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DVR vs NVR: Which is better? Breaking Down the Pros & Cons

February 16, 2024

The option you choose will impact your total costs, video quality, and the retention of the footage.

In this article, our goal is to help you understand the similarities and differences between DVR vs NVR, including:

We’ll also explore an emerging third option, a cloud camera system.

Another option that we need to cite here is the Analog HD. You can get 720p resolution with your existing analog system without having to rewire coaxial cables (you can just reuse them to get 720p resolution).

Ultimately, we’ll explain how Solink—our cloud video security system—helps you increase the capabilities of either DVR or NVR without incurring high costs.

Let’s get started!

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Table of Contents


The Differences Between DVR and NVR

Digital video recorders (DVR) and network video recorders (NVR) are types of video recording systems used for security cameras. On the surface, both systems serve the same purpose: they capture video footage transmitted from the cameras and store that stream so you can play it back later.

The main difference between DVR and NVR systems is how they communicate and transmit video data.

In a DVR system, the camera stream is captured from analog cameras. Because analog cameras are unable to process video at the source, they pass the raw video feed to the recorder via coaxial cables.DVR_vs_NVR_coaxial_cable_for_DVR

The recorder processes the video into a digital format to be stored or accessed live.

In an NVR system, video is captured with digital, or IP (Internet Protocol) cameras. IP cameras process video directly from the camera itself. The processed stream is then transferred to the recorder via an ethernet cable.

Here’s a summary of these key differences:

Full name Digital Video Recorder Network Video Recorder
Camera type Analog cameras IP (Internet Protocol) cameras
Transmission Coaxial cables Ethernet cables or WiFi
Video processing At recorder In cameras
Records Video Video & audio

In more every day terms: A DVR is like using a cable box where you connect directly to your TV with a cable, and it can only record shows from that specific TV locally, not over a network. While NVR is more like using a modern streaming service. You can record shows (or view cameras, in this case) from any room in your house as long as you’re connected to your home Wi-Fi, connected over a network.

For further analysis on the difference between analog and IP video security, check out this breakdown by Security Magazine.

The most important difference is mainly around the resolution, hence quality of video, you get from these 2 options.

Analog has low resolution options, IP has very high resolution options. You get to decide what you want.

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Advanced features and smart technology

Modern security systems are expected to be more than just recording devices. An NVR, for instance, often integrates AI-driven analytics to provide auto-tracking and people counting, adding significant value to security infrastructure.

On the other hand, advancements in IP camera technology have introduced features like license plate recognition and motion detection, primarily compatible with NVR systems. These smart features enhance security protocols and contribute to more proactive safety measures.

Video and audio quality comparisons

The video quality of a camera system is pivotal. NVRs typically support high-resolution video storage, while DVRs may fall short in this aspect. Moreover, NVRs often incorporate audio recording capabilities directly into the system, providing a comprehensive security profile. In contrast, DVR systems usually require additional components to capture audio, making the integration more cumbersome and the audio quality potentially inferior.

Installation flexibility and wiring requirements

The installation of an NVR system is streamlined thanks to Power over Ethernet (PoE) technology, which allows both power and data to travel through a single cable. DVR systems, by contrast, often require separate cables for power and video signals, complicating the installation process. The flexibility of NVR installations means that modifications and expansions can be less invasive and more cost-effective.

Scalability and future-proofing your system

Scalability is a core feature of modern NVR systems, accommodating business growth with ease. As security needs expand, NVRs can seamlessly integrate additional cameras into the network. DVR systems, however, present a challenge with fixed inputs, limiting the number of cameras that can be added and potentially rendering them obsolete as a business’s needs evolve.

Note that only technology-agnostic video security solutions like Solink are compatible with a variety of camera brands.

Remote access and cloud capabilities

NVR systems are typically designed with remote access in mind, allowing users to manage their video footage from any location via the internet. This connectivity paves the way for cloud storage options, providing an additional layer of security for recorded data. DVR systems, traditionally lacking in this area, require physical presence for access, potentially hindering the flexibility required by modern businesses.

For many businesses, especially those with multiple locations, remote video monitoring is an essential feature of a modern security system.

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DVR (Digital Video Recorder) – How It Works

DVR security systems are the older of the two systems and tend to be the more affordable option

DVR systems are hardwired with HD or analog CCTV cameras. Each camera in the system is connected to a central recorder via coaxial cables. As coaxial cables don’t supply power, each camera must also be powered via a siamese cable or from a nearby power outlet. This is often another point of failure with analog cameras.

