If you’re shopping around for a video surveillance system for your business, your search will lead you to two popular options: DVR (digital video recorder) systems and NVR (network video recorder systems).
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:
- How DVR and NVR systems work
- The pros and cons of DVR and NVR systems
- The average cost of DVR vs NVR
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 surveillance system—helps you increase the capabilities of either DVR or NVR without incurring high costs.
Let’s get started!
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.
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|
For further analysis on the difference between analog and IP video surveillance, 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.
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.
|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|
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.
|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|
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.
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.
How Solink Upgrades on NVR and DVR
Solink, our cloud-based video surveillance 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 surveillance 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 surveillance 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.
To learn more about how Solink can give you complete visibility into your business, click here.