8 Best NAS for Home Surveillance – My 2021 Recommendations

When I first started using a NAS as my DIY NVR, it was more of an experiment than anything else. I had purchased the NAS mainly for backing up all our devices and media serving duties, but it could also serve as an NVR. So why not try that before buying a dedicated NVR?

I have been very happy using a QNAP NAS in my DIY NAS NVR setup for the past few years.

Over the last few years, QNAP and Synology NAS devices have become a real alternative to a dedicated NVR. Here are my picks for a multi-purpose low-power all-in-one DIY NAS NVR.



BEST 2-BAY
QNAP TS-251D
4GB RAM
8 channel NVR, max 32
Advanced motion detection
HDMI port

BEST 4-BAY
QNAP TS-451+
8GB RAM
8 channel NVR, max 40
Advanced motion detection
HDMI, HW transcoding

BEST 8-BAY
QNAP TS-873
8GB RAM
8 channel NVR, max 24
Advanced motion detection
HDMI, HW transcoding



Best NAS for Home Surveillance – 2021 Recommendations

NASNVR ChannelsMotion DetectionPrice
Best 2-bay NAS NVR
Synology DS220j2 free / 12 maxAdvanced
QNAP TS-251D 4GB8 free / 32 maxAdvanced
QNAP TS-253D 4GB8 free / 12 maxAdvanced
Best 4-bay NAS NVR
Synology DS420j2 free / 16 maxAdvanced
QNAP TS-451+8 free / 40 maxAdvanced
QNAP TS-453BT38 free / 40 maxAdvanced
Best 8-bay NAS NVR
QNAP TS-873 8GB8 free / 24 maxAdvanced
QNAP TVS-872XT8 free / 36 maxAdvanced

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Best 2-Bay NAS for Home Surveillance

Best Budget 2 bay: Synology DS-220j



Features

  • Quad Core 1.4 GHz, 512MB RAM
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 12 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price

Synology is well-known for its high-quality hardware and very intuitive OS called DSM. The Synology X20j series is the starter option in the QNAP NAS family and range from 1-bay to 4-bay models.

The DS220j can serve as your file server, stream media across the home, automatically backup your devices, set up your own private cloud for file-sharing and monitor your IP cameras as well.

This NAS looks very similar to its predecessor, the DS218j. But one big upgrade is the new quad-core processor, which improves performance substantially.

While the 512MB RAM may not sound like much, bear in mind that these NAS boxes are basically extremely energy efficient Linux PCs. Linux doesn’t need as much RAM as Windows and so 512MB RAM is good enough for recording up to 12 IP cameras at 1080p and 10fps using the built-in Surveillance Station app.

Only 2 free IP camera channels are included though, and extra channels cost around $50 each. So factor this into the total cost of ownership. Also the limited RAM and processor allow only for software transcoding at 720p.


PROS:
  • Good performance
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Very low power consumption

CONS:
  • Disks not hot-swappable
  • No HDMI, Software-based transcoding only
  • Disk bays not slot loading, no front USB port

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Best Value 2 bay: QNAP TS-251D



Features

  • Quad Core Intel J4025, 2/4 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.2 Gen1, 3x USB 2.0
  • Max. 32 IP Cameras (8 free QVR Pro licences)
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hardware encryption, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs
  • DLNA, 4K Transcoding, Virtualization
  • HDMI 2.0, PCiE expansion slot
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price


Moving into QNAP’s Home and SOHO product offerings, the TS-251D improves upon the popular TS-251+ model. If you want a powerful Intel chip in your NAS, the x51 series are the go-to QNAP models.

The aging quad-core Celeron J1900 processor of the TS-251+ has been replaced by the new dual-core Celeron J4005 (J4025 in some countries). You may think having 2 cores less would handicap the NAS. But actually the J4005/J4025 are much faster than the outgoing J1900. Also the new processors have the Intel HD Graphics 600 on-board which offloads certain tasks from the CPU.

The TS-251D also supports virtualization, so you can run virtual machines. This is great for running different operating systems on your NAS, such as testing/development on Android.

