The Best Video Baby Monitor 2017

Best Video Baby Monitor 2017

Last Updated: Jul 5, 2017 @ 3:02 pmAfter researching and reviewing 16 different video monitor brands, we pick the Infant Optics DXR-8 as the Best Video Baby Monitor 2017.

Scroll down for our picks for Best Streaming Video Baby Monitor, Best Fixed Camera Video Baby Monitor.
New to Video Monitor shopping? Read our 7 Things No One Tells You About Buying a Video Baby Monitor for advice and tips.

The Infant Optics features crisp 3.5″ screen, two-way talk and interchangeable lenses, which is unique among baby monitors. Scroll down to read more about the brand and the DXR-8 model.

The Best Video Baby Monitor

Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Monitor
The Infant Optics DXR-8 combines the key features you need in a video monitor—point-tilt-zoom, interchangeable lens, decent picture, good battery life, sound-only night mode, and sharp night vision—for an affordable price of $170.

More details on the Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Monitor

Infant Optics DXR-8 with interchangable lenses

You can interchange one of three lenses that come with the DXR-8 model.

Infant Optics sells just one type of product—video baby monitors. And don’t go looking for these monitors in stores—Infant Optics mostly sells its monitors online (most notably, Amazon). Founded in 2010, Infant Optics is part of San Francisco-based importer Genexus.

Infant Optics debuted its first baby monitor in 2012 (the fixed camera DXR-5). The PTZ monitor (DXR-8) debuted in 2014. As of this writing, Infant Optics only has these two models.

Infant Optics best-selling model is the DXR-8—this $170 unit has pan/tilt/zoom and interchangeable lenses (the normal and zoom lense come in the box; wide angle is sold separately). The swappable lenses are unique and you might think, at first blush, what is the point? Why would you need to swap the normal angle lens with a zoom?

After playing around with this monitor for while, the most obvious answer is ease of installation. 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. (Always make sure cords are at least three feet from the crib). Side note: The VuSee is an affordable corner-mount ($15) that enables wall mounting of this monitor above a crib.

Most folks repurpose a baby monitor later to monitor a toddler’s room or play area—then the wide angle lens ($10, sold separately) might be the better bet. Of course, interchangeable lens means you might also lose the lenses (at least, that’s what would happen to us)— but you can buy replacements from Infant Optics’ web site.

Beyond the standard intercom and temperature sensor features (common on many monitors in this price point), we also liked the Infant Optics screen off, audio-only mode which is most useful during over night hours. Infant Optics estimates the battery life at six hours (when the screen is turned on)—our research says that is relatively accurate. Obviously, it would make most sense to have the parent monitor plugged in (instead of using battery power) overnight, but the audio-only mode should get you through the night on a fully charged battery if you forget.

One nice feature: you can recharge the lithium-ion battery in the parent unit with any USB plug—computer, USB power cube, etc.:

Infant Optics DXR-8 lithium

Need to monitor twins? Or quads? The Infant Optics DXR-8 lets you link up to four cameras to a single display, which will then cycle through the additional cameras every 12 seconds.

Night vision on the DXR-8 is impressive: here’s how it looks compared to the Samsung SEW3043W (on left). The DXR-8 had an overall crisper and brighter picture when using night vision:

Side-by-side comparison of the Samsung SEW-3043W and Infant Optics DXR-8

How’s the range? The Infant Optics DXR-8 uses 2.4 Ghz technology—that provides secure transmission (the parent unit is paired with the camera) to prevent eavesdropping. The company claims a range of 700 feet line of sight. Real world tests indicate it works well in two or even three story homes, with few dropouts, say readers.

Flaws but not deal breakers

To Infant Optics credit, the company has tweaked the monitor over the years to address user complaints. Example: there used to be an audible beep when the monitor went into sleep mode or low battery—that obviously drove folks crazy at 2am. So Infant Optics enabled these beep alerts to be toggled off in the menu settings for units shipped after March 2015.

Here are the other key complaints:

• No VOX. Voice-activation mode (VOX) turns on the video screen when a certain level of sound is detected. This is a relatively common feature on baby monitors today, but Infant Optics omits it. We should point out that VOX has both its fans and detractors—folks who like the VOX mode appreciate the battery savings, since the screen only turns on when sound is detected. Detractors says VOX can wake them out of a sound sleep when the screen turns on, even if there is just some random noise (not the baby crying). We should point out that the DXR-8 does have an audio-only night mode (described above) . . . but that means the audio is on all the time, not triggered by noise.

