Late last year I became a father. The fun thing about being a dad, particularly of a boy, is that you get to play with toys again. One ‘toy’ I was tasked with buying recently was a baby monitor.
While there are hundreds of options available, I only really managed to find a small few brands that were available to purchase in New Zealand (including the Motorola MBP36 – jump straight to the review or read on for the background info).
Most baby monitors available in New Zealand and Australia seem to be of the brands:
Rather than buying a product based on its feature list, I like to read reviews and watch ‘real world’ videos of the product in use. While the review sites were quite scattered (with some sites having just a few highly-rated reviews for a model and others having large amounts of complaints and negative reviews for the exact same model), I was really surprised when I came across a YouTuber who has a few good reviews on baby monitors right here in New Zealand. Her name is Aleisha and she has a channel called ‘The Kiwi Mum’. In particular, she’s reviewed the ‘Uniden BW 2101’ baby monitor in this video and was so pleased with it that I went off to buy it. Sadly, despite it still being on the Uniden website, I couldn’t find it for sale anymore and guess it’s been taken off the market.
We had considered alternatives to a baby monitor – we’ve tried an awesome iPad/iPhone app called ‘Cloud Baby Monitor‘, which really is very good but of course means you can’t use your iPhone/iPad, and also an IP camera, but we really wanted something that was designed specifically for baby monitoring.
I’d narrowed down my shortlist to the Motorola and Oricom ranges and was almost settled on the Oricom SC700 (I was also looking at the Motorola MBP28 but was turned off by another of Aleisha’s reviews – she wasn’t impressed with that one). Oricom seemed a little pricey for what it was (in the late $200s) so as a final thought I went on Facebook to ask friends-who-are-parents for their feedback. One friend mentioned the Motorola MBP36 Baby Monitor which looked really good.
Reviewing the Motorola MBP36
Design, Styling and Build Quality
I know it shouldn’t be, but the look of the thing is important to me. Perhaps because of my creative occupation. Luckily I was pretty happy with the Motorola MBP36’s design.
The parent unit is pretty sleek with nice, comfortable curved edges. Buttons are easily pressed (and not in a ‘whoops, I didn’t mean to push that’ way) and have a positive feel. It has a nice kick-stand which works well for placing it on a flat surface but isn’t intended as a belt-clip. I tried and it definitely doesn’t work for that.
The visual indicators for audio are excellent and the screen quality is also very good. More on that below.
The baby unit is pretty cute – kinda resembles an Apple product or a robot from a Pixar movie. It’s quite compact and feels pretty solid. There’s a single hole on the base so that you can mount it to the wall and easily lift it off again if you need to (post earthquake note: I’m pretty confident that it wouldn’t fall off the wall in quake. It’s quite light so wouldn’t cause any damage if it did).
The range of motion (pan and tilt) for the camera – remotely operated from the parent unit – is pretty huge. When placing it on a flat surface the camera can be tilted right up to look at the ceiling, and left and right by over 90 degrees in each direction. Essentially, the movement of the camera is pretty quiet and fluid, although it did stutter slightly which would make me cautious about panning the camera excessively. You can see that in my video.
Signal, Visual, and Audio Quality
We don’t have a large house but I placed the units as far apart from each other within the house as possible, with two doors separating them, and the signal strength remained at full with no loss of quality, even with the aerial folded down (Update: since writing this the signal dropped once, beeped to alert me, then came back). I went outside (we have a brick house) and down at 30 metre driveway. The signal strength stayed at full and then dropped completely. After a few seconds with a frozen picture, the signal strength came back at full again. Note that this was with the aerial on the parent unit folded down. It would give you a bit more distance with it up, of course.
The picture quality itself is excellent. Easily all you could want from a baby monitor. It’s easy to see detail such as whether the baby’s eyes are open or closed and what objects his has lying around him. You can even see the baby’s chest rising and falling as he breathes. I was pleasantly surprised by the night mode. I have owned a cheap IP camera which boasted night-vision and it was rubbish. The Motorola MBP36’s night-vision is excellent.
It automatically comes on as the light dims (even at low light levels such as during the daytime but with curtains closed) and projects infrared light to create a pretty clear picture. This is better shown in the video, above.
Other Features of Note
The baby unit can play five different tunes which are remotely activated from the parent unit (be aware – some other units boast the tune function but have to be manually turned on from the baby unit only). These tunes aren’t great quality and are a tad too energetic, but the sound is soft enough to chill the baby out without startling him.
Parent Unit Screen Indicators
The parent’s screen has everything you need:
- Signal strength indicator
- Room temperature in C or F – seems pretty accurate
- Audio indicator (to visually see if the baby is making noises and at what level)
- Battery level
The audio indicator isn’t on the main display, which is great as you can turn off the display (it turns off automatically after a few minutes) while never losing that audio level indicator. Turn the sound off completely and sit the unit at the edge of your view while you’re watching TV and the quick flashes of colour are enough to tell you your baby’s making a scene without you accidentally missing it.
Having the room temperature on there is handier than I thought it would be. It saves you from constantly re-entering the room to see if that heater you turned on earlier is working too hard or not enough without disturbing the baby.
I was really impressed with the length of both power cables – for baby and parent unit – and I was also impressed by the range of motion of the camera and that the movement was so quiet. You can definitely tell this unit apart from unknown-brand cheap units that you’d see on 1-day sale websites, but also to its little brother, the MBP28
It would be awesome if…
The screen turns off after a few minutes when it’s on battery power. It would be good if you could set it to stay on for longer, and even better if it automatically turned back on when the audio level reaches a certain level.
Also the parent unit could do with a belt clip. It’s a little too large to put in your pocket (and you’d risk scratching the screen).
That’s really about it. Otherwise, it’s a really great unit and I’d definitely recommend it if you can get it on sale (don’t pay over $400).
Where to by the Motorola MBP36
Like I said, we bought this baby monitor from Farmers. You’d want to keep an eye out for sales, we’d certainly never pay their full shelf price of $459.99 (whaaaat!).
Baby Universe and Mighty Ape are a good source of sales. Each have their own loyalty/points scheme (but Mighty Ape’s only really lets you redeem your points on Mighty Ape branded junk like stickers, etc.).
Check out the Baby Monitor range on Baby Universe (when I looked the Motorola MBP36 didn’t show up in there but you can search for it and find it – at time of writing it’s just $345) or the link to the Motorola MBP36 on Mighty Ape and if you want to have a good look through the features it’s worth having a scan of the official user guide.