9 best baby monitors for peace of mind, from video to audio models

The Independent
The Independent

Any baby monitor worth its salt will leave you feeling confident that your baby or toddler is secure when you’re not in the same room. As well as having the ability to listen in, watch and even monitor your baby’s breathing or temperature, there’s a whole range of models out there to suit different needs and parenting styles.

With their limited functionality, audio models tend to be the more affordable option. And if you’re happy with just being able to hear your baby instead of seeing them, there are some great options out there with features such as lullabies and two-way talkback.

Next in line are the more traditional video monitors that come in two parts: a nursery and a parent unit. There’s such a variety now with features that include high-quality colour imagery, a night light and the option to move the camera around remotely via the parent unit.

Ready to shop now? Our current best buy is the Cubo Ai plus (£289, )

Finally, if budget isn’t an issue, smart cameras are on the up. These connect through Wi-Fi via an app on your smartphone or tablet, which means you can check in on your baby even when you’re not in the house. This does mean no parent unit though, so if you’re someone who likes to turn off your devices in the evening, it might be that you opt for something more traditional. It’s also vital that you secure your Wi-Fi monitor with a unique password to prevent it potentially being accessed by hackers.

Wearable elements – like wraps or socks – will allow you to monitor more than just your baby’s crying or movements, including their breathing, oxygen levels or temperature. And while they’re a handy addition for new or anxious parents, keep in mind they’re not 100 per cent accurate.

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How we tested

We’ve tested nine of the highest-performing baby monitors you can buy. Prices range from £24.99 all the way up to £389, and all were tested over the course of a week so we could get a real feel for how it works and what kind of parent and child it would suit.

The best baby monitors for 2021 are:

  • Best overall – Cubo Ai plus: £289,
  • Best for active toddlers – Babymoov Yoo Moov 360: £199.99,
  • Best for on-the-go – Kami baby smart monitor: £99.99,
  • Best budget buy – VTech BM1000 digital: £24.99,
  • Best for sleep stats – Nanit pro complete monitoring system: £379,
  • Best for additional features – VTech pan and tilt video monitor with night light and projection: £100,
  • Best wearable monitor – Owlet monitor duo smart sock 3+ cam: £389,
  • Best for movement tracking – Angelcare AC327 baby movement monitor with sound: £159.99,
  • Best audio-only monitor – Babymoov premium care 1400m: £80.99,

Cubo Ai plus

Best: Overall

  • Resolution: 1080p HD
  • Night vision: Yes
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: Yes

Pros: Brilliant image quality and audio, covered face alerts, easy set up, stylish design

Cons: Some features require a subscription after the first year, no parent unit

How easy this monitor was to set up was one of its biggest selling points – so even if you’ve not had time to do it before baby arrives, it’s straightforward enough to not send sleep-deprived parents into meltdown. Attached to either the wall mount or a weighted floor stand, the Sony wide-angle rotatable lens will give you a bird’s-eye view of baby’s cot, which means you’ll never be worrying about where to balance it.

It’s definitely one of the more aesthetically pleasing styles, too – the glossy white camera is shaped like a baby bird with a faux-wood finish. There’s a night light on the top and a built-in speaker at the back for soothing lullabies and two-way audio.

And speaking of audio, the sound is crystal-clear. As is the HD image quality, both in the day and night. The monitor connects to an app on your smartphone, which could be a pro or a con. The cry-detection feature worked well, too, alerting our tester with a little chirp. There’s also the option to record and take photos, and the monitor will integrate with smart home devices like Google Home and Alexa. The temperature and humidity sensor dongle clips into the power port, which our tester found to be pretty accurate. All in all, this is a solid choice for parents who want crisp video and sound, and to monitor their baby’s sleeping habits.

Buy now £289.00,

Babymoov YOO moov 360 motorised baby monitor

Best: For active toddlers

  • Resolution: 720p HD
  • Night vision: Yes
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: No

Pros: 360 camera, silent remote pan and tilt, easy set-up

Cons: No app connectivity, higher price point for traditional monitor

Great news for tech-phobes: our tester managed to set up this model without even looking at the instructions – so in terms of getting this up and running with a newborn in tow, it couldn’t be easier. It also comes with a wall-mounting kit if you’d prefer it up in the air, rather than on a flat surface.

Operating it also couldn’t be simpler. It’s essentially operated by four buttons and the silent, motorised camera allows you to pan, tilt and zoom remotely via the parent unit to get the best view of your baby. It has a whole host of features, including seven different night-light shades, five lullabies (that don’t at all sound tinny) and a temperature sensor. The talk-back audio was really clear and the signal strength remained strong wherever in the house our tester was. Though if you do go out of range, a little beep on the parent monitor will let you know.

The screen is also a good size and the picture quality high. The battery life of the touchscreen parent unit is also good compared to some others we’ve tried before. The overall look and feel is neat and compact, and there’s no reason it would feel out of place in a little one’s nursery.  You can also link it to additional cameras if you need to monitor multiple rooms.