Once the video is passed through to the digital video recorder, it is encoded and processed by the chip found inside the recorder.

DVR System Components


DVR systems are made of the following components:

Analog cameras: DVR systems use analog security cameras, also known as CCTV cameras. Because these cameras pass a raw video signal through to the recorder, there are fewer restrictions when it comes to mixing and matching analog cameras of different brands.

These cameras tend to have fewer features and transmit lower-quality video than IP cameras—however, for that reason, they are relatively more affordable. Although, analog cameras nowadays aren’t much cheaper than lower megapixel IP cameras.

Coaxial BNC cables: Each analog camera is connected to the DVR through a coaxial cable. Because coaxial cables don’t provide power, a second power cable is typically included within a single covering—known as a siamese cable. Standard coaxial cables don’t include audio, but there are variants with added RCA connections. However, the DVR has a limited number of audio ports, so only a limited number of cameras can record audio.

Coaxial cables are wider and more rigid than ethernet cables, which can make them more difficult to install in tight spaces. In general, it’s recommended that a camera is connected by fewer than 300 feet or 90 meters of cable, otherwise the video signal starts to degrade.

Optional: DVR recorder with AD encoder: Within the DVR recorder, there is an AD (analog-to-digital) encoder that converts the analog video signal into a digital signal. This encoding process allows the video to be viewed and stored. 

DVR Pros & Cons

Pro: Lower upfront cost – Because of their limited capabilities, the majority of analog CCTV cameras are more affordable than IP cameras, unless you’re aiming for a high-resolution analog camera. Therefore, the upfront costs of setting up a DVR are much lower.

Pro: Camera interoperability – Whereas NVR systems often require you to have cameras made from the same brand, DVR systems allow you to have different types of analog security cameras, which can save you money if you need to replace a camera.

Con: Running cables – Running the coaxial and power cables is more challenging with a DVR system than with NVR systems, as the siamese cables are thicker and more rigid than ethernet cables. There is also no option for wireless cameras. However, if you already have coaxial cables installed, this can make DVR systems easier to set up.

Con: Lower-quality video – While analog camera and coax cable quality is constantly improving, DVR systems don’t provide the video quality or frame rates of NVR systems. Because of the limited bandwidth of coax cables, most systems provide 4CIF resolution (704×480) at a frame rate of 7 to 15 fps at best. Some newer analog HD can provide up to 720p or 1080p video resolution, but these are less common. While this is fine for most security footage, you may lose out on some analytics applications, like tracking faces or license plates, because of the lower quality, which tends to be problematic for future use cases.

Con: Limited audio capabilities – Because audio transmission requires an RCA connection and DVR boxes have limited audio inputs, you are limited to the number of cameras that can capture audio.

Con: Lower coverage area – Because cameras must be placed within 300 feet of the DVR box, you are limited in the total coverage area of a single system. You may also be limited to placing cameras near power sources. Although this could always be solved with repeaters.

Con: No network connectivity – DVR systems aren’t connected to a network, which means you can’t remotely access or manage your security footage.

Con: Limited supply – Ultimately, this largely outdated technology has a limited supply as many vendors have stopped manufacturing them. Therefore you have higher maintenance costs.

Pros Cons
Can use existing coaxial cabling systems Running coaxial and power cables is more challenging than ethernet cables
Can use existing, mix-and-match analog cameras Maximum 300 ft transmission distance
More affordable No wireless option
  Lower video frame rates
  Lower video quality
  Limited audio capabilities
  Fewer security applications due to difficulty identifying faces, license plates, etc.
  Separate power source needed for each camera
  Smaller coverage area
  No network connectivity
  Limited supply

With Solink, you can protect your organization without an NVR or DVR.

Schedule a 30-minute product demo with our experts


NVR (Network Video Recorder) – How it Works

Network video recorder security camera systems are the newer of the two systems. Because they provide more convenience and advanced technology, NVR systems are the more popular option.

In NVR systems, IP cameras capture and encode video and then send the video to the recorder, either wirelessly or through a wired connection. In wireless systems, wireless IP cameras are connected to a power source, and video is transferred over WiFi. In wired systems, a POE (Power Over Ethernet) cable is connected directly to the recorder, which both transmits video and supplies power to the camera.


