• Very easy setup
• Wide-angle lens lets you see more of baby’s room
• Two-way radio feature
• Night vision
• Good battery life
• Poor image quality
• No room temperature reading
For the price of $160, the Wide View Digital Color Video Monitor is a great option. The monitor screen is large and lightweight, the long cords give you more versatility in where you can place the camera, and if you want to go cordless, the battery will last for hours.
Rating: 3.5 stars
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Baby monitors have come a long way since the days of those basic walkie-talkies. Today’s monitors have so much technology built in, from breath counters and heartbeat checkers to light and sound alarms—the options are endless. This monitor lands on the more basic end of the spectrum, which is why it’s less expensive than other models—but you get good value for your money. ( Ed Note: Video monitors generally range from $80 to $300.) It does its job: You can see and hear your baby (or children, in my case!), giving you some peace of mind. Plus, it has a few special features that makes it stand out from the rest in its category.
The best feature of this camera is its wide-angle view. We previously had a Summer Infant Handheld Color View monitor, and the difference in how much of the room you see is amazing. ( Ed Note: Summer Infant says you can see four times more of the room with the wide-view camera.) If you had a regular camera positioned right on baby as he fell asleep and he rolled over or moved slightly out of view (or if the camera shifted slightly, as they tend to do when hanging from a wall), you’d be toast! You’d have to somehow stealthily creep back into the nursery and reposition the camera (holding the monitor in your hand to check out the view while trying to avoid the loud feedback noise that erupts when you hold the two devices too close together). Not with this monitor. The view is so wide, I can hang it in the kids’ bedroom and get a full view of my baby’s crib and his sister’s toddler bed at the same time. (By hanging the camera above the beds and angling it downward, I was able to see about 12 feet of the room.) It eliminates the need for the camera to pan the room via remote-control (which this model can’t do).
Another plus is the ease of use. I literally plugged the camera in and turned it on, did the same with the monitor, and they worked immediately. No programming, no pairing, no having to flick buttons on and off. The buttons on the monitor are very straightforward: power on/off, menu, video on/off (which leaves the monitor sound on but turns the video off to save the battery), volume up/down, zoom and on/off for the two-way radio microphone. You practically don’t even need to read the instruction manual (although it’s always recommended).
The radio feature is great, but I only seem to use it with my toddler—so it may not be a make-or-break feature if you have a baby. I find myself using it to tell my toddler to get back into bed or quiet down without having to actually go into the bedroom. With the baby, I feel like the loudness of the speaker startles him, even if I whisper, so I don’t use it. There’s no way to lower the sound on the camera (just the sound levels on the monitor).
It’s important to note that the monitor system doesn’t offer a temperature reading in the children’s room—which may not seem like a big deal, but to me it is. In the winter it’s easy to close your nursery door and unknowingly turn the room into a sauna, and vice versa in the summer, trapping all the cold AC air in the room. A temperature reading on the monitor would let me know whether the room was too warm or too cold without having to go in and feel for myself, potentially waking my children in the process.
The unit’s battery life is great. With the screen for the most part turned off (I turn the video on to check in every half hour or so but otherwise only leave the sound on), the battery lasts about five hours unplugged. That’s just enough for me: I tend to plug it in after a few hours anyway, since I’m never too far away from the sleeping baby. Even if you forget to manually shut off the monitor video, it automatically shuts down after about three minutes to help preserve battery life while the unit is unplugged.
The sound and volume are crisp and very clear, which is great for the little soft noises babies make that may not be distinguishable with other units. I can walk outside and around our backyard with the monitor without any interruption in signal. ( Ed Note: The monitor system has a 600-foot range—pretty average, considering monitor transmission ranges can run from 150 feet to 1,000 feet.)
However, the video quality is rather poor when compared with the previous Summer Infant model, and especially so when compared with other, more expensive monitors (which cost around $300). You can tell whether your child is sleeping, sitting up or moving around in the crib, but you can’t distinguish important little details that most moms (especially new moms) look out for—like whether my baby’s eyes are open or closed, or if he’s breathing okay (you can’t tell if the chest is moving up and down). The image quality of the day vision is better than the night vision, but our children tend to take their afternoon naps in dimly lit rooms regardless, so I find myself using the night-vision feature 99 percent of the time. While it’s better than having no night vision at all, it isn’t as crisp or clear as some other of the cameras on the market.
The monitor, camera and corresponding power cords are all white, which works perfectly for us—most of our walls and accents in the nursery are white, so the camera and wires blend in with the room instead of being focal points on the wall.
The camera is pretty sleek and takes up very little space on the wall. If you prefer not to hang it, there’s also a stand on the camera that you can use to prop it up on a flat surface. The monitor is larger, in order to accommodate the wide screen ( Ed Note: At 5 inches long, the horizontal screen is about the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus display)—but the entire unit is extremely lightweight, which makes up for its bigger size. The design of the monitor makes it very easy to carry in either your hands or pocket as you move around your home.
At the end of the day, the primary purpose of a monitor system is to let you check on your child without having to physically walk into the room every few minutes. This monitor definitely gets the job done, even though the image quality could be better. For an older baby or toddler, I think this would work perfectly, since you can see if he or she is sound asleep or moving around the room (thanks the nice wide-angle view), but for a newborn or infant, it may be a little more difficult to make out the tiny details that parents tend to look for, especially in night-vision mode. But for the price of the unit and its overall reliability, it’s a great buy for parents looking to spend less.