The First Years Home and Away Portable Digital Video Monitor

By Published On: June 23rd, 2011

We have had video monitor envy for a while now. […]

We have had video monitor envy for a while now.
portable monitorWhen our 2 year old son was born, we got your standard audio-only monitor. We could hear him when he cried or woke up, but that was all it did. It served its purpose and worked fine. However, when we went on a trip with friends, they all had video monitors for their kids and so we began to covet our friends’ video monitors. It was amazing to watch the kids and we knew we just had to have one. However, they are expensive and we had a perfectly fine audio monitor, so we never got one. When we were expecting our second child, we continued to drool over the video monitors every time we went shopping but still were not sure it was worth investing in one. So when we got the opportunity to test and review The First Years Home & Away Digital Video Monitor, we jumped at the chance. When we got the video monitor, our newborn was still sleeping in the room with us, so we set it up in our 2 year old’s room. He is in a big boy bed now and we couldn’t wait to be able to watch and see what he did after we left the room.
The monitor is ready to use right out of the box after simply inserting the battery pack in the parent unit. The camera can be set on top of a piece of furniture or simply mounted to the wall. Both the camera and the parent unit have long power cords (10 feet) which prevents having to use an extension cord. The screen is just the right size to see what our child is up to and the night-vision turns on automatically. The unit does have a long range (advertised as 650 feet range). We live in a three story house and the camera was set up in the front bedroom on the top floor and the parent’s unit still had a clear picture in the basement at the back of the house. We could even sit on our back porch outside and still have a clear view of what was going on. The parent unit has a battery pack that recharges and the camera can be used with 3 AA batteries which will be handy for when we are traveling. The parent unit also has the ability to act as a walkie-talkie which has allowed us to soothe our son back to sleep by talking to him through the camera rather than having to go into his room. There is also a night light on the camera that can be turned on remotely from the parent unit.
When we received the monitor, we were anticipating purchasing an additional camera so that we could have cameras in both of our children’s rooms. Unfortunately we learned (by calling The First Years’ customer support line) that additional cameras would not be available until sometime in the Fall of 2011 and that a retail price for the additional cameras had not been set yet. We were also excited that we could use the monitor via Skype so that the grandparents could see the kids. Unfortunately, the software included with the system in the box is required in order to utilize the Skype functionality and the software is only available for Windows. We have two Macs and the customer support line reported that there is currently no plan to have software available for Macs.
Although the unit has a color screen this is really unnecessary because when the unit is being used in night-vision mode it defaults to black and white. It also advertises that it can zoom and pan for a closer look. It does zoom and pan, but only within the image that it is already transmitting. The camera does not move remotely. The parent unit includes a headphone jack, which we didn’t really see the need for. A design flaw located the headphone jack on the bottom of the parent unit which makes it impossible to use while having the parent unit sitting upright on a table.
The First Years Home & Away Digital Video Monitor is a great purchase. It is very competitively priced and has all the features we envied for so long. Once additional cameras are available in the Fall, we will surely purchase them. We highly recommend it, but warn that watching your children sleep is very addictive.