Review: Philips DECT Digital Baby Monitor SCD589

Here is a hardened, field-tested review. For a full month we’ve been using a new Philips DECT Digital Baby Monitor for naptime and bedtime in our home. I’ve previously documented my woe with two unrelated monitors,
and I’ve found the Philips model to be a comparative dream. Although
designed for babies, it has considerable advantages for my 29-month-old
daughter.

Photo of the Philips baby monitor next to a Domo-kun doll. The LCD display on the baby unit and parent unit indicate the temperature is 71 degrees and show the words 'sound alert.' Click to view an uncaptioned larger photo.In short, these are the monitor’s stand-out features:

  • Two-way communication
  • Static-free listening
  • Temperature readout and alarm
  • 900 foot range
  • Stylish

Read on for an in-depth assessment.

Designed to Impress—Out of the box, this monitor is designed to wow you. It comes in a zippered nylon travel case with each component fitting neatly into an inset molded plastic frame. Although, at 12″x8″x6″ it seems oversized for its purpose. Parents have too much baby gear to haul with them in a car or suitcase. Still, the case conveys pride in ownership.

The baby room transmitter and portable parental receiver have a certain pleasing simplicity with their rounded design. Their marigold accents remind me of an egg cracked into a frying pan. The aesthetic speaks for itself in the product photos, but when explaining the monitor’s operation to our babysitter earlier this week, she summed it up in one word: swank.

Two photos of the Philips baby monitor travel case. One shows the outside with a baby's face and the words 'baby case' embroidered on the side. The second shows the baby monitor components seated inside an opened case. Click to view an enlarged uncaptioned version of this image.

Setup—A pictorial quick-start guide gets you up and running easy in 16 hours flat. That’s how long it takes the batteries to charge in the parent unit, but after that, setup is a snap. I turned both units on, watched two “link” lights blink at each other, and then they connected. A separate manual explains the features in greater detail.

Static-free reception—This monitor is the first to use the DECT standard (Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications) that is deployed in digital portable phones for zero signal interference. In other words, no static! I don’t know much about DECT, but SafeKids.co.uk has a page talking about digital monitor safety. Like all electronic devices, it’s good to keep a couple feet distance from them for long-term use.

Unlike other monitors I’ve used, this one doesn’t cough when I use my microwave or unexpectedly pick up one side of my neighbor’s French phone conversations. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the baby monitor industry. One of Philips’ chief selling points is that its product actually performs the way it’s supposed to perform. It’s quiet except when your baby cries.

A Philips news release states the company “guarantees no eavesdropping or interference from any other device (other baby monitors, cordless phones and cell phones).” The monitor automatically and continuously scans and selects from 60 radio channels.

Remote operations—Many of the monitor’s features can be activated or reconfigured by remote, including lullabies and a nightlight. You simply press the Menu button, then Up/Down/OK buttons while reading the LCD screen prompts.

Talkback Intercom—Unlike most monitors, this one lets you listen to and speak with your child. The parent unit functions and is held like a walkie-talkie, allowing one person to communicate at a time. A little bit of experimentation is required to understand how loud your voice sounds over the baby’s loudspeaker. The volume is adjustable.

I wish I had this feature when my daughter was a baby. There were numerous times when we would be in her room when she fell asleep, only to have her wake later and cry at our absence. It would be quite devious to whisper through her speaker and make her think we were dutifully sitting awake in her room all night long.

At a wiser 29-months-of-age, my Little Miss was surprised when I began speaking by remote. The first couple days she thought the machine was talking to her, which at her age makes sense. You can converse with inanimate objects, right? It’s also a load of fun for one parent to be with Little Miss doing things and then have the other parent join the conversation via loudspeaker. It’s always to say something funny, and only works when we forget to turn off the baby monitor in the morning. (That’s not any failing of the design; it’s a habitual problem with every monitor we’ve used.)

When we put our daughter to bed, she cries out within minutes of our leaving the room. “Papa I need you!” In the past, I had to walk from one end of the house to the other (we have a horribly devised L-shaped house), only to realize she’s stalling with excuses to avoid going to sleep. Now when she cries out, I pick up the parent unit and ask, “What do you need, honey?” Nine times out of ten we resolve issues without revisiting her room.

Temperature Readout—Both units display the temperature in the baby’s room. The parental unit can be configured to sound an alarm if the baby’s room exceeds a minimum or maximum temperature you have preset.

The temperature reporting helped us understand why my daughter would sometimes sweat at night, even without a blanket. Her room is small and well insulated with thermal curtains, a full 4 degrees warmer than in the family room where our thermostat is located. So now we know to set the thermostat much lower.

Lullabies—The baby unit can play one of five lullabies or all five in a loop for five minutes. Each lullaby is about 30 seconds long and sounds like synth music, like you hear on many crib mobiles. I dislike that quality of music, instead preferring to play an ocean surf or an Enya CD on a regular boom box. Still, there was a certain “cool!” factor in activating the music by remote and surprising my crying daughter into silence. Then she proclaimed, “The monitor is playing music!”

Nightlight—The baby unit’s face can illuminate with crescent-shaped dots, via controls on either units. Philips describes the light as a starry sky. I already use a wall socket nightlight, but a built-in light is a nice feature. If used regularly, it will help when you travel because your child can be comforted by her familiar nightlight known from home.

Two photos of the baby unit. One shows the face and buttons. The second shows the face as seen in complete darkness with the nightlight turned on. A series of yellow dots shine in a crescent shape. The word

Power Sources—The parent unit sits in a docking bay to recharge batteries that ship with the product, and is reported to have an 8 hour life between charges. Meanwhile, the baby unit is intended to be plugged into a wall socket, but can be powered by four regular AA batteries.

