VTech has been busy bringing peace of mind to parents with its expanded line of baby monitors this year. We were lukewarm on the Safe & Sound Expandable HD Video Baby Monitor, a Wi-Fi enabled system that took cues from popular home security cameras, but felt like a work in progress. The conventional VTech VM5271 Expandable Digital Video Baby Monitor, however, is more impressive, bringing together some of the best features baby monitors have to offer.
The VTech VM5271 comes in two flavors: a single-camera ($159.95) option and a two-camera ($229.95) package. Both include a handheld “parent unit” monitor. You can purchase additional cameras—the monitor supports up to four—for $59.95 each.
No matter how many cameras you use, setting them up is a pretty simple affair. First you install the rechargeable battery in a compartment beneath the monitor’s kickstand, then you plug in the monitor’s AC power cord. VTech recommends you use both power sources together for continuous monitoring, and reserve battery power for when you’re moving around the house.
Next you plug in the camera(s). When you power on the parent unit it displays the live video.
As the camera will presumably remain fixed on your baby, its articulation is limited to tilting up and down a few inches to get an optimum viewing angle into your child’s bed, whether you set it on a tabletop or mount it with the supplied wall bracket. VTech says the camera has an operating range of about 160 feet indoors, and it had no problem maintaining a connection as I walked with the monitor downstairs and even a short distance outside my house.
The camera has a 110-degree wide-angle view, which is plenty to cover an average-size nursery, but video quality isn’t great. Noise was apparent, even when viewing the monitor at a distance, and neutral tones took on a purplish color cast. None of this really detracts from seeing if your baby has rolled onto their stomach or the dog is climbing into the crib, so take it for what it’s worth.
Once the camera is set up, you can manage all its features and monitor your baby’s environment from the parent unit. In addition to the camera image, the 5-inch high-resolution LCD displays the temperature and the sound level in the room the camera is monitoring, the latter via a nine-level sound indicator. It will also display various camera modes—split screen, night vision, etc.—as they’re…