placed the reader, with the exception of the Withings connected via Ethernet cable. Limiting exposure and intensity is the best parents can do if they still want to monitor baby. This monitor, like all the others registered 6+ on the reader when placed in direct contact with the baby unit. This number dropped at 3 feet and again a 6, but its lowest reading is only 2, which is greater than most of the competition. Given that this unit can only be placed no less than 15 feet away from baby for night vision to work this could be a concern.
The monitor with the lowest amount of EMF is the Nest Cam which registered 0.78 at 6 feet and can be placed up to 3 times that distance and still work with night vision. If you have the ability to connect the Withings Smart Baby with an Ethernet cable it gives off no EMF when used in this way, and therefore is the healthiest option in the review. The dedicated units with the lowest EMF were the Philips Avent Digital and the Levana Ayden, which both had readings of 1.29 at the baby unit 6 feet away.
The manufacturer claims a run time for battery life of 5 hours with the screen on and 6.5 with the monitor in sleep mode. We found similar results in our lab test with a battery that lasted 5 hours with the screen active. Five hours is not a lot of time compared to the other products in the review. However, the majority of parent unit use will happen at night when parents are sleeping and can plug the unit in close to the bedside. Alternatively, in the day time, few naps will last 5 hours long so parents might not notice the poor battery life run time.
Many of the other products had significantly longer battery lives. The other Levana product we tested, the Ayden has a battery life of 9.5 hours (the longest running time in our review not counting WiFi connected personal devices), which shows that the company knows what to do to make a battery last longer and begs the question of why they didn't do the same thing for both models. The shortest battery life in our tests belonged to the Uniden Lullaboo, which turned off after 3.5 hours of use. If run time is an important aspect you might consider one of the monitors that connects to a tablet or phone whose battery life you feel is enough for your needs.
There are no best applications for this product. While it didn't score at the bottom of the list, it is close enough to suggest that parents should look elsewhere no matter how they plan to use the unit. Add to the poor performance in our tests to a list price that is greater than our award winners and the some of the other higher scoring products and it is hard to find an application where to Ovia is a good fit.
With a list price of $225 we would have expected this unit to perform better in our tests or offer more bang for the buck. Its price range places it in the top third most expensive products in the review and its performance just doesn't merit the price. There are higher scoring products for lower prices no matter what feature or attribute you might be looking for.
Coming in at only 45 points of 100 this monitor had a hard time keeping up with the big dogs and it showed in its poor performance in just about every metric. With the exception of how many features the monitor offers, it really did not offer much to rave about. We did like the record and photo feature, but the video and sound quality are poor compared to the other products we tested, and the level of detail and color are both sub par making it a monitor we aren't sure we would even want to preserve the memories from. This monitor is also hard to work and had a convoluted menu system that left us reaching for the manual just to adjust the volume (a function we think should be easy and obvious). All of this together makes the Ovia a monitor we don't recommend.
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