Philips makes one of our top-rated audio baby monitors, so does their video offer similar quality? Let’s take a look,
At $130, the rather generically named Digital Video Baby Monitor features a fixed camera with private/secure connection (DECT signal helps avoid interference), night vision and 2.4” viewing screen. Overall quality is good—while the picture is hardly high definition, it is good enough. The rechargeable batteries last about five to six hours. Range is decent (Philips claims 400 feet, but the realistic limit is half that) and set-up is easy.
So what are the negatives? Well, the screen automatically activates when noise is detected in the baby’s room—that sounds good in theory (it saves battery), but is lousy in practice. That’s because the monitor doesn’t transmit any audio while in this rest mode. Unfortunately, it takes a very loud noise for the monitor to trigger on . . . and that bugged more than one reader—it would make more sense for the audio to be on 24/7 and the video screen to activate when sound reaches a certain level you could set.
A few parents complaint that this video monitor killed their WiFi, but we chalk those reports to users who had older model WiFi routers.
The Avent uGrow smart monitor is a $200 streaming baby monitor with no parent unit—you stream the video over WiFi to an app (iOs and Android) via a smartphone or tablet. While that sounds much like the Nest and other streaming cams, the uGrow does have one unique feature: it switches automatically between WiFi, 3G or 4G to maintain a connection to your phone app. The uGrow also monitors temperature and humidity (alerts can be set) and has an intercom feature that lets you talk back to the nursery via your smartphone microphone.
Many smart baby monitors are long on promises and short on delivery, so we were pleasantly surprised to find the uGrow delivers on the promise of easy installation and picture quality. Set-up is straightforward (you download the app and it walks you through the process). The cameras shoots at 720 HD—yes, actual high definition and you can see the difference with cheaper baby monitors immediately.
The biggest issue with the uGrow is the same problem that plagues many smart monitors where you bring your own device for viewing—the lack of continuous connection. More than one parent told us the uGrow will drop the connection after an hour or so. That will make night-time monitoring a no-go. And if your WiFi drops, the uGrow can stream video to your phone via 3G or 4G . . . and that means you’ll be chewing up a significant amount of your cellular data limit in a hurry. Limit cellular streaming to an occasional check-in.
The ratings for uGrow’s Android app on Google Play sum up the problem with smart monitors: the software often sucks. For the uGrow app, 55% of the reviews are 1-star—common complaints include signal drops and general unreliability.
The uGrow monitor and app were released at the start of 2016, so it is possible that Philips will fix the issues with this version 1.0 product. Bottom line: we’d stay clear of the uGrow.
As for the regular Digital Video Monitor, we’d give that monitor a B rating—not bad, but not quite our top recommendation in this category. For $130, it is a decent fixed camera baby monitor. Rating (Avent Digital Video Baby Monitor only): B