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The best video baby monitors: Keep eyes—and ears—on your bundle of joy

Baby monitors with cameras are distinctly different from home security cameras. We'll help you find the best one for your family.

Rob Schultz / IDG

Video baby monitors have a singular purpose: to bring parents, particularly nervous new ones, peace of mind. By transmitting audio and video, they allow moms and dads to keep eyes and ears on their snoozing little ones, so they can get things done or just get a good night’s sleep.

But these nursery essentials can be as fussy as the babies they keep tabs on. And like virtually every other household appliance, they are growing increasingly more capable and complex. In addition to conventional video baby monitors that use a camera and a handheld LCD display, often called a “parent unit,” there are now also Wi-Fi-enabled systems that connect to your home network and use your smartphone as both the display and the controller, much like DIY home security cameras. These latter models offer high-defition video, intelligent alerts, and the ability to check on your child from anywhere you have an internet connection.

To help you find the best video baby monitor for your family’s needs, we’ve outlined some key features to look for, and we will continue to share the results of our testing. Here are our current top picks, followed by a buyers' guide that will help you identify your wants and needs if our picks don't match what you're looking for. And if you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you'll find links to all of our latest video baby monitor reviews..

Best video baby monitor

Netgear brought the best features of its Arlo line of home security cameras to its first baby monitor. That includes Full HD video, night vision, sound and motion detection, two-way audio, 24/7 recording, and free cloud storage. Netgear also used feedback from Arlo owners to add a nursery-centric spin to the Arlo Baby, with a multicolored LED nightlight, a built-in music player with nine lullabies, environmental sensors, and artificial intelligence that can recognize your child’s cries.

Runner up

This baby monitor system lets you listen in on your child with a “smart audio unit,” or you can install the Safety 1st companion app to turn your smartphone into a video display, complete with motion and audio alerts. While it lacks some of the nonessential features of the Arlo Baby, we give it high marks for its excellent video quality, customizable alerts, and its ability to grant regulated camera access to other caretakers.

What to look when buying a video baby monitor

If our top picks don't match your budget or your needs, this guide will help you understand all the features you'll encounter in your search for the perfect video baby monitor, so you narrow the field to find exactly what you're looking for.

Motion and audio sensors: In the old days, parents were forced to endure a consistent ambient hiss from their audio monitors while they listened for their child’s stirrings or cries. Mercifully, many modern baby monitors will stay in “quiet mode” until they detect motion and/or sound, which will trigger an alert, such as activating the handheld video display or pushing a notification to your smartphone.

Hanwha Techwin Wisenet

The Wisenet BabyView Echo's display can operate on battery power, waking only when the camera detects sound.

Rechargeable batteries: Since the camera will most likely stay trained on your bundle of joy, it can remain plugged into AC power. But parent unit displays are designed to be always on and carried with you as you move from room to room. That can drain batteries quickly. Look for a parent unit that runs on rechargeable batteries, so you’re not constantly swapping them out.

Night vision: Because much of the time you’ll be checking on your child after dark, most video baby monitors include infrared LEDs that automatically turn on in low light. The trick is to make sure they illuminate just enough that you can see your child without the light waking him or her.

Two-way talk: If your child does start prematurely stirring from their sleep, the last thing you want to do is risk waking them fully by walking into the room to settle them. Baby monitors often include a push-to-talk microphone you can activate from the parent unit or your smartphone to remotely soothe your child with your voice.

VTech

Many baby video monitors, including the VTech VM3251 shown here, can play lullabyes to soothe your child to sleep. 

Environmental sensors: Many monitors include the ability to set thresholds and upper limits for room temperature and/or humidity, and they'll alert you when these ranges are exceeded. While they can't control the temperature or the amount of moisture in the room's air, this feature can help you improve your child’s comfort, which will help them get more restful sleep.

Lullabies: Monitors often include a selection of soothing sounds to help your baby drift off to slumberland. These can be traditional nursery rhymes of the rock-a-bye-baby variety, nature sounds, white noise, or some combination of all of them. It’s a good idea to check them out before you play them to your sleeping child to determine whether they might help or hinder their sleep.

Our latest video baby monitor reviews

At a Glance

Netgear's Arlo Baby expertly combines solid security with nursery-centric features for parents' peace of mind.

Pros

  • Full HD Video, sound and motion detection, and other solid security features
  • Built-in music player stocked with lullabies
  • Can recogize and alert you to your baby's crying

Cons

  • Pricier than many Wi-Fi cameras

The Safety 1st HD WiFi Baby Monitor is a great option for parents who want to stay connected to their child from wherever they are.

Pros

  • Excellent HD (720p) video quality
  • Alerts you to a child's movements and sounds
  • Smart audio unit allows hands-free use

Cons

  • Doesn't playback lullabies or ambient sounds
  • Doesn't monitor room temperature and humidity

The VM3251 is an affordable, easy-to-use baby monitor with a smart selection of features.

Pros

  • Allows you to monitor your baby and nursery environment
  • Includes a selection of lullabies and soothing sounds
  • Supports up to four cameras

Cons

  • Image quality has a purprle color cast
  • Single-band Wi-Fi adapter (2.4GHz only)

The VM2251 is a capable baby monitor with some advanced features that will likely delight new parents.

Pros

  • Monitor screen switches on when camera detects sound
  • Alerts you when temperature falls out of desired range
  • Automatic night vision

Cons

  • Video quality is noisy
  • Does not support mobile viewing

The VTech VM5271 Expandable Digital Video Baby Monitor is an easy-to-use extra set of eyes on your little one.

Pros

  • Allows you to monitor your baby and nursery environment
  • Supports customizable alerts
  • Includes a selection of lullabies and soothing sounds

Cons

  • Image quality is noisy with a purprle color cast

The BabyView Eco is a sold baby monitor, but there are others as good with less complex interfaces.

Pros

  • Includes voice activated and energy conserving monitoring modes
  • Seven built-in lullabies
  • Monitors temperature in child's room

Cons

  • 19 informational icons can be overwhelming

The VTech VM981 Safe & Sound Expandable HD is a step up from conventional baby monitors but it still lacks some key features. Best to keep exploring your options in this growing category.

Pros

  • HD camera with a separate monitor is a big improvement over audio-only baby monitors
  • Detects and alerts you to your child's movements

Cons

  • Doesn't support two-way audio, so you can't speak to and soothe your child
  • Image displays faded and inaccurate colors
  • Currently doesn't support motion-detected video recording