Best baby monitor: great baby cams and smart camera alternatives
Finding the best baby monitor to help keep an eye on your little one is an essential task if you're a parent. Few items are more important to your tot's health and well being, not to mention your own peace of mind.
Anything that can help relieve some of the worry that baby is safe and sound while napping in another room, or are otherwise not right by your side, is a huge help to parents, and the baby cam is the ultimate device for this.
Not only does a good baby monitor help you keep an eye on baby even when you physically can't do so, but the best baby monitors also help you learn your child's habits, such as when they are asleep and awake.
Baby monitors also give you a little bit of freedom, so you can be away from your baby but also know they are within eye- and earshot.
[Update: Suzy Snooze is an adorable little device that, while not qualifying as a proper baby monitor, does act as a sleep aide to your little one and will track baby's sleeping habits. It will soothe them to sleep with music, act as a nightlight, and help you to know when it's time for baby to wake up by waking up itself. Did we mention it's quite cute?]
Parents every where are rejoicing that baby cams and monitors have evolved immensely since the grainy, thumb-nail size screens of old. Thanks to the introduction of smart cams in the home, the choice of the best baby monitors has also greatly expanded.
While these aren't dedicated baby cams, and you should always consider using them alongside – rather than as replacements for – a traditional baby monitor, they offer a viable solution rather than a substandard one.
This buying guide has a number of suggestions that range from traditional baby cameras and monitors to smart home camera solutions. Each product in this guide has been tested with the help of one of TR’s honorary babies both in the day and the night, at long and short distance in a house.
Here’s our pick of best baby monitors and cameras to keep a watchful eye of your bundle of joy.
Philips has a long history of supplying monitors and the uGrow smart monitor is top of the quality pile. Both in the dark and in the day the picture was crisp and detailed. Unlike other monitors, though, the picture comes through a dedicated app on your smartphone.
This was simple to install and does make sense considering that you are more likely to have a phone or tablet on you than remembering to take a separate monitor with you wherever you are in the house, The app also comes with some choice medical advice to help you with your baby.
We didn’t find the medical information that enticing but it’s good to have it in one place. We did have the occasional issue of monitor dropout which was frustrating but certainly not limited to this device. Reconnecting didn’t take too long, however, and it was only a few times we experienced it – mainly when it thought our Wi-Fi signal wasn’t strong enough.
It’s worth also noting that if the screen of your device goes off then you will have to log back into the app. It doesn’t take long but is an inconvenience. If you don’t have particularly strong Wi-Fi then don’t panic as the device will scale up or down the images to your broadband speed.
Image quality was on the whole excellent as was sound – both were HD and some of the best we experienced on test. It is pricey, though, but you are getting a lot for your money – including things like temperature and humidity notifications, talkback functionality and medical advice.
- Also consider: Philips Avent Digital Video Monitor
The BT Video Baby Monitor 6000 was the quickest to set up in our tests. Out of the box it’s simply a case of 'plug and play' which meant we had our device up and running in a matter of minutes. This is a baby cam with a dedicated monitor – the screen is a large five inches – which is a little too chunky for our liking but does a decent job in the picture and sound stakes.
We did find the footage a little grainy compared to others on test but it’s only really noticeable when you get close up. Battery life lasted around 10 hours in our tests after a full charge and the ability to tilt and zoom the camera from the monitor is a welcomed one.
There are a few gimmicks on board that we would avoid. It does come programmed with lullabies but they’re not that soothing, coming across more like a phone ringtone than a sleep mechanism.
There’s also a temperature gauge and talkback functionality, all of which worked fine in our tests. It’s not the best-looking device on test – dare we say it, it all looks a little baby like, but it’s price is good, especially for the tech you get.
- Also consider: BT 350 Digital Baby Monitor Lightshow
One for the UK crowd, the Motorola MBP44 is a John Lewis exclusive and it looks like the retail giant has something of a hit on their hands. In terms of looks, the Motorola MBP44 is similar to the more expensive MP855 but the screen size is a touch smaller at 4.5 inches and the big reason for the price difference is that you don't get the Hubble app compatibility which offers streaming to a phone or tablet. This isn't missed, though, as the 4.5-inch screen is decent and offers a nice vista of baby.
