Longest lasting baby monitor?

QLongest lasting baby monitor?

I’ve gone threw two cheap baby monitors now and they just break. I’m ready to stop wasting money and buy a good one. What baby monitor won’t break on me?! I need the most durable!

AThe Answer

Baby Monitors: Standing the Test of Time

Selecting the right baby monitor for your family is as much about lasting quality than it is about fancy features

Picture yourself the proud new owner of a souped up Italian sports car: it’s sleek, it’s shiny, and it’s got a V-12 engine lurking under that enormous hood. It’s got all the latest hardware and software installed in the cabin, from HD video screens to a GPS system to satellite radio and everything else. Oh, and by the way, it’s broken and won’t even turn on.
Now imagine you have a trusty ol’ sedan sitting in the driveway (yeah, let’s say a Honda Accord, sure). It’s a few years old, it’s got some chips in the paint, it’s zero to sixty can be timed with an hourglass, and it doesn’t even have a CD changer, but hell if it doesn’t start right up each and every time.
Which car is better? The fancy one that requires constant maintenance, or the basic model that won’t turn heads but will always get you from Point A to point B?

Making the jump from an automotive metaphor to a practical discussion about baby monitors may seem like quite a leap indeed, but in fact there are plenty of parallels, if you’re willing to play along for a moment. Because as with cars so too with baby monitoring systems: the latest and most cutting-edge option is not always the best. In fact, in some cases, it’s the worst.

Before we even discuss any specific baby monitor makes and models, let’s talk about things more generally, so you can zero in on the right choice for you with your mind pre-primed to consider the right attributes and look out for potential drawbacks.

So ask yourself…

What Do You Want Out of Your Baby Monitor?

Any decent baby monitor, be it an audio-only model, a video-enabled camera and screen system, or one of the newer generation Wi-Fi and/or 3G/4G linked camera systems, should at the minimum boast the following attributes to even get your consideration:

  • Long Battery Life
  • Good Range
  • Low Battery/Connection Issue Indicators
  • Two-Way Communication
  • Durable Construction
  • That last point, the sturdiness and durability of the monitor, is at the crux of the matter, of course: all the features in the world don’t matter if the stupid monitor breaks. (Remember the sports car thing from the intro?) So using those attributes as a jumping off point, now let’s consider what your specific needs are. Consider these questions before considering the type of baby monitor you need (audio, video, or wireless, e.g.):

    Is this monitor for the family with…

  • An Infant? – If so, video monitoring is important and likely worth extra money, as you need to be able to see their sleeping position to ensure safety.
  • A Toddler or Older Child? – If your kid is old enough to manage their sleeping area and not get caught in blankets or under pillows and such (remember: cribs should be empty of anything but a small human for the first few months), and especially if the youngster can talk, then an audio-only unit may be fine.
  • Do You Have More Than One Kid? – Some units come with multiple cameras or audio receivers; others can easily be expanded with the purchase of additional hardware; still some others… can’t.
  • Do You Travel Frequently or Use a Nanny? – If you or your partner are frequently away from home and want to keep tabs on your children, not to mention on your nanny or babysitter, then a remotely accessible monitor that links to your phone, tablet, and/or computer, might be the best choice. Just know they’re usually the priciest, too.
  • Is This a Backup Unit? – If you’re buying a second monitor as a backup or to use for travel (or to leave with grandma and grandpa), keep in mind that most cheaper units will work just fine with infrequent use. It’s the monitor being put through the daily grind that has to count. (Though really the best bet is often to buy one superb system and simply bring it along when you travel.)

  • Hopefully the points and questions above have helped you narrow things down some, ruling out certain types of baby monitor and swinging you in favor of other systems. Assuming we’ve already achieved a bit of clarity while talking in general terms, it’s time to get specific!

    First, Let’s Talk About Audio-Only Baby Monitors

    In case you didn’t know this, the human race actually did OK at parenting babies for a few (hundred thousand) years before there were any types of baby monitor available. And audio baby monitors served several generations of concerned parents just fine during the 20th Century. So even though you might think your child (or grandchild) simply must be monitored by the most cutting-edge, gyro-stabilized, full-HD 1080p, ergonomic celluloid baby monitor camera system 9000, the fact is an audio monitor might be entirely sufficient. (And yes, most of the terms in the preceding sentence are gibberish in context: we were just testing you!)

