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Avleen M.
Avleen M.Jul 28, 2020

How to buy the best baby monitor

Every new parent wants peace of mind in knowing their baby is safe. A reliable baby monitor can help, offering the proverbial extra pair of eyes and ears so you can carry out everyday tasks without constant stress. With so many types of baby monitors on the market, you might be unsure whether to choose a video baby monitor, baby breathing monitor, a Wi-Fi baby monitor, or a basic audio monitor. Here are some top tips on how to compare baby monitors in Australia before investing in one that best serves your family’s needs and home layout.

Types of Baby Monitors

Audio baby monitors

VTech Audio Baby Monitor

These more traditional baby monitors let you hear your baby in another room, so you know if they’ve woken up. The audio is sent via a transmitter in the baby’s room through either a radio or digital signal to the parent receiver.

When purchasing an audio baby monitor, the most important things to look for in a prospective model are clear sound quality that reduces background noise, and a signal that transmits over a long range without static or interference.

Also look for a handy light-up element that visually alerts you when there is noise from baby's room, and audio-only monitors with two-way communication.

Audio monitors are the most affordable option, and are easily portable. However, if you want to see your baby as well as hear then, consider a video and audio monitor instead.

Video baby monitors

For a baby monitor with a camera and no sound, a video-only monitor is your pick. As the lack of audio means you won’t be able to hear your baby’s cries or coos, video baby monitors might be more suitable if your baby is over one year or if you have a small house or apartment.

Video and audio baby monitors

A more popular option today is combined video and audio baby monitors. The inclusion of both audio and video lets parents and caregivers have an extra set of both eyes and ears on their baby when they’re not in the nursery. The inclusion of video can prove particularly useful when infants begin rolling, or when your little one has graduated from sharing a room with parents and moved into their own room. Buying a device with both video and audio could save you from buying a second separate device in future, particularly if you want this as a ‘nanny cam’ to keep an eye on your kid/s as they grow older.

Due to their popularity, combined video and audio monitors are often simply referred to as video monitors. There are two types: those that operate using Wi-Fi, and others that use a proprietary signal.

Wi-Fi video baby monitors

These digital baby monitors work by connecting to your home wireless network. They usually transmit audio and video signals onto a mobile via a smartphone app (you can also use a tablet or laptop). Some also come with a branded viewing device, but this is less common. Thanks to the smartphone app, you can view your baby for peace of mind even when you’re not home and baby’s being cared for by a babysitter or grandparents (who can simultaneously log in to view baby via the app).

Non-WiFi video baby monitors

Instead of using Wi-Fi, these monitors work by transmitting a proprietary or private broadcast signal set up by the manufacturer from the base unit to parent unit. Baby monitors using this system provide the items you need – the camera and audio device for the baby’s room, and a handheld, branded device that’s like a small tablet for parents or carers to view the video stream on. Any apps or other viewing or data platforms like your own device are an optional extra, but they're not required.

Movement monitors and Smart baby monitors

Owlet Smart Sock 2

These use motion sensors to alert you if the monitor fails to detect any movement from your baby after a set period of time, e.g. 15 seconds for the Snuza Hero Movement Monitor.

There are models that function solely as movement monitors, such as the Snuza Hero. Other movement monitors are integrated with breathing monitors or work as smart monitors. These more advanced models track a baby’s vital signs, including breathing, heart rate, body temperature and oxygen levels.

Smart monitors can either be mounted above a cot, come in the form of clothing, for example the Owlet Smart Sock 2 (pictured), or use motion sensor pads that are placed under a mattress, e.g. the Oricom BabySense7 Breathing Movement Monitor. The BabySense7 has pads that cover the area of a standard-sized crib or cot. As some models can be finnicky in terms of their placement, check that your room layout is compatible with a prospective model’s requirements. Also, if you want to track recorded data over a longer period of time, a paying subscription is often required.

Factors to consider when buying a baby monitor

Range Signal range icon

Referring to the physical distance that a monitor is able to transmit signals, range is affected by a signal’s strength, your Wi-Fi connection, the product make and the features of your home, such as brick walls.

Choose a monitor with as wide a range as possible, so you can comfortably access baby in any room of the house. Models with a limited range will produce poor sound and image quality the further you move away from the base unit – including crackling audio or a fuzzy image.

Wi-Fi monitors are the most flexible on this front, as you can connect with your baby from anywhere in the house provided there’s a reliable internet connection. Just be wary of cold spots where Wi-Fi is likely to drop out - while some monitors will pick up your mobile network signal, it’s not a guarantee. Some monitors will display an out-of-range warning like the Oricom Secure850 Digital or simply state ‘Video cannot display.’

Most non-WiFi monitors are designed with a range of about 200-300 metres. Consider the range you need in accordance with the size of your home, and which rooms you spend the most time in.

Image clarity and sound quality Sound icon

Baby monitor interference can be frustrating, stopping you from seeing or hearing your baby clearly. Interference can be caused by a number of factors, but the main one is the frequency band or technology that your monitor uses to transmit signals.

