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Can the Best (Closed-Loop) Baby Monitor Get Any Better?

Photo-Illustration: retailer

I’ve been using the Infant Optics DXR-8 baby monitor every day since my (almost) 2-year-old son was about 3 months old. It’s not necessarily fancy, but I didn’t want it to be; like many parents, I preferred a radio-frequency-enabled (or closed-loop) monitor over a smarter, Wi-Fi-enabled one because of security concerns. And the DXR-8 is widely considered one of the best monitors in that category by both experts and consumers, no less than 43,800 of whom have given it 4.5 stars on Amazon (that number seems slightly suspect, but it’s what the site claims).

As my going-on-two years of using it suggests, the DXR-8 reliably does its job. The monitor has everything you need to check on a (hopefully) slumbering baby: a color screen with night vision; a camera that zooms, tilts, and pans; an LED sound bar that depicts sound levels so you can turn the screen off if you want to; a range of up to 700 feet. It comes with additional interchangeable lenses and both the camera and receiving unit are small, lightweight, easy to travel with (and just as easy to set up and use). But as with anything one uses day in and day out, there are definitely things about the DXR-8 monitor I would change. For one, I wish it displayed the time on its screen so that I don’t also have to check my phone whenever I hear a peep in the middle of the night. I also wish its range was better: When I bring the display unit to our first-floor kitchen, it often loses connection with the camera in my son’s second-floor bedroom. And, over time, the battery on the display unit’s screen drained faster and faster, to the point that I needed to keep it plugged into a wall most of the time.

So when Infant Optics reached out to me a couple months ago about trying its newest closed-loop monitor, the DXR-8 PRO, I was intrigued. Not only because I probably have another year (at least) of monitoring my son’s sleep, but also because, with a price just $35 more than the original, I wondered how much different it could actually be? If judged by looks alone, the answer to that question would be: Not that different. The display unit is bigger and has a larger screen — up to 5 inches from 3.5 inches — but otherwise appears the same. And the cameras themselves are almost identical.

But the video display, oh, the video display! The difference between the two models is like going from — pardon the cliché — black-and-white to Technicolor. Or, quite literally, from low-def to hi-def. (The DXR-8 PRO has a high-definition screen with a resolution of 720p, a massive upgrade from the DXR-8’s standard-definition, 240p-resolution screen.) To say I didn’t recognize my toddler’s room would be a stretch, but I did honestly feel like I was seeing it clearly for the first time in my parental life, at least through the monitor. My husband and I can actually see my son’s eyes at night (it’s honestly a little creepy; he looks like a cyborg). We can also see that he stays awake staring up at the ceiling for a while after we leave the room, behavior the older model never clearly displayed.

The DXR-8 PRO’s range has also increased from 700 feet to 1,000 feet. Gone are those connectivity issues I would have when I brought the parent unit into the kitchen — in fact, I’ve found the longer range allows for an uninterrupted feed anywhere in my house. And the screen now shows the time; a small detail that makes a huge difference. The DXR-8 PRO boasts other upgrades including active-noise-reduction (ANR) technology that’s supposed to reduce background noise and amplify a baby’s sounds, along with more powerful speakers. But I honestly haven’t noticed much of a difference there. If a baby is crying, you’re going to hear it on a monitor no matter what. It’s probably too soon to say if the battery is better, given I used the DXR-8 for a lot longer than I have the DXR-8 PRO. One thing that hasn’t changed? The DXR-8 PRO also makes an awful noise when the display is out of range or when the camera is off and the screen is still on. Like the earlier model, the new one has a thermometer, too, though I find it could be more accurate. But the fact that the new system will only set folks back $35 more than the old one means buyers who are concerned about that should still have enough money to spring for a proper thermometer.

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Can the Best (Closed-Loop) Baby Monitor Get Any Better?