Baby Monitor Features
Each baby monitor, analog or digital, has an operating frequency band listed on its packaging. All of our picks operate on either a 900 MHz or a 2.4 GHz frequency band, which works for most homes.
Several digital monitors now use the 1.9 GHz frequency band, which sees less traffic and can help minimize interference. Models that offer this baby monitor frequency band use digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) technology, which should be indicated on the manufacturer's packaging. They may be the best options when it comes to baby monitor frequency but are usually more expensive. The pricey Philips Avent baby monitors with DECT technology (starting at $95) receive high marks on Buzzillions for clear sound quality and zero interference with other wireless devices.
The key here is to determine which electronics you use often and the frequencies on which they operate. If you're unsure which baby monitor frequency you need or can't find an affordable monitor with a unique frequency, you can always buy what you think is the best baby monitor for you and see how it works in your home. Many parents who worry about interference experience few problems with it, largely due to the location of their electronics in relation to the baby monitor.
You may also be able to mitigate any baby monitor frequency issues by selecting a budget baby monitor with multiple channels. To help minimize interference from nearby electronic devices such as cell phones, many inexpensive baby monitors offer a range of channels within their particular frequency band (similar to AM or FM radio). Baby monitors can have as few as two or as many as 60 available channels. That means even if multiple devices in your home share the same frequency band, changing the channel can eliminate interference.
For example, the Sony BabyCall, the only analog monitor among our picks and the one on our list with the most channels, operates on the 900 MHz frequency band and offers channels ranging from 902.200 to 904.900 MHz. Trying out different channels will help you find the one with the least interference from other devices. One user posting a review on Viewpoints says she loves how easy it is to change the channels on her Sony BabyCall.
Baby Monitor Battery, Baby Monitor Range
Baby Monitors With Multiple Parent Units.Buying a baby monitor with more than one parent unit can raise the cost $20 to $30 but allows more than one person to monitor the baby. Having multiple parent receivers is also more convenient than carrying the same receiver around the house during the day and into your bedroom each night. All major baby monitor brands offer models with two parent units. All our picks for good and best cheap baby monitors offer the option of two parent units. The Graco UltraClear Analog Baby Monitor, one of the cheapest baby monitors on our list, provides two parent units for as little as $28. The Safety 1st Sound View Monitor comes with a single receiver, one reason it isn't among our favorites.
Baby Monitor Battery Options.Even the cheapest baby monitor can get expensive if you constantly have to buy new batteries for it. Many parents complain about baby monitor battery life, saying their monitors go through batteries faster than babies go through diapers. That's why all our top picks come with parent units that run on both AC power and rechargeable batteries. Baby monitor battery options for the Graco iMonitor Vibe and Summer Infant Secure Sounds 2.4 GHz Digital Monitor also include backup battery power in the child unit so you can take it from place to place when you travel or even use it during a power outage. Although many parents don't see a need for a baby monitor battery option on the child unit, a consumer products testing site cites a lack of battery power for the baby unit as the only knock on the Sony BabyCall NTM-910.
Baby Monitor Range.If you learn anything in a search for the best baby monitor, it's not to trust the baby monitor range listed by the manufacturer. That's because the baby monitor range indicates the distance the monitor signal can travel in a straight line, with no walls or other obstructions and no interfering electronic devices. Many users find that the baby monitor ranges indicated by manufacturers are exaggerated. That being said, if you have a large house or plan to take the parent unit outdoors on a regular basis, you probably want to choose a baby monitor with a greater stated range, then test it in your home to be sure it's sufficient. The Graco iMonitor Vibe has a listed range of 2,000 feet, by far the best baby monitor range of any model we researched. Most of the rest of our picks have ranges of 600 feet to 800 feet, while the Sony BabyCall NTM-910 trails behind with a baby monitor range of 120 feet.
Vibrating Baby Monitors
Vibrating Baby Monitors, Light Up Baby Monitors.An out-of-range indicator lets you know when you've taken a receiver too far from the transmitter to receive a good signal. For many parents, this feature can make or break a baby monitor. Without it, it doesn't matter if you have a light up or vibrating baby monitor--you have no way of knowing if silence means your baby is just being quiet or the monitor has stopped transmitting the sound of her wails. A quality monitor needs an out-of-range indicator in order to be reliable, which is why we picked only monitors that have one. The Graco UltraClear Analog Baby Monitor and Safety 1st Sound View Monitor lack this critical feature.
One parent posting a review on Amazon appreciates the out-of-range indicator on the Summer Infant Secure Sounds 2.4 GHz Digital Monitor, which beeps when the parent unit is taken too far from the baby. The family's previous monitor remained silent while the baby cried, never alerting that the receiver was out of range. However, other parents posting reviews on Amazon find the beep too loud and shrill.
Another key feature is a low-battery indicator, which displays a light or icon to alert you when the receiver battery is low. This is important if you regularly use a baby monitor on battery power, since some cheap baby monitors go through batteries in as little as eight to ten hours. Like an out-of-range indicator, a low-battery indicator is a must-have unless you want to constantly wonder whether the monitor isn't working or the baby is just being quiet. All the budget baby monitors we picked have low-battery indicators.
