CHOICE names three worst baby monitors on the market

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock 

You're in the baby shop faced with 20 options for baby monitors. How on earth do you know which one will serve your needs?

The whole point of a baby monitor is so you can see and hear your baby in their bed while you go about getting things done. It's quite amazing that some baby monitors on the market simply don't facilitate this.

CHOICE's baby monitor test expert Peter Zaluzny tells Essential Baby, "Baby monitors are great for giving peace of mind to parents who want to keep an eye on their sleeping baby, and be able to hear them if they cry or are distressed."

Surprisingly, there are no Australian Standards for baby monitors, so it's a buyer beware approach.

Mr Zaluzny said, "When we test baby monitors on their performance, we look at things such as how well they transmit sound, the quality of the picture and how easy they are to use. There's no minimum standard that baby monitors must adhere to and models can vary wildly in price so it's important to understand which type you need and to do your research." 

In fact the worst three monitors on the market named by CHOICE in its updated report, reveal that sound and picture quality are abysmal on some models costing well over $100.

As a starting point to finding the right monitor, you'll need to get acquainted with the types available.

Types of baby monitors

CHOICE notes that baby monitors "fall into three broad categories" in its buying guide for parents.

Audio: Like a walkie-talkie

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Video: "A system that sends a video feed from a camera, to a tablet-like viewing device. This uses a unique broadcast signal that can only communicate between devices specified by the manufacturer."

Networked video (Wi-Fi/3G/4G/4G): Uses household Wi-Fi or mobile network. More than likely uses a tablet or smartphone app for the video feed. 

How to choose a baby monitor

"One of the key things to consider when choosing which one to buy is where it's going to be placed in your home and how far apart the units will be, as this will affect how good the signal of your unit needs to be, said Mr Zaluzny.

"If your baby's bedroom is at the other end of the house from the parents' room for example, with a few obstacles in the way, you will need a unit that performs well enough so the signal can get through, or you may like to consider a wi-fi signal booster. The units that didn't perform as well in our tests received lower scores in sound range and quality."

He also stressed the need for a strong WiFi signal.

"If you choose a Wi-Fi model, be aware that they're only effective as long as the wi-fi signal is strong and that you don't have a crowded network - otherwise the signal might drop out and you'll no longer be able to see or hear your baby.

He added, "Some of the more expensive models include extra features like motion monitors, night lights, and functions that allow you to play music or talk to your baby -  but all these features aren't much good if the signal performance isn't good enough for your home."

So how can you be assured you're getting bang for your buck in a baby monitor?

Firstly, avoid these three models, which came bottom of the list of 46 tested by the consumer advocacy group. 

The worst baby monitors

Dud #1 - Oricom Secure715 2.4" Digital Video/Audio Baby Monitor SC715 - $169

Photo: CHOICE

Photo: CHOICE

CHOICE rating: 50 per cent

Sound performance score: 42 per cent

Sound sensitivity and sound quality score: 50 per cent

Sound range score: 20 per cent

There was only one good point listed about this doozy - that it plays music. There's no on/off switch for the baby unit which cannot run on batteries, and there's "very poor" sound and picture range. Sound and picture quality is also listed as "poor."

Dud #2 - VTech Full Colour Video & Audio Monitor BM2700 - $127

Photo: CHOICE

CHOICE rating: 53 per cent

Sound performance score: 36 per cent

Sound sensitivity and sound quality score: 50 per cent

Sound range score: 20 per cent

While it's easy to use and has a room temperature gauge, this model has "very poor" picture range, and "poor" sound and picture quality. It doesn't play a tune and the baby unit doesn't take batteries.

Dud #3 - Yohoolyo Video Baby Monitor VB603 - $91

Photo: CHOICE

Photo: CHOICE

CHOICE rating: 57 per cent

Sound performance score: 55 per cent

Sound sensitivity and sound quality score: 55 per cent

Sound range score: 50 per cent

While it's the best of the bottom three, the Yohoolyo has terrible picture quality and range, with the baby unit unable to run on batteries.

What to buy

While there are aspects of purchasing a baby monitor which are down to personal preference, CHOICE has done all the hard work of testing popular models and publishing an up-to-date report with the results.

You can find the (paid content) report here, where you'll find a massive difference in results between the best and worst models.

The top model scored a huge 91 per cent, with excellent scores for both sound and picture quality and range and it only costs $49.

In fact you'll find 12 models scoring 85 per cent and above, so you're sure to locate the best one for you and your baby.

CHOICE has also published a handy guide called 'How to buy the best baby monitor,' which is essential reading.