Raising children has always been a challenge. Today, with so many more demands on our time and the emphasis placed on multi-tasking, it’s all but essential to have virtual eyes and ears on our youngsters for their safety and security and our peace of mind. Baby video monitors allow parents and caretakers the freedom to undertake other duties in different areas of the home while remaining vigilant to the children’s activities in the nursery, bedroom or play area. A baby monitor with camera is especially beneficial for “preemies’ or the child with serious medical or health conditions when continuous surveillance is needed.
Today’s video baby monitors do much more than watch and listen. Available options include room temperature monitoring, IR (infrared) LEDs to “see in the dark” and Wi-Fi, video recording and Skype capabilities, just to name a few. Most models include “parent talkback” so that the caretaker can soothe baby without walking into the nursery. Some are so-called “3-in-1” monitors with video, audio and sensor pad capability. We’ll take a look at the features available on the latest and most popular models of the top rated baby monitors later in this article.
The Benefits of Video Baby Monitors
Why should parents consider a video baby monitor? There are a number of advantages, not least of which is the peace of mind one gets from actually observing one’s child. Baby video monitors save the parent or caretaker from having to physically walk into baby’s nursery or the toddler’s playroom when an unfamiliar noise can be cause for alarm. A mere glance at the monitor’s receiver can reassure the parent without chancing the possibility of spooking baby from a nap or play. From the comfort of one’s recliner or bed you can watch baby breathe and look for any potential hazards before they occur.
With parents’ well-founded awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), a baby monitor with camera permits more periodic surveillance of naps, particularly those brief and frequent snoozes that baby (and parents) need. And if baby drops a pacifier, traps a limb in the crib or somehow loosens swaddling, the caretaker will be alerted even while the child slumbers.
Thanks to today’s technology, parents who work or travel away from home can monitor their children by using the web. Smart devices can stream video across the internet and allow two-way communication between distant locations so parents can keep current with baby’s activities or sing a lullaby to serenade baby to sleep. With the multi-camera functionality of some models, baby video monitors can also serve as a “nanny cam,” allowing parents to keep tabs on the caretaker or nanny while they’re shopping or out for the evening.
Other uses for video baby monitors include sleep training for toddlers and surveillance of older children. As many toddlers find it difficult to sleep without a parent present, a video monitor can reassure caregivers that, despite the caterwauling from the crib, the child is actually safe and needs sleep rather than attention. This use alone gives a video monitor a leg up over traditional audio monitors. Too, transitioning older children from the crib to a bigger child’s bed can be an ordeal. Instead of staying in bed for sleep, older children are wont to repair to the playroom or make a visit to their parents’ bedroom. With a video monitor, children can be detected the moment they crawl out of their bed and before venturing down the hall — thus taking the fun out of wandering around the house unsupervised.
Choosing the “Best” Video Baby Monitor
Of course, nobody wants a second-rate baby video monitor for their children. With all the features available on today’s models, parents can customize applications for their home and baby’s needs. Below are a number of top rated baby monitors on the market and some of the options available:
|iBaby Monitor||Samsung SEW-303|
|WiFi Baby||Lorex Live Sense|
|Baby Ping||Levana Stella|
The Most Common Features
|Screen Size||Wi-Fi Connectivity||Battery Life||Android Application|
|Multi-camera Expandability||Snapshot Capability||Belt Clip||Multi-Device Application|
|Video Sleep (aka Standby Mode)||Signal Indicators||Camera Wall-Mount Capability||Ethernet Connection|
|IR Night Vision||Volume Controls||A/V Output||iOS Application|
|Multi-positional/Swivel Camera (aka Pan and Tilt)||Sound-Activated Lights||Out-of-Range Indicator||Warranty Length|
|Color Screen||Built-In Mic||Power LED Indicator||Email Support|
|Brightness/Contrast Controls||Two-Way Talk||Standard Battery Capability||Online Manual|
|Zoom Feature||VOX mode||Low Power Indicator||Website Contact Form|
|Skype Capability||Audio-Only Mode||Room Thermometer||Online Live Chat|
|Video Recording Capability||Transmission Frequency||Nightlight||Maximum Range of Monitor|
Many parents may find the plethora of options bewildering. For example, what does “A/V (audio/video) output” or “VOX” (voice operated transmitter) mean? What do these features do? What’s the difference between an analog and digital monitor? More importantly, how can I customize the “best” baby video monitor for my home? Thus, the parent should “mix and match” these options when choosing a model that best serves baby’s needs.