Many baby monitors light up or vibrate when they detect sound coming from the baby's room. A light indicator gets brighter based on the volume of the baby's cry, which helps you reach your child before he enters full screaming mode. Having this feature or a vibrating baby monitor is also useful if you turn the baby monitor volume down when you're on the phone or if you're listening to music through earphones. All of the monitors among our good and best picks include light indicators, and the Graco iMonitor Vibe is also a vibrating baby monitor. A user posting a review on Viewpoints notes how convenient it is to have the option of watching the lights on the Sony BabyCall monitor with the sound turned down when entertaining guests in her home. A user posting a review of the Graco iMonitor Vibe on Amazon likes being awakened by a vibrating baby monitor instead of a screaming baby.
Baby Monitor Extras.Nightlights and music options are definitely extras you won't find on the cheapest baby monitors, but many parents posting reviews at Buzzillions have fallen in love with the inexpensive Fisher-Price Remote Control Musical Audio Monitor for those features alone. Although you shouldn't buy a baby monitor just for lights and lullabies, many parents appreciate such amenities.
Baby Monitor Reviews
While baby monitor reviews from users and experts are good indicators, baby monitor performance varies widely based on the number, types, and locations of electronic devices in your home. Your home's layout can also play a role in determining which baby monitor works best for you, since some homes simply have more walls between the transmitter and receiver, which can interfere with the signal. Customer satisfaction also varies based on sound quality, false alarms, and battery life.
General Performance.Overall, our picks receive high marks in baby monitor reviews. On Amazon, users praise the sensitive transmitter on the Sony BabyCall Nursery Monitor NTM-910, which eliminates extraneous noise while picking up sounds as soft as the baby's breathing. The Fisher-Price Remote Control Musical Audio Monitor is also very popular, although users posting baby monitor reviews on Buzzillions seem just as impressed by the music and light features as they are by the reception. Many reviews say this is an exceptional monitor, especially if you keep it plugged in instead of relying on battery power.
The Graco iMonitor Vibe boasts by far the best baby monitor range of all the models on our list, at 2,000 feet, and is a favorite among users posting baby monitor reviews at Buzzillions for its clear signal and ease of use. In reviews at Walmart, customers give the Summer Infant Secure Sounds 2.4 GHz Digital Monitor high marks for its sensitivity, even when the monitor is set at a low volume.
It's common practice for parents to return monitors that don't work well in their homes. Just make sure you know the store's return policy before you buy. If you receive a monitor as a gift, try to find out where it was purchased. Many retailers will let you return it for a refund or exchange, but only for a limited time. Refund requirements vary greatly from store to store, a common complaint among parents. In general, Amazon receives the highest praise in baby monitor reviews for quick and easy refunds.
Baby Monitor Battery Life.The limited battery life of most baby monitors is a huge source of parent complaints in baby monitor reviews. Monitors with rechargeable batteries and AC adapters help you avoid spending as much on batteries as you do on the monitor itself, but even those monitors face criticism from users. Reviewers at ToysRUs don't like having to plug the Fisher-Price Remote Control Musical Audio Monitor in to keep it charged during the night. Limited battery life is also a downside of the Graco iMonitor Vibe. A parent reports on Amazon that a charge lasts only 10 to 15 minutes. One user posting a review on Amazon says the rechargeable function on the Sony BabyCall is one of its main draws. A parent who bought the Graco UltraClear Analog Baby Monitor on Amazon was surprised to learn that the monitor takes AAA batteries, although the product description mentions rechargeable batteries as a power source. A baby monitor review at TopTenReviews says batteries don't last long in the Safety 1st Sound View Monitor. This monitor also lacks rechargeable batteries, so according to the experts at TopTenReviews, you'll have to replace the 9-volt batteries every few days if you rely too much on battery power, which will multiply the cost of this cheap baby monitor.
Baby Monitor Sound Quality.There's no way to know which model is going to be the best baby monitor for you until you try it out in your home. For every parent driven crazy by static or a poor signal, another claims to be able to hear a pin drop in the baby's room. While buying a digital monitor should help minimize interference, the analog Sony BabyCall Nursery Monitor NTM-910, one of our picks for best baby monitor, also does well in reviews thanks to its large selection of channels. If you encounter interference from other electronics, you can always change the channel to find an alternate one that may work better. The BabyCall also receives high praise in a baby monitor review on Amazon for its voice-activated feature, which allows you to avoid the low hum or white noise associated with analog baby monitors.
The Fisher-Price Remote Control Musical Audio Monitor, our other choice for best baby monitor, relies on digital technology to provide clearer sound, although most users posting baby monitor reviews on Buzzillions are so impressed by the music and light functions on this baby monitor that they don't focus on sound quality. Fans of the Graco iMonitor Vibe aren't too concerned about sound quality either, preferring the monitor's vibration feature, which does not disappoint, according to one review on Amazon. The customer says she especially likes to use the vibration feature while vacuuming or using a noisy blow dryer.
A fan of the Summer Infant Secure Sounds 2.4 GHz Digital Monitor raves in a review on Amazon that the monitor transmits every sound the baby makes. On the other hand, on the Graco UltraClear Analog Baby Monitor -- not the best baby monitor we found -- it's hard to hear the baby crying even with the volume turned all the way up, according to a parent posting a review on Amazon.
Many parents complain about static in reviews of the Safety 1st Sound View Monitor on Buzzillions. But it seems that for every complaint there's a review praising the monitor's sound quality.