    Especially as a backup choice, as a monitor to leave at the home of friends or relatives, for use when traveling, or for the family trying to watch their bottom line spending, let’s first discuss the…

    The Budget Option Audio Monitor:
    The Motorola Digital Audio Baby Travel Monitor

    Bells and whistles this system has not, but it does come with a price tag so low that you’ll likely see past its lack of frills. (Though to be honest, in keeping with our earlier analogy, this unit is so stripped down it’s more like a Geo Metro than an Accord.)

    Let’s talk about the good and the bad, and then give you a breakdown on this low-budget, basic baby monitor:

    Very Low Price
    Easy to Setup
    Built-In Nightlight

    Limited Range
    No 2-Way Communication
    No Battery Power Option

    The Takeaway
    If you’re looking for an everyday baby monitor that will bring you and your family peace of mind and guarantees you the best possible monitoring of your precious youngsters… then keep looking. This unit doesn’t have the word “Travel” right there in its name for nothing: even its manufacturers are aware it’s hardly sufficient as a go-to baby monitor. If you need a simple, cheap monitor that will suffice as a backup choice or to make sure junior is asleep in the guest bedroom or the corner of the hotel suite, then go ahead and take a closer look at the Audio Baby Travel Monitor.

    The Quality Audio-Only Monitor:
    The VTech Safe & Sound Digital Audio Baby Monitor

    The VTech Safe & Sound monitor costs less than half the price of a budget video monitor system yet will give its users as much peace of mind as can be expected from a non-video unit. It’s sensitive to the slightest sounds and boasts a range that should work most anywhere in the average-sized house and even out into the yard. The parent unit can run off a plug, off AAA batteries, or of of rechargeable batteries that will provide a stellar 18 hours of continuous use (though if your child sleeps for that long you may want to consult your pediatrician, as you may in fact have a cat rather than a human baby).

    Long Range
    2-Way Communication
    Built-In Nightlight
    Great Battery Life

    Second Unit May Cause Interference
    Inconsistent Connectivity

    The Takeaway
    If you want to spend less than you will on a video monitor but still keep tabs on a slumbering child, the VTech Safe & Sound (model number DM221, FYI) is a decent choice. It makes a great backup unit and should be more than sufficient for use while traveling or visiting friends or family. The one major drawback to note is the system’s sensitivity to other frequencies: many users report connectivity issues in areas with multiple electronic devices (especially signal-emitting devices such as phones, routers, and so forth), so ironically the more technologically connected your home, the less effective this digital baby monitor might be.

    Is a WiFi Baby Monitor Right for You?

    At first blush, the ability to monitor your sleeping child from anywhere you can get a WiFi or cell signal may seem like a no-brainer option for your next baby monitor. Why wouldn’t you opt for such amazing connectivity range; for the ability to watch junior from the bedroom, the break room or from Brussels? Well… consider this: have you ever had a an issue with dropped calls or weak WiFi connection? Yeah, you have. Any tool that is reliant on additional layers of technology to function properly has more potential fail points than closed loop systems, and that’s that. Anything from poor signal strength to a dead phone can render the most advanced monitoring system less helpful than the $21 dollar audio-only monitor above.

    On the other hand, if your home has a great WiFi coverage and if you’re already the type of person never away from your smartphone (or tablet or computer), then a WiFi-enabled monitor may be a fine choice for you. (And plus, even if you’re monitoring from afar, someone else is always going to be nearby your kid, right?) There are multiple models on the market today, ranging from the super fancy:

    Dropcam Pro Wi-Fi Wireless Video Monitoring Security Camera

    The catch here? To get the full benefits of the dropcam, you need to spend a few hundred bucks a year in subscription services. So here ends our discussion of this quality yet insidiously pricey option!

    Our suggestion for a quality, well-priced WiFi Monitor:
    The Fujikam FI-361 HD Wifi Video Monitor


    This camera system comes with everything you need to establish a reliable baby monitor setup except for a smartphone, tablet, or computer. The camera transmits live streaming high definition video and can record clips on an internal SD card for later review and reference. The Fujikam does require the download of some software before you can use it, but the process is simple to navigate, and setting up the hardware is as simple as plugging it in and mounting it where you want.

    Decent Price
    Unlimited Range (as permitted by connectivity)
    Clear HD Video
    2-Way Voice Communication
    Internal Video Recording

    Dependent On Other Technology
    Not Secure Against Hacking
    No Battery Power Option

    The Takeaway
    From the tilting, panning, and zooming to the quality of the video to the recording features, this unit makes a fine baby monitor and a decent security camera, too. It’s dependent on your owning a smartphone, tablet, or computer, which may be a turnoff to some people and may be limiting when you travel (does grandma use an iPhone, for example), but if you’re set on a next gen WiFi-enabled monitor, this is a fine choice at a fine price. Just know that it’s not all that secure, so if someone wanted to hack into it and see what you were seeing, they probably could.