Some of these options are indispensable. A baby video monitor that doesn’t have IR night vision will be useless without sufficient ambient lighting and who wants to keep a room’s lights on just to use the baby cam? Another necessary feature is the “Low Power Indicator“ — no parent wants to leave baby unprotected for potentially several hours before discovering that the unit’s battery was depleted. With hired caregivers or nannies, video recording may be needed for insurance purposes. If the home is in a densely populated urban area, a digital monitor will most likely be needed, as it uses encrypting technology. An analog video baby monitor is prone to intercepting signals from other devices that use analog signals, such as other video monitors or cordless phones that share the same 900 MHz (typically) frequency. (Digital monitors usually use 2.4 GHz wavelength.) It’s conceivable that a criminal could set up an analog monitor to capture the video feed from your home! The point is, a great deal of thought should be given when customizing the video baby monitor’s applications for one’s individual environment and situation.
Many parents give strong consideration to brand value and indeed there are a number of online sources that rate manufacturer’s video baby monitors based on price, features and product support. Some trusted names in the industry include Withings, Angelcare and Levana (all surveyed here at Baby Monitor 101). While all manufacturers make video baby monitors that have at the very least cameras, transmitters and receivers, there are critical differences between various models concerning video and audio specifications and capabilities, product design and customer support.
In short, the best video baby monitors provide all the elements necessary to make parents or caregivers feel as though baby is sharing the same room with them. Monitors allow the parent to observe baby from a number of camera angles and in a variety of lighting conditions. They use two-way “parent talkback” to soothe and assure baby when needed. And they provide certain diagnostic features like low battery indicators, out-of-range indicators and brightness/contrast controls to further assure baby’s comfort and security.
Thumbnail Reviews of Top Rated Baby Monitors
Future articles will examine the products of the most popular video baby monitor manufacturers in depth. As a prelude, a summary of selected models is presented below.
Montreal-based Angelcare is a purveyor of a variety of products aimed at juveniles, children and infants. Currently the manufacturer offers 15 baby monitors including three models with video capability. The Angelcare AC1100 is a three-in-one (video, sound and sensor pad) model while the AC1120 is a video and sound monitor and the latest offering, the AC1200, is an upgrade over the AC1100.
The AC1200 comes in the wake of the disappointing reception the AC1100 received from industry observers. Baby Gear Lab, a leading baby products review website founded by a mother who happens to be a pediatrician, gave the AC1100 three out of five stars when it hit the market in early 2012. While noting the “gobs of features” and excellent sound quality of the monitor, BG Lab groused that “the functions offered actually work much better in products with more focus.” By contrast, BG Lab gave Angelcare’s Deluxe Movement and Sound monitor (AC401 Deluxe) their “Editors’ Choice” award. Criticisms include the fact the AC1100 has a small screen and only middling image quality. Moreover, the AC1100’s camera has no pan/tilt, no wall-mount option and no additional camera support.
However, a number of websites including celebbabylaundry.com, coolmomtech.com and Pregnancy & Newborn (pnmag.com) have given the AC1200 glowing reviews. The most important difference the AC1200 has over its predecessors is the smartphone and Wi-Fi features available through the downloaded Angelcare app. It works with both iOS and Android platforms. Note that AC1200 has internal communication via a Wireless Access Point, in effect making the nursery transmitter a router. Thus, no internet connection is needed.
In business for over 25 years, Summer Infant (named after the founder’s daughter) sells a panoply of baby products “from the crib to the bathtub and everywhere in between.” Their comprehensive baby monitor products include models with internet, video, audio and prenatal monitoring capabilities.
One of their products, the Baby Touch® 2 Digital Color Video Monitor, ranked #10 in toptenreviews.com ‘2014 Best Baby Video Monitor Reviews and Comparisons.‘ Top Ten Reviews noted that the Baby Touch 2 allows the parent or caregiver to automatically follow baby’s movements with motion tracking and compliments the model for its user-friendly touch screen interface and temperature gauge. On the other hand, it has no VOX capability to extend battery life; this means that the battery stays active even when there’s no action to follow. But the battery life in the Baby Touch models last as long as 10 hours.
The Baby Touch 2 has many in-demand features like pan, tilt and multi-level zoom capabilities as well as two-way talk and a wall-mounting option. Top Ten Review’s verdict? 8.73 out of 10.
One of the best-known South Korean multinational conglomerates in the world, Samsung of course is involved in all sorts of businesses from electronics to shipbuilding to insurance to advertising. They make a line of quality baby monitors; one of particular note is the SEW-3037. This model was ranked #7 in toptenreviews.com ‘2014 Best Baby Video Monitor Reviews and Comparisons,’ meriting 9.13 out of 10.
It has many desirable features found in most of the leading baby video monitors including a two-way talk feature (“parent talkback”) and has pan, tilt and zoom capabilities. Like all the SEW-303 models, it has 2x zoom but no additional focus. Yet it can be wall-mounted and expandable to four cameras. It also has the handy VOX feature that sends the monitor into sleep mode, conserving battery power. Other models in the series include the SEW-3034, 3035 and 3036.
