After testing more than half-a-dozen mounted cameras that beam live video from a nursery, the best baby monitor we've tested is Netgear's Arlo Baby. Netgear's baby monitor packs in a number of must-have features such as clear 1080p video, two-way audio and a host of sensors. Everything's easily accessible from a well-organized mobile app that puts the Arlo Baby's controls at your fingertips.
Bargain hunters may prefer the iBaby M6T. Though it's a couple years old and records video in in 720p resolution, it's still a capable monitor with night vision, two-way audio and helpful pan-and-tilt capabilities. It's also available for nearly $100 less than the Arlo Baby. If the voice-powered Alexa assistant is a part of your family, consider the Project Nursery Smart Baby Monitor, which includes a smart speaker in its $229 bundle that lets you remote control the camera.
All three of those devices turn to your smartphone to monitor the video feed streaming from your nursery. So does the $199 Safety 1st HD WiFi Baby Monitor, but it also includes a helpful portable audio monitor that can let you listen in on your nursery, without having to trigger the camera. It's our favorite option with a handheld unit.
What a Video Baby Monitor Costs
Baby video monitors with all the latest bells and whistles cost around $200, sometimes more depending on the feature set. However, you can find solid baby monitors for $100 to $150 less than that, though you'll sacrifice on video resolution and some features. Cloud storage can add to the cost of a baby monitor in the form of an ongoing subscription, though that feature is usually optional.
A word of caution about extremely cheap baby video monitors (we're talking devices that cost less than $50): they're not known for their security and can be hacked. Be sure to always change the default password of any connected device you purchase. You can also protect yourself by sticking to known vendors who post frequent firmware updates and have easy-to-reach customer support.
When shopping for a video monitor, note that you'll pay a substantial premium over audio-only monitors, which cost around $30 to $50. You'll need to decide if the extra money for video viewing is worth it, though parents may appreciate the ability to glance at a smartphone app or handheld monitor to visually check in on their sleeping child instead of opening a door and potentially waking up their baby.
Top Video Baby Monitor Picks
Don't be fooled by its cute looks and adorable green bunny ears: Netgear's Arlo Baby is a very capable baby monitor that delivers sharp video of your nursery to your smartphone. The Arlo Baby includes features such as night vision, temperature and air quality sensors, a color-changing nightlight and a speaker that can play lullabies. All of this is very easy to manage thanks to a well-designed mobile app.
Credit: NetgearCuteness aside, the Arlo Baby is compact enough to fit into even the most crowded nursery; a wall mount is included if you prefer that option. While you plug the camera in to power it, you can also detach the camera and move it into any room where an impromptu nap occurs, though we only saw three hours of battery life when we tried this out.
By default, Arlo Baby records in 720p resolution, though you can switch to 1080p if you prefer. You can also adjust the field of view and fine-tune notifications on what triggers an alert. You do have to position the camera manually, however, and the gap between getting a notification on our phone and actually being able to jump to live video was a little laggy for our tastes.
Still, the video delivered by the Arlo Baby was crystal clear, even at night. A whole host of sensors — temperature, humidity and air quality — can alert you to any change in your kid's room. The versatile app can send you notifications however you want, and we were particularly impressed by an Always Listening mode that streamed audio to our smartphone.
The Arlo Baby delivers just about everything a nervous new parent could want in a package that's easy to manage. Since we reviewed the camera, Netgear added support for Apple's HomeKit home automation platform and lowered the price on the Arlo Baby, which now costs around $200.
Even two years after we first took a look at it, the iBaby Monitor M6T still offers an impressive array of features at a manageable price. And its price has fallen, making it a great choice if you'd like to spend less than $150 on a video monitor.
iBaby's camera offers the sort of capabilities you'd expect — push-to-talk features to soothe a crying child, motion-triggered photo and video capture, and a 720p HD camera. (A newer version, the M6S, ups the resolution to 1080p.) The M6T also boasts a full-360-degree rotating pan
The M6T streams to an app on your smartphone, and we found the Wi-Fi-enabled video streaming to be clear, even in low light. The two-way speaker offered above-average audio in all conditions, and we like how we could play lullabies preinstalled on the iBaby mobile app to lull a child to sleep.
One of the best features of this video baby monitor has nothing to do with the camera itself. Instead, it's the Amazon Echo-like speaker that comes included in the Project Nursery Smart Baby Monitor bundle. That speaker taps into the Alexa voice-powered assistant to let you control the camera with just your voice.
Using the speaker, you can tell the Project Nursery camera to pan and tilt, play a lullaby, check the temperature in the nursery and more. You can do all this from any room that has an Alexa-powered speaker, so that you don't need to enter the nursery and risk waking up your sleeping baby. If you already own an Echo speaker, Project Nursery sells the Alexa-enabled camera on its own.
