Best Fixed Baby Monitor: Infant Optics DXR-5 Review
Last updated: May 4, 2016. Best Bet: Fixed camera. The Infant Optics DXR-5 is an excellent, yet affordable fixed baby monitor at just $99. FHSS technology helps avoid interference and a 2.4″ display provides a crisp picture. Simple set-up and voice-activated mode are two key features.
What is a fixed monitor?
There are three types of baby monitors: fixed, PTZ and streaming. Fixed monitors feature a camera that doesn’t move and is intended to monitor a fixed area.
PTZ stands for point-tilt-zoom—as the name in implies, the camera can move left and right, up and down to capture a wider area of a room. Most cameras also have a zoom feature, letting get a closer look in an area.
Streaming baby monitors can stream video over the internet to a smartphone, tablet or computer via your home’s WiFi.
FYI: The fixed monitors we recommend on this page can NOT stream video over the internet. The camera pairs with the parent receiver unit directly, without using WiFi.
Which one is right for you?
Most folks go for the simplest, fixed baby monitor. PTZ monitors are an upgrade, costing another $100 or more. Why would you need a monitor that tilts, points and zooms? Aren’t newborns mostly stationary and confined to a crib?
Yes, but some parents see the day when they might be monitoring a toddler’s room, where a more mobile older child may require a monitor to point to a different part of the room. Other parents want to repurpose a baby monitor as a security camera later and PTZ cameras are more functional for security.
The latest trend in baby monitors are those that can stream a picture online—so you can check baby while you are at work. Or a grandparent can see the nursery. This type of monitor can be tricky to set up, as it requires a secure connection to the internet. Depending on your internet router, these monitors can work fabulously … or not at all. We’ll discuss the options in detail in the reviews.
How we picked a winner
We evaluate monitors on several key features: night vision, battery life, resolution and VOX (voice-activation). Here’s a quick look at each feature:
- Zero Dark Nursery. One of the key times you use a monitor is at night—or to see in a darkened room, while baby is sleeping. To help make visible pictures, cameras use night vision — basically a series of LED lights that bathe a nursery in infrared light. While some cameras have better night vision than others (we’ll note this in reviews), realize that baby monitor night vision is rather rudimentary. The goal isn’t to have a super-crisp picture to see your baby’s facial expressions. You just want to see if baby is sleeping. Or playing. Or standing up crying, etc. Of course, weak night vision that doesn’t let you even see if your baby is sleeping or sitting up is a problem. And night vision is often limited in distance—you can’t put the camera ten feet away from the crib and expect to see clearly in the dark.
- Battery life. In a word, it sucks for most video monitors. That’s because portable video screens are power hogs. Expect to plug in the monitor for over-night monitoring—that’s because most monitors only last two to four hours on battery power.
- Resolution. Don’t expect HDTV-quality pictures from most baby monitors. Remember, you are viewing most monitors on a small (2.4” to 3.5”) screen. The resolution should enable you to get a clear view of your baby’s crib or nursery, not to count the freckles on his cute little face (no matter how tempting). The best video monitors have a resolution of 640 x 280 pixels. HDTV, by contrast, is 1920 x 1080 pixels.
- VOX. Voice-on-exchange mode is an optional setting on many monitors that only turns on the screen when baby makes a sound above a preset level. This is helpful to conserve battery. Folks either love or hate VOX — fans love not having to hear every peep or squeak from baby. Critics say VOX mode can falsely trigger, awakening sleep- deprived parents when there isn’t a problem in the nursery.
Besides testing monitors ourselves, we also rely on parent feedback from the readers of our BABY BARGAINS book. We receive over 100+ emails a day from readers. We also have active message boards that focus on baby monitors. We also look at parent reviews of monitors on Amazon, Babies R Us, Target and Buy Buy Baby.
Our top pick: Infant Optics DXR-5
Infant Optics DXR-5
The DX-5 combines a good quality camera with a secure digital transmission (to avoid eavesdropping) and an attractive price.
* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.
Infant Optics is a good example of how online shopping has reshaped the baby gear world. This small company (part of San Francisco-based importer Genexus) has landed its DXR-5 video baby monitor on the top of Amazon’s best-seller chart for video monitors. Yes, tiny Infant Optics is out-selling baby gear heavyweights like Summer and Graco and tech giants like Samsung in this category—with little more than a web site, a single product … and the reach of Amazon.
The DXR-5 boasts an impressive list of features: digital and secure transmission with 800-foot range (2.4 GHz with FHSS technology to avoid interference), 2.4″ display, voice-triggered (VOX) or manual operation, night vision, camera that can be wall mounted, and four hours of battery life. And the unit is expandable with up to four additional cameras.
Of course, what is more amazing about this is the price: $99. No, you don’t get point/tilt/zoom—but then again, most cameras with that feature are 50%more than the DXR-5. Additional cameras are just $79. Feedback on this monitor has been largely positive: folks like the clear audio (no static), simple set-up and VOX mode. For $99, the DXR-5 is a great value.
And you can hook up up to three additional cameras to monitor multiple rooms.
Flaws but not deal breakers
Of course, there are a few criticisms: quality control seems to be an issue here, with scattered reports of defective units or units that broke after a week (fortunately, the company offers a one-year warranty). Some folks found the audio to be too quiet; others said it was just fine. And some said their Infant Optics monitor interfered with their WiFi router (the company has troubleshooting suggestions if this happens to you).
One suggested improvement to this monitor could be a low battery warning for the parent unit—unfortunately, it just shuts off when it runs out of juice. And it would be nice to have an option to turn the screen off and just listen to the audio at night.
Bottom line: this is an excellent video monitor for the price.
