By Dan Grabham
Choosing a baby monitor
Choosing the best baby monitor can depend on so many different factors including price, features and the degree of surveillance you're after.
Some will no doubt scoff at the very idea (don't listen to them), but for many sleep deprived anxious new parents a baby monitor gives peace of mind and a chance to catch up with a series on Netflix without fretting over the baby.
Indeed, for tech loving parents the baby monitor opens up a whole new world of infant based gadgetry. The traditional analogue monitor – complete with cross talk from the CB enthusiast next door – has been replaced by app controlled, HD video, motion sensing, temperature analysing tech that puts most home CCTV systems to shame.
What works for you will depend greatly on your (or your partner's) levels of anxiety. A basic two-way battery powered digital design will let you know when the little-un has a meltdown while the addition of sensor pads (placed under the baby) can alert you if the baby doesn't move for a set period*. So without further ado, click on to check out the best baby monitor!
* Be warned, anything that warns you your baby isn't moving will turn you into a nervous wreck and we don't recommend it.
At the other end of the scale you'll find a range of night vision video monitors that can broadcast your baby 24-7 via your smartphone while gauging temperature, playing lullabies and even give you a chance to soothe your screaming child from the sofa. Once the baby monitor is sorted, gaze upon these awesome tech stuffed strollers and prams.
The advent of the video baby monitor has brought with it a sense of freedom for jittery parents in constant worry that their little precious might be tangled up in bedding or in the process of attempting a free-fall leap from the cot. Well here comes Withings – arbiters of elegantly designed wireless products – with a baby watcher that also serves as a security monitor and air-quality sensor. The Withings Home is a doddle to set up and works seamlessly with any iOS device (an Android version is in the pipe). Simply plug the unit in (no Ethernet cable required at any stage), download the Withings Home app, locate your broadband router on the list, type in your wi-fi password and that's it. In true Withings fashion, a great deal of thought has gone into the design of the Home and, as a consequence, it looks nothing like other camera monitors on the market. In fact, doesn't look like a camera at all – we'd say it more accurately resembles an atomiser or a fancy electronic candle.
From a sprog-monitoring point of view, the Home can be set to trigger on both noise and motion and will stream HD footage to any iOS device while recording events to the Cloud for later perusal (Withings is currently offering seven free days of recording while the Home is still in Beta phase). Other baby-related functions include infrared night vision and the wherewithal to talk to the child via the camera's speaker or even play a lullaby. These very same features (lullaby not withstanding) can also be applied to home security. Simply site the Home in a suitable place and its HD camera will capture crisp 1080 footage at 30fps and stream it to any iOS device with almost zero latency. What's more, the camera has arguably the widest angle on the market (135˚) and can easily be zoomed and panned using the app's pinch controls.
The app's interface isn't very clear when it comes to viewing recordings since most events appear as time-lapse while only a small handful of them are actual real-time videos. True, it's fun watching a whole day's filming compressed into a minute or so but this is of no use if you're trying to nail the perpetrator who waltzed in and nicked all your belongings. The Home is a fabulous piece of kit, no question, but Withings needs to improve the recordings portal, add a selection of camera zones and perhaps add a few varying degrees of camera sensitivity – nothing a quick firmware update wouldn't cure.
£130 | Buy Withings Home
This bona fide digital baby minder comes with a shedload of features to keep parents comfortably content while nipper visits the land of nod. The EyeOn is a cinch to connect. Start by downloading the Mydlink Baby Camera Monitor app (iOS and Android) and follow the setup wizard's onscreen instructions. The app's intuitive interface allows the user to receive live streaming from the unit's 720p camera (it switches over to black-and-white infrared when the lights are off) and record images and video to the unit's MicroSD card (sold separately). Parents can also play up to five different lullabies through the unit's built-in speaker (including Cradle of Filth's little known ditty, 'Satanic Mantra') and even have alerts sent to their mobile device should the temperature in the room drop below a preset range of, say, -40˚C.