The camera is clear and bright and the infrared works really well. The chassis of the camera is a decent small size, so is malleable enough to fit in most of the crevices of your nursery and the universal mount is a great addition. The remote pan, tilt and zoom is warranted but we didn't find ourselves using it that much.
There are a few gimmicks on board – we didn't think much of the soothing lullabies and our baby seemed non plussed by them as well but the room temperature functionality worked well, as did the two-way talk functionality.
We never noticed signal dropout in our house, despite the monitor using the 2.4GHz band and it was certainly loud enough when our baby wanted to let us know they were awake.
Motorola has done it again with the MBP44 – it's an easy to use, nice looking baby cam setup and one that does more than it should for its price.
- Also consider: Summer Infant Babble Band Wearable Audio Baby Monitor
The Motorola MBP855 is for those that don't want to lug a separate monitor around with them wherever they go. Sure, there is a 5-inch monitor that comes with the camera – and it's one of the clearest pictures we had on test – but the key to this setup is its access to Motorola's Hubble app. Here you can view what your baby is doing on a smartphone or tablet.
It streams 720p footage and when it works it's great. The stream is clear and it gives you a lot more control than the monitor does. The feed did drop out on us a few times, though, which is not ideal given you want 24/7 access to footage of your child but it was more likely our Wi-Fi connection than the technology on test. The good news is it took just seconds to get back up to speed.
Installation of the camera and the app was a cinch and it's a good-looking bit of kit, we really liked the gold trim. The icing on the cake is the inclusion of a Star Grip accessory. This allows you to put the camera pretty much anywhere around the cot – ideal for those whose nursery decor doesn't usually play ball with a baby monitor setup.
Two way voice was nice and clear, infrared crisp and, as always, the room temperature display was an added bonus.
Motorola MBP855 review is one of the most well-rounded smart baby monitors we tested.
In the land of video baby monitors, an audio-only device may seem too low-tech, but sometimes video isn't practical, such as if you're outside doing yard work or taking a nap yourself. You might prefer audio cues to your baby's stirring in these situations.
In our tests, we found the VTech DM223 to be easy to use, simple to set up and efficient. Like your standard monitors, two units arrive in the box; a parent unit and a baby unit. The parent unit has a two-inch LED display to show signal strength, whether vibration is turned on or not, and battery life. One nice feature is the colored light bar along the top of the parent unit, which lets you monitor the level of sound coming through, even if the parent unit is muted.
The range of up to 1,000 feet outside or unobstructed is excellent, while indoors the 150-foot range also worked great for us. It also does a very good job of filtering out background noise.
The VTech DM223 is a baby monitor that shows simplicity at its finest, and at its affordable price of $39.95 (about £30 / AU$50), it's hard to find a better audio-only baby monitor for your money.
Read our full VTech DM223 Audio Baby Monitor review
The Tommee Tippee Digital Sound and Movement Monitor was something we paired with the Motorola MBP18 when our baby was very young. The reason for this is that there’s no camera with this model. That’s something you may want to consider before purchasing this one. But if you are happy without the visuals, then this is a fantastic device that monitors movement and sounds an alarm when no motion is detected.
Because it is a motion sensor, it’s a little tricky to install. There can’t be any hanging wires as they have to be taut for the sensor to work properly. The device comes with plastic wire tracks that you can use to guide and tighten the wires. These go under any mattress you may have, alongside the rectangle pressure pad. We put this under a Sleepy Head in a side cot and it worked fine. Once everything is installed – it took a while on the first go but we were a dab hand by the end – the device does offer the ultimate in peace of mind.
There are a few caveats, though. The monitor clicks, seemingly in time to the heartbeat of the baby – and it’s quite loud. This can be turned off but as it’s kind of the point of having this monitor, we recommend you don't do that. You do get used to the sound but it is quite audible. And when the clicks stop, which happens every so often, we did find ourselves anxiously waiting for them to start again.
Then there’s the false alarm issue. Occasionally the alarm sounded, even though everything was absolutely fine. This was usually because one of the wires had come loose, so it may have been shoddy installation on our part but it is worth bearing in mind. When the alarm does sound, then it is simple to reset the device.
A movement monitor isn’t for everybody, but they are very useful for first-time parents who are worried about leaving their baby alone in a room and want something more than visual reassurance.
