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A baby monitor has one job: to keep tabs on your kid when you're not in the same room. But the baby monitor field is a crowded one these days, with devices that take on much more than their original function -- we're talking a baby security camera with all kinds of features, from night vision and two way audio to wearable monitors. That's right, you can now purchase a monitor to track your baby's heart rate, breathing and sleep, replace your nightlight and sound machine, record photos and videos, alert you of temperature and humidity fluctuations and more. And the tech behind popular baby monitors has improved over time, with high-definition video, noise-canceling capabilities and smart alerts meant to eliminate some of the guesswork that comes with taking care of a baby and protect your baby's sleep from disruptions.

Baby monitor comparisons are not apples-to-apples: A smart monitor with Wi-Fi connectivity and a dedicated app is a much different product than a non-Wi-Fi video monitor with a separate parent unit. And there are also audio-only monitors and, on the other end of the spectrum, wearable devices for monitoring baby vitals, like your baby's breathing. Your first decision is going to be which kind of baby monitor you want. CNET's David Priest lays out the four questions to ask yourself before shopping for a baby monitor

Read on for the pros and cons of each type of baby monitor and our list of the best baby monitors to try. And while you're here, check out the best baby food delivery services and subscriptions, some baby apps we love, how to get your baby to fall asleep fast and ways to get more sleep when you have a newborn. Plus, are smart bassinets and smart breast pumps worth it?

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From left: Cubo Ai Plus Smart Baby Monitor, Owlet Cam, Hellobaby Video Baby Monitor HB32, Lollipop Smart Baby Camera, Motorola MBP50-G, VTech DM221 Audio Baby Monitor, Eufy SpaceView Pro, Infant Optics DXR-8 Pro and Nanit Pro Camera.

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Wi-Fi baby monitors

Wi-Fi monitors are great if you want to be able to check in on your baby from anywhere. "Range" is not a concern with Wi-Fi monitors, because you can tap into the feed from your phone wherever you get an internet connection. When testing Wi-Fi monitors, I was able to spy on my son from the airport as I prepared to leave on a work trip before he'd woken up for the day. Wi-Fi monitors also tend to have more bells and whistles, with smartphone apps and sleep-tracking capabilities that will appeal to data geeks. 

The downside of using a Wi-Fi monitor, besides the potential for a security breach, is connectivity issues. I live in an apartment building with lots of competing Wi-Fi signals and I'm at the mercy of my building's AT&T contract when it comes to broadband strength. I experienced a lot of trouble setting up the Wi-Fi monitors I tested and once online, several of them lost connectivity in the middle of the night, leaving me with no way to see or hear my son. However, when I tested the same monitors in a large house (with a stronger signal), I experienced no issues. Your mileage with Wi-Fi monitors will vary depending on the density of your living situation and the type of internet connection you use (DSL, fiber and so on). Individual monitors also perform better or worse depending on the quality of their Wi-Fi radio.

Read more: How to turn an old tablet or phone into a baby monitor

Non-Wi-Fi video baby monitors

Because of my internet connectivity issues, I prefer a baby monitor that transmits via radio frequency. Another benefit of this type of monitor is the ease of setup -- many are plug-and-play, with no need to download an app or pair anything. A dedicated parent unit frees your phone for whatever else you want to use your phone for and your risk of hacking goes way down. Non-Wi-Fi models also tend to include remote pan, tilt and zoom capabilities, which allow you to adjust the positioning of the camera and get a view of different parts of your child's room without actually entering it. None of the Wi-Fi monitors I tested could pan or tilt remotely.

The audio and video output of the non-Wi-Fi models did tend to be slightly lower quality than the ones that feed to your smartphone and several of them were just too quiet, even at the loudest volume. And of course, range is a concern with a non-Wi-Fi baby monitor. The ones I tested all promise up to 1,000 feet, but if your house is large or the signal has several walls to traverse, you may still experience a spotty connection. 

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Wearable smart monitors and audio-only baby monitors

If your budget is tight, an audio-only monitor offers peace of mind without the price tag. Most parents today, however, will opt for a video monitor, especially if you'll be moving your baby to their own room before the American Academy of Pediatrics' official recommendation of 12 months

Wearable devices that monitor heart rate, blood oxygen, breathing, sleep patterns and other metrics bring an added layer of peace of mind, but experts caution that they should be taken with a grain of salt and shouldn't supersede safe sleep habits. The wearables I tested were bundled with their own video monitor. Smart monitors tend to be expensive and sometimes unnecessarily complicated, but they just might help you get a little extra sleep yourself. 

