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Baby monitors Buying Guides

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Getting started

A baby monitor can give you peace of mind, letting you move around the house while your little one naps. While monitors can be a blessing, many parents complain about audio interference and batteries that die sooner than expected.

A monitor's job is to transmit recognizable sound and, in the case of video models, images. The challenge is to find a monitor that works with minimal interference--static, buzzing, or irritating noise--from other nearby electronic products and transmitters, including older cordless phones that might use the same frequency bands as your monitor.

Audio interference can take a lot of forms, including your neighbor's conversations (or even their baby's babble). That can make it difficult, if not impossible, to decipher the sounds coming from your own baby monitor.

If you have a video monitor, interference can mean fuzzy reception or, even more disturbing, images from other people's homes (and vice versa).

Overall, baby monitors can be as temperamental as a 2 year old. Interference is probably the biggest complaint, but parents also report such problems as low visibility, a shorter-than-expected reception range, and short battery life. Choose a monitor carefully, and make sure you'll be able to return it if it doesn't deliver.

Recommendations

The public airwaves carry all sorts of signals from a variety of devices. With all that traffic, there's bound to be some crossed signals. Many wireless products, such as older cordless phones, game consoles, laptops or netbooks, Bluetooth devices, other baby monitors, and even microwave ovens share the 2.4-gigahertz (GHz) radio frequency band.

There are steps you can take to minimize interference. One is to look for an audio baby monitor that uses Digital Enhanced Cordless Technology, or DECT, although they're rare.

Digital monitors are more private; unlike analog systems, their transmission is encoded so data can't be intercepted. Models that use wireless analog transmission don't provide privacy. Anyone with an RF scanner or a comparable wireless device might be able to listen in.

If you're concerned about interference, buy a digital or DECT model that's not on the same frequency band as other wireless products in your home.

Visit ConsumerReports.org for our latest information on Baby monitors

Copyright © 2006-2012 Consumers Union of U.S., Inc. No reproduction, in whole or in part, without written permission.

Getting started

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2. Types


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