There is only 1 Gigabit ethernet port, so link aggregation is not possible out of the box. But there is a PCIe slot allows you to extend the NAS capabilities by adding 10GbE support, SSD caching, or even a wireless card.

You can run Plex Media Server on this NAS and it supports hardware-accelerated transcoding up to 1080p. But bear in mind that only the QNAP apps work over the HDMI port. If you need 4K/1080p transcoding, consider the QNAP TVS-872XT.

You can live view your IP cameras over the HDMI port, which is the feature I am most interested in. Now that QVR Pro supports the advanced motion detection of Hikvision and Dahua cameras, I don’t really need Blue Iris anymore for tying into my HomeSeer HS3 home automation system! Super low power consumption of just 15W under load makes this the ideal DIY NAS NVR.


PROS:
  • Strong performance
  • Advanced motion detection
  • HDMI port lets you watch IP cameras on a TV
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port

CONS:
  • Ethernet link aggregation not possible without adding a network card

Check Amazon Price


Best High-end 2 bay: QNAP TS-253D 4GB



Features

  • Quad Core with 4/8 GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2x 2.5Gbps Ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.2 Gen1, 3x USB 2.0
  • Max. 12 IP Cameras (8 free licences)
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hardware encryption, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs
  • DLNA, 4K Transcoding, Virtualization
  • HDMI 2.0, PCiE expansion slot
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price

Back in early 2020, this spot was occupied by the TS-253Be. But QNAP has now replaced it with the TS-253D. There are two main upgrades – the processor and the network interface.

The quad-core Intel Celeron J4125 replaces the 1.5 GHz Celeron J3455 of the old model.

The TS-253D being a business focused NAS now supports the 2.5Gbps Ethernet, whereas the old model had just 1Gbps Ethernet support. The two ports are retained so you can do link aggregation, failover, assign different ports to VMs or the surveillance software.

However the 4 free Surveillance Station licences included have been reduced to 2. But this isn’t so bad because I recommend most people would be better off with the 8 free licences included in the free QVR Pro app. QVR Pro supports advanced motion detection whereas the older Surveillance Station app doesn’t.

PROS:
  • Strong performance, ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • Advanced motion detection
  • HDMI port lets you watch IP cameras on a TV
  • 4K UHD transcoding to 1080p
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port

CONS:
  • None

Check Amazon Price


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Best 4-Bay NAS for Home Surveillance

Best Budget 4 bay: Synology DS420j



Features

  • Quad Core 1.4 GHz with 1GB DDR4 RAM
  • 1x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 16 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hardware encryption
  • DLNA, Transcoding
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price

The DS420j is the 4-bay version of the DS220j we saw above. But it does have twice the RAM at 1GB. This lets the DS420j manage up to 16 IP cameras at 1080p instead of the DS220j’s 12, and up to 3 times more frames per second.

Why is this NAS the budget king of 4-bay NAS NVRs? Because you can get advanced motion detection alerts from Hikvision and Dahua cameras, which is possible only on Synology at this price.

If you want the same feature on QNAP, you need a NAS that has at least 4GB RAM so that it can run QVR Pro.


PROS:
  • Good performance
  • Supports up to 16 IP cameras at 1080p
  • Advanced motion detection

CONS:
  • No hot-swappable HDDs, no front USB port
  • No HDMI, ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • No hardware transcoding

Check Amazon Price


Best Value 4 bay: QNAP TS-451+ 8GB



Features

  • Dual Core 2.0 GHz with 8GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 2x USB 3.2Gen1, 2x USB 2.0
  • Max. 40 IP Cameras (8 free licences)
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hardware encryption, Hot-swappable HDDs
  • DLNA, 4K Transcoding, Virtualization
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price


The QNAP TS-251+ is in its second year but is still the best value-for-money 4-bay NAS you can get right now. It supports M.2 NVMe 2280 SSD slots that you can use for SSD cache acceleration. Basically the SSD acts as a cache to speed up data transfer from the NAS to your networked devices.

The NAS also supports virtualization. You can also assign different VMs to different network interfaces.

I have picked the 8GB RAM model because this will allow you to run QVR Pro smoothly right up to 40 IP cameras.


