Now here’s an area where a person could waste a lot of time and money; the baby monitor. It seems so simple, and they start so cheap that at first glance it may seem like a no brainer. But alas, its not so simple.
We started with a First Years modol. It was a single receiver, 2 channel, 900 Mhz model. It was simple, cheap, and it worked great for the first couple of years. Then our neighborhood filled up with kids, and cordless phones and lately we can’t even use it. Its not like we’re pushing the range at all, the receiver is probably less than 10′ from the transmitter as the kitchen is directly below the baby’s (aka our bedroom). There just seems to be too much interference for this simple model. Other than this the only other problem was that turning on the transmitter required turning a dial that seemed to always require a little fumbling for in the dark.
So the first model we picked up was the Fisher Price Sounds n’ Lights with Dual Receivers. It has two receivers, includes a night light on the transmitter, but otherwise was very similar to our original First Years, similar cost ($45 Cdn) including the problem with interference. I cannot comment on the clarity since it was always picking up something. It did have the easy on/off switch of the higher end model which we tried later though.
The second model we tried was a Graco UltraClear (No longer on their website, but can be found around). This model was almost double the cost ($79 Cdn), but included two receivers with light indicators. Supposedly it includes techology from “cell phones” to increase the audio quality, and it did. The audio quality was excellent and there was no background fuzz at all. It was so quiet that for the first couple of weeks we would have to go up and check on the baby because we were worried it wasn’t working; of course it always was. Our concern with this one was that being only a two channel model it would be only a matter of time until it was subject to external interference.
The final model, and the one we use now is the Fisher Price Private Connection Monitor with Dual Receivers. It is the same price ($79) as the UltraClear, and also includes two receivers, and a light display on both. In addition it also has 10 channels. We hope this will give us a few more options as additional interferers move into the neighborhood. The sound quality isn’t quite as great as the Graco, but it is still good; it just a little higher background noise. This one also has a couple of great ‘usability’ features that none of the other ones had. First, the transmitter has a large, top mounted, push button on/off switch. It is very easy to turn on the transmitter in the dark, using only our foot, and there is no risk of waking a sleeping baby. Another great feature is a “signal level” indicator on both receivers. This helps to give us some confidence (when we’re working in the yard for instance) that the receiver is actually picking up the transmitter. The last great feature is that the receivers emit a warning beep if they can’t receive a signal from the tranmistter. Finally, some peace of mind. Now we know that if the transmitter is off, on the wrong channel, or out of range, we won’t be leaving our baby crying her head off. Although both receivers come with a wall adapter they also include a battery level indicator right on the display for the included in rechargable batteries. Definitely the best all around value in our opinion.
Now there are some other high end monitors out there, including two-way voice, video, and some that use digital modulation techniques, but this one is meeting all our needs.