    Oh, and another issue at large? Some of these units are more delicate than traditional systems, so if your main concern is a durable, rugged baby monitor… you might want to move on regardless of how you feel about tech 2.0.

    How About a Good Ol’ Video Baby Monitor?

    Audio-only baby monitors represent a largely outdated technology: sure, they work fine and they’re low cost, but you can get a decent and affordable video monitor that transmits audio every bit as well and also, well, video!

    WiFi baby monitors represent the next generation of monitoring technology, and many come with glitches and issues not yet ironed out by years of refinement. So it is that for many people, the best choice when it comes to a baby monitor is a video unit that uses all its own hardware, from the camera(s) to the receiver(s) and doesn’t need a smartphone or a router or anything else to make it work.

    So which video baby monitor works well, won’t break on you, and won’t break the bank, either? We’ve got three for you to consider.

    The Budget Option Video Baby Monitor:
    The Motorola MBP41 Video Baby Monitor

    For a unit that costs just a shade over $100, the Motorola MBP41 is a fine selection as your primary baby monitor, and a great choice as a backup unit or to leave at the home of people you visit frequently. While it lacks a few of the extras most similar units feature, like a thermometer measuring the ambient temperature around the camera, it has all the basic features you’d expect, such as infrared night vision, zoom, and volume controls.

    Decent Price
    Remote Pan/Tilt
    2-Way Voice Communication

    Short Battery Life
    No Temperature Reading

    The Takeaway
    This is not the best-made video baby monitor on earth, but that’s to be expected given the price. But for every customer who has reported issues with flimsy construction (the power connection ports sometimes break, falling into the camera’s body), many more are perfectly content with their purchase throughout its working life.

    The Filmmaker’s Monitor:
    Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Baby Monitor

    Whether you prefer a zoomed in image focused on just your child’s crib, a wider shot showing their play area, or a truly wide-angle shot encompassing an entire room, the Infant Optics DXR-8 monitor can accommodate you! And while changing the field of focus requires physically switching out lenses, that’s still a pretty cool, pretty unique feature of this best-selling unit.

    Interchangeable Lenses
    Temperature Sensor
    Remote Pan/Tilt
    2-Way Voice Communication

    Range Issues
    Signal Not Encrypted

    The Takeaway
    Because this monitor can be fitted with multiple different lenses, you can achieve close-up or wide-angle images without the distortion of digital zooming (though of course you can’t switch views without physically accessing the camera). Its image quality is good and its battery life is adequate: its performance in terms of range, especially in multi-story homes or in areas with lots of other signals flying around, is merely acceptable, though.

    The Rugged Choice:
    Motorola MBP33 Wireless Video Baby Monitor

    If you want a baby monitor that will provide you good video quality, has sensitive audio reception, and can be repeatedly dropped on the ground, then packed away into suitcases that will then be tossed around by reckless baggage handlers, then will be repeatedly kicked by a toddler, then can be hooked up again and will still work just fine… then this is the baby monitor for you.

    Speaking from personal experience, I will tell you that this unit can take a serious beating and keep then keep in keeping on. In fact, for several weeks the screen unit was my toddler’s favorite toy… and we have hardwood floors. Drop after drop and it’s as good as new each and every night. We’ve traveled with the monitor many times, set it up and taken it down over and over again, and it never gives us any issues at all.

    Rugged and Durable
    Great Audio Sensitivity
    Temperature Sensor
    2-Way Communication
    Pre-Recorded Lullabies

    Infrared Image Rather Blurred
    No Remote Tilt/Pan

    The Takeaway
    Motorola’s MBP33 Wireless Video Baby Monitor is not cheap, but it makes up for its price tag in reliability. Chances are, this is the only monitor you’ll need throughout your child’s young life. And while it may lack a few of the features other units have, such as remote panning/tilt control, it performs the job for which it was created with aplomb: it keeps an eye on your baby (and an ear, too). Best of all, and in answer to the wishes of many frustrated parents, its tough. Should your kid get their hands on either the camera or the parent unit or should either suffer a fall or two, both pieces of hardware should work just fine when you turn them back on.

    So, What’s the Best Baby Monitor, Period?

    Hey, only you can make that call. Just ask yourself what’s the most important attribute you’re seeking: is it durability? Is it affordability? Is it fancy features? Simplicity? Is it remote access?

    You can’t have your cake and eat it too, so prioritize, consider… and then purchase and let the monitoring begin.