Wired or wireless? Digital or analog? What about night vision? Here’s how to choose the best baby video monitor.
Baby monitors provide peace of mind, enabling constant remote monitoring from anywhere in the house, of babies, toddlers, special needs children, and elderly parents.
With the right monitor, there is no need to enter the room to check on the baby. This avoids disturbing and waking-up the baby.
How to Choose the Best Baby Video Monitor
Popular brands include:
Video Baby Monitors
Video monitors provide more information than audio monitors, allowing parents to decide whether the baby needs attention or is just making noises while asleep. They can cost from over one hundred to a few hundred dollars.
Picture quality is normally webcam quality or worse. Minimum acceptable quality is to be able to see if the baby’s eyes are open or closed (with the camera a few feet away). The picture can be jerky (slow frame rate), but this isn’t a problem when monitoring babies. Many monitors provide color images, but this is not necessary. Black and white are good enough for most purposes (night vision is black and white anyway) and a bit cheaper.
The video screen (parent unit) can be a
- Battery-powered handheld portable unit, with a 1.8 to 2.5-inch screen (diagonal length). Some have a video outlet that can also be plugged into a standard TV. Batteries last only a few hours, with an AC adapter providing unlimited run time.
- Larger dedicated non-portable screen (plugged into electrical mains, no batteries), 5 to 7 inches.
- Standard TV connected to a parent unit receiver (no video screen provided).
Some systems allow a combination of different types of screens to be used.
Useful features include:
- Screen brightness control for night use. Screens can become too bright for a darkened bedroom. Surprisingly, some portable units have no or only two levels of brightness control.
- Remote pan and zoom of the camera. Most are “digital” pan and zoom. This means that the camera doesn’t really move. The image is enlarged by software to simulate zooming, resulting in lower resolution.
- Night vision (black and white image only). Infra-red LED lights are used for illumination. The range is typically 6 feet. The camera should automatically change to night vision when there isn’t enough light. Some cameras require a switch to be manually pressed.
- Voice-activated (VOX) video. The portable monitor is switched off to save the batteries, automatically switching on when there is sound.
- Optional Internet kit. Some video monitors can be connected to the Internet (often through the manufacturer’s website, and requires a subscription fee). There are obviously security risks, but the feature can be useful for checking up on baby sitters, for parents who frequently travel and for grandparents to look in on their grandchildren.
- Ability to monitor two cameras. The parent unit scans automatically switches between displaying images from each camera.
- Ability to use two or more parent units to view through the camera at the same time.
Wired Versus Wireless Baby Monitors
Wireless baby monitors are popular. Wireless means being able to carry the parent unit receiver anywhere within the house. Manufacturers rate the receiver’s outdoor range from 400 to 800 feet, but the indoor range will be less as the signal is blocked by walls.
Popular frequencies are 2.4 GHz and 900 MHz (some monitors can be switched to use either). Other frequencies are also used.
Wireless systems can interfere with and be interfered with by other devices. Problems can be caused by Wi-Fi wireless LANs or routers, cordless phones, wireless video game controllers, even microwave ovens.
Analog wireless systems
- Are usually not secure. Anyone with a similar receiver and who is within range can receive the signal.
- Can suffer from irritating interference static, whines, or squeals.
- Should have more than one channel so that if there is any interference, another channel can be selected.
Digital wireless systems
- Are usually more secure.
- Are more commonly used for audio and motion sensor monitors. Video wireless monitors do exist but are relatively new.
The Best Baby Monitor
Each type of monitor has its advantages and drawbacks. Parents need to decide on the balance of features that most meets their needs:
- Wired monitors are more reliable but are not portable.
- Wireless monitors are convenient and popular; however, interference and range problems are common. The Internet can be searched for user reviews, but each house’s environment is different, and a monitor that works well in one place might not work as well in another.
Video monitors also need an audio monitor function. Parents should learn about audio monitors to help them choose the right video monitor.