What is NVR (And 3 Best NVR You Can Buy)

NVRs (Network Video Recorders) are devices to record videos from your security cameras. Unlike cloud storage, they do not cost you a monthly fee and can be configured for advanced motion control. We looked at what is NVR, its main components and factors to consider in order to buy the best Network Video Recorder. We also reviewed and tested the available options on the market to tell you what best security camera NVR you should buy depending your circumstances and use.

When selecting NVR security systems, we looked into nine main factors to select the NVRs and Amcrest NV2108E is the best network video recorder overall. We also give you two alternative picks for best camera NVRs. Hikvision DS-7608NI which is slightly more expensive NVR, but has some extra functionality like 2 HDDs. GW Security 8 Channel NVR is a beast of a machine and would work if you need advance motion detection or to connect to your alarm system. While we focused on 8 channel model, we also giving you the reasons why we selected Reolink RLN16-410  as the best 16 channel NVR or Amcrest NV2104E  as the best 4 channel NVR around.

What is NVR?

Buying smart cameras alone might be enough for watching live video streams and getting notifications. But if you want to get more from your cameras you should use cloud or NVRs to record and store videos so you have not missed a thing in your house or office. Benefits of NVRs are not only ability to keep weeks and months of history for free, but also advanced motion detection and other flexible functionality.

NVR Hardware

In NVR comes in a shape of (usually) a black color device with controls in front and ports at the rear. Main ports in the rear are:

  1. Audio in/out: to have audio feed in and output to speakers
  2. USB ports: to connect mouse or HDD (for backup)
  3. PoE ports: to connect to cameras and provide with the power supply (more on PoE cameras)
  4. HDM Port: to connect a monitor or external TV
  5. LAN Port: to connect NVR to your router

Inside NVR would have slots for hard drives for storage of data.

NVR Software

The software interface helps to configure NVR for the first use, maintain the system and also access the video stream live or historical recordings. To do so Network Video Recorders come with built-in software (which you can use by connecting a monitor to the device), desktop client and mobile application.

NVR or Cloud?

Unsurprisingly, NVRs might not work with some smart security cameras like Nest or Arlo as those companies are keen to charge you for cloud storage and they lock down the products to prevent local recording. While having one or two cameras with cloud plan might be a good idea for smaller flats or houses, it will not work for larger setups. Also, if you are like us and not keen to hand over your data to companies that do not have a great privacy protection history buying camera NVR is your best option.

7 Important Factors When Buying Best NVR Security System

In addition to testing network video recorders, we research the manufacturers’ sites, professional forums and reviews on Amazon to understand what is important for customers. Based on that we narrowed down to 7 key factors:

  1. Number of channels: The more channels (the maximum number of cameras you can simultaneously connect and record) NRV has, the more expensive it will be. To illustrate how it works, if your 8 Channel Network Video Recorder has 8 PoE ports but you already connected 3 wifi cameras, it would only be able to handle 5 additional cameras. Our recommendation is to always buy more channels then you need right now to future-proof your setup. If you have plans for only 4 at the moment, buy 8 channels camera NVR, and if you are planning for 8, it makes sense to buy 16 channels one.
  2. PoE or not PoE: PoE (Power over Ethernet) allows you to use a single cable for network connection and power supply. This simplifies the setup but require PoE compliant switch, injector or IP camera NVR system to inject electricity into Ethernet cables. PoE ports became a standard for majority of network video recorders now, but you can save money if you definitely do not need them. PoE power supply can vary (for example by the voltage or protocols supported), so check out our guide on the best PoE Cameras.
  3. Amount of storage: two important storage factors here – (a) how far back do you want to be able to store videos and (b) how secure you want your video feeds to be. The former is dependent on number of cameras, their resolution and whether you want to record constantly, on the schedule or only if there is any movement. Check out Network Video Recorder Storage Calculators to determine how many terabytes you will likely need. As a crude example, for a single 2-megapixel (1080p) camera at 3 frames per second (analog cameras use 1 FPS) and at the highest video quality you will need 16GB of storage for 24 hours of continuous recording. The latter factor refers to what is called redundancy. This is a technical term for having multiple physical copies of the same video streams on different physical HDDs. This would cost you more money but avoids losing all of your history due to corruption (which happens often)
  4. Advanced motion detection: All modern NVRs are capable of motion detection, but simple algorithms might trigger too many false alarms when used with outside cameras or in crowded areas. Advanced motion detection functionality in the high-end Network Video Recorders we reviewed use line crossing, intrusion and dwell detection methods. Line crossing allows you to add a line or lines crossing which will trigger an alarm. This is ideal for monitoring fences, properties and parking areas that should not be entered. Intrusion detections alerts when somebody enters a certain area (not line). Dwell detection enhances it even more by specifying how long the subject is allowed to stay in the area before triggering the alert
  5. HD or Super HD: Are you planning to connect your massive TV to NVR and watch all your cameras in your living room? (that is fine, we are not judging) If so, you will need Super HD HDMI output not to lose quality of your cameras on the screen. Super HD usually supports up to 4k resolution. {our high-end pick of the best 8 Channel NVR GW Security 8 Channel NVR  would have that functionality)
  6. External alarm: Some NVRs will be able to connect to the external alarm which can trigger the recording of the video feed. This is a nice feature that can be seen in the top end models, but you will likely be ok with the properly configured motion detection. ( GW Security 8 Channel NVR  has 8 inputs from alarms )
  7. Quality of NVR application: NVRs come with the interface that you can use with the attached monitor and also mobile application. The quality of those application varies across brands and is the additional factor you should look at. We also recommend to use smart hubs to do more intelligent integration of cameras into your home eco-systems.

Other Factors:

  • Built-in Wifi: There is a misconception that to use wireless cameras you need to have wifi built-in in your surveillance camera NVR. This is certainly one of the ways, but using your router works just fine. A router would normally have a better signal and more reliable that is why wifi in the network video recorder is not a mandatory function. What is important though, is to have a strong wifi router for your smart home. Consider changing your wifi router if you have a weak signal or still using the stock router from your ISP. {Our top pick for mid-range wifi router is Netgear R7000 or Google Wifi system for full coverage of the big house}
  • NRV or NVR bundle: As with many other devices you can save money by buying IP NVRs in a bundle with cameras or just on its own. The bundle would usually be 5-10% cheaper and easier to set up as they come with comprehensive instructions on the installation process which good for less experienced users. This obviously would not work if you already have a number of cameras installed. [Our pick for the best NVR security system with 4 bullet cameras by Amcrest]

Top pick for Best NVR: Amcrest NV2108E

We are in love with the PoE Amcrest cameras (see our top picks for the best PoE cameras) and Amcrest did a great job with NVR as well. Amcrest NV2108E is an 8-Channel NVR capable of supporting up to 6TB of hard drives. HDD is not included and you need to buy it (out top pick is WD Blue 4TB disk for its reliability)
It comes with black NVR with standard ports and controls, USB mouse, Cat5E cable and power supply. For initial setup, you will need a monitor or TV with VGA/HDMI port.

Reasons to buy

  • Great value for money
  • Easy to setup
  • Good quality desktop and mobile apps
  • Plug and play detection – cameras pop up immediately
  • ONVIF compliant to connect with other models

Be mindful of

  • Requires Ethernet connection. There is no built-in WiFi
  • Streaming works only with Internet Explorer (like for many similar devices)
  • Can playback only 4 cameras
  • The network port can only support 10/100mb speeds
  • The USB port can be connected to external hard drive but it’s only used for backup configurations/settings/ existing recordings.

Installation and Use

As we mentioned you will need VGA/HDMI cable and TV/ Monitor for setup. To start to connect the network cable, the power cable, and monitor. After booting up, NV4108 asks setup new user and walks through the initial settings such as reset password, set IP and time. Then you will setup existing IP cameras where most of ONVIF cameras (Amcrest or Foscam) will appear automatically. To control Network Video Recorder you can use the buttons on the device or the included mouse.