Carefully consider when purchasing a baby monitor where your baby will sleep. If she sleeps and naps in multiple rooms, you’ll prefer a baby unit that recharges in a docking bay. If your child will always sleep in the same room, like mine does, you won’t mind battery power being an after-thought like it is with Philips and many other monitors. I installed batteries in the baby unit simply to cover my bases in the event of a power outage.

In my ideal world, both units would have recharging docking bays, but I haven’t seen such a universal baby monitor on the market. To Philips’ credit, the battery compartment on the baby unit is accessed with a simple whole hand twisting motion (a Godsend if you are regularly using batteries). Other monitors I’ve used secure batteries behind screw-in plates, even though a baby isn’t likely to ever hold a monitor. My two-year-old daughter hasn’t figured out regular battery compartments yet, let alone one that requires a grip-and-twist.

Sound Levels and Alarm—The parent unit has 5 volume levels with 5 corresponding yellow lights. There is a configurable beeping alarm in the event you turn the volume off and your baby’s screams spike past a certain trigger point (shown in the photo at the top of the page that shows a Domo-kun
doll). The baby unit has a volume setting too, for configuring the loudspeaker that will carry your voice to your child.

The maximum volume of the parent unit is the one area where I have to knock Philips. First, let me say the volume is more than adequate to hear a screaming baby. No problems. But in my case, I’m trying to decipher a delicate 2-year-old girl’s voice speaking sentences while I’m working on my computer and have a TV or radio buzzing in the background. I hear her just as I would hear a crying baby, but to understand what she’s saying I have to put the receiver next to my ear. I’d like the receiver to be able to double its existing decibel output so that spoken words boom out across a noisy distracted room.

Clips and Loops—The parent unit can sit upright on a table, be clipped to your belt, or hang around your neck with an included lanyard. The two latter options are made possible via a locking jack on the back of the unit where you hook in the belt clip or lanyard.

Operation—Overall the controls are easy to use. The parent unit is intended to be held like a walkie talkie, with your index finger hitting the talk button and your thumb controlling both front panel buttons and two buttons on the right side.

Suggested Improvements—In addition to the speaker volume issue and desiring a docking station for the baby unit, the baby unit would benefit from a raised nubbin added to the nightlight button. A couple times I found myself in my daughter’s dark room trying to change a setting, having to guess which button activated the night light so that I could see the labels on the other buttons. All of these are trivial issues, but would make a great product even better.

Price and Value—As of this writing, the Philips baby monitor retails for about $200. Your inevitable question will be, is it worth the price? I will say this: The static-free reception of the Philips monitor and two-way communication are very helpful, much appreciated features. If your home situation calls for a baby monitor, you’ll find it to be one of the few baby products you will use for 3, 4 or 5 years… and on a daily basis, no less. Philips has strayed away from an industry known for 90 day and 12 month warranties, offering a 2 year warranty on this monitor. I take that as a statement of faith in its quality.

This product was submitted to Thingamababy for review. Feel free to ask me follow-up questions about this product.

Comments

5 Responses to “Review: Philips DECT Digital Baby Monitor SCD589”

  1. Mark says:

    Not sure if this went through the first time around so sorry if this is a dupe comment.

    That $200 price tag is pretty steep — that would rank as one of the most expensive things in my son’s bedroom, and certainly the most expensive non-furniture item. After your experience with it for a month, is it something that you would feel good about spending that amount of money on if Phillips took it back tomorrow and you had to go buy one?

    November 13th, 2006 at 7:54 pm

  2. AJ says:

    Excellent question. Yes, I’d buy the Philips monitor for several reasons.

    #1 Parents spend tons of money on small things that are outgrown in a few months. The larger purchases are for gear that lasts throughout toddlerhood and still has considerable resale value. Even if we don’t have a second child next year, I’ll probably still need a monitor for a couple more years.

    #2 The monitor falls in the middle of my major purchases ($150 changing table [almost outgrown], $200 baby gates [now outgrown], $300 for Amby Baby hammock [outgrown at 8 months], $350 stroller). I use a baby monitor now twice a day. I use the stroller maybe three times a month. A baby monitor packs a lot of bang for my buck.

    #3 The no-static and two way communication rocks. I always marveled at the monitors that have a video camera, but they seem extravagant, a luxury. The walkie-talkie function of the Philips monitor is extremely useful with my daughter.

    Someone who needs a baby monitor either has a big house or thick walls. I have a long house – family room at one end, baby room at the other. It’s tiresome to walk back to my daughter’s room 10 times after the official bedtime just to listen to stall tactics. I now revisit her room about one time every other night, and only for good reasons (water cup needs refilling, I forgot to put her favorite doll in her bed, she wants our cat off her bed, etc.).

    November 13th, 2006 at 9:12 pm

  3. EHC says:

    what is the max distance over which you have used the monitor? Have you used it in places like a hotel or guest house where the dining room is on a different floor from the kids room and the place is teaming with wireless networks, mobile phones and other sources of interference.

    I tried a walkie-talkie as a means to get around these problems, but it cut in and out so quick you couldn’t tell what the noise was about, so no use really.

    February 14th, 2007 at 1:04 pm

  4. Emily says:

    This is a great monitor!!! It is crystal clear and well worth the price. I will never get another monitor unless they come up with something in this brand that is better. I don’t know what kind of features they could add to make it better. It is outstanding:)

    April 11th, 2008 at 11:49 am

  5. LOG says:

    PLEASE RESEARCH ALL THE DANGERS FROM DECT TECHNOLOGY!!!

    It is like putting a cell tower in your babies bedroom.

    August 18th, 2008 at 10:43 am