Review: Motorola MBP36 Baby Monitor

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Consider this the first post in a new category I’ll call “Tech Dad Eric” for now.

With my wife due to deliver any day now, it was time to get the one piece of parenting equipment I had been putting off — a baby monitor system with both audio and video.  They come in two varieties:

  1. Monitors that use technology similar to a cordless phone (but with video) to connect to the camera.
  2. Monitors that use Wifi/home networks to connect to the camera.

They each have their advantages.  Option 1 establishes a very solid link between the camera and monitor, since the system uses its own dedicated wireless signal.  These types of connections are not as finicky as wifi.  These monitors are easily kept turned on whenever you’re in a different room from your baby.  The downside?  There is no option to send the video signal to your smartphone or computer.  You have to use the monitor that comes with the camera.

Option 2, on the other hand, tend to come in packages with no actual monitor (i.e. the screen), just the camera.  The camera plugs into your home network (or connects via wifi), where it transmits a signal that can be opened with a smartphone app or from a web page.  Your iOS device, Android device, or computer is meant to be used as the monitor.  The benefit of this kind of system is that you can (usually) access the signal even when you’re not home.  You can be across the globe and see what your baby is up to (and I’m guessing there are many times when a parent will wish they were halfway across the globe).  The downside?  It’s more difficult to have an “always on” monitor.  If your baby is asleep in the other room and you want to check on them without entering the room, you need to open an app or web browser.

To me, that defeats the whole purpose of having a baby monitor, though.  I want a system that will let me know whenever the baby wakes up as soon as it happens, not one that I have to check into.  That’s why I opted for Option 1.  After trips to both Target and Babies R Us to see what they had to offer, we opted for the Motorola MBP36 because its 3.5 inch screen was the largest we could find.  (Note: Motorola makes monitors in smaller sizes as well, which run cheaper.)

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Part of me wishes it had more of a HAL 9000-like appearance… Though I can see where that might be a problem for some people.

The Camera comes with a motorized base, allowing you to rotate and tilt it remotely.  It also has a night vision mode and even a small speaker built-in that allows you to talk to anyone in the baby’s room (and play music, but more on that later).   The closest flat surface to our crib with a good vantage point was a tall cabinet.  We placed the monitor on top of the cabinet, thinking we could just aim it down into the crib, but the camera wasn’t able to tilt down enough.  The good news is that the camera has a hook allowing it to be hung from a wall.

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We wound up just hanging it from a wall near (but not directly over) the crib.  Very easy.  It now as a “security camera”-like vantage point.  We can rotate it around to get a good look at pretty much the entire room if need be.

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The 3.5 inch screen was plenty big. The screen shows signal strength, room temperature, and battery strength. The controls are very intuitive.  The four arrows on the left of the screen, by default, control the direction of the camera.  On the right hand side, the top-most button brings up the main on screen menu, which allows you to adjust the volume and brightness, the option to play music from the camera’s speaker, the ability to “zoom” in, the ability to switch cameras (if you have an optional multiple camera set-up), and the ability to set an alarm (for you, not the baby).

The other buttons on that column allow you to turn off the screen (but keep audio going) and use the camera unit as an intercom in the other room. (The “ok” button is just an “enter” button.)

The only features that were disappointing were the music feature (the sound is very mechanical) and the digital zoom (it has only one setting and it’s very pixelated).  Fortunately, I didn’t buy it expecting to really use those features.

The monitor is battery powered, but not via normal batteries.  It has its own proprietary battery.  Before you use it, Motorola recommends you recharge the battery fully for about 16 hours.  If the battery gets low, the monitor will notify you, and you can continue to use it while it recharges.

Across the top of the screen, you’ll see 6 LED indicators.  The one furthest to the left lets you know when its recharging.  The rest are a visual indicator for audio, so you can visually see how much noise the baby is making by how many lights are lit up (even when the volume is turned down, or if you’re hearing is impaired).

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Along the side of the unit, you’ll see two ports.  The lower is for the power adapter.  The upper one is for an AV cable that will allow you to hook the monitor up to a TV set.  The needed AV cable isn’t included, but it looks to be a mini-USB port which is somewhat common.  A lot of devices (like camcorders, digital cameras, some smart phones, etc.) come with an A/V cable that uses such a port.  So you might already have a cable that will work.  I do not have one handy, though, so I’ll have to test this out later.  On Amazon, Motorola-branded cables can be had for $10.

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The back of the monitor also has a kickstand and an antenna you can raise for a stronger signal, though I had no problem getting a signal throughout my entire house even with the antenna down (including spots of the house that are a dead zone for wifi).

One feature I won’t be testing is the ability to work with multiple cameras (we don’t have a need for more than one).  According to the documentation, though, you can connect it to multiple cameras and cycle through the various feeds.  On Amazon, additional cameras sell for just under $100.

And that’s the Motorola MPB36.  It lists for $249.99, but you should be able to find it cheaper if you shop around.  If you can live with a smaller screen and a few less features (like the ability to pan and tilt remotely), there are also 2.8 inch and 2.4 inch systems that retail for quite a bit less ($180 and $130 on Amazon at the moment).

