The world is filled with baby products, and it seems like they get more advanced (and expensive) every year. Sometimes it’s hard to draw the line between necessity and extravagance. I mean, do we really need a pacifier with a built-in thermometer? And does it work? But video baby monitors are a different sort of debate. They obviously have a real, tangible benefit, but they also cost a lot of money. I’ll break down the basics of video baby monitors compared to audio-only monitors, and then we’ll look at three or four of the best options.
Key Features of Video Monitors
If you’re thinking about a video monitor for your nursery or play room, here are some things you should know about:
- Video. The obvious feature of a video baby monitor is that it gives you a live image of your sleeping (or more likely, crying) infant. It might be a high-definition video, though that’s really not necessary.
- Audio. Just like traditional monitors, video monitors give you an audio feed from the nursery so that you can hear when your baby wakes up, fusses, or babbles. The bonus is that most video monitors have two-way audio, so you can talk to your baby through it.
- Night vision. Most of the time you need it, your monitor will be in the dark. So it needs night vision (infrared). FYI, this will give you a black-and-white image. All of those delightful color images you see on the box were taken in unrealistic daylight.
- Wireless. Usually the transmitter (in the nursery) plugs into the wall, and your receiving unit is battery-operated / rechargeable. They communicate on a wireless frequency (often 2.4 Ghz). Is it secure? That depends on the monitor (see below).
- Pan, Tilt, & Zoom. Some monitors are fixed, while others have remote control movement in the form of pan (left or right), tilt (up or down), and zoom.
The Arguments Against Video Monitors
We should keep in mind that video monitors have only been around for a few years. Here are some of the reasons that we survived so long without them:
- Cost. Compared to the cost of audio monitors, these cost three or four times as much, depending on the model.
- Hassle. Yet another kind of baby gear that can be difficult to set up, get working, and fiddle with when you really should be, you know, showering or napping.
- Privacy. There is the possibility that videos from your nursery could be intercepted — if not during transmission, maybe to a hacker or laptop thief. It seems like an invitation to a privacy violation.
The Arguments for Video Monitors
- Safety. You can literally see your baby breathing, monitor the temperature, and watch for any hazardous situations.
- Soothing. With two-way audio, you can talk to or play lullabies for your baby without going in. On some models, like the Motorola MBP36, you can even play lullabies using the receiver.
- Watchfulness. If you hear your baby fussing, a glance can tell you if he or she might go back to sleep, or if (due to a dropped pacifier, leg stuck in the crib, etc.) you’re going to have to go in.
- Remote monitoring. For parents who work or travel out of town, some monitors allow you to monitor your nursery over the internet. Check in when you’re not even at home.
Four Top Video Monitors
If you’ve come this far, you must be serious about getting a video monitor, so let me tell you about the four bestsellers on Amazon.com.
Infant Optics DXR-5 Video Baby Monitor
Dropcam HD Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Camera
|This is a unique take on a baby monitor: an easy-to-set-up, high-definition (720p), wireless camera. It uses your wireless connection to securely upload the video to the cloud, where you can get a live feed on your smart phone or computer, as well as review and save videos. The camera itself is pretty nice, with infrared night vision, a motion sensor, and digital zoom.The main difference of this monitor versus the others in my review is how easily it integrates with the web. That’s both an advantage and a disadvantage. On the bright side, it’s incredibly easy to set up and get a live feed with the smartphone app. On the bummer side, uploading streaming video is a burden on your internet connection, and you might bump up against your monthly quota. And the DVR service seems like something they’d love to upcharge you for. That said, with almost a thousand reviews and 4/5 stars, it must be a pretty good deal. And as a bonus, when your child is older you can use it as a nanny cam, pet cam, or security monitor.
Motorola MBP36 Remote Wireless Video Baby Monitor
|This is your top-of-the-line video baby monitor, and it’s from Motorola. I’ve seen one of these in use and it’s simply awesome. A big (3.5″) screen, two-way encrypted communication, remote pan/tilt/zoom and lullaby playing, and night vision make this everything you could want in a video baby monitor. It also monitors the room’s temperature so you can ensure that your baby never gets too hot or too cold.
Samsung SEW-3037W Wireless Video Monitor
|I included this relative newcomer because it’s by Samsung, and their reputation with other video technology is outstanding. Their video baby monitor includes a 3.5″ color screen, the same size as the Motorola, and the camera has remote control (pan/tilt/zoom). Plus, you can remotely trigger the night light to either soothe the baby or have a bit of light on before you enter the room.