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: they're not all created equal. Our expert testers have put 56 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.
Kodak Video Baby Monitor Cherish C225: poor sound and video range.
Kodak Video Baby Monitor Cherish C225
- CHOICE Expert Rating: 44%
- Price: $329
Despite its hefty price tag, this Kodak baby monitor comes with plenty of issues that saw it rated last in our lab tests.
"The problem here is range, or lack thereof," says CHOICE baby monitor expert Peter Zaluzny. "Kodak's baby monitor has very poor sound and video range, which means there's a risk that the connection between the monitor and baby's room could disconnect. This throws up some pretty big safety issues."
In our lab tests, the Kodak Cherish C225 only managed to work through one wall, and lost connection when we ran a microwave between the camera and monitor. So, if you're reheating your dinner after spending three hours getting the baby to sleep, you won't be able to hear if they wake up – which is less than ideal, but might buy you three minutes of peace!
Safe sleep guidelines recommend having your baby in your bedroom for the first six to 12 months
When it does actually pick up baby noise, it relays it with lots of white noise and at minimum sound level it's very faint and unclear. And as far as the picture goes, it's pretty poor: it scored just 35% for overall picture performance.
On the upside, it's nice and easy to set up and use, which is a boon to any sleep-deprived parent. You can also use it as is, or with a smartphone using a Wi-Fi connection. But ultimately it scores poorly 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 Kodak Video Baby Monitor Cherish C225 review.
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 1m 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?
Our expert testers have put 56 baby monitors through their paces
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 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 our testers highlighted was that the monitor rates as 'very good' on how easy it is to use and that it does has temperature monitoring.
But how easy it is to use can pale in 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 is 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 and that it does has temperature monitoring
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.