Motorola MBP855Connect Wireless Baby Monitor Review
We’ve tested a wide variety of wireless cameras over the past few years, including those targeted at indoor monitoring, outdoor security, and Smart Home integration. A number of these products can do double-duty as a baby camera, but today we’ll be reviewing a product directly marketed towards parents, the Motorola MBP855Connect (hereinafter the “MBP 855”). It offers a number of features you won’t find on typical security cameras, as well as a few drawbacks tied to its older design.
Read on to find out where the MBP 855 beats the competition, and where it could still use a little fine-tuning.
We’d like to extend a special thank you to Motorola for providing a sample of the Motorola MBP855Connect Wireless Baby Monitor for review.
Description and Features
For a lot of people, the MBP 855 may be the ideal baby monitoring camera. That’s not because of its performance, which we’ll discuss on the next page, but rather because of its very parent-focused features. We’ll go over these one by one.
First, you obviously get a handheld monitor with the MBP 855. While many baby cams have such a device, the MBP 855 also offers a smartphone app, which we’ll discuss a bit later on. So, in essence, the MBP 855 potentially gives you the best of both worlds. The handheld monitor is the size of a large smartphone, and provides a video and audio feed, pan and tilt controls, as well as the ability to speak through the baby cam. One of the most unique features of this device is that it allows you to turn off the screen while still listening to audio, which is truly a huge benefit to actual parents (as opposed to reviewers in an office that might be testing this product as well!). You see, any security camera that works through a smartphone app exclusively will either allow video and audio to be on, video only to be on, or no monitoring at all. For a parent trying to keep tabs on a baby in the middle of the night, none of these modes is remotely helpful. What you really want is an audio monitor. And yes, you could buy a dedicated audio monitor without any video capabilities, but then there’s not much you can do besides run into the room when you hear crying. The MBP 855 is ideal in this situation, as you can turn on the video temporarily to check in on baby without leaving your own bed, couch, or chair.
A second critical feature of the MBP 855 is that in addition the handheld monitor having a built-in battery, the camera does too, and it’s rated for “up to 3 hours.” Now, as we’ve found in the past, such batteries are often rated to last far longer than they actually do in real life, but we had the opportunity to test the battery life during an honest-to-goodness power outage. When the whole house was out of power, we were able to keep tabs on our toddler during nap time for almost 90 minutes before the power in the camera ran out. That’s not a lot of time, but it’s certainly better than nothing, which is what most security cameras provide. It could, for instance, be very helpful for quick naps outside of the crib, or for monitoring playtime. Note that the MBP 855 kit includes two identical chargers, one for the camera and one for the monitor, and while the manual suggests charging each for 16 hours before the first use, we found they charged quite a bit faster than that.
Additionally, the MBP 855 has a temperature monitor. This is really helpful to ensure that your baby’s sleep environment is comfortable. While we’ve always had a room thermometer perched on the dresser in the nursery, having a temperature reading available via the handheld monitor or smartphone app provides an extra level of comfort, particularly during the dead of winter or the peak of summer, when indoor temperatures can fluctuate wildly and vary greatly from room to room.
Another interesting feature is the ability to turn on five different lullabies remotely in order to calm your child. Each selection is a pseudo-classical tune (no lyrics), and mainly consist of piano instrumentals. We didn’t test them on our toddler, but we’ve used music in the past to soothe our child, so we have no doubt this may be helpful with some, if not all, babies.
Finally, you’ll get what the manufacturer calls a “StarGrip” in the box, which essentially allows you to mount the camera to a pole, railing, or even a doorknob. The manual specifically cautions parents not to attach it to a crib, due to the strangulation hazard, but that’s clearly the most obvious location for such a device. We’ll leave it to parents to use their personal judgement on where to mount the camera, although mounting it near children who can stand up to reach it probably isn’t a great idea.
As we’ve mentioned, there’s also a smartphone app to allow remote monitoring. It’s called “Hubble Home”, and allows you to duplicate many of the features of the handheld monitor, with the added benefit of working remotely. That’s because when using the app, you’ll actually be getting video and audio feeds over your home WiFi network, rather than the direct, proprietary camera/monitor feed, which we found only had a range of about 250 feet. We found that while this app was easy to use, it wasn’t without its issues, which we’ll discuss on the next page.
Now, let’s talk about pricing. The MBP 855 is on the expensive side at $250, but you do have to consider that it includes a handheld monitor, which adds a lot of value. Alas, for any recording functionality, it requires a contract. You can only view a snapshot (essentially, a screenshot) of sound or motion-activated events during the past 24 hours. If you’d like more than this, you can pay $2.99/mo to store 24 hours of video for four cameras, $9.99/mo for 7 days worth of recording on four cameras, or $29.99/mo for 30 days on up to ten cameras. Honestly, we don’t see anyone but a daycare center being interested in the last of these options, but we’re guessing a lot of parents would at least want the $2.99 package.
