Best baby monitor battle royale
Ah, the baby monitor. Like an expensive walkie-talkie, but you don’t get to talk and the other person doesn’t know you’re listening. It might feel like a relatively modern invention, but the first baby monitor was actually released in 1937. These days, thanks to wifi baby monitors, you can hear and see your baby from across the house and even the other side of the world. (FaceTime works too.) Shopping for a baby monitor can be overwhelming. The sheer number of choices, the endless lists of features, and the fact that this may be your first time using one of these— how do you even know what you want? Welcome. You’re in the right place. Between the two of us here at Fathercraft, we’ve tested and reviewed dozens of baby monitors over the past 7 years across 4 different kids. On this page, you’ll:
- Get our picks for the best baby monitors of 2020
- Understand the most important features you should look for in a monitor, and why they matter (hint: you don’t need soothing light shows…)
- See what you need to know about wifi baby monitors
- Access our full list of in-depth baby monitor reviews
- Baby Monitor FAQs
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Best baby monitors for 2020
Baby monitors have come a long way in the last few years. A number of new contestants that didn’t even exist when our first kids were born almost 7 years ago are now leading the pack.
What are the best baby monitors of 2020? Here are Fathercraft’s picks for the top baby monitors this year, across a couple of key categories.
Overall Best Baby Monitor — the Nanit Plus
The Nanit is an intuitive, yet powerful wifi-based monitor. It leverages your phone for great picture quality, and features sleep insights and suggestions that can actually improve your child’s (and your) sleep.
With its snap on/off functionality and multi-stand, Nanit is also our pick for best travel baby monitor. Nanit also wins in the category of best video baby monitor due to an awesome camera.
Best for Parents of Preemies — the Owlet
The Owlet isn’t a traditional baby monitor. In fact, you’ll probably want a video monitor too. Instead, the Owlet monitors heart rate and blood oxygen levels in your baby using clinically-proven technology.
Our reviewers who tested with their baby born 12 weeks prematurely were impressed and even compared readings against a medical-grade test administered by a nurse.
Best inexpensive baby monitor with breathing monitoring — the Cocoon Cam Plus
At $149, the Cocoon Cam is the least expensive of a new generation of wifi-based, smartphone-app-powered monitors. Despite this, it’s got a killer feature – the ability to monitor your baby’s breathing, which can provide real peace of mind for new parents. It also has fairly good image quality and an overhead view that keeps your baby in sight. Cocoon Cam is trickier to set up and mount, and it isn’t portable.
Best budget baby monitor: the Lollipop Cam
While, at $149, we’re hesitant to give it the crown of ‘best cheap baby monitor’, the Lollipop Cam is relatively inexpensive compared to its wifi-monitor brethren, and it’s still pretty sweet (sorry). We experienced relatively strong connectivity, an easy-to-use app, and an innovative ‘stem’ mounting system that actually works quite well. It’s also pretty cute, if we do say so ourselves.
The Best Wifi Baby monitor: the Nanit Plus
Hold on you say, Nanit Plus is a double-winner? Yep. Our pick for overall best baby monitor is also our pick for best wifi baby monitor. Why? Well, consider 3 common complaints made in wifi baby monitor reviews: 1) finicky connection, 2) latency, 3) smartphone battery drain. Nanit answers all 3. 1) in all our testing, Nanit’s connection was almost always rock-solid, and it features a fallback bluetooth connection. 2) Over years of testing, we’ve rarely experienced latency > 1 second. 3) again, we’ve been using this monitor for years. Battery drain is noticeable, but not meaningful, so long as you use background audio, and continuous video feed when necessary.
These are popular video baby monitors, but beware
It feels like there are hundreds of options for video monitors on the market, and nearly all of them claim to be the “best rated” in something, have the highest reviews, top camera, picture quality, or make many other boasts in their marketing materials.
We think it’s important to share a few monitors that might be near the top of the sales charts, but we, along with many others, have had issues with.
Infant Optics DXR-8
The Infant Optics DXR-8 loudly proclaims to be the “best selling baby monitor on Amazon” and does get high reviews.
We’ve had a really poor experience with these monitors: we tested 2 review units, both of which ended up permanently losing connection. Image quality is poor compared with wifi-monitors, range is limited. We will note that some reviewers disagree with us, and Infant Optics does allow you to connect 2 cameras to one parent unit.
The Arlo Baby
When a monitor is as cute as the Arlo Baby undeniably is, it’s hard to critique it. But, unfortunately we have to. When testing the Arlo Baby, we experienced severe latency issues, pixelation of image quality, and later, app crashes. We heard similar concerns from a Fathercraft reader, and after poking around on the internet, saw that we weren’t alone.
The Nest Cam Indoor
Let’s cut to the chase: the Nest Cam, while a cool piece of tech and a great security camera with a smartphone option, isn’t a baby monitor. Many people want it to be, but it lacks critical features like background audio that would allow it to be a viable baby monitor.
If you’re considering the Nest Cam, be sure to read our blog post below first and watch the included video!
The most important features in a baby monitor
For Fathercraft’s baby monitor reviews, we evaluate monitors across a multi-point framework based on what we’ve found to be the most useful features we’ve tested and personally used over the years across four different kids and four different homes.
For our reviews, we consider these features while we spend an extensive amount of time using each monitor — at least two months — and take detailed notes, photos, and videos along the way. Each one of our reviews consolidates our experience into a concise review and include our thoughts on what was awesome about the monitor, what we wished were different, and our final verdict.
Click a box to learn more!
Picture quality & night vision
Sound quality and sensitivity
Additional bells and whistles
Alerts/constant audio feed
How to choose a baby monitor
A primer for new parents – what to look out for, what to avoid, and our top pick for 2020.
Wifi baby monitor reviews
So far, though we’ve used both wifi and non-wifi monitors with our own kids, we’ve focused our efforts on this site on wifi baby monitor reviews. Wifi monitors have an important set of advantages and disadvantages that are important to be aware of. Click a button to learn more.
A smartphone/tablet app serves as the “parent unit”.
The parent unit in any baby monitor is the part that stays with the parent and allows him or her to see and hear the child. With wifi baby monitors, the parent unit is often your smartphone or tablet. This can be a good thing (great picture quality, one less thing to lug along if you’re wanting to bring your baby monitor on the road, etc. It can also be a bad thing as your smartphone or tablet is likely used for other things too. As noted above, this makes a wifi monitor’s backgrounding system critical.
Is long range important to you? Most wifi monitors offer an unlimited range (as long as the child unit has a strong wifi signal to connect to, and the parent unit is connected to the same wifi network, a different wifi network, or has cellular reception.) This is a handy benefit of wifi monitors – if you live in a big house, a multi-level house, or spend time in your yard while your child is sleeping, you’ll likely experience range issues with non-wifi monitors. It also allows you to check in on your child while you’re not home – perhaps helpful in reassuring you while your child is with a babysitter for the first time, or when you head back to work.
Reliance on wifi.
Like most systems, a wifi baby monitor is only as strong as its weakest link. And, often, the wifi is the weak link. If your wifi goes out, so does your monitor. If your wifi experiences a few minutes of connectivity issues, so does your monitor. Some wifi baby monitors feature a “lost connection” alert to let you know when this happens.
Pots and pans drumroll please… here are the reviews.