The Motorola MBP36 is a standard audio/video monitor with one feature that sets it apart from other monitors — it has an AV out port that allows users to hook the monitor to a TV and watch a much larger version of their sleeping baby. Unfortunately, that great feature is overshadowed by some of its other primary (and more necessary) features being subpar, particularly the lack of a constant video stream.
The Motorola MBP36 monitor retails for around $154 and allows users to pair up to four cameras.
This monitor is a little more difficult to set up than others I’ve evaluated. The packaging seems like it was created with displays in mind, which makes this about as easy to get out of the box as one of your kid’s electronic toys. After extraction from the box, you will need a tiny screwdriver to access the battery door, where you will plug in the rechargeable ion battery.
From there it’s as simple as placing the camera on the shelf, charging the parent unit, and getting started. However, out of the box I noticed an immediate problem: the tilt function did not work, which left me unable to move the camera up and down with the parent unit (I could only adjust it manually). As I looked into other user reviews, I noticed a few other complaints about this, as well. The inability to use the tilt function was particularly frustrating because there is no wall mount option for the camera, so if you move the shelf where it sits you may have to manually adjust the camera to set it where it needs to be. If your baby is not in a confined space, this issue limits the camera’s usefulness drastically.
We were excited about the AV output feature that allows for TV viewing. Who doesn’t want to see their adorable baby sleeping on a giant screen? This functionality worked fine for me, and it’s as simple as plugging an V cable (not included) from the monitor to your TV, then changing the input of the TV. There is a note in the User’s Guide that the monitor’s power must already be turned on with the camera selected before plugging it in, because once it is hooked to the TV, the controls cannot be activated.
Hooking the monitor up to the TV was fun, but that excitement wore off pretty quickly as I began to test out other areas of functionality. While the Motorola MBP36 has plenty of potential to be a great baby monitor, issues with some very basic functions hold it back.
The parent unit display includes battery level, temperature, camera number, and signal strength. There is no digital clock, though there is plenty of room for one on this 3.5” diagonal color screen. Along the left side of the parent unit are four directional buttons to control pan and tilt. Along the right side of the monitor are buttons for the menu, an OK button, the video on/off button, and a talk button for two-way communication. The parent unit is really light, and if it had a clip on it and the battery performed better, it would easily hang onto a waistband for added mobility.
If you want to be mobile at all while you use the parent unit, this is definitely not the monitor for you. For one, the battery life is very poor. It comes with a rechargeable battery, and is supposed to work for 3.5 hours. I ran a few different battery tests when I noticed that it didn’t seem to be holding a charge for very long. As my needs were primarily for video, I did three different tests with me refreshing the video monitor. The battery life ranged from 40 to 80 minutes. The dramatic difference was likely due to an overnight charge for the 80 minute test, though each time the display showed a full battery (meaning the battery level display is unreliable). In addition, there is almost no warning when the battery is about to die. Two quick beeps and it jumps right to dead — twice it showed two battery bars and then died within five minutes.
To be true to the recommended functionality of the product, I also measured the battery life with just the audio on, only occasionally turning on the video function to check the battery life. Even during this test, the battery only lasted for 1 hour and 40 minutes, far below the claimed 3.5 hour battery time. Since the battery level doesn’t display with the video off, it is even more difficult for users to know when the unit is about to die, as it does so very abruptly. The only way to tell that it is no longer functioning is that the audio level LED at the top disappears.
The Motorola MBP36 baby monitor’s overall functionality is limited, because it automatically shuts off the video screen after two minutes of use when the parent unit is not plugged into a power source. There is no option to leave it on – if you want video and you’re not plugged in, you have to constantly hit the video display button. So you’ll want to keep your monitor near a power outlet for full functionality.
The monitor combo has a range of up to 590 feet, which would be great if you could walk that far without the battery dying. The camera also features two-way communication between units and a temperature sensor – both functioned fine. Under the menu, users can also find alarm options.
The lullaby function plays five different songs, but the volume on the child unit is so low that unless the camera is next to a baby’s head, they won’t actually benefit from it. In fact, those with the parent unit probably wouldn’t be able to keep the unit on long enough for it to benefit baby, because the music plays very loudly over the monitor unit. This isn’t just annoying — it covers up any sounds that baby might be making. The only way to turn down the music is to turn down the entire unit – once the audio function is turned down and the video function isn’t working because you’ve moved away from an outlet, one begins to wonder what the point is.
The Motorola MBP36 runs on a secure, dedicated 2.4GHz frequency that the company claims is secure and free from interference.
Who it Might be Good For
- Users who don’t mind plugging in the monitor to see a constant video feed
- Users seeking a more established name brand
- Users whose children sleep in cribs and bassinets
Who It Might Not Be Good For
- Users who bed share or have children with special needs and need a constant video stream
- Users who are mobile while monitoring their child
Despite its fun AV out feature, the Motorola MBP36 is hampered by its limitations. A parent unit with exceedingly poor battery life and no option for a permanent mobile video feed will likely push prospective buyers in other directions.