Home > Family & Pets > Baby Monitors > Best Video Baby Monitors

Best Video Baby Monitors

By: Tara Tuckwiller on March 26, 2018

Video monitors offer an extra pair of eyes and ears

Parents who want to both hear and see their baby will naturally opt for a video monitor. Video monitors are particularly great for those with older babies learning to stand in their cribs or toddlers transitioning to a bed who'd much rather play than sleep. They're also a good pick for parents who need to keep tabs on more than one child, as many video monitors will allow the parent unit to toggle between multiple cameras.

The Infant Optics DXR-8 (Est. $170) easily outclasses all other video baby monitors in reviews. One of the toughest baby gear testing organizations, Baby Bargains, names it "Best Video Baby Monitor." And Wirecutter, after exhaustively testing eight baby monitors, names the DXR-8 the "Best Baby Monitor," period.

"It may surprise you to hear that simply being able to last through the night, unplugged, with the display off, qualifies as exceptional battery life for a baby monitor," Wirecutter says. "The Infant Optics [DXR-8] was one of the only monitors in our testing that could easily do that."

It's also the easiest video baby monitor to use, Wirecutter says, with "old-school push-button controls" that prove blessedly simple to operate when you're half-asleep in a dark room. Other video baby monitors have touch screens – and they're usually "sorely substandard," Wirecutter finds.

Using the buttons, you can swivel the DXR-8's camera (so you can eyeball more of the room) and zoom in close. It actually comes with two interchangeable lenses – a standard and a zoom lens – and you can also buy a separate Infant Optics Wide Angle Lens (Est. $12), all of which can be used with the zoom button. This gives you lots of flexibility when deciding where to mount your camera, Baby Bargains points out. "Depending on the configuration of your nursery, your only option may be to put the camera on a dresser across from the crib -- then the normal lens might do. But if you mount the camera on a wall above the crib, the zoom lens might be better." Later, if you use the monitor in a toddler's room or playroom, the wide-angle lens might be the best choice.

The DXR-8 also monitors the temperature in the baby's room, and two-way audio allows parents to talk to their child. Up to four cameras can be connected to the parent unit, allowing parents to monitor more than one child, but there is no split screen feature that allows viewing of all feeds at once.

Another big plus? Its "basic but secure" radio frequency (RF) connection, Wirecutter says. Unlike monitors that transmit via Wi-Fi (and can be hacked from virtually anywhere on Earth), the DXR-8 is pretty hack-proof. It uses a 2.4 GHz FHSS (Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum) signal. Long story short, a hacker would pretty much have to be in the apartment next door, using just the right listening equipment to eavesdrop on your baby, tech journalist Carl Franzen explains at Lifehacker. He goes on a personal quest to find a hack-proof baby monitor before the birth of his first child – and settles on the DXR-8.

You can buy cheaper video baby monitors, but Wirecutter finds them all pretty awful. "We wanted to recommend an inexpensive video monitor, but their flaws were so significant that we decided we'd rather spend less on a quality audio-only monitor," Wirecutter says. "Terrible video quality and poor connections were common."

One possible option is the Levana Lila, which gets good owner reviews at Target and Walmart. Amazon customers are less impressed: About one in six owners slaps the Lila with a 1-star rating, saying it breaks easily and you get what you pay for.

Like the Infant Optics DXR-8, the Levana Lila transmits a secure FHSS signal and has a two-way talk feature. However, you can't zoom in, and there's no temperature monitor. When the baby's room is dark, the video looks fuzzy around the edges in Baby Gear Lab's test.

It might be okay, Baby Bargains' experts say, if you don't mind a no-frills monitor that may not last long. "For a simple monitor under $100, the Levana Lila is a decent buy … just keep your expectations low," Baby Bargains says.

Wi-Fi baby monitors: Watch your nursery from anywhere on Earth

Wi-Fi baby monitors basically video your baby, then beam that feed to you via the Internet. There's no parent unit. Instead, you watch your baby on your smartphone, tablet or computer – from anywhere on Earth, as long as you can access high-speed Internet.

The drawbacks? Security, for one. Wi-Fi baby monitors have been hacked, resulting in some creepy cases where hackers have watched the nursery via the video feed and said scary things to babies via the speaker.

Dropped connections are another problem. "We tested our Wi-Fi monitors on two separate routers and consistently had problems -- we'd often lose the connection some time in the night and not even realize that the monitor had disconnected until morning," Wirecutter says. "This happened with all three Wi-Fi models we tested. We never really felt confident relying on any of the connected monitors overnight, despite the fact that the modem and router were literally on the other side of a wall from the monitor."

Wirecutter doesn't recommend any Wi-Fi baby monitors. Neither does Carl Franzen at Lifehacker: "I would personally avoid this category of devices entirely," due to hacking worries, he says.

Other experts disagree, however. The Wi-Fi streaming Nest Cam (Est. $165) is recommended by both Baby Bargains and Baby Gear Lab, and thousands of Amazon owners love it.

"Quick and easy set-up is Nest Cam's secret sauce -- they promise a 60 second set-up and that's pretty much what we found in our testing," Baby Bargains says. Still, "Nest Cam isn't a perfect solution as a baby monitor." In addition to the signal dropouts, Nest Cam's audio cuts out anytime your phone's screen goes to sleep. It also drains the battery, Baby Bargains says, so you'll have to leave your device plugged in all night. The camera is fixed – it won't swivel – and the audio can lag behind by 3 to 5 seconds, depending on your router's speed.

In short, ordinary home security cameras like Nest Cam "start to lose their appeal when you try to use them in the ways most people regularly want to use baby monitors -- at home, at night, all night, while a kid sleeps," Wirecutter says.

If you're looking for a smartphone-compatible baby monitor that's designed first and foremost to fill that role, Wirecutter calls the iBaby M6S (Est. $135) "the least bad Wi-Fi monitor (so far)," simply because it's "slightly easier to set up than its competitors." Once again, however, experts disagree: Baby Bargains says Nest Cam "runs circles around iBaby when it comes to set up and ease of use."

Unlike the Nest Cam, the iBaby is designed to be a baby monitor – so the camera pans and swivels, and the audio will play in the background on your phone (you don't have to keep the app open all the time). But the iBaby M6S disappoints lots of owners; more than one in four Amazon reviewers give it a lowly 1 star.

Those owner reviews give Wirecutter pause. According to them, "the app is pretty poorly done. You may lose a connection even with a perfect Wi-Fi signal. Some people report never being able to connect to it at all." All in all, they say that the iBaby's "drawbacks are too much to overlook."

Recently Updated
Baby Monitors buying guide

What every best Baby Monitors has:

  • Reliable transmission.
  • Clear audio and/or video signals.
  • Easy operation.

Read More »

Learn More »