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The Nanit Pro is well known in the field of baby monitors, and for good reason. If you're looking for high-quality audio and video, lots of bells and whistles, add-on accessories and an overall high-end experience, the Nanit is a good place to start. With a sleek design and several mounting options (sold separately), the Nanit Pro is a great choice for style-conscious parents. The Nanit Pro is a premium product, with a price tag to match. Many of its features are more nice-to-have than must-have, but if money is no object, it's a solid baby monitor.

Features: Nanit's features range from the familiar (two-way audio, built-in nightlight and white noise) to the gimmicky ("smart sheets" -- sold separately -- whose sole purpose is to measure your baby's length as they grow). The Nanit Pro also provides a few "peace of mind" features, like push notifications when movement or sound is detected, or if the temperature or humidity slips outside the desired range. The app saves video clips that correspond to each alert so you can go back and review any activity. You can also save photos and video clips to your phone. 

Sleep tracking data is available with a Nanit Insights subscription, the basic level of which is free for the first year. Every morning, you'll receive a sleep report that breaks down stats about the baby's night, much like many fitness trackers do, and some cool (but potentially useless) reports like a heat map of the baby's position in the crib and a time-lapse video of their night.

One of the coolest features unique to the Nanit Pro is its Breathing Wear (sold separately as pajamas, swaddle, sleep sack or a simple band of fabric to wrap around the baby's torso) that monitors the baby's heart rate. The camera uses an ingenious sensor-free method that instead measures the movement of the fabric's geometric print down to the pixel. 

Setup and mounting: No Wi-Fi monitor is going to be as easy to set up as an analog video monitor, but the Nanit makes the process as smooth as possible. Of the Wi-Fi cameras I tested, the Nanit had the least trouble connecting, even when I moved it to different outlets or networks. The monitor comes with a wall mount, or you can upgrade to a floor stand for $80. You can also purchase a table mount for another $49, which will be necessary if you want to take the Nanit on the go. Both mounting options take a fair amount of effort, but I found them easier to construct than other models I tried. 

Audio and video quality: Nanit's video and sound quality are also a leg above the competition, though most people don't need iPhone-quality videos or Bose-level sound from a baby monitor anyway.

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Part video baby monitor, part wearable device, the Owlet takes peace of mind to the next level. The camera itself is small and unassuming (with the longest power cord of any I tried, a plus if you're always on the go). A separate sock-like contraption tracks baby's vitals with a built-in pulse oximeter, which communicates wirelessly with a base station and alerts you if heart rate or oxygen levels deviate from normal. The socks come in various colors and sizes (up to 55 pounds) and can fit easily inside footed pajamas -- my son barely seemed to notice when he was wearing it. Like other smart monitors, the Owlet app provides you with historical data for your child's vitals. It doesn't record video though, so if you miss something, you won't be able to hit rewind.

Features: The Owlet's heart rate and oxygen tracking is a godsend for a lot of anxious new parents, and even though the Owlet Smart Sock is not a medical device -- nor does it prevent SIDS -- it really does help you relax when you can watch the graph of your newborn's heartbeat right on your phone. (That is, if you don't experience false alarms. For the record, I didn't.) Push notifications for movement and noise can be turned on or off, with sensitivity calibrated to your needs. The peace of mind alone will be worth the steep price for many parents, but there aren't a whole lot of other features to report, even though this is by far the most expensive baby monitor on this list. However, the Owlet doesn't charge extra for a subscription to its app features like many of its competitors do -- it's all included.

Setup and mounting: The camera comes on a magnetic base, allowing you to rotate and swivel it to get just the right angle. That said, you'll probably still want to wall-mount it for the best view. The camera comes with a pretty standard wall mount kit that should only take a few minutes to install. Pairing the Owlet with my Wi-Fi was a bit trickier, and the ease of setup will probably depend on your Wi-Fi signal, proximity to your router and how many competing signals are nearby. In my apartment, I consistently experienced issues with the Owlet's initial pairing (and you have to do the process separately for the sock!), but it worked like a charm when I tried it in a large house and a condo. And once paired, it stayed connected. If you have trouble pairing like I did, you might have better luck pairing it close to your router, then relocating it to your child's room once paired.

Battery life: The Smart Sock must be charged approximately every 16 hours of use. I found it was easiest to just charge it every morning on the base station, which doubles as a handy wireless charger.