PROS:
  • Strong performance, ethernet aggregation/failover
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hot-swappable HDDs, SSD support, HDMI, Front USB 3.0 port

CONS:
  • None

Check Amazon Price


Best High-end 4 bay: QNAP TS-453BT3



Features

  • Quad Core 1.5 GHz with 8 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 2x Gigabit & 1x 10G Ethernet
  • 5 x USB 3.0, 2 x Thunderbolt
  • Max. 40 IP Cameras (8 free licences)
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hardware encryption, Hot-swappable HDDs
  • DLNA, 4K Transcoding, Virtualization
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price

Just like the TS-253A, the TS-453A has been replaced by newer models. But the 453 family is quite large comprising of the TS-453B, the TS-453Be, the TS-453BT3 and the TS-453Bmini. The T3 in the model name represents the 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports on this NAS.

Thunderbolt support is a must-have for creative professionals and video editors, so that’s the target audience here. However it is also useful for high speed data transfer which is great for surveillance data access purposes.


PROS:
  • Strong performance, 10GbE failover supported
  • Two 4K capable HDMI ports
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port, LCD screen

CONS:
  • HDMI ports are 1.4b versions and limited to 30fps

Check Amazon Price


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Best 8-Bay NAS for Home Surveillance

Best Value 8 bay: QNAP TS-873 8GB



Features

  • Quad Core AMD with 8 GB DDR3L RAM
  • 4x Gigabit Ethernet
  • 4x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max 24 IP Cameras (8 free licences)
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hardware encryption, Hot-swappable HDDs, PCIe
  • DLNA, 4K Transcoding, Virtualization
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price


The TS-873 replaces the TVS-863 from last year. It uses a fast and powerful AMD processor with on-board Radeon graphics. This makes the NAS particularly suited to multimedia and surveillance duties.

Even though the NAS is aimed at small businesses, the multimedia features are what makes this NAS box shine. On offer are optional HDMI output, audio in and audio out which can be very useful for surveillance applications, and powerful hardware to keep everything chugging along nicely.


PROS:
  • Strong performance, ethernet failover supported
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port, LCD screen

CONS:
  • HDMI ports are optional

Check Amazon Price


Best High-end 8 bay: QNAP TVS-872XT



Features

  • Hexa-Core Intel Core i5 with 16GB DDR4 RAM
  • 2x 1Gbps, 1x 10Gbps Ethernet
  • 1 x USB 3.2 Gen1, 4x 3.2 Gen2, 2x Thunderbolt, HDMI 2.0
  • Max 36 IP Cameras (8 free licences)
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hardware encryption, Hot-swappable HDDs, PCIe
  • DLNA, 4K Transcoding, Virtualization
  • 2 years warranty

Check Amazon Price


If you want the ultimate backup server, media server, and DIY NAS NVR, don’t look any further. The TVS-872XT is at the top end of the market but that’s because you get the latest hardware technology together with enterprise level software features.

There is 1 HDMI port which can support 4K at 30fps. You can add up to 36 IP cameras in QVR Pro or 72 IP cameras in the standard Surveillance Station app.



PROS:
  • Excellent performance, DDR4 RAM, and SSD support
  • Advanced motion detection
  • Hot-swappable HDDs, Front USB port, LCD screen

CONS:
  • Only 1 HDMI port

Check Amazon Price


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How does a NAS do surveillance?

A NAS is basically a computer that runs a custom Linux operating system created by the manufacturer (Synology, QNAP, Asus etc.). Most manufacturers offer various apps that can be installed on their devices to add or extend its abilities. These apps are usually called ‘stations’.

Examples of stations include Photo stations, Video stations, Backup stations and Surveillance Stations. In my opinion, the best surveillance station apps are the ones from QNAP and Synology.

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Choosing the right NAS NVR

The modern household is a tech-heavy environment. Every family member probably has at least a smartphone, and probably a laptop. Sharing media and documents across the home is a challenge without a central media server. This is where a NAS typically comes into the picture.

