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Hands-on Gear Review

Vtech DM221 Review

Editors' Choice Award
Price:   $40.00 List | $33.99 at Amazon - 15% off
Pros:  Excellent sound clarity, lots of features, long battery life, price
Cons:  Harder to use, shorter range
Bottom line:  Inexpensive, great sounding monitor with loads of features good for most families
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Vtech

The Skinny

The Vtech DM221 is a budget-friendly sound monitor with more features than the average product in this price range. The DM221 has excellent sound clarity with some of the best and loudest sounds in the group. This monitor has sound activation and two-way talk to baby, the two most sought after features in monitors. If that isn't enough to sway you it has a remotely controlled nightlight, belt clip, and mute features. This monitor might be a little more complicated to use thanks to the menu options and programming, but it is a good option for most families looking for good sound clarity and lower price.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Sound Baby Monitors of 2017


Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Juliet Spurrier, MD
Mom-in-Chief
BabyGearLab

Last Updated:
Thursday
June 1, 2017

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Vtech originated in Hong Kong in 1976 and expanded to over 10 regions around the world. The company mission encompasses designing economical, innovative, and nice quality electronic products. Vtech's North American operation has become one of top three producers of cordless phones. Vtech also manufacturers a variety of monitors for baby.

Talking to your baby with the DM211 is quick and easy with a single side button that is easily found in the middle of the night when you need it most.
Thanks to a large variety of features  this unit is more complicated than the competition. While you can use it without setting up features in the menu  it will work better if you take the time at least once to set some preferences.
The parent unit on the DM221 has a belt clip for hands-free carrying or a loop on the top that can connect to a lanyard or similar for hanging or carrying.
The DM221 has top-of-the-line sound clarity with a 10 of 10 score for this metric.
The range on the DM221 isn't the best in the group  but it may work for many families as the distance and number of walls is fairly good for the average size house.
The Vtech DM221 has sound activation so you only hear the baby unit when your baby is making noise.
 

Performance Comparison


This comparison chart gives a quick glance at the overall scores for each monitor tested in this review. This Vtech earned the top score and an Editor's Choice award.


The sections below provide additional details on how the Vtech performed during testing. The monitor's metric results were used to determine the overall scores with weighting in favor of sound clarity and ease of use, two metrics we think are very important for a sound monitor.

The DM221 has top-of-the-line sound clarity with a 10 of 10 score for this metric.
The DM221 has top-of-the-line sound clarity with a 10 of 10 score for this metric.

Sound Clarity


The DM221 earned a 10 of 10 for sound quality. This score is a tie with our other Editors' Choice winner the Philips Avent DECT SCD570/10.


With a maximum volume of 103.4, this is the loudest parent unit in the review. Even at this high volume, the sound is clear though a little bright. Parents will have no trouble hearing what is going on in baby's room and deep sleepers are sure to wake when the baby cries. At a lower volume, 82.8db, the sound is clear but did a little shifting between sounding somewhat muted and then clearer. The sound filtering and voice activation both work well and this monitor is silent when the baby is silent.

The sound from baby's unit with the two-way communication is good and not distorted or robotic sounding. This means your baby will be hearing your voice and nothing else.

Thanks to a large variety of features  this unit is more complicated than the competition. While you can use it without setting up features in the menu  it will work better if you take the time at least once to set some preferences.
Thanks to a large variety of features, this unit is more complicated than the competition. While you can use it without setting up features in the menu, it will work better if you take the time at least once to set some preferences.

Ease of Use


The DM221 earned a 6 of 10 for ease of use. The inclusion of multiple features often results in products being harder to use. This doesn't mean they are difficult, just that they are more complicated than their bare bones counterparts.


To setup the monitor you just need to plug it in and turn it on. This monitor has more features than some of the competition which makes it more complicated to use. The real problem, however, is the majority of user buttons are on the front of the parent unit which can mean pushing the wrong buttons in the middle of the night. The front includes the power, menu, select and volume buttons. Within the menu, you can set the sound sensitivity, sound alert, vibrations, nightlight, language and other default settings. The options are easy to understand and the menu is easy to navigate, though compared to products with no menu it is more advanced and some might find it harder to program initially than a more basic option.

The range on the DM221 isn't the best in the group  but it may work for many families as the distance and number of walls is fairly good for the average size house.
The range on the DM221 isn't the best in the group, but it may work for many families as the distance and number of walls is fairly good for the average size house.

Range


The DM221 earned a 6 of 10 for range distance between the baby and parent units.


The manufacturer claims a range of 1000 ft for a line of sight range. this isn't the useful of a measurement given you are unlikely to place baby in a field, but it came close to our test results of 1325 ft. This monitor started beeping that it was out of range at about 1000 ft, but the sound was still fine. The connection got choppy around 1200 ft and the connection was completely lost at 1325 It started beeping around 1000 ft, but the sound was still okay.

