Best forFamilies who want an expandable monitor with premium sound quality, talk-back and lullabies
Top Benefits12-hour battery life, touchscreen clarity, sound quality
ConsiderationsCamera must be plugged in (no battery), some screen interference
Bottom lineThe Levana Willow offers a long battery life, with several unique features and quality sound and picture quality
Easy to use and expandable, the Levana Willow offers you as much or as little monitoring as you'd like. We like that the bevy of handy features—such as a feeding and nap timer, and power save mode—are there if you want to take advantage of them, but were in no way necessary if you need to set up and monitor in a jiff. From a sturdy steel monitor stand to a five-inch touchscreen with really good sharpness and colour, there’s lots to like about the Levana Willow.
The first-time set-up of the Levana Willow is fast—we were ready to roll in under five minutes. When you turn on the parent unit you’ll be presented with an on-screen tutorial which we found really helpful—it explains how to use many of the monitor's features, including the pan and tilt. Once you know what you’re doing, you can turn this feature off. The power cords for the parent unit and camera aren’t interchangeable, but the charging cord for the parent unit comes with a USB adapter, so you have more options.
The touchscreen responsiveness on the Levana Willow is decent, but not as good as some other touchscreen monitors on the market. Our hands-on parent testers were all happy with the size of the screen, two-thirds reported that the image on the screen is clear and sharp, and all agreed that the colours are true-to-life. The zoom is easy to use, and parent testers were able to zoom in enough to see the level of detail that they wanted. The infrared camera on the Levana Willow is easily triggered when you turn the lights off in your child’s room, and it has a clear, sharp image. It’s worth noting that the majority of parent testers noticed some visual interference on the screen while using the monitor, and they weren't able to resolve this.
To test how true the sound of the monitor was, we played a recording of a baby crying and listened over the parent unit from another room. The sound of the baby crying was very true to life, and the talkback feature was the truest as well—a particularly useful feature as your child grows older. While the Willow produced more white noise than other monitors we tested, the sound levels were still very quiet. And while parent testers noticed ambient or white noise coming from the monitor, they said it didn’t bother them or keep them awake.
Of all the video monitors that we tested, the lullabies on the Levana Willow were definitely the nicest. The choices were classic lullabies played on a piano, one nature sound and one in utero sound. Better yet, you can adjust the volume of the lullabies and how long they play all from the parent unit—a feature not all monitors have. We also appreciated that the speakers on parent unit of the Willow are front facing, resulting in clear sound.
All of our hands-on parent testers were happy with the pan, tilt and zoom features on the Levana Willow. Like most video monitors, the camera needs to be plugged in (i.e., there's no battery), but all of our testers found that the camera's power cord was long enough to set it up where they wanted to. During our testing, we found that the camera emitted the slightest whirring noise when we had it pan, tilt or zoom, but it was so soft that it wouldn’t wake a sleeping baby.
The monitor can be expanded as needed, with up to four cameras, and split- and quad-screen views allow you to monitor each camera simultaneously.
To test the range of all the video monitors that we looked at, we brought them to a four-storey house, placed the camera in an attic bedroom at the front of the house and walked around with the parent unit in hand. The Levana Willow lost range in rooms at the back of the house, in the backyard and on the deck. All of our hands-on parent testers found that no matter where they moved in their homes, the monitor was in range.
The signal strength icon in the upper left corner of the screen lets you keep an eye on range. Once you’re out of range, the screen goes black and a triangle with an exclamation mark appears with the message "out of range." It's a very noticeable alert, but it's worth nothing that, unlike many other monitors, there's no audible cue that you’ve lost connection with the monitor.
With a 12-hour battery life, fast charge and easy-to-see low-battery indicator, this monitor's battery is among the best. When the battery on the Levana Willow ran out, all of our parent testers said that they were able to recharge it fully in under five hours—a big plus. And we particularly liked this monitor's power save mode, which allows parents to use the monitor with audio only, extending the battery life further.
Temperature Sensor: With customizable alerts, you the temperature sensor in the Levana Willow will let you know if it’s too hot or cold in your baby’s room. This feature can help put your mind at ease, especially if you’re a new parent. All of our parent testers trusted the readings the temperature sensor gave them, and they said that if they were shopping for a new monitor, they would want it to have this feature.
Feed and Nap Timer: Set an alert for your baby's next feeding or record which side you fed on last—both very important and all too easy to forget in those sleep-deprived early days with your wee one. The nap timer is essentially a built-in stopwatch that can be set to alert you when naptime is over, with three options for alert settings: audible (a series of beeps that resemble a quiet alarm clock), on screen (an image of a clock) or both audible and on screen alerts.
The Levana Willow is loaded with useful features that perform very well, and the 12-hour battery life on the parent unit is a major plus. While it's in the higher price point range of video baby monitors, the quality and ease of use of this monitor make it well worth the cost. All of our parent testers were satisfied with the Willow and the majority would recommend it to other parents.
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