• Somewhat bulky parent unit. Compared to the parent units of competitors like Summer or Samsung, the Infant Optics parent unit is kind of chunky. Here’s what it looks like from behind (it ain’t no iPhone 6):

parent unit DXR-8

• Which brings us to flaw #2: notice the back of the parent unit has a stand but no belt clip. Hence carrying this unit around requires you to keep it in a pocket—and a large one at that.

• No remaining battery life percentage indicator. Summer has a this feature; Infant Optics just has an icon indicating battery life, but a percentage remaining would be more helpful.

• Smallish screen, no HD. Competitors like the Samsung BrightVIEW are rolling out five inch parent unit screens. And actual 720p HD resolution. By contrast the Infant Optics DXR-8 is old school at 640 x 480 resolution. Of course, the HD cameras are more expensive (that Samsung unit is $230—35% more than the DXR-8). And most of our readers found the lower rez on the 3.5″ screen to be adequate enough to do the job. Plus there is the trade-off in battery life—the higher the resolution and bigger the screen, the less battery time you get—the Samsung BrightVIEW is about only four hours versus six hours for the DXR-8.

Less than stellar audio. One thing Infant Optics could do is beef up the audio quality of the DXR-8. We found the sound to be kind of tinny, especially compared to Samsung and Motorola’s offerings. Again, most readers tell us the DXR-8 was adequate to do the job . . . but that is somewhat underwhelming for a $170 monitor. On the plus side, we found the video signal from the Infant Optics unit to be better than Samsung (see the night vision comparison above).

No online streaming. The Infant Optics DXR-8 only can send a signal to the parent unit—it can’t stream video online to be viewed by a smartphone. Read our pick for the best streaming baby monitor below.

Also Great: VTech VM343

The VTech VM343 ($150) has one of the better parent units (4.3″) with a crisp (but not HD) picture. There is a two-talk feature, but the battery life is shorter than our top pick above (two to three hours versus the Infant Optics’ six hours). Good quality overall.

Best Streaming Video Baby Monitor

Nest Cam Streaming Video Monitor Best Streaming Video Baby Monitor. Would grandma or an aunt like to be able to see your baby? Then you need a camera that can stream an image over the internet. While that sounds simple, this category of camera can be tricky to set up. The best bet here is Nest Cam, a simple, fixed $200 HD camera with a 60 second set-up. You can view your baby’s nursery via the Nest web site or via an iPhone or Android app.

The down-side: there is no parent display unit, so you’ll have to re-purpose an old iPhone or iPod Touch to be a viewer. The promise of streaming video of your baby over the internet sounds like the perfect marriage of tech and cute, but the reality of getting this to work isn’t pretty. Cameras that stream online video (called IP or network cams) are challenging to set up—getting one to work with your router requires a master’s degree in geek. Once you pass that hurdle, where do you store the video?

Software to store camera footage and stream it online is another tech headache. Enter Dropcam, now part of the Nest smart thermostat family (which in turn, is owned by Google—naturally). Inspired by the founder’s quest to figure out which one of his neighbor’s dogs was making a deposit on his lawn, Dropcam does all the heavy lifting—streaming the video online and storing clips in the cloud. Dropcam made viewing easy, via a browser or app. (In 2015, Nest began rebranding the Dropcam as the Nest Cam).

Nest Cam’s major pitch is for home monitoring. Yet, in the last couple of years we have seen a convergence of the baby video monitor market and home security cameras. Many parents are realizing that affordable home security cameras can be used to securely stream video from a baby’s nursery with quality that surpasses so-called baby monitors . . . at a cheaper price to boot. Nest Cam is a good example of an affordable ($200) WiFi security camera that lets you view your baby’s nursery on a computer or smartphone (there is no parent handheld unit). 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. No special software is needed and the Nest Cam works on a Mac or PC. Apps are available for iOS and Android devices.

Nest Cam

The Nest Cam doesn’t come with a monitor. Instead you use your iPhone or Android device as the monitor.

Nest can send you a mobile alert if it detects movement or sound in your baby’s nursery. You can also record video to Nest’s cloud web site (called Nest Aware)—but this incurs a monthly fee ($100 a year for ten days of video history, $300 per year for 30 days of storage) Of course, you don’t have to record the video (it’s free to monitor the feed online or via a smartphone. And email/mobile alerts are also free).

The Nest Aware subscription has some interesting features—you can set up “activity zones” in your video feed to get alerts for just motion happening in your baby’s crib, for example. (You draw these zones in the settings on the Nest web site via a desktop computer). You can also directly share clips to Facebook, YouTube or download to your computer. One slight bummer: you can’t share clips from your smartphone or tablet, only a computer. Nest uses a special low bandwidth technology (H.264) to avoid hogging your WiFi bandwidth—but a Nest can easily use up to 60 GB of internet bandwidth during a month’s time especially when used in HD mode (that’s because it streams video 24/7). That could be a problem if you are on a metered internet plan (which is more common in Canada than the U.S.).

