ProsWorks with both handheld monitor and smartphones; motion and sound detection; built-in battery
ConsExpensive; slow camera lens and pan/tilt operation; weak night vision; WiFi disconnections
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!