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
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.