Parent feedback on the Nest cam is excellent—it does live up to the promise of easy set-up. Of course, there are always a few trade-offs: depending on your router speed, there can be a 3-5 second delay between the sound in your baby’s nursery and what you hear on your smartphone. Hence, there might be an echo-like effect (baby cries and then 3 seconds later, you hear it on the app). And of course if you plan to use a Nest for night-time monitoring, you’ll need to dedicate a device to keep the app open (a retired iPhone or iPod touch would be a good bet).

Finally, we saw a few reports of Nest Cams that dropped their connection (and needed to be manually reset every week or so). We purchased the previous version of the Nest cam to demo here at the home office and are generally impressed—it probably is the easiest to set up webcam we’ve seen.

Out of the box, you connect the camera to the USB port on your computer (Mac or PC). Then double click on the “Setup” icon and the installation program launches. The camera can be set up wirelessly using an iPad, iPhone or Android device. The set-up program is very easy to follow, even for the tech-challenged. You create a Nest account and then connect it to your WiFi (yes, you’ll need your WiFi password). The Nest Cam automatically senses the WiFi networks in your home. Download the apps to your smartphone or tablet and you are good to go. Check out the unboxing/set up video below to see for yourself.

Flaws but not deal breakers

Nest cam isn’t a perfect solution as a baby monitor. Here are some flaws:

• Parent unit, or lack there of. The lack of a dedicated parent unit is probably the biggest problem with Nest Cam. Even if you have an old iPhone or iPod Touch lying around, using this unit as a parent monitor has issues. The biggest: battery drain. Streaming HD video basically requires the iPhone to be plugged in for overnight monitoring. There also isn’t a voice-activated mode or way to turn off the screen and still listen to the audio with the Dropcam app—once you put the screen to sleep, it will cut the audio as well. One tip: turn down the screen brightness of your iPhone (in settings) during the night.

• The strength of your WiFi signal can be an issue for the Nest Cam. The closer your router is to the camera, the better. That could be an issue if your router is in a basement and the nursery is on the second floor of your home.

• Signal dropouts. While using the Nest app or streaming the video to a browser, we notice occasionally the signal can drop out. We’d say this happens more watching the video feed on WiFi on a smartphone, but occasionally a browser video feed (connected via Ethernet) can drop as well. When the signal drops, the app searches for a second or two and then reconnects.

• Signal booster may be needed. If your WiFi router is a long distance from the nursery, you may need to buy a repeater-this can add another $30 to $50.

• Expensive cloud storage. The cloud storage feature is nice but expensive (adding another $100 a year if you want to store the last ten days worth of videos). And the aforementioned few second delay irks some users, understandably.

Best Fixed Camera Video Baby Monitor

Infant Optics DXR-5

Best Fixed Camera Video Baby Monitor. The Infant Optics DXR-5 is an excellent, yet affordable fixed baby monitor at just $99. FHSS technology helps avoid interference and a 2.4″ display provides a crisp picture. Simple set-up and voice-activated mode are two key features.

Infant Optics is a good example of how online shopping has reshaped the baby gear world. This small company (part of San Francisco-based importer Genexus) has landed its DXR-5 video baby monitor on the top of Amazon’s best-seller chart for video monitors. Yes, tiny Infant Optics is out-selling baby gear heavyweights like Summer and Graco and tech giants like Samsung in this category—with little more than a web site, a single product … and the reach of Amazon.

The DXR-5 boasts an impressive list of features: digital and secure transmission with 800-foot range (2.4 GHz with FHSS technology to avoid interference), 2.4″ display, voice-triggered (VOX) or manual operation, night vision, camera that can be wall mounted, and four hours of battery life. And the unit is expandable with up to four additional cameras.

Of course, what is more amazing about this is the price: $99. No, you don’t get point/tilt/zoom—but then again, most cameras with that feature are 50%more than the DXR-5. Additional cameras are just $79. Feedback on this monitor has been largely positive: folks like the clear audio (no static), simple set-up and VOX mode. For $99, the DXR-5 is a great value.

And you can hook up up to three additional cameras to monitor multiple rooms.

Flaws but not deal breakers

Of course, there are a few criticisms: quality control seems to be an issue here, with scattered reports of defective units or units that broke after a week (fortunately, the company offers a one-year warranty). Some folks found the audio to be too quiet; others said it was just fine. And some said their Infant Optics monitor interfered with their WiFi router (the company has troubleshooting suggestions if this happens to you).