Buy now £199.99,

Kami baby smart monitor

Best: For on the go

  • Resolution: 1920p x 1080p HD
  • Night vision: Yes
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: No

Pros: Playful design, two-way audio, live share and multi-view

Cons: No parent unit and sound had a slight delay upon testing

After discovering that more than a quarter of its customers used its home security cameras as baby monitors, Kami made its foray into the baby world with this playful bunny-eared model made using safety-grade silicon and non-toxic rubber. And aside from the cool design, it’s also a pretty good, well-rounded monitor.

To start, it’s easy to set up. In fact, our tester was good to go in less than five minutes. It connects to your smartphone via an app, as well as to home devices like Alexa and Google Home. The camera is of a decent quality – though perhaps not as vibrant and colourful as some of the other smart monitors we tried – and the audio is clear. Parents can even record their own singing or storytelling and replay it to baby. It’s portable and compact, which means it’s great for moving around the room, but it does need to be plugged into the mains at all times. The adjustable built-in night-light is another handy feature for those bleary-eyed nappy changes.

As with most of the AI-based monitors out there, this product is designed to monitor baby’s sleep and surroundings, too. So there are some helpful features like temperature and humidity measurements, and you’ll get a basic sleep summary too. Plus, if you have other Kami products (such as cameras in other parts of the house), you can connect them and view up to four at a time from your phone and nine from the Kami desktop app.

Buy now £99.99,

VTech BM1000 digital audio baby monitor

Best: Budget buy

  • Resolution: N/A
  • Night vision: N/A
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: Yes, 4 x AAA batteries

Pros: Budget-friendly, sound-sensitive lights, out of range alerts

Cons: No camera, basic functionality

Though it’s pretty basic compared to the other monitors we tested, this audio-only monitor does the job. It might be budget, but the sound quality is clear and consistent. It also has sound-sensitive lights to alert you of crying or movement when you have the audio kept low.

The addition of the belt clip for when you’re moving around the house is a nice touch. The nursery unit is a little top heavy and cumbersome, so make sure you have somewhere safe to place it, where it’s far enough out of reach from baby and not at risk of toppling over. The battery life is great – around seven hours in total – which makes it great for travelling.

Buy now £24.99,

Nanit pro complete monitoring system

Best: For sleep stats

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Night vision: Yes
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: No

Pros: Crystal-clear view, sleek design, super intuitive

Cons: Subscription features and extras can add up, no parent unit

This is Nanit’s newest and most comprehensive smart monitor to date, and despite all the various parts that come with the complete monitoring system, our tester found it simple to set up – even down to details like including the drill-bit size required and pre-measured tape to ensure the correct mounting height. Trivial for some, maybe, but it’s one less thing for new parents to worry about.

It can either be mounted on the wall or on the floor stand – place over baby’s cot for a complete bird’s-eye view in and around the crib. The sound and video quality is exceptional and super-sensitive, as is the night vision, which is sure to reassure any new parent.

In addition to the two-way audio, parents can play soothing nature sounds over the speaker, including birds, waves, white noise and wind. Our tester also liked that the app has a night mode that dims your phone screen – definitely a godsend if you’re planning on keeping your phone next to your bed for monitoring through the night.

What makes this system really complete (and more expensive than many others) is that it also allows you to monitor baby’s breathing motions in real time via a breathing band (which comes in two sizes) and a swaddle. Though if your baby decides it’s not one to be swaddled or is particularly wriggly through the night, it could prove difficult to use. For others, it might not even be a necessary feature. Essentially though, this system really does cover everything and is particularly helpful for new or anxious parents who just want to rest easy at night.

Buy now £379.00,

VTech pan and tilt video monitor with night light and projection

Best: For additional features

  • Resolution: Unknown
  • Night vision: Yes
  • Connectivity: Not required
  • Battery required: Yes, 1 x NiMH

Pros: Excellent video quality, two-way audio, pan and tilt camera remotely

Cons: Some settings take practice to figure out, no app connectivity

As a more budget-friendly buy, the sound and picture quality on this camera was brilliant. And if you’re looking for a more traditional monitor with a portable parent unit, this one comes with a sleek, five-inch colour screen.

The monitor can be freestanding or very handily mounted onto the wall, and our tester found it easy to pan and tilt the camera in order to get a clear view of the whole room. The two-way audio means you can chat to and soothe baby without having to set foot in the nursery, and our tester’s child loved the range of lullabies and soothing white noise sounds. The temperature sensor also tells you the exact temperature of baby’s room.

The standout feature for this monitor, though, is the night light and night-show projection, which can be controlled via the parent unit. The whole product feels lightweight yet durable – all in all, a great piece of kit for a great price.

Buy now £100.00,

Owlet monitor duo smart sock 3 + cam

Best: Wearable monitor

  • Resolution: 1080p
  • Night vision: Yes
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: Yes, 1 Lithium ion batteries

Pros: Impressive battery life, comfortable to wear, helpful for new or anxious parents

Cons: No parent unit, doesn’t necessarily offer longevity

This is the third generation of Owlet’s award-winning smart sock monitor, a system that’s totally unique in its offering. Its main goal is to track baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels, with this latest version designed to fit a greater range of little ones, from 5lb to 30lb (or 18 months).

