Baby monitors, like phones, personal computers, or any other piece of technology, have come a long way. From low-tech intercom systems and walkie-talkies, today’s models boast audio and video streaming along with dozens of handy features.
But from the sea of choices available, how do you pick one?
This brief guide help you cut through the noise by walking you through four essentials you must check when shopping for a baby monitor. Let’s get started!
Image Source: Wikimedia
First And Foremost: Rock-Solid Security!
Knowing they can check and talk to their little ones anytime can help put parents’ minds at ease. But like any smart gadget, baby monitors can provide an entry point for hackers if one isn’t careful.
Case in point:
Washington couple Sarah and Jay witnessed a hacker speak to their 3-year-old son through the two-way audio. The camera even followed their movements while in the room! Reports of hackers spitting disturbing insults or playing adult noises are terrifyingly common, and they won’t stop unless parents take better security measures.
For starters, choose a product with a secure wireless transmission technology.
Analog monitors using the main available radio frequencies to send audio and video aren’t the best choice security-wise. People on the same frequency as your device can listen to what the baby monitor is transmitting.
Wifi also has glaring shortcomings in the security department, as anyone from anywhere with an internet access can hack into Wifi devices. Note, too, that the gadget won’t work should you lose connectivity.
Your best bet, as far as wireless transmission is concerned, is a baby monitor with its own 2.4 GHz radio frequency. The signal encrypts more readily than others, preventing outsiders from eavesdropping through the gadget.
Products from big companies like Google, Samsung, and Panasonic also tend to have tighter security than their startup counterparts. You will also want to look into other security measures like FHSS, software updates, two-factor authentication, and encryption the manufacturer uses.
Features That Fit Your Purpose
Who doesn’t love looking at features when shopping for just about anything!?
However, the sheer amount of bells and whistles offered by modern baby monitors can leave moms and dads confused.
Models like the Nest Cam, while not strictly baby monitors, are suitable for the job and come with indoor air quality, temperature, and motion sensors. Others offer night-vision along with pan-and-tilt control so you can keep an eye on your child even with the lights off. And some let you talk to your child via two-way audio or put him or her to sleep with a built-in lullaby or bedtime story.
All of the features mentioned are common, but not every model has them.
Instead of drowning in add-ons and niceties, listing what you need first is a better way to shop. How do you intend to use the monitor? And at what times of the day? Do you need to integrate the device with a larger smart home setup?
If you’re a work-at-home mom (like yours truly), a handheld display you can check as you get down to business is a must-have. On the other hand, moms who work away from home and hire a babysitter will appreciate a reliable app that lets her check-in on her little one from a smartphone.
Price Tag That Fits Your Budget
Your budget is another reason why you want to list down your essential features before you start shopping.
As a rule:
The plentier and the better the features, the steeper the price tag.
An indoor security and monitoring camera from Nest, for example, can cost you a wee bit less than $200, while a pack of three or five runs for $500 and $800+ respectively. Perhaps no other model comes close to it as far as features are concerned. But if you don’t need most of what Nest offers, buying one only wastes your budget.
Fortunately, you can find models that are good enough for the job but don’t leave your wallet dry.
If you only need audio monitoring, for example, the VTech DM221 is a fantastic choice for many reasons. It has an amazing range (more on this in the next section), robust build, a vibrate mode for when baby makes noise – and it clocks in at less than $40!
Between the two examples above, you’ll find hundreds if not thousands more. So list the must-haves and set your budget to narrow down your options. Do your due diligence and you’ll find the model most suitable for you.
Excellent Signal Strength And Range
We looked at why having a secure wireless transmission security is a must-have for baby monitors. On the other hand, a secure device won’t do much good if the audio and video output you get is unreliable.
Test the model for sound and video quality.
A monitor with excellent signal strength not only delivers clear output, but it also minimizes interference or static. The range, on the other hand, indicates how far the parent-held unit can travel while still still getting accurate signals from the nursery unit.
Many gadget makers boast their products can handle up to 2,000 feet. As impressive as the claims sound, these numbers only indicate the distance the signal can travel – without anything getting in the way. Inside a home, however, obstructions like thick walls and furniture are par for the course.
So check the signal’s range when indoors instead of taking the distance measurements at face value. Reliable baby monitors can give consistent output up to 300 feet, while subpar models may not go beyond 70 feet.
As far as signal strength and range are concerned, the Motorola MBP36 is a top choice. It stays accurate up to 650 feet when in open spaces and a few hundred feet when indoors.
A more affordable option that can go the distance is the Infant Optics DXR-5. The video baby monitor has excellent ratings from reviewers, stays accurate up to 150 feet indoors, and comes at half the price of Motorola’s long-range model.