Best Baby Monitor 2017

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After testing half-a-dozen mounted cameras that beam live video from a nursery, our choice for the best baby monitor is the iBaby Monitor M6T. The price on this baby monitor, which lets you check in on your child from a smartphone, has dropped considerably, making it an even better value. Features include 360-degree pans and crisp images, even in night mode.

Our current runner-up, the Motorola MBP853 Connect, costs about the same as the M6T and gives you the option of picking up video streams from either your phone or a dedicated handheld viewer.

Latest Baby Monitor News

iBaby, makers of our current top for video monitor, have started taking preorders on a new version, the $250 iBaby Care M7. Shipping in November, the new monitor includes a 1080p video camera with night-vision and two-way audio features, as you would expect, but it's also equipped with air, temperature and humidity sensors. Smart smell detectors can determine if your baby's diaper needs changing. A built-in moonlight soother tops off the M7 with moon and star projections.

Top Video Baby Monitor Picks

The iBaby Monitor M6T tops other video baby monitors by offering an impressive array of features at a manageable price.        
        
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 — along with features that set it apart from the crowd. The M6T boasts a full-360-degree rotating pan that no other unit could match.        
        
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. What's more, the mobile app made it easy to capture both pictures and videos, all without any extra fees or subscriptions. 
 
A newer version, the M6S, ups the video resolution to 1080p.

Motorola's MBP853 Connect offers the best of both worlds in the form of a convenient dedicated, stand-alone RF-enabled viewer and a feature-packed, easy-to-use mobile video-streaming app.     
    
The handheld unit lets you check in on your child on a 3.5-inch LCD screen that shows adequate images, even if they're slightly hard to make out at night. It's the mobile app that stands out, though, with screen quality that rivals that of other devices. As convenient as it is to have viewing options, though, the handheld viewer, the mobile app and a companion website excel at different things. And it can be confusing to know which option to reach for. Still, if you value flexibility and an inconspicuous camera, the MBP853 offers plenty of value for your dollar.

VTech's VM343 video baby monitor has a lot to recommend it, chiefly the clearest and most vibrant images we saw on monitors that had their own handheld viewers. We could even detect facial features when checking in on a darkened room. But the VM343 lacks the ability to record those video streams you're seeing, and its handheld viewer ran out of battery faster than other devices we tested.

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 our runner-up pick for best wireless home security camera.

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.
  • 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

I situated each monitor at an elevated position in my child's room and approximately 7 to 8 feet from the head of my son's bed. The four units with handheld viewers were tested from 12, 20 and 35 feet away through one wall in a 35-year-old apartment complex. For baby monitors that offered Wi-Fi connectivity, I connected them to a home Wi-Fi network.

I tested all built-in features such as pan and zoom, motion and sound detection, temperature and humidity sensors, and sleep timers. I 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.

Product
Price
Rating
Pros
Cons
Philips Avent Digital Baby Monitor (SCD630/37)
$179.99 Parent's Favorite 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
Levana Keera PTZ Baby Monitor
$152.99Amazon 4/10
Saves images to removable microSD card; Inexpensive
Difficult setup; Below average image quality

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  • SaraHortova
    I did recently downloaded Baby Monitor by Annie from Apple store and it works great! Don't really need to buy the expensive monitoring devices as with two children, I don't have much money to waste really. Of course it's for the safety of the children, so it's not really a waste, although I can easily use this app and it does everything what the big baby monitors do and even more. I've just used my old ipad as the second device placed near my LO.
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  • MissJonze
    Wow! cool gizmos!
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  • j-ameson
    I generally expect better of Tom's Guide. Unfortunately, this really ignores the majority of the features that parents actually want/need. Features like:

    * Remote monitoring: need iOS/Android (with push monitoring on motion or loud noise), AND the ability to view via a web browser when you're at work and using your phone

    * Guest Accounts: need to allow guest accounts for grandparents, but absolutely need the ability to turn OFF the microphone for those accounts. The camera is only in the baby's room, but the microphone extends as far as sound travels, and you probably don't want your mother-in-law listening to every discussion in your home. This is a HUGE security feature that is a requirement for anything with guest accounts

    * HD: high video quality matters, but only so far as it will work via WIFI (e.g. a 1080p camera probably doesn't matter if the camera only connects via 802.11b and therefore can't stream that quality)

    * Night-Vision: needs to be a balance between good quality and non-bright baby-waking lights to make it work

    * Pan/Tilt: a surprising number don't tilt low enough to see well into the crib if they're upright on a nearby shelf

    * Subscriptions: No one wants to pay for monthly subscriptions to use their baby monitor's features

    * Security: many baby monitors are known for being easy to hack (such as the Gynoii, Summer, and Phillips) -- merely mentioning that something has some security features is pointless if it doesn't also mention their security flaws

    * Two-way audio: obviously important for non-guest accounts

    * Video Recording: possible? Only manually? Automatically based on schedule? Automatically based on motion? Time-lapse video possible? How/where is it recorded? Who can initiate a recording? (e.g. can guests initiate a video recording? Can they play recordings back remotely?)

    * Reliability: Do people report that models stop working after 3 months?

    *Customer Service: Is the company known for repaying to parents with issues, or are you on your own?

    I'm not saying that you don't mention some of these, but it's amazing how many are ignored. Here's hoping Tom's Guide steps up its game on this. Good luck!
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