Audio and video quality: The Owlet's audio is clear with little background noise. The camera's field of view is nice and wide, and you can toggle between 360p, 480p and 1080p definition.

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As its name suggests, the Cubo Ai monitors your baby with more than just a video feed: It uses artificial intelligence to alert you when your baby rolls over or has their face covered. The camera is bird-shaped, with various cheeps and chirps when the device boots up or pairs with your Wi-Fi, and the whole aesthetic gives the product a bespoke feel. This monitor would blend right into a well-designed nursery, nixing the whole surveillance vibe that most cameras bring. Where the Cubo Ai really stands out is in its photo and video capture. The app will automatically save photos to your "Moments Wall" every once in a while, and you can manually save your own photos or videos, too. And with 18-hour video playback, you can scroll back in time to see what happened at any point in the night. Creepy or cute, you be the judge.

Features: The Cubo Ai Plus is absolutely packed with extra features. There's the standard temperature and humidity monitoring and two-way audio. There's the built-in nightlight, lullabies and white noise. Then there's the aforementioned Moments Wall and easy navigation of previously captured footage, and the ubiquitous sleep-tracking charts and graphs. The Cubo Ai will even let you set up "danger zones" in your home (more useful when employed as a nanny cam) that alert you when your child wanders into, say, the kitchen. Some features are available only with a Cubo Ai Care premium subscription, which is free for the first year.

Setup and mounting: Of all the Wi-Fi monitors I tested, I had the most trouble setting up the Cubo Ai. It was really tricky to connect, and I had to go through the setup process multiple times before it took. Even once it was connected, the camera would lose signal halfway through the night and shut off without alerting me. Outside my apartment, I still experienced issues connecting to Wi-Fi, but the camera stayed connected once it was paired. The base package comes with a wall mount that requires a moderate amount of effort (and a drill) to install. For $60 more, Cubo Ai sells a three-pack of mounts: one for the crib, a floor stand and a tabletop mount for traveling.

Audio and video quality: Cubo's video and audio quality are both decent, compared to other Wi-Fi monitors I tested, but the feed is laggy at times and it lacks the noise-canceling feature of other models, making background noise a small irritation.

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For Wi-Fi monitoring on a (slight) budget, check out the Lollipop, which stands out with its unique design and three fun color options. Though I found the app to also be less intuitive than its competitors, it's still chock full of cool features. For a Wi-Fi monitor with lots of bells and whistles, you can't beat the price. The Lollipop is the Goldilocks Wi-Fi baby monitor, and a great value for the budget-conscious who still want a few extras.

Features: One of the Lollipop's most intriguing features is its true crying detection, which differentiates the cry of a baby from other noises and alerts you accordingly. This means you could turn the volume off (though you could alternatively choose to let it run in the background when you turn your display off) and hear only alerts -- not every breath, cough and whimper from your child's crib. The Lollipop also notifies for what it calls "crossing," when it senses movement across a predefined border, such as a baby attempting to Houdini out of their crib. 

Crying, crossing and other "events" are recorded in 30-second clips that can be reviewed from the app. A host of other features is unlocked with a subscription to one of the Lollipop Care tiers (only the first month is free), including sleep tracking data and continuous video recording. 

The Lollipop's built-in sound machine includes a selection of classical lullabies and white noise options. Weirdly, temperature and humidity tracking is not included with the Lollipop camera, but you can get a separate sensor for an additional $55. This would bring the total cost of the Lollipop closer to its competitors.

Setup and mounting: Unfortunately, I also experienced Wi-Fi issues with the Lollipop at more than one location and had to delete the app from my phone entirely one night to get the alarm to stop ringing. But mounting was a breeze. Shaped like its namesake, the Lollipop camera comes on a bendable silicone stick, which can be attached to a crib railing, molded into a table stand or wrapped around… pretty much anything. This makes it ideal for traveling because you can get creative about placement without sacrificing view (or breaking out a drill).

Audio and video quality: The Lollipop's picture and sound were as expected for the price -- not the best, but could be worse. The picture was a bit too washed out, with a short delay in the feed, and the camera had some trouble switching between night mode and color. The audio was fuzzier than other models, but certainly not a deal-breaker.