NVR System Components


NVR systems consist of the following components: 

IP cameras: NVR systems use IP cameras, which encode and process video data before sending it to the recorder. IP cameras can record and transmit both video and audio data. Some IP cameras support local recording on microSD cards, or feature advanced features like video analytics, noise reduction, or facial recognition.

There are two types if IP cameras:

  • PoE (Power over Ethernet) cameras are wired and powered via ethernet networking cables. These cameras offer convenience by eliminating the need for an external power source.
  • Wireless IP cameras are connected to a power source and transmit video via WiFi network. The wireless capabilities offer convenience as they can connect to the NVR through a wireless router or network, but are less reliable due to their reliance on a stable WiFi connection.

Not all IP cameras are compatible with every NVR system, so check that the recorder supports the manufacturer, resolution, and bitrate of the cameras you’re considering purchasing.

Ethernet cables: Ethernet cables are used to wire PoE cameras to the back of an NVR, providing video, audio, and power through a single cable. CAT5e or CAT6 are the recommended cable standards. It’s recommended not to run them more than 328 feet or 100 meters, but PoE extenders or switches can be used if you need to stretch the distance further.

NVR recorder: As video is encoded before it gets to the recorder, the NVR recorder only services the purpose of storing and viewing footage.

NVR Pros & Cons

Pro – Video quality: IP cameras offer higher-quality video, typically between 2MP (1080p) to 12MP (4K) with a frame rate of 30 fps (real-time video)—much better than DVR systems.

Pro – Wiring installation: The single ethernet cable per camera is much easier to set up than the coaxial cables required by DVR systems. 

Pro – Camera placement flexibility: The option to have wireless cameras or PoE extenders means that it’s easier to place cameras where you want. For example, it can be easier to place wireless IP cameras outside.

Pro – Audio included: Because ethernet transmits audio, each camera can deliver an audio stream to the NVR system (on top of video).

Pro – Network connected: NVR systems are connected to a network, so you can access your security footage remotely.

Con – Low security: On the flip side, NVR systems have security risks. If you have limited network security, it’s possible to hack into your system.

Con – Camera compatibility: Unless you buy the cameras from the same manufacturers, it’s harder to purchase multiple IP cameras that are compatible with the same NVR system.

Con – Greater upfront cost: All of these benefits come with the drawback that NVR systems are more expensive on the whole. 

Con – Low life cycle: Most NVR system components only last for 3-8 years—less for components such as hard drives.

Pros Cons
Higher quality video IP cameras are more expensive
Audio included Not all IP cameras are compatible with all NVR systems
Easier to wire and install Wireless NVR systems can suffer signal loss when WiFi is overloaded
Single PoE cable for power & data (cameras don’t need to be individually powered) Limited network security
Flexible placement & distance of cameras and recorder  
Greater coverage with fewer cameras  
Network connected  

With Solink, you can protect your organization without an NVR or DVR.

Schedule a 30-minute product demo with our experts

Average Cost of DVR vs. NVR

While the exact cost of either system depends on the number of cameras installed and whether or not cabling needs to be laid, NVR systems are more expensive than DVR systems on average.

DVR systems make use of older analog CCTV cameras, which are available at lower price points. NVR systems make use of digital IP cameras that have greater capabilities, but come with a higher price tag.

So which is better: DVR or NVR?

Between the two systems, NVR offers more advantages than DVR. However, there are certain scenarios that may affect your choices.

Go with NVR if…

You simply need a security system that records video. However, NVR systems are limiting in value as their usefulness and security decrease quickly over time.

Cctv camera on the ceiling of a white room.

What about cloud cameras?

A new option has emerged in recent years: cloud cameras.

Cloud cameras are a “no head” solution, offering a security camera network without a central recorder—all video is transmitted over WiFi or via wire (POE systems). They have fewer upgrades, maintenance issues, and firmware updates than NVR systems.

However, cloud cameras have major drawbacks too. With cloud camera security systems, you are locked in to the security company’s cameras, which tend to have a high upfront cost. You’re also locked in to their upgrades or camera licensing fees.

Cloud cameras where all the storage is in the cloud are also heavy on bandwidth usage. Some cloud cameras have local storage within the cameras themselves.

Therefore, cloud cameras offer more capabilities, but at prohibitive cost. That’s why we designed Solink to take full advantage of lower-cost DVR and NVR systems. Note that Solink still has all the advantages of these cloud camera systems, which makes it one of the best cloud-based cloud video security systems.

Do you still need an NVR or DVR?