One suggested improvement to this monitor could be a low battery warning for the parent unit—unfortunately, it just shuts off when it runs out of juice. And it would be nice to have an option to turn the screen off and just listen to the audio at night.

Bottom line: this is an excellent video monitor for the price.

Why Trust Us

We’ve been rating and reviewing video baby monitors since they came on the market in the early 2000’a. Before then, we had only audio monitors, which we’ve been revieweing since 1994. In addition to hands on inspections of video baby monitors, we have also visited manufacturer facilities and met with safety regulators—and when we travel, we pay our all of our own expenses. We also evaluate consumer reviews posted on sites like Babies R Us and Amazon, as well as our own message boards.

Here’s another key point: we don’t take money from the brands we review. No free samples, no sponsors, no “partnerships.” Baby Bargains is your independent and unbiased source for expert baby gear reviews. We’ve been writing and reviewing baby gear since 1994. Yes, that long!

How we picked a winner

Infant Optics DXR-8 video baby monitor

We evaluate video baby monitors by testing them in real-world conditions, checking models for overall quality and ease of use—for example, checking the picture quality in low light.

We also gather significant reader feedback (our book, Baby Bargains has over 1 million copies in print), tracking monitors on quality and durability. We compare our research with reviews posted on technology blogs, which occasionally rate and review video monitors.

Since we’ve been doing this since 1994, we have developed detailed profiles of major video monitor brands that help guide our recommendations. See below for links.

7 Things No One Tells You About . . .

7 Things No One Tells You About Buying A Video Baby Monitor!

1. There are three basic types of video monitors out there: fixed, PTZ and streaming.

Fixed monitors have a camera that is, well, fixed and is the most economical choice. PTZ stands for point/tilt/zoom, where a camera can move and tilt: some parents prefer PTZ monitors since they can scan a room for a wayward baby or toddler. Finally, streaming baby monitors can send a video signal over the internet, so grandparents and relatives can see the baby’s nursery. Each type has its trade-offs—most streaming monitors are fixed. And most PTZ monitors can be pricey.

2. Some cameras have better night vision than others.

One of the key times you use a monitor is at night—or to see in a darkened room, while baby is sleeping. To help make visible pictures, cameras use night vision—basically a series of LED lights that bathe a nursery in infrared light.  The goal isn’t to have a super-crisp picture to see your baby’s facial expressions. You just want to see if baby is sleeping. Or playing. Or standing up crying, etc. Of course, weak night vision that doesn’t let you even see if your baby is sleeping or sitting up is a problem. And night vision is often limited in distance—you can’t put the camera ten feet away from the crib and expect to see clearly in the dark.

Night Vision Example

3. Battery life sucks for most video monitors.

That’s because portable video screens are power hogs. Expect to plug in the monitor for over-night monitoring—that’s because most monitors only last two to four hours on battery power.

4. Don’t expect HDTV-quality pictures from most baby monitors.

Remember, you are viewing most monitors on a small (2.4” to 3.5”) screen. The resolution should enable you to get a clear view of your baby’s crib or nursery, not to count the freckles on his cute little face (no matter how tempting). The best video monitors have a resolution of 640 x 280 pixels. HDTV, by contrast, is 1920 x 1080 pixels.

5. Voice-on-exchange mode is an optional setting on many monitors that only turns on the screen when baby makes a sound above a preset level.

. This is helpful to conserve battery. Folks either love or hate VOX—fans love not having to hear every peep or squeak from baby. Critics say VOX mode can falsely trigger, awakening sleep- deprived parents when there isn’t a problem in the nursery.

6. The Z in PTZ cameras stands for zoom.

And some cameras offer this feature to let you zoom in on a particular area in the nursery. Be aware that most cameras have a digital zoom. This means the pixels in the camera are enlarged when you zoom. As a result, the picture becomes grainy. Hence, the zoom feature is less helpful than you’d think.

7. The latest trend in baby monitors are those that can stream a picture online—so you can check baby while you are at work. Or a grandparent can see the nursery.

grandparents watch baby

This type of monitor can be tricky to set up, as it requires a secure connection to the internet. Depending on your internet router, these monitors can work fabulously . . . or not at all. We’ll discuss the options in detail in the reviews.

Reviews of 15+ video baby monitor brands

The Best Baby Crib

Infant Optics DXR-8 Video Monitor
The Infant Optics DXR-8 combines the key features you need in a video monitor—point-tilt-zoom, interchangeable lens, decent picture, good battery life, sound-only night mode, and sharp night vision—for an affordable price of $170.

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