Kids & family
We tested 10 baby monitors to see if they give you peace of mind.
When we last tested baby monitors (in 2009), the most sophisticated feature was a motion sensor pad that warned you when your child had stopped moving. Now you can get units with a video monitor … others allow you to talk to a fractious child … and some even play soothing music.
Is this taking baby surveillance to a whole new level? We find out.
Models we tested
|Angelcare AC1100 Video, Movement & Sound|
|Angelcare AC401 Movement & Sound|
|Motorola MBP30 Digital Video|
|Oricom SC700 Secure|
|Philips Avent SCD525 DECT|
|Safety 1st High-Def|
|Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature|
|Vtech Clear Sounds BM49|
If you're thinking about buying a baby monitor, here's what you need to know.
How they work
Baby monitors are one-way intercom systems that transmit using radio waves. They have a transmitter (baby unit) that's placed near the baby and a receiver (parent unit) that you keep nearby.
You plug them in, make sure both units are set to the same channel, switch them on, and adjust the volume on the parent unit to a level you can easily hear.
A baby monitor is a useful back-up - but it doesn't substitute for normal care and supervision. Silence might be bliss but it can also be an alert to go and check your child.
What to look for
- Battery operation on the parent unit means you can carry it with you around the house. A battery on the baby unit is also useful where there's no mains power (for example if you go camping).
- Automatic battery back-up is useful in areas where power cuts are common.
- Battery-condition indicator warns you when the battery is low.
- Light display allows you to "see" your child's cries on the parent unit. It's good for when you have visitors or are watching TV: simply turn down the volume and make sure you can easily see the display.
- Night light on the baby unit gives a soft glow which may comfort the child and helps you see better in a darkened room.
- Belt clip lets you carry the parent unit around the house and outside.
- A room-temperature monitor displays the temperature in the child’s room. One with an alarm warns you when the temperature goes outside a set range.
- Video monitoring allows you to see as well as hear your child. However, the video quality in the three models we tested was disappointing.
- “Talk to baby” works like an intercom: it lets you murmur reassuring words to a fretful baby or issue stern instructions to a wilful toddler.
- A movement sensor is a pad under the baby’s mattress. It sounds an alarm if there’s no movement for more than 20 seconds.
- A lullaby can be played if your baby stirs (although this may irritate rather than soothe).
Useful info for new parents: www.bounty.co.nz.
About our test
We assessed performance on:
- the monitors’ sound range (how well they transmitted through indoor walls)
- sensitivity and sound quality (whether the baby unit could pick up soft sounds and how well the parent unit reproduced them)
- the range, sensitivity and picture quality of video monitors.
As well, we checked for interference from a microwave and a digital cordless phone – and whether the monitor caused interference in a TV and a digital cordless phone.
We assessed ease of use on:
- the size and clarity of the labels, indicators and controls
- how easy it was to operate the controls and set up the units.
See the Test results for full details of how all the monitors' performed.