Providing redundant RAID storage, a NAS can serve up documents, stream music and movies to any device through the DLNA standard. But the NAS can do so much more. I use mine as a VPN server to securely connect from outside the home and access my home automation system, turn on lights, turn up the heating, check out my security cameras and more.

Almost every NAS sold today has a surveillance camera feature, but only two companies have the software that can really pull it off – QNAP and Synology. They are broadly comparable, and both support advance motion deteciton and so I consider them to be equally good. However QNAP models that can run QVR Pro come with 8 free IP camera licences which sometimes make them a better deal. I have considered this aspect in my recommendations.

To ensure you can record a decent number of IP cameras, and still have enough headroom for typical NAS duties, I suggest the following:

NAS NVR Must-havesNAS NVR Nice to haves
Basic Motion detection Advanced motion detection - tripwire / dwell / linger / missing object / new object/ face detection
Motion Detection Email alerts Push notifications
At least one high speed port (USB 3.0 / eSATA / Thunderbolt) Automated scheduled backups to an external drive
Live view of at least 4 channels simultaneously 24/7 Live view of all channels on external monitors through HDMI ports
Synchronous playback of at least 4 channels simultaneously Synchronous playback of all channels on external monitors through HDMI ports
Event timeline markers Intelligent video analysis to search for events
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Conclusion

So there you have it, these are my recommendations to build the best DIY NAS NVR in 2021. Leave your thoughts below!

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I am Daniel and VueVille is where I document my DIY smart home journey. I focus on 100% local-processing and local-storage because that’s the only way to secure my family’s safety and privacy. Oh and I don’t like monthly subscriptions!

22 Comments
  1. Thank you for this valuable info on DYI NAS solutions.

    Can you elaborate on the meaning of « Mac support is spotty« ?

    Are all QNAP & Synology products able to properly host Apple Time Machine backups?

    JM

    • Thanks for reading my blog! With the older QNAP models, getting the backups working reliably was a chore. But I have updated the article for 2021 and my research shows that it is much better now. You need to follow the official QNAP steps for setting it up and you’ll be fine.

  2. Also, seeing that this post is a couple years old now, do you by chance have an updated list of recommendations?
    Thanks again!

    • Jason, I update this post continuously – it is not 2 years old. I last updated it a few months ago in fact. Did you find a broken link?

  3. Wow, I’m pretty tech savvy but NAS systems are an area I never really delved into. Your article just gave me a wealth of information about NAS that I wasn’t aware of, and has piqued my interest. Thank you for the valuable reading!

  4. I just wanted to say thanks for the great info! I’m still searching for my NAS\camera system. I know what I want but I also know if I wait 1 year the hardware is much faster and cheaper so I’ve been delaying for 2 years now 🙂 Again just want to say thanks for your honest and accurate info!

  5. You are right, I would consider QNAP, but I am running Synology routers and mesh wifi access points. I would kind of like to stay in the same family. I have really linked their router and I have tried every router known to man. Does anyone know what the impact on play through on video or recording is using the Synology NAS as the storage location for an NVR?

  6. What do you think of using a front-ended solution of a NVR like Amcrest and set it up to store on a Synology RS918? You can get 8 channel cheap. I think I would rather have everything on one solution like all Synology, but the extra license costs to get say 6 cameras up and running is pretty expensive add to Synology. Do you think the streaming off video or recording will be impacted? Also, are there more features and camera functionality in the Amcrest NVR? I also noticed that I like some of the Reolink cameras and Synology lists them as compatible except they are not supposed to be ONVIF Cameras and won’t work with other NVRs.

    • Synology is not the only NAS brand around 🙂 I use QNAP and with the QVR Pro app, the first 8 channels are free. Check out my detailed review of QVR Pro.

      Also almost all Reolink cameras are ONVIF and RTSP compatible so they will work with any NVR that supports the same (including Synology and QNAP surveillance Centre). See the official confirmation here and here.

  7. Daniel,

    Thank you and your family for your awesome blog. I understand that yours is an Android family, but I wonder if you might have some Mac/iOS pointers.