Considering the technological strides in video security, one might question the necessity of traditional systems. Solink offers an innovative cloud-based video security system that eliminates the need for cumbersome NVR or DVR hardware.

Customers receive a fully warrantied storage appliance, ensuring reliable hybrid cloud–local video storage. This approach not only simplifies the infrastructure but also reduces long-term costs, as Solink’s solution encompasses maintenance and upgrades, embodying a future-proof security system.

Solink, our cloud-based video security system, integrates with both NVR and DVR. Solink connects with your existing security system and this gives you full network capabilities, plus the ability to sync various footage and data points.

For example, Solink can upgrade your DVR system, allowing you to synchronize your video footage with POS data so you can track unusual transactions, keypad entries, or late-night door access.

In fact, Solink allows you to integrate your POS data and video security system without a text inserter box.

Take this pizza franchisee for example, who prevented loss and improved employee efficiency at 17 locations thanks to an upgrade to their DVR system.

But let’s come back to the issue of high upfront security system costs—and how Solink solves that problem.

If you need to build a brand-new security system, we install a local storage appliance. This is a NAS (network-attached storage) that is relatively similar to an NVR. However, we cover 100% of the installation and hardware costs. If the hardware breaks, we replace it—no questions asked. 

Instead, Solink only costs a monthly fee, giving you all the security advantages of a more advanced system, without the prohibitive upfront costs.

Learn more about how Solink can give you complete visibility into your business.


Here are some frequently asked questions about NVRs, DVRs, and the related technology.

What is the meaning of NVR?

NVR stands for network video recorder. NVRs capture video in a digital format from IP cameras. It is sometimes referred to as “NVR full form.”

What is the meaning of DVR?

DVR stands for digital video recorder. DVRs capture video from analog cameras and then convert and store the video in a digital format. It is sometimes referred to as “DVR full form.”

What is the meaning of NAS?

NAS stands for network-attached storage. These are banks of redundant hard drives used to store critical information, including security camera footage. 

What is an NVR vs DVR?

The main difference between DVR and NVR systems is how they communicate and transmit video data. In a DVR system, the camera stream is captured from analog cameras. Because analog cameras are unable to process video at the source, they pass the raw video feed to the recorder via coaxial cables. The recorder processes the video into a digital format to be stored and/or accessed live. In an NVR system, video is captured with IP cameras, which process the video directly and then transfer to the recorder via an Ethernet cable.

What are the advantages of NVRs?

The following are the main advantages of NVRs:

  1. Higher frame rate than DVRs (30 fps)
  2. Single wire required for installation (PoE)
  3. Flexible camera placement
  4. Can record audio as well
  5. Network connectivity for remote video monitoring

What are the disadvantages of NVRs?

The following are the main disadvantages of NVRs:

  1. Potential for cybersecurity risks due to network connectivity
  2. Often closed system requiring proprietary cameras
  3. High upfront costs
  4. Short useful lifespan

What are the advantages of DVRs?

The following are the main advantages of DVRs:

  1. Lower upfront costs compared to NVRs
  2. Usually compatible with more security camera brands, although limited to analog cameras

What are the disadvantages of DVRs?

The following are the main disadvantages of DVRs:

  1. Requires two sets of cables to be installed (coaxial and power)
  2. Lower video quality from analog cameras
  3. Analog video cannot be transmitted as far (max. 300 feet)
  4. Harder to find due to being outdated technology
  5. Lack of cloud connectivity means you can’t use advanced video analytics software

Do I need an NVR for security cameras?

To retain video footage from security cameras, you will need some sort of video storage. This can be an NVR, DVR, network attached storage device, cloud video repository, or a combination of them.

Do I need a DVR for security cameras?

DVRs are strictly for analog cameras. While they are only used with analog security cameras, you don’t necessarily need a DVR to use analog cameras. Solink works with a fully warrantied, hands off storage appliance instead of a DVR. 

Do NVR cameras work without the Internet?

NVR security cameras can continue to record when your Internet connection is down. However, you may need the Internet to review recorded videos or analyze them. 

Can NVR cameras be hacked?

NVRs have the risk of being hacked because they are connected to the Internet. It’s important to take every precaution when dealing with critical infrastructure that is connected to the Internet to prevent hacking. 

How long will an NVR last?

NVRs have relatively short useful lifespans. They typically last 3-8 years.

How long will a DVR last?

DVRs have relatively short useful lifespans. They typically last about five years.

