The baby monitor is an indispensable item to add to the newborn shopping list. Since it’s a piece of electronics, it’s also something that a tech or gadget loving expecting father parent can get excited about. So here’s how I went along evaluating which baby monitor to purchase and a review of the one I ultimately purchased, the BT 150 Digital Baby Monitor. Yes, it’s made by British Telecom. Who knew that telecom companies still made equipment like this (or at all for that matter)? And who knew that BT could make a really good baby monitor?
Why a baby monitor?
A baby monitor is a device that helps us parents check on our child from the other side of the house. They consist of a baby unit that is typically located near your baby’s crib and a parent unit which you have near your to hear or see what’s going on.Sometimes it’s because you live in a large abode and wouldn’t hear the little one’s faint cries for help and sometimes its because . If you are the co-sleeping type or live in a very small space, you might not need one at all.
The allure of video monitors
Over the past few years quite a few video baby monitors have hit the market. I was quite excited about getting one so that I could check on my child and see what she was doing or why she was crying right from from the comfort of my couch with a cocktail in hand. Unfortunately after doing some research, I found that many of them had some serious shortcomings.
The problems were as follows:
- Poor image quality, especially in night vision mode
- Weak signal across the house / walls
- Terrible battery life of the handheld unit
I also saw a couple units in action and the problems above were confirmed. One had OK video, but the sound quality was terrible and could not be used. The other had a tiny screen and a two hour battery life, which is useless if you plan on moving around the house at all.
Sadly… my dreams of getting a cool video baby monitor would have to wait until the technology got better (and I had another child). Besides, one should actually check on their child once in a while… videos give a false sense of comfort!
*UPDATE*: A company that makes video monitors recently announced a recall of over 1.7 million units due to two infant deaths from strangulation with the video cord being too close to the crib. This is frankly an issue with many video monitors, so there’s another good reason to stick to the standard audio baby monitor!
Features to consider
So if you’re sticking to an audio only monitor, here are the important factors:
- Sound quality – how clear is the transmission? Is there static? How good is the microphone on the baby unit?
- Digital vs Analog transmission – the type of technology and frequency used. This is important relative to cost and sound quality.
- Battery life of parent unit – how long does the remote unit last?
- Visual alerts – are there LED indicators and a mute button?
- Build quality – flimsy or rugged?
Beyond the core functions, many units now offer other features such as a room temperature indicator, playing lullabies, or an intercom.
Why we loved the BT 150 Digital Baby Monitor
After doing my research, I felt generally confident that the BT 150 would work out for us. When dealing with wireless products, however, performance can often vary based on the environment in which they are being used like walls, distance or other wireless products in use, so I crossed my fingers.
I am pleased to report that the BT 150 Baby Monitor performed up to expectations. Below is a list of its features and what we thought of them or if we used them at all.
- Digital DECT technology with Hi-Def sound: very happy with the sound quality.
- Mains or battery powered – you can put batteries in the baby unit which could be useful when traveling. We have never had to use this tough.
- Two AA rechargeable batteries supplied for portable parent unit – great battery life on the parent unit. At least 8 hours.
- Parent talk-back and voice recording on baby unit – never used this….
- Sound level indicator LED array – works great. Flashes red when then baby is really whaling!
- Mute and Vibrating alert on parent unit – using the mute is helping in combination with the LED lights. Useful if watching TV and keeping an eye on the lights (or if you are hearing impaired)
- Nightlight with adjustable brightness – not that bright.
- Multiple polyphonic lullabies – there are 5 cute instrumental lullabies (your standard ones like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) . We used these in the beginning but eventually switched to an iPod with speakers (you can plug an iPod into the baby unit if you’d like too).
- Room temperature monitor – also comes with an alert if it’s too hot / cold. Alert levels can be adjusted, which is useful.
- Auxiliary input for external audio sources – useful if you want to plug in a iPod
- Flashlight/Torch on parent unit – pretty small… have used a couple times to look for stuff without turning the lights on
- Timer/alerts on parent unit – never used
- Illuminated key zone on baby unit – useful when you’re trying to sleep yourself and want to check that it’s on!
- Fully adjustable volume and sensitivity – found the unit to be very sensitive. Mostly on lowest volume setting
- Travel bag – never used
- Belt clip – eeeh…too dorky, never used
- Out-of-range warning – it also beeps if the baby unit is off or has no power. Smart idea.
- Battery low indicator – obvi.
- Rubber key zones on both units – it’s a nice touch
One point of note, I purchased mine from Amazon UK even though I do not live there. If you don’t live in the UK you will need to make sure that the voltage in your country is appropriate (240V) and will probably need a basic plug adapter to convert the UK three-pronged plug to whatever you have at home.
Still using our baby monitor
Our daughter is almost two years old and we still use the BT 150 baby monitor. The rechargeable batteries are still going strong and the unit is in tip-top shape.
On top of its normal baby monitoring activities, it’s now actually kind of fun to listen in after she goes to bed as she talks to her stuffed animals, sings songs and just chit chats. We’ve also overheard her grand-father – a pretty serious guy – saying really silly things to her thinking no one was listening. That was quite fun too!
So overall, very happy with it!