- Baby monitors have come a long way in recent years
- We rounded up the four best baby monitors to keep an eye on your baby
Baby monitors have come a long way from the days of static-plagued, souped-up walkie talkies. Modern monitors feature everything from remote-controlled lullabies to air quality sensors, but a quality device still needs to nail the basics. That means it needs to offer clear, reliable signals over a long distance and not die in a few hours.
We've rounded up four excellent baby monitors that do all that and have plenty of bells and whistles to boot.
There are a few things to keep in mind. Video monitors are more expensive than their audio counterparts, so you'll want to decide whether it's worth the extra money to see your little bundle of joy sleeping peacefully and/or screaming like a very tiny banshee in HD.
The other major consideration is whether you want a dedicated "parent unit," or if you'd prefer to use an app that links the monitor to your smartphone or tablet via Wi-Fi. That drastically increases the monitor's range, but also introduces potential lag times and the annoyance of switching between the monitor and everything else you use your phone for.
Whichever monitor you choose, it should make it easier to keep an eye on your baby without waking them up, a blessing whether you're stepping out of the house or just into the other room to catch up on Netflix.
Best overall monitor: Infant Optics DXR-8 video monitor ($165.99; amazon.com)
Amazon's best selling baby monitor boasts an extremely impressive 20,000 five star reviews (and if 20,000 sleepy parents give five stars, it has to be good). The parent unit features a 3.5-inch LCD display and comes with an interchangeable zoom lens to get up close when you're far away. You can also purchase a wide-angle lens if you want to see more of your baby's crib. Because the DXR-8 doesn't use Wi-Fi, there's no need to worry about potential video delays, connectivity issues or finnicky apps. The DXR-8 claims a signal range of 700 feet, and you can control the camera to zoom, pan up to 270 degrees and tilt 120 degrees.
Battery life is solid, with a stated 12 hours for audio mode and eight for video. If you turn off the screen at night to save some juice, audio cues will still light the sound-activated LED bar so that, as the company notes, you can "see when your baby is crying." An extra charging cable is included, while a built-in temperature sensor, two-way talk and night vision round out the monitor's features. Reviewers notably praise Infant Optics' customer service, with one noting, "I would be hard-pressed to imagine any scenario where another product could serve its purpose any better."
Note that the Infant Optics, like the majority of digital baby monitors, transmits over the heavily-trafficked 2.4 GHz frequency; this may cause static interference, but some reviewers suggest repositioning the monitor, switching off other wireless devices or changing those devices to 5G. And as with any radio product, range will also depend on location and if there are physical obstacles between the monitor and parent unit.
Best audio monitor: Vtech audio baby monitor ($38.99; amazon.com)
Another Amazon best seller, the Vtech is a great — and very affordable — choice for those who don't need video capabilities. The Vtech boasts a range of up to 1,000 feet and takes advantage of DECT, or short for Digital Enhanced Cordless Communications. That means it operates on a different frequency than most monitors (1.9 GHz as opposed to 2.4 GHz), resulting in minimal interference and clearer audio quality.
With up to 18 hours of use with its rechargeable battery (you can also swap in two AAAs), the Vtech also doubles as a great travel monitor. Small and lightweight, the Vtech even features a belt loop to allow for hands-free carrying (in a thoughtful touch, the corresponding loop on the baby unit glows to create a soft nightlight). Because the Vtech has a two-way speaker, parents can soothe (or at least try to soothe) their babies with their voices. Need to keep things quiet? Visual sound indicators in the back-lit LED display correspond with the volume in the baby's room, while vibrations alert parents to moments of particular fussiness.
With all the fancy video monitors on the market, simpler audio versions like this Vtech can be overlooked. But you pay a premium for video capabilities, and since monitors often get the most use overnight, one with powerful audio capabilities can still be the right choice for many parents.
Best Wi-Fi monitor: iBaby Care M7 ($143.99; amazon.com)
For sheer range, you can't beat a Wi-Fi monitor. If you want the ability to check in on your little one from literally anywhere with a Wi-Fi signal, the iBaby Care M7 is a great pick.
While our previous recommendations included dedicated parent units, the feature-packed M7 streams HD 1080p video to your smartphone via the company's free iOS and Android app (no extra devices to carry around here). Not only can you talk to your baby through two-way communication, but the M7 also comes loaded with lullabies, white noise and bedtime stories. You can access your own music library as well. With a 360-degree pan and 140-degree tilt, you can shift the camera remotely for a more complete view of your baby's nursery. A TVOC air quality sensor monitors temperature, humidity and CO2 levels. The M7 also offers night vision, diaper and feeding alerts, and sound and motion sensors.
For those concerned about security issues with Wi-Fi monitors, iBaby says it uses "the highest technology available on the market as well as using military-level secured servers of Amazon AWS to provide you with top security." As is the case any time you use Wi-Fi, though, you'll want to be sure you're using a secure connection.
Best overhead monitor: Nanit Plus ($215, originally $279; amazon.com)
The Nanit Plus is more expensive than the other monitors on our list, but it's also meant to do more than monitor your baby. With its sleep tracking technology, the Nanit Plus aims to help parents better understand their child's bedtime habits, making it an especially good choice for data lovers.
The Nanit Plus, like the iBaby M7, works via Wi-Fi. Mount the stand to the wall above your baby's crib to get a bird's eye view that'll stream right to your phone or tablet via the Nanit app. You can't tilt or pan the Nanit camera, but its overhead position helps avoid blindspots that often come with other monitors. This may come in especially handy once babies get a little older and start tossing and turning more. Users praise the picture quality, and with it's background audio mode, the Nanit will keep working even when you switch apps or your phone goes dark. Nanit also offers two-way communication (an upgrade over the company's M6S model), along with the ability to play nature sounds and remotely turn on a nightlight. Temperature and humidity sensors aim to help parents keep their baby comfortable, while sound and motion alerts signal if anything's amiss.
Where the Nanit Plus seeks to set itself apart from other monitors, though, is with its sleep tracking. Each morning you can scroll through a "sleep report" that displays your baby's activity and even lets you view time-lapse footage of your little one's antics. You'll have to pay extra for full access to sleep tracking via an Insights subscription ($10), and you definitely don't have to record and analyze your baby's every move to be a good parent. But as, Nanit notes, tracking could help finally answering burning questions like, "how did she possibly get that pacifier all the way over there?"
Note: The prices above reflect the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.