    I’m an Android guy like you, but my wife is a Mac/iOS user. I see that you’ve noted both the QNAP TS-251+ and the TS-431P2 with “Mac support is spotty”. I’ve also noticed that both the QNAP QVR Pro Client and the older VMobile apps have very low ratings on the Apple App Store.

    Do you have recommendations for someone like me who wants to follow your Pro-DIY path, but also make sure my wife is happy with the eventual solution?

    Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

    Dave

    • Happy that you like my content! Yes we are a 100% Android family. I do not review the recorded footage on my mobile, so I rarely use the QNAP mobile apps – the Android ones are not great either. I pull up the QVR client on a laptop if I want to review footage.

      For live-viewing cameras on mobile devices, any iOS IP camera viewer app should be able to pull all the cameras together into a single screen. Because my QNAP is hooked up to my HA system, whenever any camera detects motion the tablets around the house switch to the specific camera for a short while. This is done using the Imperihome app.

  8. Hi Daniel,
    I appreciate the information your have provided, I have found it useful as I am just starting my first security camera system setup.

    I would like to ask, what are your recommendations for 2018? For example, what is your opinion on the new QNAP HS-453DX?

  9. Daniel–One additional question: Do the NAS devices include the applications to run as a surveillance NVR, file server, and VPN? Or do those applications/licenses cost extra? It’s hard to tell from their websites.

    • Yep all of this and more comes pre-loaded on the NAS. They are incredibly cheap for what they can do! Just remember that the number of IP camera licences that come bundled with the NAS depends on the specific model. For example my QNAP TS-253A has a very unusual 4 IP licenses. 2 is more common for 2-bay models. With the 64-bit x86 based QNAP models that have more than 4GB RAM, you can also install the free QVR Pro alternative to Surveillance Station that gives you 8 IP camera licences regardless of how many licences it came with originally. One downside of QVR Pro is that it can only play back the last 14 days of videos.

  10. Thanks for the reply. Also can you give me your thoughts on the usability of the QNAP systems vs. the Synology. You mention that the Synology OS is slightly more user friendly. Is there a tradeoff in functionality? I am somewhat technically savvy, but am no IT professional. I plan on using the NAS for Surveillance Station, a VPN, and file storage. I plan on integrating the cameras into Homeseer, possibly using Blue Iris as well. I would like something easy to setup and maintain, but I don’t want to give up a bunch of functionality. I would appreciate any thoughts you may have. Thanks, Greg

    • I think the Synology software is just a bit more polished. I haven’t spent enough time playing with the Synology DSM software to comment on functionality unfortunately. My understanding is that the Synology and QNAP are evenly matched when it comes to Surveillance Station, VPN and just using it as a RAID server. The main difference is cost. In my experience, QNAP is up to 10-30% cheaper than the comparable Synology model. Plus some QNAPs come with more free IP camera licenses than Synologys. With QNAP you don’t need Blue Iris to connect your cameras to HomeSeer. I have written a tutorial that shows you can connect Surveillance Station directly to HomeSeer.

  11. Daniel–do you have any thoughts on the QNAP TS-253A vs the 253B? Several websites are positioning the 253B and the latest version of the 253A.

    • I think the 253B will eventually replace the 253A, although at the moment both are available to purchase.

      Hardware differences: Apart from the updated processor(J3455 vs. N3160), the 253B also has the newer USB Type-C connector on the front. The 253B has an 8GB RAM variant. There’s an SD card slot and one extra USB 3.0 port on the 253-B. It can also be upgraded to a 10 Gigabit LAN port via a PCIe expansion card, which you cant do on the 253A. The front OLED display now shows you system information and has 2 capacitive touch buttons also.

      Software-wise, they are the same except for a voice assistant that makes system announcements.

      Personally I don’t care for USB Type-C or any of the updates the 253B has, so I would have still bought the 253A IF it was cheaper.

  12. Question… Any thoughts on WD’s integration with Milestone Arcus? I have used Milestone previously, and like it, but really trying to figure out what I am going to use next (my previous setup was on a Win7 machine which doesn’t hold up with Win patches). Milestone is not the cheapest, but it is pretty decent.

    Thanks!

  13. Hey! Thank you very much! You really helped me out. Take care!

    Leave a reply

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