Candidly, the baby monitor was probably the only piece of baby gear in which I was truly interested as we shopped for our impending little one. Cribs and strollers and swaddles are all good, necessary pieces of baby accoutrement, but the baby monitor? Now we are talking about gear—electronics—and that’s my domain.
We tried the brand-new Netgear Arlo Baby, which is an offshoot of Netgear’s popular line of Arlo home surveillance cameras. The Arlo family includes a host of different cameras that all unify around Netgear’s Arlo brand, and the Arlo Baby, one of the newest additions, takes what Netgear learned in years of home surveillance and brings it to baby monitoring. Knowing a good friend used Arlo to monitor his house (inside and out), I was curious to see how the brand would handle the realm of baby products.
The Arlo Baby looks kind of like two scoops of ice cream on top of each other. The bottom scoop, if you will, is the base. The top scoop is the camera, and it can pivot up and down on the base for vertical adjustments. Horizontal adjustments can be made by simply pivoting the unit.The entire contraption comes with a removable colorful plastic cover to dress the Arlo Baby as something cute and kid-friendly. The default is a green bunny rabbit, with big tall ears and little feet to help the camera sit securely. Admittedly, the covers are not for everyone, but they are a nice touch. So far, our little one is too small to pay them much mind, but it does help soften an otherwise techy-looking white camera contraption leering over the crib.
The Arlo Baby comes in two configurations. The first configuration consists of simply the camera, a USB charging cable and mounting hardware. The second includes a small tablet to use as a dedicated viewing monitor. We reviewed the base configuration and have not found ourselves missing the dedicated viewer too much. Both versions are powered by the USB cable but can also run for a few hours (probably not an entire night) on battery power if you need to move them around the house.
Setting up and using the camera is refreshingly easy. Where the Arlo Baby shines, and where Netgear has clearly shown its value, is in its combination of hardware and software. The Arlo Baby uses a dedicated app that helpfully lets you pair the camera with your phone quickly and easily. We made an account with Netgear, and I was then able to invite my wife to also share the camera. The app launches quickly and uses the fingerprint sensor on your phone for authentication (or a manual login and password). In either case, the security is a nice touch, ensuring that random people do not stumble upon your baby’s video feed.
Once setup, the Arlo Baby is a joy to use. The video quality is configurable. We have a fiber internet connection, so we use that bandwidth to take advantage of full 1080p HD streaming, which looks great; the quality can also scale down as necessary, and we found the picture perfectly usable at 720p. The picture is bright, crisp and clear, and you can configure how wide the lens angle shoots, selecting from a 90- to 130-degree field of view.
At night, the video automatically converts into night vision with impressive coverage and brightness. The audio stream, which can be tuned to various microphone sensitivities, is equally clear. I worried it would sound like a two-way radio but it is much closer to a streaming video call.
The Arlo Baby packs an array of helpful features. First, it can play audio. It comes with a small built-in library of lullabies, white noise and ocean sounds, which can all be activated remotely from within the app (and then play out of the unit). The music can be set to play for a dedicated amount of time, or to repeat, and you can change volume and skip tracks as you please. There is also additional onboard storage to either (a) download items from the “Cloud Library” or (b) record your own voice. Although the storage is pretty paltry all things considered, it is a nice touch.
Second, the unit can act as a remote night-light. Within the app, you can activate a light, which glows softly on the back of the camera (top scoop) piece, emitting a soft, welcoming glow. The light can be set to a timer, the brightness is configurable and you can choose its color from a virtually limitless wheel of options.
Third, the unit can act as a two-way microphone, letting you speak to your baby in real time. We have not used this feature much, and wonder if it would be a bit jarring to the baby (“Why does the robo-rabbit sound like mom?”), but again, it seems like a nice touch.
We have been particularly impressed by how configurable the Arlo Baby is. The unit hides an array of built-in sensors for air temperature, humidity and quality. You can set custom alert points so that if the temperature climbs above or drops below a certain threshold, you get an in-app alert, an e-mail or both. The default alert settings were a bit overwhelming but we were able to dial them back without too much trouble. The sensors also let you view graphs of temperature, humidity and air quality over the past week.
In creating the Arlo Baby, Netgear clearly leveraged its experience in the video sphere and its expertise both in hardware and software to create a tech-friendly seamless monitor experience. Whether you could care less about streaming rates or obsess over tweaking hertz values, the Arlo Baby is a strong choice for your nursery.
To buy: amazon.com