All right, let’s see how this camera performed in a real-world testing scenario!
From a very basic point of view, the MBP 855 definitely gets the job done. But we were a bit surprised at the number of performance issues we encountered. First, we found that the camera itself has a very slow lens, and in daylight, appears to transmit at about 15 frames per second, which makes video look a little choppy. In night vision mode, it slows down considerably, to about 10 frames per second, based on our estimates. This makes both live and recorded video less than pleasing to watch (keepsakes these will not be!). Making matters worse is that the screen on the handheld monitor adds additional lag. We’d guess that it’s running at about 10Hz, so when viewing a night vision stream on it, you end up seeing something that’s akin to slow motion. It’s possible that this is due to limitations in the proprietary wireless connection used by the MBP 855 to transmit to the monitor, rather than the monitor’s screen itself, but whatever the case is, it’s really not very good. Video viewed through the smartphone app looks much better. You get the full 15 frames per second (our approximation), which is certainly good enough to see motion. Night vision is still slower in this mode, but not as bad as when viewed on the handheld monitor. For a real “treat”, you can try operating pan/tilt via the handheld monitor while in night vision mode. The entire process is so slow that it’s nearly impossible to control, and overshooting your target is almost guaranteed.
Another issue is that in addition to having a very narrow field of view, the camera’s lens effectively becomes even narrower in night vision mode, which we’re guessing has to do with insufficient infrared lighting emitted by the camera to light up the surrounding area. You can see a night vision view in our screenshot of the app above, as well as in the photo of the handheld monitor below.
A final issue we had was that during our 48 hours of continuous testing, we lost the wireless connection to our router at some point, and had to initiate setup all over again, adding the existing MBP 855 as a “new” camera. We’d read user reviews commenting on this issue, and we’re sometimes a bit hesitant to take such reviews at face value. But given that the issue occured on our robust network, where we’ve had four other wireless cameras working non-stop, and without dropouts, for months, we know it’s the MBP 855 that’s at fault.
There are a few upsides to the proprietary wireless system used by the handheld monitor. First, it is set up out of the box. No downloading apps, messing with wireless networks, passwords, etc. Just turn it on and it works. Second, it does not depend on a router to work. That’s actually pretty significant. During a complete power outage, a router will shut off unless you have it on a battery backup. We experienced just such a blackout during our testing, and we were able to continue monitoring the camera while it operated on batteries, even though we had no wireless network running. That’s a pretty extreme situation, but this is also helpful for parents traveling where there won’t be a wireless signal, or where setting up a network could be difficult (as in a nanny’s or relative’s house). For some parents, this alone is worth the performance tradeoffs that using this system requires.
We should also note that if you can keep the MBP 855 connected to your home network, you’ll find the Hubble Home smartphone app very easy to use. Given that it’s designed exclusively to interact with Motorola cameras, there’s no extra clutter getting in the way, like many other smartphone apps designed to work with a variety of products. The ability to “remote in” is going to put a lot of working parents at ease, even if the wireless goes out from time to time.
Overall, we think the MBP 855 could be a very good solution for many parents. Specifically, we think it’s ideal for parents who would rather use a dedicated handheld video and audio monitor rather than a smartphone on a regular basis. This in fact could be a lot of parents, as pulling out a smartphone can be tedious, especially if you’re actually using it for something else or have it off at night. Furthermore, we really like the audio-only monitor it provides. You won’t find this on any smartphone-only product. And the best part: the system is set up out of the box for use with the MBP 855, which doesn’t require a WiFi connection at all – it uses a proprietary wireless signal. This is particulary good for less tech-savvy parents, or for taking on vacation or to a relative’s home, where setting up WiFi service can be a pain. So if you consider the MBP 855 to have WiFi only as a secondary feature, and rely on the included handheld device the majority of the time, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how useful it can be.
But it’s far from perfect. The camera performance, including speed and night vision, are sub-par, and the WiFi dropped out after less than 48 hours of use, requiring the device to be setup from scratch. We can only presume that this would occur in the future if we were to continue our testing, which we chose not to. We were also disappointed that a subscription plan is required to view any recorded video. We’ve tested several wireless cameras that provide far superior performance, as well as included video recording, for a lot less money, and in particular we recommend TP-Link’s Kasa Cam and Logitech’s Circle Cam.
There’s just one more minor detail that we want to address before concluding, and that is that this product is manufactured under license. What does that mean? Well, despite it being named “Motorola”, it is actually designed, manufactured, and supported by a company called Binatone, and Motorola simply licenses its name and logo for use on the product. Many long-time tech companies have turned to this approach, including Kodak and Polaroid, as they have essentially ceased doing business in any other respect. What you think of this approach to marketing depends on how strongly you feel that a name brand affects your purchasing decision. In our opinion, it no doubt allows Binatone to sell this product for a higher price than it otherwise would.
The Motorola MBP855Connect Wireless Baby Monitor is available for $249.99 shipped from Amazon, as of our publication date.