And should little squidge wake up screaming and your phone starts emitting weird noises, there's no need to jump out of your seat spilling TV dinner all over your pants because you can just reach for said phone, hit the two-way audio button and reassure little precious that you will be along as soon as the results of 'Master Chef' are announced. The app also allows you to take a closer look at what the nipper's up to by using the pinch and zoom facility. 'Oh no Marge, he's spinning his head around again and projectile vomiting all over the room. Quick, call the Vicar.' The EyeOn is also portable so you can link it to the unit's built-in wi-fi network and even run it all using a separate USB power pack. Handy for campers. As baby monitor's go, the EyeOn ticks all the boxes and then some.
£92 | BuyD-Link EyeOn
Closer to Nature Digital Video Monitor
We're pretty sure this box of electronics does anything but get you 'closer to nature' but with an infrared night vision camera, temperature senor and movement sensor mat that will sound an alarm if your baby doesn't move a muscle for 20 seconds all displayed on a 3” colour screen you can be sure every second of sleep is mapped and accounted for.
Price: £125 I Buy Closer to Nature Digital Video Monitor
Philips Avent Digital Video Monitor
Stylish and discrete, this sophisticated video monitor switches automatically between full colour and night vision and even has the ability to pan the camera and zoom (albeit a pixelating 2x digital). Once you've done with the close up there's a selection of lullabies and night light options for the best in hands free parenting.
Price: £128 IBuy Philips Avent Digital Video Monitor
Withings Smart Baby Monitor
Hugely impressive wireless Wi-Fi enabled app controlled monitor (iOS and Android) with three megapixel HD camera (2048 x 1536 pixels), image stabilisation and grain free 4x pinch zoom. Twin microphones ensure crackle free reception and like the Philips you can bombard bambino with lights and lullabies. All controlled via the slick WithBaby app, and handily you can monitor noise with the phone in standby and capture peaceful to fill the void at work.
Price: £203 I Buy Withings Smart Baby Monitor
BT Smart Audio Baby Monitor
Finally a baby monitor that makes use of your iOS pocket tech without charging a fortune. The Smart Audio Baby Monitor hooks up to your broadband and provides always on audio over 3G, 4G or Wi-Fi to your iPhone or iPad (Android app incoming). You can also register up to six users – three can listen at once - so the babysitter can log in without you losing your phone for the night.
Price: £25 I Buy BT Smart Audio Baby Monitorr
The ultimate monitoring system for doting (read: overprotective) parents, the AC1100 has a full colour 15fps CMOS video camera with IR night vision, zoom and tilt and pan, 2.75” LCD full colour touch screen base unit, full temperature monitoring, night light and 200m range plus adjustable sensitivity under mattress sensor pad to track movement. Not the most tech spec – 240 c 320pixels is appalling in this day and age – but loaded with features for the price.
Price: £150 IBuyAngelcare AC1100
If you've spanked all your baby cash on a Bugaboo but can't live without a monitor the MBP8 offers no frills peace of mind in a neat plug-in design. The DECT signal guarantees home phone quality audio and while you don't get the freedom of battery power at least you won't be constantly searching for the lost parent unit.
Price: £23 IBuy Motorola MBP8
BT Digital Baby Monitor and Pacifier
Arm yourself with the Pacifier and you'll (hopefully) have a better chance of getting baby back to sleep without going into their room. With crystal clear DECT audio (range 50m indoors, 300m outdoors) you can choose from 19 lullabies to soothe or turn on the mini light show that projects onto the nursery wall or ceiling. There's a temperature monitor too and you can even plug in your an mp3 if your child's tastes are more Motorhead then Mary had a Little Lamb.
Price: £50 I Buy BT Digital Baby Monitor and Pacifier
A great solution if you don't want to carry your home baby monitor around with you. You'll need two iOS devices, both with the app downloaded. One device (unlucky for the owner as they won't be able to use it) gets placed by the crib and streams real time audio and a camera image ever 30sec to the other handset. Not perfect, but a cheap and effective solution if you get stuck.
Price: £Free iOS (full version £1.99) I iTunes |Buy it now on iTunes