Philips Avent is a big player in all things baby, and when it comes to monitors, it’s one of the best.
The company produce a multitude of audio and video monitors, but the uGrow Smart is its most advanced yet.
And with a RRP of £180 it has an advanced price tag to match, being among the highest priced monitors on the market.
It is up there with the Motorola MBP853 video monitor (£129.99), the Luvion Supreme Connect (£179.99), and the BabyMoov Touch Screen monitor (£149.95), so I expected great things from this top of the range product!
What is the Philips Avent UGrow system?
It’s an application and video monitoring system. The monitor is a video monitor, but rather than it coming with its own screen unit, the camera connects wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet via the internet and you watch your baby on a special app.
The app is described by Philips as “the world’s first medical baby app with connected devices giving you (parents) personal advice that matters”. The app comes loaded with content such as breastfeeding advice, and allows you to use it as a sleep, feeding and weight tracker.
When working with the monitor it also lets you share the connection with up to 10 family members or friends so others can see your baby sleep without even being in the same house.
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I used the monitor at night and during nap time to check on my 14-month-old toddler, Thomas. I set the camera up at the end of his cot, and was able to use my iPhone or iPad to watch him from around the house.
You can buy the Philips Avent uGrow Smart Baby Monitor from John Lewis, Toys R Us, and Kiddicare.
What is the sound quality of the Philips Avent uGrow baby monitor like?
The monitor has HD sound quality which is excellent, however, because it is connected through the internet there is a slight time delay.
So I could hear Thomas cry through the bedroom wall, a few seconds before it came through on the monitor.
What is the picture quality like?
The picture quality is second to none. It is high definition and it was like seeing Thomas on a wide-screen HD television.
I could see every feature on his face as he slept, unlike other monitors which are often quite blurry. The picture quality on the uGrow was impressive.
What’s the night vision quality like?
I used the monitor mostly at night, and the picture quality using the night vision was again, excellent.
As it works via the internet, what safety features does it have to stop hackers?
Philips say the monitor uses secure and private SafeConnect Technology to work across available networks (ie – 3G/4G/wifi) and the app automatically matches bandwidth and provides you with the optimum connection to your baby.
If the internet connection drops out, the monitor will constantly reconnect and notifies you if your connection cannot be restored.
I actually found this the most frustrating thing of all about using the monitor – it kept losing connection.
Despite us having a brilliant wifi connection in our house (which is only a bog standard three bed – not a giant mansion with acres of rooms relying on one connection), the monitor would lose connection constantly.
It does try to reconnect, and in the meantime it changes to audio only, but 9 times out of 10, it couldn’t reconnect.
The app sends you a notification telling you it’s dropped connection – which is really helpful when you’re sat downstairs at 8pm watching TV. Not so helpful at 3am when your iPhone is beeping at you endlessly.
It was more often than not the app that would cause me sleepless nights – not my crying baby. He was sound asleep and I was wide awake cursing the monitor!
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What do you think of the nightlight?
The nightlight was good, although I didn’t really use it. The infrared and power lights on the camera were actually very bright, and were plenty to see Thomas if I needed to go in and check on him.
How was it with background noise?
The sound quality is so good it’s bound to pick up any other noise going on in the vicinity but we didn’t experience any problems with background noise.
How easy was it to set up?
Virtually impossible! The idea is that you set up the camera (which in itself is quite simple) then download the app to connect the two. Sounds easy, right?
Three days and a lot of huffing and puffing later, I was still no further forward. I even contacted Philips customer support who were no help whatsoever.
The idea is that once you download the app, you use the camera to scan a QR code and it automatically connects.
Well that’s what the instructions say, but my camera was having none of it. I was literally ready to throw the thing out of the window before I’d even started.
Eventually, after deleting the app and downloading it again SIX TIMES it finally worked.
What do you think of the feature to invite loved ones to use the monitor?
My husband Nick and I both set up our own accounts on the app, so we could log in independently.
I loved this feature of the monitor, as he often works away during the week, so he could still log in and see Thomas asleep from his hotel room, while I was at home.
Alternatively, I was able to log in during an evening out with my friends to see that Thomas had gone down peacefully.
You could actually invite up to 10 people to watch-in from wherever they are. This is a lovely feature if you have grandparents who want to check-in now and again.
What do you think of the lullabies and the talk back function?
Both features are nice to have, although I don’t ever need to use the lullabies (I luckily have a sleeper for a toddler) and I’d rather go into his room than talk through a machine and freak him out. But I can see they’d be helpful for some parents.
Is it easy to move about the house and transport?
I didn’t need to move it about the house, as I only used it when Thomas was in his cot. But if I wanted to take it to my parents when he stayed there, it would mean having to start the whole rigmarole of setting it up from scratch using their wifi and the QR code.
After my initial experience, I wasn’t prepared to do this. So no, it’s not that easy to move from house to house in comparison to a monitor which comes with a screen unit that you just plug in.
How long do the batteries last?
The monitor doesn’t have batteries, it only works when it is plugged into the mains.
Would you recommend this monitor?
If I’m honest, there’s no way I would recommend this monitor. I found it difficult to use from the word go, and I lost count of the number of times I wanted to scream at it.
On paper it should be amazing. But I personally didn’t feel it was. It does clever things like notify you when you’re baby is crying – except it sent me notifications to tell me Thomas was crying when he wasn’t.
This would worry me if I was checking in on him during an evening out, and totally needlessly as he was sound asleep on every single occasion the app said he was crying.
It tells you the humidity and temperature of the room which is helpful but you have to go and find it on the app, it’s not on the home screen. Not great if you just want to glance at it at 2am.
Also, if you’re using it on your iPhone, as petty as this sounds, there is no way of it standing up on your bedside cabinet without propping it up against a pile of books or something similar. Sounds like a small thing, but you do that every night for a month and it becomes boring.
And because you’re using it on your phone, the screen goes off when your phone screen goes off. To see Thomas again, I had to log back into my phone. Again, not a simple glance in the middle of the night when you’re half asleep.
One other downside to the uGrow is that you must be remember to have wifi connected on your phone. I’d turned mine off while out and about one day to save battery, and forgot to turn it back on. The monitor still works, but it uses your mobile data allowance instead.
I woke up one morning to seven texts from Vodafone and a £26 bill because it had gone over my data allowance in just seven hours!
An expensive mistake to make for one night. It also drains the battery on your phone, so you need to ensure it’s on charge overnight to use the app.
As well as the noisy notifications waking me up, on two occasions the camera itself let out a bloodcurdling high-pitched noise at 3.30am. The type of noise that goes off when a shop fire alarm activates.
It nearly gave me a heart attack, let alone poor Thomas who was sleeping within a metre of it. Clearly a fault, but the only way to stop it was by unplugging it at the wall. It was when this happened for two nights in a row, that I gave up and decided to stop using the monitor completely.
Having said all that, it does have some positives to it – the picture and sound quality are excellent, the lullabies and nightlight are good, you can also take photos of your baby through the app, it can be wall mounted and I liked that you can log in from anywhere – providing you have internet.
I had high expectations from the uGrow Smart Monitor, I was interested to see how good it could be for the price, and the technology it uses.
Sadly it is trying to be more advanced than it actually needs to be, and in doing so is more hassle than it is actually worth – both in cost and the effort it is to use it.
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