It certainly looks the part – the monitor is sleek and can be mounted onto the nursery wall using the kit included. Our tester found it a little overwhelming to set up though, so it might be one to organise before baby arrives, rather than after. Like all the high-end smart monitors out there right now, there’s no parent unit and everything connects to your smartphone or tablet via an app. The sound and video quality is really excellent and there are plenty of features like the temperature sensor which tells you if baby’s room is too cold, too hot, or just right.

The sock is what sets this monitor apart though, and of course, as with all wearable tech, some babies won’t mind wearing it, others will. It’s soft, light, and a particularly young baby shouldn’t even notice it, but it might prove tricky trying to make a 12-month-old wear it, for example. The sock uses an infrared pulse to monitor baby’s pulse, sending the information over Wi-Fi to your phone, meaning you can check baby’s heart rate wherever you are. Enhanced wireless charging also means you can charge the sock in 90 minutes and its battery life lasts 16 hours, so it easily lasts the night.

Buy now £299.00,

Angelcare AC327 baby movement monitor with sound

Best: For movement tracking

  • Resolution: 480p x 272p
  • Night vision: Yes
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: Yes, lithium CR2450 battery

Pros: Great picture quality, motion detector, stylish and portable

Cons: Pricey if you don’t see the sensor pad as worthwhile, no lullabies or sounds

A more traditional monitor with the addition of advanced motion-detector software, Angelcare’s AC327 model is a popular choice among first-time parents. As well as a nursery and parent unit, it comes with a sensor pad that’s designed to sit underneath baby’s mattress to track the rise and fall movement of your little one’s chest, as well as every wriggle. Our tester definitely found the sensor to work well (if not a little too sensitive at times), alerting them when there was no movement for 20 seconds. It’s sleek and slim, and sat seamlessly underneath their toddler’s mattress without disturbing them. And if you find over time that you’re feeling more relaxed about baby’s sleep, you can easily turn this feature off.

Elsewhere, the quality of the colour monitor is really clear – even in night mode – as is the sound. Our tester found that mounting the nursery unit on the wall was the best way to get a good view of baby’s cot, rather than angling it on a tabletop. Unlike some other traditional monitors, the nursery and parent unit come pre-paired, so set-up is as straightforward as it gets.

Buy now £159.99,

Babymoov premium care 1400m

Best: Audio-only monitor

  • Resolution: N/A
  • Night vision: N/A
  • Connectivity: Wifi
  • Battery required: Yes, 3 AAA batteries required

Pros: High-quality sound, has more features than other audio-only monitors, clean, simple aesthetic, low electromagnetic emissions promise

Cons: No camera

As audio-only monitors go, our tester loved this. Set-up is really easy, with both devices requiring about three hours of charging before use. We also loved the subtlety of the product – the aesthetic is clean, sleek and really neatly sized (no bigger than a computer mouse). It could easily fit into a pocket for when you’re moving around the house.

The features include a temperature sensor (you can even set an alarm to warn you when the room exceeds a certain temperature, which impressed our tester), as well as a night light, lullabies and two-way speaker. We were also impressed by the “low electromagnetic emissions” promise – something parents might not even realise is a thing until reading more about it in the manual.

The audio is super quality – and if you’re looking for a standard monitor that will detect a young baby crying or babbling, as opposed to an older child who might be more on the move, this is a great option.

Buy now £80.99,

Baby monitor FAQs

Do you need a baby monitor?

While you do not necessarily need a baby monitor, the gadgets can help to give you peace of mind that your little one is safe and sound when you’re not in the same room.

You’ll most likely need one when your baby moves into their own room or if they nap in a different room to where you are during the day.

Audio vs video: What type of baby monitor is best?

There are many different types of baby monitor on the market, but the two most popular are audio and video. So, which one should you buy?

Audio monitors allow you to listen in on your baby when you're not in the room and some models also have a visual representation of the level of volume too. This type of monitor usually comes with two separate units: one that stays in the room that your baby sleeps and another that stays with the parent. These can be either wired or battery-powered, depending on how much flexibility you need.

Alternatively, video monitors allow you to both see and hear what your baby is up to for greater peace of mind. Just like an audio monitor, they feature two units: one with a camera that stays in the room your baby is sleeping and another for the parent which has a screen for easy viewing. Some cameras can be mounted to the wall, while others will need to be placed on a flat surface.

Other features that can be found on both audio and video models include a night light, “two-way talk” –which allows your baby to hear you so you can comfort them from a different room – and the ability to play songs to soothe your restless baby.

The verdict: Baby monitors

Of course, choosing a baby monitor ultimately comes down to your personal needs, but of the ones we tested, our favourite was the Cubo Ai plus . Not only did we love the nursery-friendly design and no-fuss set-up, but it has some incredible features similar to other brands that were indeed more expensive, so we felt it was well worth the money. If you’re someone who wants to keep track of more than baby’s crying, this is a great option.

That said, we were also really impressed by the quality of the VTech pan and tilt video monitor with night light and projection , and felt it was great value for the price.

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