Vs Competition

  • There is some significant functionality missing from the device (like external alarm, or gigabit ethernet. This is standard for the price range and that functionality is not needed for the majority of the users
  • Consider out top high-end surveillance camera GW Security 8 Channel NVR  if you need any of the advanced features.
  • If you do not need PoE ports, consider Amcrest NV2108 ($79), which is an identical Network Video Recorder in the rest of the functions.
  • If you planning to playback more cameras simultaneously (and tell us why please) and do not need PoE, you can go for Amcrest NV4108-HS ($99)

Alternative pick for the best camera NRV: Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P

Our alternative pick is 8 channel video by Hikvision. Hikvision has outstanding quality of cameras and this network video recorder continues the trend. The device supports H.264+ and H.264 formats what reduce the sizes video files, synchronous HDMI and VGA Output at high resolution and recording up to 6 Megapixel Resolution at 80 Mbps incoming bandwidth
It is slightly more expensive then Amcrest but has additional features that worth to pay for.

Reasons to buy

  • Up to 2 SATA Interfaces which can accommodate extra storage or extra redundancy to avoid risking data loss
  • Great support from Hikvision USA
  • Good PC and Mobile applications

Be mindful of

  • No external alarm connections
  • No Super HD HDMI

Best High-end 8 Channel NVR: GW Security 8 Channel NVR

Our alternative pick is 8 channel video by Hikvision. Hikvision has outstanding quality of cameras and this network video recorder continues the trend. The device supports H.264+ and H.264 formats what reduce the sizes video files, synchronous HDMI and VGA Output at high resolution and recording up to 6 Megapixel Resolution at 80 Mbps incoming bandwidth
It is slightly more expensive then Amcrest but has additional features that worth to pay for.

Reasons to buy

  • Recoding of 8MP per camera
  • Support of up to 16TB HDD
  • 8 alarm input, 1 alarm output
  • 3 USB3.0 ports
  • Advanced controls and motion detection that other brands do not have
  • Easy to setup

Be mindful of

  • Documentation is subpar in some cases so you might revert to online forums
  • PC Remote access through internet explorer only
  • Loud fan

Best 16 Channel Security Camera NVR: Reolink RLN16-410

Our top pick is RLN16-410 by Reolink. Reolink became a go-to brand for home video surveillance thanks to the great and consistent quality of the products and superb customer support. RLN16-410 is a 16 channel IP Camera Network Video Recorder with 16 PoE ports and capable of recording up to 4MP camera feeds. NVR can playback 4channels video at 120fps. It comes with all the standard functions like HDMI streaming (not 4k), motion detection (not advance) and good quality applications for both PC and mobile (Android and iPhone).

Reasons to buy

  • Great value for money
  • Can attach external HDD through eSATA port
  • Easy to setup
  • Good quality desktop and mobile app

Be mindful of

  • Noisy Fan, which might be an issue for quite rooms. You can replace it with the alternative fan (like Noctua NF-A4x10 FLX) under 3 minutes
  • Browser Streaming only in IE
  • Built-in HDMI interface is a bit slow and chunky

Best 4 Channel NVR: Amcrest NV2104E

This was an easy choice. Amcrest device provides one of the best balances of quality and price. Similar to our 8-channel choice this surveillance camera NVR supports 4 camera feeds and has 8 PoE ports to connect to PoE cameras. It has the same benefits and weaknesses as Amcrest NV2108E, but we recommending to spend just a little more and get 8 channel NVR if you ever planning to grow your IP camera population.

Reasons to buy

  • Great value for money and easy to setup
  • Plug and play detection
  • ONVIF compliant to connect with other models

Be mindful of

  • Can playback only 2 cameras simultaneously
  • The USB port can be connected to external hard drive but it’s only used for backup configurations/settings/existing recordings
  • Not significanly cheaper then 8 channel version

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