Speaking of the camera, it produces sharp pictures, even though resolution tops out at 720p. A microSD card slot lets you record video and capture still images. You'll need to juggle multiple apps to operate both the camera and voice controls, but this is a great addition to any home that relies on Alexa to help with household tasks.
You'll get great video quality and an easy-to-setup system with the Safety 1st HD WiFi Baby Monitor. But the real reason to consider this device is a helpful portable audio unit you can carry with you that lets you hear what's going on in the nursery without having to notice and respond to push notifications on your phone. There's little delay when you use the two-way audio feature, and the portable unit will even flash when the camera detects motion for a helpful visual cue to launch the companion app.
Dedicated Baby Monitor vs. Indoor Security Cam: Which Is Better?
Why spend money on a baby monitor, which serves a single specific purpose, when you could use an indoor home-security camera that you can repurpose once your kid leaves the nursery? We wondered the same thing, so along with with dedicated video baby monitors, we tested a Nest Indoor Cam, currently among our top-rated wireless home security cameras.
The Nest boasts some impressive hardware specs, such as true 1080p/30fps video and a 3-megapixel camera sensor. Setting up the Nest Cam specifically to look in on a 2-year-old at night, we found the video quality on Nest's camera to be sharper and more detailed than on any baby video monitor we tested. The Nest Cam includes push-to-talk features as well as alerts triggered by motion or sounds. And when your child is past the age when you need a nighttime monitor, you can repurpose the Nest Cam to check in on other parts of your home.
Despite those strengths, it's missing features found in monitors built with parents and babies in mind. You can't take still photos or record custom video clips out of the box (although the latter can be done with a pricey annual subscription). Plus, there's no way to trigger kid-friendly music to soothe your crying child.
With a dedicated baby monitor, push-to-talk capabilities will usually be integrated, as well as the ability to record and share still images and video clips (even if some monitors require a subscription to do so). Baby video monitors will also usually have built-in music files that you can play to soothe your child. Just the ability to pan and tilt the camera — the Nest has a fixed 130-degree wide-angle perspective — means you can follow your kids wherever they scamper.
What to Look For in a Baby Monitor
Here are the factors we took into consideration when evaluating video baby monitors. Keeping these criteria in mind will help you find the right monitor for your needs.
- Included Monitor: Find out whether your baby monitor comes with a handheld monitor or if it relies on your phone to give you look-ins on your child. A monitor is another piece of hardware to keep track off, while you're likely to have your phone on you at all times; cameras with handheld monitors also tend to be more expensive.
- Range: Look up the specs for how far the camera's signal extends, and make sure it can reach every area of your home.
- Camera: Check on the resolution that the camera records in. Also pay attention to the camera's pan and tilt features and just how wide a view it can offer of your child's room.
- Audio: See if the monitor has push-to-talk features so you can soothe your baby remotely. Other audio features to look for include the ability to play lullabies.
- Battery Life: The cameras we tested come with power adapters and should be plugged in to a wall. But the handheld viewers that come with some monitors run on removable, rechargeable batteries. Get a feeling for how long those batteries can go without a recharge.
- Special Features: Some monitors come with humidity and temperature sensors. You'll also want to see if monitors offer night-vision which let you check in on your child in the dark.
How We Tested
We situated each monitor at an elevated position in a child's room. Units with dedicated handheld viewers were tested from 12, 20 and 35 feet away. For baby monitors that offered Wi-Fi connectivity, we connected them to a home Wi-Fi network.
We tested all built-in features such as pan and zoom, motion and sound detection, temperature and humidity sensors, and sleep timers. We also took note of how easy the interfaces were on both handheld viewers and streaming apps.
Ease of setup and installation factored heavily into our ratings, including whether an account needed to be created and if there were any extra subscription fees necessary. Each unit had cords protruding out of its back, so design wasn't much of a factor in my choice, though parents should take care to keep dangling cords and wires away from their children's reach when setting up a monitor.
Other Baby Monitors Tested
We've tested other product when evaluating baby monitors that aren't included in our top picks. Here's a quick look at other video monitors that have gone through our testing process.
|Motorola MBP853 Connect||8/10||Includes handheld viewer; Camera is compact||Resolution on viewer can be subpar|
|Cocoon Cam Plus||7/10||Affordable; Reassuring breathing monitor; great night vision||Bare bones app; Set-up can be tricky|
|Vtech VM343 Video Monitor||7/10||Bright screen on handheld viewer; Clear resolution||Handheld viewer is bulky; Poor battery life|
|Philips Avent Digital Baby Monitor (SCD630/37)||6/10||Unique design; Good battery life on handheld viewer||Can't move camera remotely; No push-to-talk or video recording features; Distracting infrared lights|
|Samsung Wisenet BabyView SEW-3053W||4/10||Pan-and-tilt features; Clear night vision||Finicky connections; Poor app; No ability to record video |
|Levana Keera PTZ Baby Monitor||4/10||Saves images to removable microSD card; Inexpensive||Difficult setup; Below average image quality|
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