Friday, November 10th, 2006
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
- Two-way communication
- Static-free listening
- Temperature readout and alarm
- 900 foot range
Read on for an in-depth assessment.
Designed to Impressâ€”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.
Setupâ€”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 receptionâ€”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 operationsâ€”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 Intercomâ€”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 Readoutâ€”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.
Lullabiesâ€”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!”
Nightlightâ€”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.
Power Sourcesâ€”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 Alarmâ€”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 Loopsâ€”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.
Operationâ€”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 Improvementsâ€”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 Valueâ€”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.
- Official monitor web site (model SCD589)
- Traditional official product page
- Froogle list of retailers
This product was submitted to Thingamababy for review. Feel free to ask me follow-up questions about this product.