The Tommee Tippee Digital Sound and Movement Monitor also comes with a temperature gauge and the audio – which was crisp in our tests – is two way so you can communicate with your baby if you need to.
- Also consider: Angelcare AC1100 Digital Video, Movement and Baby Monitor
Smart baby cam alternatives
The Nest Cam IQ is a sophisticated and well-made security camera that has built-in facial recognition technology. It’s not a dedicated baby cam but as it is one of the most advanced IP cameras we have ever seen, it can certainly be used as such.
Despite it being a Nest product, you don’t need any of the other Nest accessories for it to work.
Using it as a baby cam also means that you don’t have to pay the high subscription fees – these are only really needed if you fancy recording footage of your baby sleeping. Footage from the Nest Cam IQ is superb, it’s 1080p and the best quality we found in our tests.
All footage is viewed through a smartphone/tablet app so there’s (obviously) no dedicated monitor.
Yes, it’s pricey but this is a fantastic-looking, premium camera that works well as a baby cam but has the bonus of also being a security cam for when your little one grows up and no longer needs constant monitoring.
- Read our Nest Cam IQ review
Again, the Hive Camera is not a dedicated baby monitoring system, but it does a decent job moonlighting as one.
The two essentials for baby cams are decent video-streaming capabilities and two-way audio – the Hive Camera is brilliant at both of these.
The streams is HD quality (and there is a night vision mode) and we didn’t notice any dropout in our tests and the two way audio worked well, the camera’s mic picking up many nuances of our baby trying to get to sleep.
It’s solidly built, too, and has a fairly small footprint, so can be placed pretty much anywhere in a nursery. If you did want to save any footage for posterity, you can have up to 16GB of expandable memory, thanks to a microSD card slot.
And when your child gets order, this smart cam is also a great security device – offering such things as a barking dog and police car alarm that you can set off if you see that someone has entered your house.
- Read our Hive Camera review
The D-Link Omna 180 Cam HD Camera is currently being sold in the Apple Store which gives you an idea of what kind of product this is: it’s a premium-looking device that’s packed with smart smarts.
It works with Apple HomeKit, which means that it will seamlessly interact with your Apple products, and it also works with Siri. Its HD video feed can be watched on a smartphone or tablet, while the night vision the camera offers is superb – thanks to some hidden LEDs powering its nocturnal functionality.
It’s so good that the camera can get five feet away from the baby and still pick their image up with no worries. The camera also has an 180-degree field of view which is one of the most expansive we tested.
It’s a great-looking device, one you wouldn’t mind having on your mantelpiece. Its silver finish may not fit the decor of a brightly colored nursery but it’s discreet enough to be put on a shelf and a brilliant 5x zoom means it doesn’t have to be situated too close to the cot to work.
Footage can be recorded on a microSD card but this doesn’t come in the package, while the accompanying Omna app is full of functionality. This isn’t a dedicated baby cam but it acts as a very good one, offering everything you need in one of the best-looking packages on test.
It’s also got Apple’s seal of approval, which isn’t easy to get. If you are an Android user, though, you can still use the camera as D-Link has recently updated its software for Android compatibility, pinch to zoom functionality has also come to the app.
Of all the cameras on test here, the Somfy One is perhaps the one better suited to being a security cam. It’s packed with features that will catch intruders in the act – including smart sensing capabilities, video surveillance, intrusion detection and a rather loud alarm. A lot of these features can be used to help monitor your baby, though, just maybe not use the alarm.
Everything is controlled by the Somfy Protect app, where you have the option to turn the camera completely off when not using it and can zoom in and out when necessary. The picture is crisp, HD (180p, 30fps) and wide angle so you can get most of the cot in the view and there is the option to record footage from the camera straight on to your smartphone and 4x zoom and clear two-way audio on board.
There is a motion-detect feature too, which is great for those who no longer need constant monitoring of your baby. The camera jolts into action when any movement is detected – so if your baby is tossing and turning and getting a little restless, then you can check as to whether or not you got go up and tend to them.
The camera is an all-in-one system so is a lot larger than the other cameras on test – it’s a great-looking device, however, and one that has won a Red Dot award for its looks. Again, this should only be a purchase if you want a camera system to last beyond monitoring your baby. The prime focus for the Somfy One is to protect your home.
Disable that rather loud alarm, though, and what you have is a very capable but perhaps over specced baby cam.
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