Should I hide my NVR?

The physical NVR system is at risk of theft. Hiding its location is one option, but you can also keep it in a secure location, such as the manager’s office, or somewhere difficult to access, such as a very high shelf. 

Does an NVR need a computer?

NVRs are computers, but with very limited capabilities. If you wish to use video management software (VMS), then you’ll need a computer or mobile device.

Can NVRs connect to WiFi?

It depends on the NVR. Some have WiFi capabilities, while others require a wired connection. Where possible, wired connections are usually more secure and more robust and therefore recommended.

Do all cameras work with NVRs?

Analog cameras require a DVR. NVR systems also tend to be locked to proprietary cameras, meaning that you’ll need to keep buying the same branded cameras to ensure they are compatible with your NVR system.

How many cameras can be connected to a NVR?

It depends on the NVR, but common models are compatible with 4, 8, 12, or 16 security cameras.

Does an NVR need a hard drive?

NVRs, DVRs, and other network-attached storage (NAS) devices have built in hard drives. 

What is a DVR used for?

DVRs are used to capture video from analog cameras over coaxial cables and then convert them to a digital format for storage.

What is an NVR used for?

NVRs are used to capture video from digital cameras over Ethernet cables, store the video, and then make it accessible to cloud-based video analytics tools.

How much does a DVR cost?

DVRs range in price but start in the few hundred dollars range.

How much does an NVR cost?

NVRs range in price but usually cost one to several thousand dollars.

Can you connect a DVR to a smart TV?

Most DVRs have HDMI ports that allow them to be connected to a TV or monitor, including smart TVs.

Are DVRs obsolete?

DVRs can be considered obsolete technology. It is becoming harder to find new DVRs to replace old ones, and most security needs would be better served with newer technology, including cloud based video monitoring services and IP security cameras.

Do you need the Internet for a DVR?

The Internet is not needed for a DVR system, but not being able to connect to cloud video management systems (VMS) limits the usefulness of store security footage.

Which is better: NVR or DVR?

DVRs and NVRs are used for analog and digital cameras, respectively. NVR systems can be considered the modern version of DVRs. However, both have clear limitations compared to video surveillance as a service (VSaaS) companies.

Why is NVR more reliable than DVR?

NVRs are more reliable than DVRs because they are newer technology. However, redundant hard drives, automated health checks, and lifetime automated security and software updates make Solink far more reliable than either.

Do I really need an NVR?

No. NVR systems are not needed. There are other options for storing, processing, and analyzing security footage for your business. Solink uses a hybrid cloud NAS system that makes NVRs obsolete.

How long will my NVR record for?

Video retention is dependent on the size of hard drives, the definition and frame rate of the video, and the number of security cameras attached to the storage device. Solink offers flexible storage ranging from one month to one year or longer, along with unlimited lifetime storage of saved clips in the cloud.

What does network-attached storage (NAS) do?

NAS systems are designed to store your important data, including security camera footage. They have some built in computational capabilities but mostly are just banks of redundant hard drives. Since NAS systems are attached to the network, which can then be connected to the Internet, they make it possible to use a cloud video management system (VMS) to analyze the video footage and pair it with other data sources. 

Is network attached storage HDD or SSD?

Network attached storage (NAS) devices come in both HDD and SSD types. SSD is more expensive, but it can increase the capacity of your NAS and make the system faster. However, SSD can fail quickly in security systems because of the constant writing of new data, which is why Solink recommends HDD for video security systems.

Can I access my NAS drive from anywhere?

If your network is connected to the Internet, then you should be able to access the data on your NAS from anywhere. 

Is a NAS drive worth it?

NAS systems can be very beneficial to businesses and worth the price. 

Does a NAS drive work without the Internet?

Similar to an NVR, your NAS drive can continue to record and operate without the Internet. However, you won’t be able to access your data remotely, and if you use a cloud video security service to analyze your data, then that won’t be available until your Internet connection is restored either. 

Can a hard drive last 10 years?

Hard drives can last a long time. However, the hard drives in your NVR, DVR, or NAS will be in use 24 hours a day, 365 days a year writing and rewriting video data. This limits their useful life greatly. That’s why Solink includes a fully warrantied, hands off storage appliance with our service, which means the end of end of life (EoL) planning for your business security system.

Share video in seconds

Learn how easy it is to share video with law enforcement in our self-guided tour.

Share video with law enforcement with a product demo of Solink's save and share feature