A relative newcomer to consumer electronics, the French company Withings specializes in designing internet-connected devices. Naturally, their video baby monitor has Wi-Fi compatibility and connects to iOS/Android devices. They even have the “Health Mate Web” dashboard for the parent’s home computer or laptop.
Per Top Ten Reviews, the Withings Smart Baby Monitor “is the best and most innovative baby video monitor out there.” Accordingly, it is their top-rated baby video monitor and recipient of the Top Ten Reviews Gold Award. They further gush that “this has one of the most feature-rich packages of any monitor” — high praise for a product competing in a very crowded field. It does everything one would expect; pan, tilt, zoom, video recording, screen snapshots and the list goes on. While it’s definitely a high tech device, the setup procedure is one of the easiest to be found. Mom or Dad can immediately begin monitoring after installing the Withings app on the smartphone.
The Withing Smart Baby Monitor is perhaps the most flexible model on the market. So many settings are fully customizable. It has alerts for baby’s noise and movement as well as a unique night light that can be adjusted for color and brightness to suit baby’s preference. It even has a humidity sensor, a feature not to be found with any other monitor. Little wonder that Top Ten Reviews ranks it a 10.
Cleverly named after the Roman goddess connected with childbirth, Levana is the brainchild of Canadian entrepreneur Rajesh Jain, an expert on video security. The company is an offshoot of SVAT Electronics, created when Jain found fault with his sister’s analog audio monitor. Jain has a penchant for giving Levana’s products names with import. For example, there is a model called “Jena,” which means “endurance.” Another is “Astra,” which would seem to reference a telecommunications satellite. “Stella,” the model surveyed here, is the Latin and Italian word for “star.”
Levana’s Stella PTZ video monitor is a highly regarded product, as evidenced by a number of rhapsodic reviews from sources like Toys ‘R’ Us and Staples. Top Ten Reviews compliments Stella’s 4.3 inch screen, significantly larger than most other video baby monitors, its clear, high-res image and its screen and multifunctional remote scanning. Like other deluxe models, Stella has remote pan and scan capabilities. Its expansive 750 foot transmission range is among the strongest of its competitors. Thus Top Ten Reviews deems it among the top-rated video monitors available, placing it #9 in the ‘2014 Best Baby Video Monitor Reviews and Comparisons,’ and ranks it 8.8 out of 10.
Another Canadian company, Lorex sells a wide variety of video surveillance systems with an established presence in retail stores across North America. Lorex Baby Monitors sells three model lines: “Sense,” “Sweet Peek” and “Care ‘N’ Share.” The model line surveyed here, “Live Sense,” rates #8 in Top Ten Reviews’ 2014 Best Baby Video Monitor Reviews and Comparisons.
Among its standout features include a built-in lullaby library and remote temperature monitoring. It has Wi-Fi and Skype capability, making it ideal for parents who travel away from home. It even includes a micro SD memory card for recording video and two-way “parental talkback” so parents can pacify baby no matter where they might be. With this and many more features found in leading brands, Top Ten Reviews rates it 9.1 of 10.
From the world’s largest manufacturer of cordless telephones, Hong Kong-based VTech also markets a line of video and audio baby monitors. They offer two models — the VM333 Safe&Sound® Pan & Tilt Full-Color Video Monitor and the VM321 Safe&Sound® Full-Color Video and Audio Monitor.
The VM333 has received enthusiastic reviews from babysavers.com and momcentral.com. And for good reason — it has most all of the features found in other deluxe baby video monitors. Some may find fault with a 2.8 inch screen, smaller than most of its competitors, but the small screen is to be expected considering its overall compact size. The VM333 reputedly does an outstanding job at filtering out background noise until baby whimpers or cries. Given its feature package, it undoubtedly has earned a place among the top rated baby monitors.
Infant Optics by Genexus
Genexus, maker of a line of eclectic consumer products, also markets the Infant Optics DXR-5 baby monitor system. For over two years it’s the number one top seller of baby monitors on Amazon.com. They recently rolled out an upgrade, the Infant Optics DXR-8, which Genexus claims is the world’s first monitor with “interchangeable lens technology.” This feature — with three separate lens types (normal, wide angle with 170° panoramic view and zoom) allows the parent to “customize camera perspective for the appropriate environment.” Like its competitors, it has all the bells and whistles that consumers have come to expect from a video baby monitor. Remote camera pan/tilt, IR night vision, parent talkback, room temperature sensor — all the usual suspects are present in this product. It also comes with a full range of accessories.
There are a number of good reasons to invest in a video baby monitor for the peace of mind one provides to the parents. With the latest wireless technology incorporating smartphone apps, now Mom and Dad can soothe and placate baby even while away from home. The fierce competition between manufacturers has been a boon for consumers as each new product that enters the market adds more features useful for the parent who has to balance a career with the demands of parenting. We’ve only tasted the some of the baby video monitors available; further and more detailed examination of these products will be presented so that parents can choose the best monitor for baby’s needs.