Baby monitors can be both a lifesaver for parents of young children, and the bane of their existence. Sure, you can see that your baby is asleep, but you can also hear when they're wide awake deep in the middle of the night, usually in glorious full colour and sound.
Regardless of how much sleep you're actually getting, a baby monitor can be useful for new parents, particularly if you live in a two-storey house or if you're in another room while they're sleeping – or not sleeping, as the case may be. (Just remember that safe sleep guidelines recommend having your baby in your bedroom for the first six to 12 months.)
If you're going to buy one, though, don't just go out and pick up any old thing: our testing shows they're not all created equal. CHOICE expert testers have put 54 baby monitors through their paces to help exhausted new parents and parents-to-be make the right choice.
Here are the three monitors that rated lowest in our tests.
Uniden Baby Monitor with Pan & Tilt Camera BW4151: overpriced at $250.
Uniden Baby Monitor with Pan & Tilt Camera BW4151
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 50%
- Price: $250
Our testers found this unit had plenty of teething problems across the board. And with an overall picture performance score of just 43%, even the fancy 'pan and tilt' camera won't make up for the poor picture quality.
Our expert testers found that the image was stretched and the field of view too tight, which means you might have to move the camera back more than one metre to get a full view. And while it does display an image when the camera is in dim lighting, it's far from a high-quality image – is that blurry shape your toddler or a teddy bear?
It lost connection when a microwave was used between the camera and monitor
While it's easy to set up and use, our experts say it's poor on a number of fronts: sound range, video range, detecting and reproducing soft sounds, and maximum sound level at the carer end.
It did manage to operate through two walls, but broke up quite a lot when used through three walls. And it lost connection when a microwave was used between the camera and monitor.
All in all, it's quite a disappointment and not worth the $250 it sells for.
Read our full Uniden Baby Monitor with Pan & Tilt Camera BW4151 review.
VTech Full Colour Pan & Tilt Video and Audio Monitor BM3400: poor audio and video.
VTech Full Colour Pan & Tilt Video and Audio Monitor BM3400
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 51%
- Price: $269
Scoring just 15% for sound sensitivity and sound quality, this model is very poor at detecting and reproducing soft sounds – so if your baby is stirring, you probably won't know about it until they're wide awake and screaming. The picture quality is quite poor, too, so you won't be able to pick up on the moment Junior starts scaling the sides of the cot.
It's also not especially loud at the carer end, even at maximum volume, so if your hearing isn't great or you have the telly on in the background, you might struggle to hear your child.
This model is very poor at detecting and reproducing soft sounds
On the upside, it's nice and easy to set up and use, which is a boon to any sleep-deprived parent. But ultimately it scores poorly pretty much across the board, so we recommend saving your money for all the coffee you're going to need to get through the day.
Read our full VTech BM3400 review.
VTech Full Colour Video & Audio Monitor BM2700: poor performer overall.
VTech Full Colour Video & Audio Monitor BM2700
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 53%
- Price: $99
Our expert testers had few good things to say about this baby monitor. The only good point they highlighted was that the monitor rates as 'very good' on how easy it is to use and that it does have temperature monitoring.
But how easy it is to use can pale into significance when you consider the bad points: our experts say it has very poor picture range and poor picture and sound performance. It also doesn't have a lullaby feature, which, although not essential, is something that some parents like to make use of.
The only good point our testers highlighted was that the monitor rates as 'very good' on how easy it is to use
It does offer excellent immunity from interference, scoring 90% on this test, but even that can't save it from a poor overall score.
Read our full VTech Full Colour Video & Audio Monitor BM2700 review.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.