Overall, it appears to be a well-crafted, dependable product.  We look forward to using it with an actual baby…

-Eric

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27 thoughts on “Review: Motorola MBP36 Baby Monitor

  1. Pingback: Over on the tech-only blog: | buchnotes

  2. Hi there, thanks for this review. My daughter has managed to drop the monitor and broken the antenna, It still works but the antenna is loose and we need to keep it at a certain angle to make it work properly. My husband was going to repair it but there is no screw to open it up. Any advice on how to repair it? thanks

    • I took a look at my unit, but, alas, I don’t see an easy way to open the thing up. If you look in the battery hatch, there’s a small screw next to the battery that I’m guessing helps loosen the cover, but you’ll still need to pry it open further. This is when I usually turn to crazy glue to keep loose things in place (if possible). Sorry I can’t be of more help on this!

    • You mean a baby monitor that offers both an “always on” dedicated monitor and the ability to watch a stream over the internet? I didn’t find one other in my search, but I know people who buy the latter, then use an old iOS device (like one of the earlier touchscreen iPods) as the dedicated monitor. They put the iPod in a cradle with power so it always stays on.

  3. We just received our MBP36, however after full charging it, when we turned it on we didn’t get any video – either it shows a white screen with Motorola logo, a black screen, or a screen with large pixels that are various shades of green and purple. Sound and temperature works, along with panning. It also correctly detects night mode vs day mode. I turned off all wifi in our house and no improvement.

    Did you have any of these problems? It would be awesome to know a work around. I plan to send it back to supplier after the holiday period, but baby is due in next week or two, so would love to get it working sooner.

  4. Any chance anyone knows how to repair the cameras? One of ours does some exorcist stuff after being on for awhile. It starts panning to the right and the motor keeps trying to pan and it eventually no longer is picked up by the monitor, so the monitor starts to beep like the camera is out of range. Even shutting it off or unplugging then plugging back in, doesn’t help. The camera still stays stuck so we have to let it “rest” just to get a good 10 minutes of view time….not conducive to trying to keep an eye on your little one. We are past our 1 year warranty so I don’t think there’s much else to do. Just wanted to know if anyone else has had this issue and if theres a way to remedy the problem before we buy a new one. Any help is appreciated!

  5. Just wondering how you went/are going with your monitor?? We’ve only just started using ours after recently putting our little one in a cot. I followed all the instructions in regards to charging but have found the battery life of the monitor to be absolute s***. The battery lasts about 4ish hours before needing to be recharged…. has anyone else had this issue and is there anything we can do/buy to fix this???

    • Hi Carrie,

      My battery life isn’t any better. It hasn’t been a problem for me, though, probably because the only time we’d use it for a long stretch of time is at night when the baby is sleeping, and that’s when we keep the monitor plugged in next to our bed. During the day, our child naps for only about an hour or two, so the battery life is more than fine for that (that’s when we bring the monitor all the around the house with us). If you find yourself needing many hours of use and you aren’t near a plug, I can see where just four hours would be an issue. Sadly, I don’t know of a “fix” since I don’t think any replacement battery will be better… If anyone else has any suggestions, I’m curious as well.

      -Eric

      • Hi guys,
        We normally keep it plugged in for this reason. The only time is when we are travelling and visiting family. If we are in the living room or we move to the dining rooms, then we have to take it with us. We tend to turn off the video so that the battery lasts longer. Haven’t had any issues.
        Hope this helps.
        Good luck!

  6. Regarding the MBP36 camera, is there any known way to replace the ir led’s that provide the night vision. 1 of our 2 cameras seems to no longer provide that function 😛

  7. Am I correct in saying I should be able to connect this camera to my iPhone through the Monitor Everywhere app. However when I search for it and a network to connect to I can’t locate it. Are there different versions of this camera?

  8. Our monitor works fine when it’s not charging but when we go to charge it, it goes to headphone mode, this just started. Been working fine since June.

  9. Our mbp36s-2 monitor looses signal after three steps into our room. But our mbp41 has a strong signal in our bedroom however the charging port went out…how can I fix this??

  10. I have had this baby monitor for about 4 years at it has been great!! Recently, when I take it off the charger, the parent monitor does not keep a charge at all and goes dead very quickly. Does this mean that I need to replace the battery pack in it?

    • The batteries on these things definitely appear to be weak point over time — they’re not nearly as sophisticated as the batteries found in newer smart phones. The good thing is that once you unscrew the little compartment on the back of the monitor, the battery is easy to remove and replace. I would be very careful to replace it with one with the same exact specifications.

  11. Is there a way to replace the charging port? We replaced the battery and added a second camera when we had our second kid. Now the charging cord will not stay attached to the port. It is loose. Can the port be replaced?

  12. hi there, do you know if it is safe to leave the monitor plugged and on all day and eve? or should I turn it off when not in use? it gets warm to the touch and often smells like it is overheating. just wondering what you do? thanks!

    • Hmm. I’ve left mine plugged in all day, but never had a smell or have it feel warm to the touch… If that was happening to me, I would definitely be wary. (I would also think I had a faulty product…)

    • We have had two of these for 5 and 2 years respectively and they have been left plugged all day and sometimes left ON all day too and it has never smelt. I would certainly get it looked at or keep an eye on it. As a minimum put it on something not flammable and keep the area around it clear of things. Of course, put it out of reach of children.

  13. Hi there! I have the mbp36sbu baby monitor and have an extra camera that is mbp36bu (note no ‘s’!) is there a way I can connect this camera to the monitor? The pairing exercise wasn’t successful… I’m hoping there still is a way to do it so I can have a second camera!

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