Summer's first baby monitor featured a giant black and white TV—and a $300 price tag.

Summer’s first baby monitor from the 90’s featured a giant black and white TV—and a $300 price tag.

Summer was among the first baby gear companies to go all in on video monitors. One of the first baby video monitors in the 90’s is pictured at right—it featured a ten-pound analog TV “parent unit” that streamed your baby’s nursery in all its black and white glory. Cost: $500, in today’s dollars.

Video monitors have come a long way—and Summer has done a decent job of keeping up with the times. Their current line-up includes a dozen models, from a simple system with fixed camera and tiny 1.8″ screen (Sure Sight, $80) to HD models that can monitor more than one room at once.

Summer’s flagship monitor is the Sharp View HD ($200) with a PTZ camera, 5″ viewing screen and two-way intercom. You can also add up to three additional cameras to monitor more rooms. A similar model is the Sharp Sight ($180), which has the same camera but a slightly smaller (4″) monitor.

Seeing the popularity of online streaming baby monitors, Summer has tried to bridge the gap here with models that broadcast both to a parent unit and a smart device via WiFi. Example: BabyTouch Digital Video Monitor ($250) features a 3.5″ parent unit and a free app (Summer Link) that streams the video to a smart device.

summer monitor

The Summer Baby Touch video monitor runs about $250 and features pan/tilt/zoom and two-way intercom.

In a similar vein, the Baby Zoom WiFi ($153) features 2.5″ parent monitor as well as streams to smartphones and tablets. The Baby Zoom has PTZ, two way intercom, the ability to add extra cameras and more. If you want to skip the parent unit, you can buy the camera only for $118. FYI: there is a Babies R Us version of the WiFi monitor (called the Baby Touch WiFi) for $250 with much the same features.

New for 2016, Summer will release the View ($300), which is among the first baby monitors to use a relatively new technology called WiFi Direct. In a nutshell, the camera directly connects to the handheld viewer or smartphone, instead of going through your router.  The result is instant-on streaming with no delay in the audio from the View’s HD camera.

Summer Infant LIV Cam travel camera

New travel camera from Summer, the LIV cam runs $90 to a $100.

Also new for 2016: the LIV Cam, a portable baby video camera that also works with WiFi Direct and lasts four hours on a charge. Price: $100.

So what do parents think of Summer’s hybrid streaming/closed baby monitors? Spoiler alert: it’s not pretty. Take a look at the reviews of Summer’s app on the iTunes or Google Play. Out of nearly a thousand reviews on Google Play, 570 folks gave the app a one-star rating. Basically, the app that allows online streaming either doesn’t work, isn’t reliable, won’t load—or all of the above.

This seems to be a trend with baby gear monitor makers—they may know the hardware (camera, parent units), but when it comes to apps, software and online streaming, not so much.

What about Summer’s other monitors? Overall, we’d say these monitors are good, but not great. Fans say these units are easy to use and the night vision is good.

Perhaps our biggest gripe with Summer is their monitors’ long-term reliability. “Awesome—while it worked . . . then it died” is a common review from our readers, with parent after parent reporting units dying after several months, touch screens that stop working, out of range alerts when the monitor is close to the baby’s room, etc. We realize baby monitors get intense use (on 24 hours a day), but we expect more from Summer. As a veteran of this category, Summer should have better quality control

Bottom line: this brand only gets average marks. Summer must aggressively address quality and long-term reliability issues to right its ship in this category. Rating: C-