WiFi Baby 3G baby monitor: Watching your baby from afar

Most parents want to keep a close eye on their baby, especially when he or she is sleeping in their room down the hall. Rather than check obsessively, which is what I did when I had my first baby, products like the WiFi Baby 3G let you easily watch your child from afar. Best of all, you can see and hear them without stumbling into their room and accidentally waking them up.

The WiFi Baby 3G is a small color and infrared camera housed in an attractive white or black shell. The camera comes with a mounting bracket that lets you attach it to a wall or a stand. The camera has a solid square body with an antenna that is enclosed in thick plastic. It definitely can sustain a fall without breaking. The front of the camera has a color camera, a cluster of IR sensors, a microphone, a power indicator and a light sensor that'll switch the camera from color view to infrared view. It's made by Y-cam and is a quality camera.

Unlike most baby monitors which send audio over the same 900MHz bandwidth used by cordless phones, the WiFi Baby works over your home WiFi network. To set it up wirelessly, you must first connect it to your router using a network cable and use the included software to setup the IP address, camera login credentials and other initial features. The setup is extremely easy, and there's an excellent customer support option that'll walk you through the process one step at a time. If you still have problems, a customer service rep can even connect to your computer using a screen sharing tool and set it up while you watch.

If you have a plug-n-play UPnP router, the WiFi Baby 3G will be configured for outside access, which lets you view the camera stream using your cell phone's 3G connection. If you don't have UPnP, you will have to configure port routing manually on your router. I tested the WiFi baby remotely, and the video streamed nicely. There was some lag, but it's not really noticeable until someone starts moving the monitor at home. One nice feature is the time and date stamp on the video. This is fed from the baby monitor and is included to let you know the monitor is still working.

The WiFi Baby 3G has lots of viewing options for parents that stay at home and for those on the go. There's a viewer for the Mac, the PC, iOS and Android devices. I tested both the iOS app and the Mac app; both worked extremely well. On first launch, both apps will scan the network for the camera and pull down the IP address. You will have to enter your username and password to connect to the camera and receive the audio and video stream. These settings are then saved for future use.

The iOS app works on the iPhone and the iPad and lets you watch video and listen to audio on your device. In normal view, the video stream appears in a box at the top of the screen, and the audio levels are below. You can tap the video feed or the audio to mute it and then tap it again to turn it back on. The app has lots of settings to change what you see. You can customize the audio to display either a 5, 10 or 20 minute history or set up alerts for when the baby starts to cry. You can also change the appearance of the app by selecting a pink, blue or night theme.

The Mac app is very different from the iOS app. It's from Y-Cam and is general surveillance app. It's not as pretty as the iOS version, but it has several features the iOS version lacks. Because it's a desktop app, the video window is much larger, and the audio is much louder. The video clarity is a bit grainy when you are viewing it at this larger resolution. It's still viewable, just not as nice as the iOS app. With one click, you can record a video stream or take a snapshot which is saved to the hard drive. The app even supports more than one camera feed. We tested it with only one WiFi Baby 3G, but you could use it with several more if you wanted.

The WiFi Baby produces a clear video stream and loud audio. It's great as a color camera and even better in night mode. The video at night is nice and bright, and lets you see your little one while he or she sleeps. If you position it correctly, you can even see your baby breathe. It's a real pleasure to use a camera that doesn't cut costs by making it pretty on the outside and then slapping in a low-quality lens and sensor. You can tell from the moment you turn it on; the WiFi Baby is built from the ground up to be an exceptional surveillance camera.

Speaking of the position, that's my only complaint about this monitoring solution. Unlike the rival iBaby monitor which moves, the WiFi baby is stationary. You can use the mount to get the right angle, but once it's set, the WiFi baby can't be changed remotely. You can't pan it left or right or scan up or down using your iPhone or computer.

This isn't a big deal if you are watching a baby that's sleeping, but it could be a problem if you are trying to follow a toddler playing in his room. The camera partially makes up for its fixed position with a lens that captures a wide part of the room. I set it up in the boy's room, and I was able to see about 75% of the space. It was only the extreme left and the extreme right that I could not see. If you don't mind this limitation, then the WiFi Baby is an excellent choice for a video-enabled baby monitor. The audio and video are excellent, and, best of all, it's easy to configure and use.

You can read about the WiFi Baby 3G and watch some demo videos on WiFi Baby's website. There's also an unboxing and setup video from WiFi baby embedded below. The wireless monitor costs US$279 and is available from WiFi Baby's online store.