FYI: Infant Optics debuted a new model as we were going to press, the DXR-8—this $230 unit has pan/tilt/zoom and interchangeable lenses (normal, zoom and wide angle, which are sold separately).The DXR-8 also has an intercom feature and temperature sensor. The screen is larger (3.5″) and you can link up to four cameras to a single display, which will then cycle through the additional cameras every 12 seconds. We’re not sure we see the point of the interchangeable lenses, which would easily just get lost in our house. Early feedback on this model has been positive.
Samsung BabyVIEW SEW-3036WN$169.95* at Amazon
* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.
This simple fixed baby video monitor features a 3.5″ color LCD display, plus two-way intercom and decent night vision.
Samsung’s BabyVIEW (SEW-3036WN) is more expensive ($159), but does have a bigger viewing screen (3.5”), as well as time display and intercom. FYI: While the BabyVIEW is a fixed camera it does have a zoom feature. Parent feedback on this model has been positive.
Motorola’s MBP18 has a 1.8″ color screen and is the same price as the Infant Optics DX-5 ($100). This camera’s unique feature: infrared night vision. The MBP18’s camera is fixed and doesn’t move but Motorola has expanded its range, a feature parents were impressed with. Overall, while folks liked the MBP18, the picture quality isn’t as good as Infant Optics, in our opinion.
Fixed monitor competition
Graco’s True Focus monitor ($130-$150) is pricey compared to the Infant Optics DX5 but does feature decent nice vision. Range complaints dog this monitor, as do problems with quality that seems degrade over time (range worsens, buttons stop working).
The Jena features an eight hour battery, talk to baby intercom feature and 500 foot range and a temperature reading.
The Lila ($140) has a fixed camera with 72-hour battery, intercom and invisible night vision. Feedback on this monitor is mostly positive.
While we like Levana’s monitors, their track record among parents is mixed. Folks like the affordable prices and extensive feature list of these monitors. But more than one parent told us the range was nowhere close to the promises Levana makes in its marketing. Battery life is another gripe. And perhaps the biggest problem is long-term reliability—we saw more than one report of Levana monitors that just stopped working after a few months (in some cases, a few weeks).
We’d rank Levana as a strong third place in this category: Infant Optics and Samsung get better marks from parents, but Levana may the one to watch in the future as they’ve tried to close the gap in quality in recent years.
Lorexa’s Sweet Peek video monitor (BB2411, $85) features a 2.4″ screen on the parent unit, eight hours of battery life, intercom feature and lullabies. The reviews of Lorex baby monitors are mixed at best. Fans say the picture quality is good and set up is easy, but more than one reader complained that the cheap plastic camera broke after a few months of use. The newer Lorex models seem to be earning better marks then the older models, however.
Philips Avent makes an excellent fixed monitor (SCD603, The Digital Video Monitor), but at $130, it runs 30% more than the Infant Optics DXR-5 for basically teh same features.
Summer used to dominate the category of baby video monitors, but it recent years it has focused on PTZ and streaming monitors. Hence its aging offerings in this category are being overshadowed by competitors.
Vtech is better known for its cordless phones, but it recently entered the baby monitor fray. It’s Safe & Sound Full Color Video & Audio (VM321) monitor runs $112 and features a vibrating sound alert, intercom feature and digital zoom. We gave this brand an B rating and generally like the monitor—however, Infant Optics outscored it in overall quality and parent reviews.
A word on safety
As baby video monitors sales have boomed, so has a new safety concern: cords. Since cameras are positioned near a crib for the best picture, some babies and toddlers have become tangled in the cords. “Since 2002, seven children were strangled in baby monitor cords and three infants and toddlers nearly strangled,” says the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Here is the CPSC’s safety advice for monitors:
- Immediately check the location of all monitors and other products with electrical cords– including those mounted on the wall–to make sure cords are out of your child’s reach.
- Place cords at least three feet away from any part of the crib, bassinet, play yard or other safe sleep environment.
- Never position a monitor inside or on the edge of a crib.
- Remember, at least three feet away is where your monitor should stay.
Finally, let’s talk about baby monitor hacking. Several high profile cases of this have splashed across the media in recent years. The problem: defects in the camera’s software have allowed hacks to gain access to a monitor feed.
This issue has rose in concern with the increased sales of streaming monitors—monitors that are connected to a home’s WiFi and hence could be monitored by someone hacking into that network.
Non-streaming cameras (like the Infant Optics DXR-5 reviewed on this page) have a closed radio loop—the camera broadcasts a signal to the parent unit, but not online. Early video monitors used analog signals that could be intercepted by someone nearby who had the same parent receiver. Newer models, however, offer secure digital transmission. When you set up a digital monitor, you have to pair the camera and parent unit—this prevents eavesdropping.
If you decide to go for a streaming monitor, consider these safeguards:
- Change the default password. When you set up a monitor, you often have the choice to change the default user name and password—do it!
- Make sure you download the latest firmware. Like any network device, it is best to have the most up to date firmware when you set it up. These updates typically close security holes. Unfortunately, few folks bother to do this.
- Don’t stream your monitor online. Just view it on your WiFi network. Outside viewing of your camera is often an option—if you don’t need it, don’t enable it.
- Make sure your WiFi is secured with a password. Some folks who had their monitors hacked had open WiFi networks—that is, they weren’t password protected. While that sounds like a no brainer, a recent study revealed 40% of American home WiFi networks have no password (source: WeFi).
Check out this blog post we wrote for more on hacking of baby monitors and how you can stay safe.
Wrapping it up
The DX5 isn’t fancy, but it does what most parents need: a good quality video monitor without bells and whistles—at a price that won’t break the bank.
Infant Optics DXR-5$93.90* at Amazon
* Prices change daily. Shop carefully.