Most digital wireless baby monitors operate using a 2.4GHz frequency band, also used by common devices such as mobile phones, video game controls, microwaves and other baby monitors. Any other Bluetooth or wireless devices can be added to this list, and a wireless baby monitor can encounter interference from any of these. A digital monitor that’s not wireless will experience much less interference, as proprietary signals are encrypted and then decrypted upon receipt (meaning no one else can hear them).

If limiting the amount of interference is a priority for you, choose a baby monitors with DECT technology. Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications Technology uses a 1.9GHz frequency band that’s rarely used by other devices. The resulting encrypted digital signals produce high quality, clear sound that suffers no interruptions.

Security Security icon

While all baby monitors can potentially be hacked, you can help safeguard against this by selecting a baby monitor with an encrypted digital signal (these include non-WiFi monitors and those using DECT technology. DECT baby monitors are not hack-proof but similar to non-WiFi baby monitors, they are almost impossible to hack as they rely on their own network to transmit the signal from the baby unit to the parent unit.

Wi-Fi monitors can more easily be hacked, particularly the models that send video feed to your smartphone while you’re not at home. This is because you’re streaming via the internet rather than your private network, which makes your monitor more vulnerable to hackers.

If you’d prefer a wireless monitor, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. These include wireless encryption; which requires a password or network key to access your network, firmware, and configuring your privacy settings correctly.

Screen Size Screen Size icon

This screen is part of the ‘parent unit’ and what you’ll be viewing your baby on. Screens around 2.4 inches wide are small, a 3.5 inch-wide screen is considered fairly standard, while a model that’s 5 inches is large. A larger screen size will generally be more ‘premium.’

Camera mount type Camera icon

If you’re considering a video monitor, there are three types of cameras: a flat surface camera, a wall mounted camera and a clamp.

  • Flat surface cameras are the most common and convenient, as you can place the camera on any surface with a good viewing angle of the cot, e.g. on a tallboy or windowsill.
  • Wall mountable cameras require the camera to be drilled into a wall fitting, and demand a greater investment of time and money.
  • Clamps refer to models that can be clipped to available furniture, such as the top of the cot or a floor lamp.

It’s worth taking the time to figure out the set-up of the room that your baby will be sleeping in, and determine which camera type will be the most practical and effective for ongoing use.

Battery Power Battery icon

Baby monitors can be powered in one of three ways: physical batteries, rechargeable batteries or via plugging your monitor into an electrical outlet. As you’ll likely be using your monitor round the clock, it’s important to look for a model with a solid battery life of at least eight hours.

While plug-in models require zero charging, portable baby monitors are much more convenient, as you can easily carry them around the house with you, even while you’re outside enjoying the sunshine or hanging up laundry (provided you’re still within range).

Price Price icon

This can range from $50 for a basic audio monitor, to $350 for models that transmit audio and video, to $500 for baby monitors with smart capabilities like vital signs monitoring.

Extra Features

  • Cameras with wide viewing angles: can be remotely controlled, offering pan, tilt and zoom functions among them. This helps you view baby even if they’ve crawled or climbed, and can allow the camera to serve as a nanny cam when your baby gets older.
  • Infrared cameras: Also called night vision cameras, these sharpen the contrast and allow you to see your baby clearly, even in dark lighting.
  • Low-battery indicator: can prevent frustration when the battery dies without warning.
  • Lullaby mode: draws upon pre-installed lullabies that can help gently serenade your baby to sleep.
  • Multi camera support: includes at least two cameras when you purchase a baby monitor. You can place these cameras in the baby’s room and an additional room/s, which is useful if you have another child. All cameras are connected to one handset, for ease of use.
  • Night light: this should be adjustable, letting you choose a gentle brightness level if you opt for a night light.
  • Room temperature monitor: allows you to set a low and high temperature limit for the room. An alarm sounds if the temperature creeps above or below the pre-set zones.
  • Sound indicator light: on some audio monitors silently alerts you when your baby cries by lighting up, as opposed to an audible alarm. This is particularly useful if you’re working from home, in a meeting, as you can leave your monitor on mute.
  • SD card slot: using an SD card, some monitors allow you to record sound and video.
  • Two-way communication: also called ‘parent talk back,’ this feature often available on audio monitors lets you speak to your baby and soothe them. It’s also useful for communicating with a babysitter, grandparent or other adult in the baby’s room.

Conclusion

Thanks for reading, we hope this guide helped you understand the different types of baby monitors on the market and the specifics that make a baby monitor reliable. If you're still not sure investing in a baby monitor is the right decision for you, a wireless home security camera or cordless phone can also help monitor your baby, as well as serve multi-funtional purposes when your baby has grown up.


About the author
Avleen is a content writer for ProductReview. Her area of expertise covers furniture and bedding, home appliances and beauty products. Outside of work she enjoys scribbling down poetry and music, reading fantasy novels, and discovering delicious vegan restaurants.