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Active Noise Reduction is the feature of note for the Infant Optics baby monitor, which is largely considered the gold standard of non-Wi-Fi baby monitors. ANR filters out background noise from fans, humidifiers and so on without silencing your baby's cries. This feature is especially welcome on the Infant Optics, which seemed to have the most trouble with interference of any of the analog monitors I tested. After one night of staccato secondhand white noise from an intermittent signal, I was eager to switch to ANR mode. (Notably, Infant Optics doesn't actually recommend ANR mode for use with white noise machines. The result is a bit of an alien-like warble, but I still found that more tolerable.) As with Wi-Fi monitors, interference with an analog monitor will largely depend on your particular home, the position of the monitor, and how many competing signals are nearby.

Features: Unlike smart baby monitors with sleep tracking apps, the Infant Optics DXR-8 Pro is more barebones, with features that focus on improving its core video and audio monitoring. Besides ANR, Infant Optics' best feature is its remote pan and tilt, which allowed me to adjust the camera position and view any part of my son's room without waking him. There's also a 3x digital zoom function, and a wide angle lens you can swap in (sold separately). The parent unit also features an LED sound indicator, which lights up when it detects noise, even when the parent unit volume is off. This is especially useful for outdoor use, when wearing headphones, or for the deaf or hard of hearing. And like many competitors, the Infant Optics DXR-8 Pro includes a temperature sensor and two-way audio.

Setup and mounting: The Infant Optics DXR-8 Pro monitor is plug-and-play: Plug the camera into a wall outlet, plug the parent unit into a wall outlet (at least until the battery charges), and you're good to go. Infant Optics also has one of the simplest mounting solutions, a single screw that connects to the base of the camera unit. 

Battery life: The parent unit has 6 to 10 hours of battery, depending on how often the screen is turned on. I found that it's a bit risky to leave it unplugged overnight (it'll wake you with an annoying, but welcome, beep when the battery is low), but it's sufficient for evening use.

Audio and video quality: The Infant Optics has a dedicated volume control button on the top of the parent unit, and its loudest setting was much louder than the other units I tested. Audio was a bit more distorted than the Wi-Fi models but the clearest of all non-Wi-Fi monitors. Video is displayed in 720p resolution, which is more than sufficient, but not quite the best quality I've seen.

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Better known for its security cameras and robot vacuums, Eufy offers a flagship baby monitor that lives up to the brand's standards and delivers a high-quality monitoring experience that will accommodate most parents' needs. But it lacks the upgrades and special features of some of its competitors, which keeps it from standing out from the crowd. The camera itself has a standard orb-like design, and the parent unit is surprisingly hefty, by far the heaviest of any I tried. Instead of a flip-out kickstand, the Eufy SpaceView Pro is wedge-shaped and freestanding, like an Echo Show. Its heft makes it less ideal for traveling, but it does lend the device a premium feel. The menu options on the parent unit are well organized and easy to navigate. Overall the Eufy SpaceView Pro is a great video baby monitor, but it's a bit pricey for what it is.

Features: In addition to VOX mode (more on that below), Eufy offers a noise detection alert that's reminiscent of a smart monitor feature. This is a good backup if you don't want to use VOX mode or if you have trouble hearing the monitor even on its loudest setting like I did. The parent unit will beep and activate the display when noise is detected, with an adjustable threshold that's separate from VOX mode. The Eufy also includes a temperature sensor (with attendant sound alert), two-way audio, five lullaby options that run for 30 minutes, and, for some reason, an alarm clock.

Setup and mounting: Eufy includes a wall mount kit that can be placed in the corner for monitoring a whole room, or flat against the wall for a view of the crib. Either way, setup requires only two screws. Pairing the camera with the parent unit took only about a minute.

Battery life: Eufy promises the longest battery life of any unit I tested: 30 hours total, or 12 hours with continuous monitoring. I had no trouble keeping it unplugged through the night.

Audio and video quality: Where the Eufy SpaceView Pro stands out is in video quality. Its 720p resolution is crisp and noticeably more detailed than even the Infant Optics', especially in daylight. One small annoyance, though, is the lag between switching the display on and starting the feed. It's only a few seconds long, but that makes a difference when your baby's crying. What the Eufy gains in video, it loses in audio. The SpaceView Pro's audio output was surprisingly quiet and fuzzy. Its VOX mode works like a hybrid of the Infant Optics ANR and the Wi-Fi models' push notifications: Turn on VOX and the monitor will go completely silent when the display is off, until a sound (with adjustable threshold) wakes it back up. This is a great solution for parents with noisy babies, but I found I became mildly anxious when I didn't have any audio at all.

