Baby monitors

Updated: 08 Aug 2013
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Introduction

You can pay as little as $100 – or as much as $400 – for a good baby monitor.

Of the 15 monitors we tested, some simply transmit the noises your baby makes. Others also show video images or alert you when the bedroom becomes too warm or too cold. And some have all these features.

We checked the monitors’ sound and picture quality – and we assessed how easy they were to use.

Models we tested

This report contains test results and recommendations for the following baby monitors:

Checklist

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.
  • Belt clip lets you carry the parent unit around the house and outside.

Other features

  • 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. The monitor comes with a small camera that you position to view your baby by day or night (using infra-red lighting). The monitor is linked up to a mini screen on the carer unit.
  • “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).
  • Night light on the baby unit gives a soft glow which may comfort the child and helps you see better in a darkened room.

A smartphone baby monitor

The Belkin WeMo Baby we tested turns your iPhone, iPad or iPod into the baby monitor’s carer unit. You set up the baby unit in the baby’s room, download the app to your Apple device and connect to your WiFi network. It’s convenient because there’s no need to carry a carer unit as well as your phone, pad or pod.

We tested the Belkin WeMo Baby using an iPhone 4 – and we found that its performance depends on how good the house’s WiFi is.

The baby unit connects only to the WiFi. So you need to make sure it’s in a spot with a good WiFi signal.

This is less of a problem with your device – as long as it has both WiFi and 3G. If your device loses the WiFi signal, its 3G signal will kick in. (But the app can also crash when you lose the WiFi signal, which means a delay while you restart it.)

Tip: With the Belkin WeMo Baby, make sure your Apple device (the “carer unit”) has both WiFi and 3G. And always make sure the baby unit’s in an area that has a good WiFi signal.
 

More information

Useful info for new parents: www.bounty.co.nz.

About our test

We assessed each monitor's performance on:

  • sound range (how well it 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 (but the score for video isn’t part of the overall score).

As well, we checked for interference from a microwave or a digital cordless phone – and whether the monitor caused interference in a TV or 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 unit.

See the Test results for full details of how all the monitors performed.