DVR vs. NVR - What’s the Difference?
The main difference between the network video recorder (NVR) and digital video recorder (DVR) is in how they process raw video data. A DVR converts analog footage into a digital format, while an NVR typically only works with digital footage. DVR systems process data at the recorder, while NVR systems encode and process data at the camera before transmitting it to the recorder for storage and remote viewing. Unless they’ve been reconfigured, the DVR connects to an analog CCTV system via a coaxial cable, while the NVR connects to an IP camera system over an Ethernet or WiFi connection.
Jump to each section to learn more:
• DVR System Components
• NVR System Components
• Which is better, DVR or NVR?
DVR System Components - Pros, Cons, Differences:
- Analog Cameras: DVR systems typically use analog security cameras (otherwise known as CCTV cameras). The reason why DVR security systems are typically priced lower compared to NVR systems is due to the camera. Analog cameras transmit analog signals to the recorder, which then processes the video data. Compared to an NVR system, most DVR cameras are less complex and expensive.
- Coaxial Cables: The analog camera connects to the DVR through a coaxial cable, which can run up to 500 meters but could result in some limitations.
- Coaxial cables - unlike PoE cables - do not supply power to the camera. This means two types of cables are needed - one for power and one for video transmission.
- Coaxial cables are wider and stiffer than Ethernet cables, which can make installation a challenge.
- Audio is a limitation since standard coaxial cables are not able to support audio transmission.
- AD Encoder: DVR recorders rely on AD encoders to process raw video data from the camera into viewable footage. As a result, every camera in a DVR system needs to be connected to the recorder as well as a separate power source.
- Audio Limitations: Standard coaxial cables don’t natively transmit audio signals - an added RCA connection is required to support it. DVR recorders also have a fixed number of audio input ports, which limits the number of cameras that can record sound.
NVR System Components - Pros, Cons, Differences:
- IP Cameras: NVR systems utilize IP cameras, which are capable of processing video data before relaying it to the recorder. IP cameras are typically more robust, and able to record and transmit audio in addition to images. Advanced hardware on IP cameras open the door to intelligent video analytics like license plate and facial recognition.
- Ethernet Cables: If they’re not wireless, IP cameras typically connect to the recorder via Ethernet cables. They can only run up to 100 meters, but have a number of advantages over coaxial cables.
- Some camera solutions may come with a Power over Ethernet (PoE) connection, meaning that only one cable is required to support power, video, and audio. This eliminates the need for splitters that are commonly seen in DVR systems. However, it’s important to note that not all Ethernet-connected cameras are PoE-capable — many IP cameras still require an Ethernet connection in addition to a separate power supply.
- They tend to be easier to set up due to their thinner shape, cost less, and be more readily available compared to coaxial cables.
- Recorder: The NVR recorder is only used for storing and viewing the footage. It doesn’t process video data - a step that’s done at the camera before it’s sent to the recorder.
- Audio Support: Because Ethernet cables can transmit audio natively, camera with a microphone on an NVR system can record audio to the NVR.
- Higher Storage Capacity: NVR camera systems can upload footage to cloud-based servers - an advantage of being connected to the internet. Unlike DVR systems they aren’t limited to on-premise storage, and as a result, they can support a higher capacity compared to DVR systems.
Which is better, NVR or DVR?
In essence, both the DVR and NVR record video footage onto a hard drive. Their differences lie in their design and implementation: how they process raw data, how they are set up, and what cameras they are compatible with. The best system for you is ultimately a balance of needs. To guide you in your decision, here are some considerations to take:
- What hardware do you have in place currently (ie: wiring)? Are you prepared to replace it?
- Are you comfortable programming network devices?
- How much maintenance is required?
- Who needs access? Is remote access required?
Another consideration is that both systems can be inflexible and difficult to scale. Some restrictions to include:
- Opening/forwarding ports is required for remote access, which puts your system at risk for security vulnerabilities.
- Due to the many hardware pieces that need to be maintained, total cost of ownership (TCO) can be unpredictable and high.
- Updating NVRs is often costly (software updates and licensing fees are not always included) and time-consuming is they’re deployed in multiple locations.
- Adding and relocating cameras is inflexible due to the limited number of ports on each recorder.
(More information is available in the eBook How to Choose the Right Video Security System for Your Organization.)
Generally regarded as more “traditional” systems, DVR and NVR surveillance have their advantages. However, as technology advances, many organizations require more storage space, scalability, data security, ease of use, video analytics, and reliable remote access. A modern alternative to the traditional systems include cloud and hybrid cloud solutions - read more in the next section.