Choosing a baby monitor

Keeping close ... A monitor will let you keep an ear - and sometimes an eye - on your baby.
Keeping close ... A monitor will let you keep an ear - and sometimes an eye - on your baby. 

Baby monitors are a modern day nursery accessory many parents rely on. They really come into their own if you've got a two-story house, or your baby's room is some way from the kitchen or living areas of your home. A monitor can also be useful if you're visiting with baby and want to put them down to sleep in an unfamiliar environment.

They’re easy to use: you simply place the monitor around one metre from your baby and then make sure the receiver (parent unit) is in a place where you can hear and see it, or clipped onto your belt.

These days baby monitors do more just let you know when your child is making noise. Some models have extra features like temperature monitors, night lights, tunes and features where you can talk to your baby while you’re not in the room. One of the monitors tested by CHOICE, the Oricom SC610 Secure 610, even comes with a lightshow where images are projected onto the ceiling.

Other parents enjoy using monitors that can tell you if your child is moving. More and more now have video capabilities so you can watch your baby, too.

But before buying a top-of-the-range model, ask yourself if you really need all those extra features – the top performing model in the CHOICE test is quite basic, easy to use, and also has a reasonable price tag.

What to look for

On the baby unit:
•    Mains operation, and battery operation if you want to use it in areas without mains power (say, out camping)
•    A night light, if you intend to use one anyway

On the parent unit:
•    Mains and battery operation, so you can take the unit with you in and around the house
•    A belt clip
•    Volume control
•    A light display to indicate the sound level, if you want to see the noise your child makes rather than hear it – for example, when you’re watching TV or vacuuming, or if you (or your babysitter or other carers) have problems with hearing

On both units:
•    At least two different frequencies to choose from
•    Power-on light
•    Battery condition indicator
•    Automatic battery back-up is useful in areas where power failures are common
•    A cord long enough for your set-up

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The CHOICE test
CHOICE reviewed 14 baby monitors, five of which also have video capabilities, priced from $70 to $399. The resulting report assesses their sound quality and sensitivity, picture range, sensitivity and quality (for video monitors), carer unit sound volume, immunity from interference, and ease of use.

Brands and models tested:

  • Angelcare AC401 Movement & Sound Monitor
  • Angelcare AC1100 Video, Movement & Sound
  • Fisher-Price V4340 Sounds & Lights Monitor
  • Motorola MBP10 Digital Baby Monitor
  • Motorola MBP30 Digital Video Baby Monitor
  • Oricom SC610 Secure 610
  • Oricom SC700 Secure 700
  • Philips Avent SCD525 DECT Baby Monitor
  • Roger Armstrong Sleep Easy 689 Digital Audio Monitor
  • Roger Armstrong Sleep Easy 338 Compact Digital Video Monitor
  • Safety 1st 08814-1 High-Def Digital Monitor
  • Signet QC-3638 2.4GHz Digital Wireless
  • Signet QC-3621 2.4GHz Digital Wireless
  • Tommee Tippee Closer to Nature 441000/1082 Simply Intuitive Monitoring

For the results of the monitor test, visit the full CHOICE monitor comparison report.

Download your free CHOICE guide for expectant parents, or for more expert, unbiased product tests and information, visit choice.com.au.