The indoor range stated in the manual is 160 ft. We weren't able to get this far from the baby monitor but we did manage about 90 ft through 5 walls. We still had a connection at 6 walls but the parent unit started to beep that it was out of range. We lost the signal completely after the 8th wall. Ninety feet is probably enough for many homes and this unit would work for most families as long as their home isn't too big. The best in the review worked past 100 ft and 8-9 walls.

The battery life of the Vtech DM221 is longer than any other we tested. You can go up to 46 hours between charging  though we recommend you have it plugged in whenever possible to save battery life for the unforeseen moments or movement around the house.
The battery life of the Vtech DM221 is longer than any other we tested. You can go up to 46 hours between charging, though we recommend you have it plugged in whenever possible to save battery life for the unforeseen moments or movement around the house.

Battery Life


The DM221 earned a 10 of 10 for battery life with the longest living battery in the group by far.


The DM221 has a rechargeable battery in the parent unit and no battery backup in the baby monitor. The manufacturer claims a run time of 18 hours before recharging, but our tests indicated an average run time of 46 hours! Which is far longer than any parent should need even if they monitor all day and night. Of course, we recommend plugging in the unit when possible so you don't lose connection in the middle of the night, but it is good to know it can last so long if necessary.

The Vtech DM221 has sound activation so you only hear the baby unit when your baby is making noise.
The Vtech DM221 has sound activation so you only hear the baby unit when your baby is making noise.

Features


The DM221 earned a 9 of 10 for features with most of the feature options that are popular and desired by parents.


The DM221 has an adjustable mic sensitivity and sound activation. Both features work well and help a monitor stay fairly silent when the baby is silent. These features can translate to an easier time falling asleep and staying asleep as long as baby does. We think this is really important and sound activation is one of the features BabyGearLab thinks should be at the top of the list for parents that have trouble sleeping.

Talking to your baby with the DM211 is quick and easy with a single side button that is easily found in the middle of the night when you need it most.
Talking to your baby with the DM211 is quick and easy with a single side button that is easily found in the middle of the night when you need it most.

This monitor also has two-way communication with the baby so you can talk to baby from another room. Talking to your baby could mean you don't need to go to baby's room. Many parents feel this feature is mandatory, though we would just consider it a nice to have.

The parent unit on the DM221 has a belt clip for hands-free carrying or a loop on the top that can connect to a lanyard or similar for hanging or carrying.
The parent unit on the DM221 has a belt clip for hands-free carrying or a loop on the top that can connect to a lanyard or similar for hanging or carrying.

This product also has the following features:
  • Remote nightlight
  • Sound level indicator
  • Vibration alert
  • Belt clip
  • Sleep mode
  • Mute
  • Out of range alert
  • Paging the parent unit
  • Low battery indicator

EMF


The VTech has an average EMF reading of 3.11 V/m at 6 ft from the unit. This is the highest reading in the group.


Keep in mind however that the further you get from the monitor the less EMF you are exposed to. Placing the baby unit for this product as far from your baby as possible will decrease EMF and the monitor should still pick up every little noise you are hoping to hear.

Accessories


This monitor can be used with two parent units, but it doesn't appear that you can purchase the extra parent unit after the fact so you'll want to choose the two parent product from the beginning.

Other Versions


Vtech makes a variety of other monitors for baby including sound and video options. We tested the Vtech DM222 and the Vtech DM111. The DM111 earned a Best Value award in this review while the DM222 fell short of matching the simpler DM211.

Manufacturer Video


Juliet Spurrier, MD & Wendy Schmitz

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BabyGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: June 21, 2017
Summary of All Ratings

BabyGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
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 (5.0)

100% of 1 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 100%  (2)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
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   Jun 21, 2017 - 11:02am
Aleigh416 · Tulsa, OK
This is the only monitor I've ever used, but it's great! It clips easily to my jeans so that I can have it wherever I am in the house and the battery-life is more than enough. I sometimes move it off the charger and place it right by my head to sleep and forget to put it back on in the morning. It's still going when I get off work that evening! I like both the light-up and vibration alerts settings if I need the sound off or need something else to get my attention. It has great sensitivity. I kind of life the nightlight option too. I DO wish that I could turn off the sound effects when I change the settings, but they are on the parent monitor, so I'm not usually in the same room with the sleeping baby when I hit the buttons. My husband and I sometimes use them to communicate. I can talk at normal volume from my nursing chair in the nursery and he can hear me just fine on his monitor and speak back to me with the talk feature. The price couldn't be beat either!

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
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