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The truth is, you don't need to break the bank for a baby monitor. The Hellobaby Video Baby Monitor will do what a monitor is supposed to do, and it's significantly cheaper than most other models. Its no-frills approach means you're not paying extra for features you won't use. Small, lightweight and a little outdated-looking, the Hellobaby monitor is a cinch to set up and would make a good non-Wi-Fi travel monitor. Compared to its competitors, the Hellobaby has a tiny screen -- only 3.2 inches, compared with the average 5-inch display. And unlike the other non-Wi-Fi video monitors I tested, Hellobaby doesn't have remote pan or tilt, so what you see is what you get. 

Features: The Hellobaby Video Baby Monitor HB32 features a temperature reading, eight lullabies, two-way audio, an alarm, 2x digital zoom and a VOX mode with two levels. Extra features are basic, but Hellobaby punches above its weight for the price.

Setup and mounting: Hellobaby is plug-and-play at its finest, and mounting only requires a single screw that attaches to the base of the camera. It doesn't get any simpler than that. Because there's no remote pan or tilt, however, you'll have to get the camera in a good position when you mount it, not after your baby hits the hay. This was the Hellobaby's biggest drawback for me.

Battery life: Hellobaby doesn't specify a battery life, but the parent unit lasted overnight with power to spare. 

Audio and video quality: Of the monitors I tested, Hellobaby's had the lowest-quality picture -- especially in the dark, which is probably how you'll use it most. Similarly, the audio output is quieter than I'd like, though Hellobaby is by no means alone in this. Still, both the audio and video quality were good enough for the price, in my experience.

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When you only need audio, VTech DM211 is the monitor of choice. VTech hits all the marks here: Easy setup, low price, portability and, most importantly, decent audio output. While the lack of a camera is an instant deal breaker for a lot of parents, team audio-only will love the few features that VTech's monitor does include. This monitor is basically foolproof, which makes it a good choice for traveling or backup.

Features: VTech is another brand that obviates the need for a dedicated nightlight, because the baby unit has one built into its handle. And, like the Infant Optics, VTech's parent unit lights up when it detects sound, even when you have the audio deactivated. The monitor offers a few other options for parents who want to hear the important stuff and nothing else: noise detection alerts that also work when the device is muted (you can even set a vibrate alert) and a VOX mode that gives Eufy a run for its money.

Setup and mounting: Since there's no video component, there's no need to mount the VTech DM221. And since there's no Wi-Fi and no apps to download, setup is as easy as plugging in the baby unit and the parent unit and placing them near enough to link, which they do automatically.

Battery life: VTech says this audio monitor will last up to 16 hours on a charge, and I had no trouble keeping it unplugged all night.

Audio quality: I wouldn't want to listen to music through the VTech speaker, but as a baby monitor, it accomplishes its purpose. The audio was a little quieter than I'd prefer at max volume, but the unexpected audio features more than make up for that.

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There's not too much to recommend about the Motorola MBP50-G over its competitors. Its video and audio quality are subpar, the remote pan and tilt function is laggy, the design is nothing to write home about and the price is surprisingly high. That said, Motorola's video baby monitor brought the longest range of any monitor I tested (not including the Wi-Fi models, of course), and it passed my makeshift "backyard test" with flying colors: My apartment's courtyard is right outside my baby's window and down one story; the Motorola monitor made it all the way to the opposite end of the courtyard before cutting out, while its competitors faded in and out sooner. I'm not saying I'm going to kick it poolside while my son naps upstairs, but technically… I could.

Features: This monitor features remote pan and tilt, a selection of five lullabies, two-way audio, a temperature sensor with audio alerts (and adjustable ranges) and a split-screen mode for families with more than one child or more than one camera.

Setup and mounting: Motorola doesn't include any mounting hardware or instructions with this monitor, though third-party options abound on Amazon. I was able to MacGyver this one into place a bit more easily than most of the other models, however, due to its unique shape, which can sort of hook precariously around an object and balance in a pinch. Other than placement, setup was a breeze.

Battery life: I was able to keep the parent monitor unplugged for 10-plus hours without losing power. Motorola doesn't specify an average battery life, but this unit seemed in line with its competitors.

Audio quality: The video feed was surprisingly washed out in night mode, and fuzzy in daylight. In both modes, the feed was extremely laggy, like early video monitors from decades ago. The remote pan and tilt was also laggy, so much that it was tricky to even use. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.