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Cheap Baby Monitors Buying Guide

Every baby monitor brand has a few popular models. At the same time, reviews are mixed for all manufacturers, even household names such as Graco.

This is largely due to unpredictable performance, since a baby monitor's reception will vary based on everything from your home's layout to the number, types, and locations of electronic devices you use at home -- even the proximity of neighbors using baby monitors.

Cheap baby monitors have unique sets of features and extras, so what works for another family may not work for you. For instance, cheap baby monitors operate on different frequencies, so you simply have to try one before you can know for sure whether it will interfere with other electronics in your home. Cheap baby monitors also have different ranges, which are notoriously inaccurate, so if you have a large home or want to be able to use the monitor outside, consider buying one with a longer range and testing it out to see how well it performs. Privacy is another concern, because only digital baby monitors encode signals sent from the transmitter to the parent units. With analog baby monitors, you and your neighbors risk hearing each other's crying babies or even each other's conversations. The cheapest baby monitors don't use digital technology, but it doesn't cost much more.

The Sony BabyCall Nursery Monitor NTM-910 (starting at $40 for one receiver, $60 for two) has no peers among analog baby monitors and is one of the best baby monitors we found, analog or not. Experts and users alike are amazed by the BabyCall's exquisite sound quality and voice activation feature, which cuts down on white noise by muting the monitor unless the baby cries or coos (there's also an always-on mode). With an unparalleled selection of 27 channels to choose from, the BabyCall impresses even digital devotees who wouldn't otherwise consider an analog monitor. Our other pick for best cheap baby monitor, the Fisher-Price Remote Control Musical Audio Monitor (starting at $50 with one receiver, $90 with two), wins over users with the option of remotely turning on a nightlight, a lullaby, or nature sounds from the parent unit without disturbing the baby.

We also like the Graco iMonitor Vibe (starting at $45 for one parent unit, $90 for two), which is ideal for parents who prefer vibration alerts over sound. The Summer Infant Secure Sounds 2.4 GHz Digital Monitor (starting at $65) wins points not only for digital technology but also for including two parent units and two recharging bases at a price generally reserved for single units. Both these cheap digital baby monitors offer a bonus: a backup battery pack for the baby unit. The cheapest baby monitors we researched, the Graco UltraClear Analog Baby Monitor (starting at $23 for one parent unit, $28 for two) and the Safety 1st Sound View Monitor (also starting at $23 for one receiver) don't measure up when it comes to reliability, lacking important features such as an out-of-range indicator.

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