Which is better, a conventional dedicated NVR like the Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P or a NAS-based NVR solution from Synology or QNAP? This is something I get asked quite often by readers. It’s also a question that’s been on my mind for some time now. So let’s take an objective look at the pros and cons of each option.
To make this a fair comparison, we need to pit an affordable NAS against an affordable NVR.
My DIY NVR system is based on a NAS, the QNAP TS-231+ and I have been running this CCTV setup for more than a year. I have need of just 2 IP cameras, so the 2 free IP camera licences that came with the TS-231+ have sufficed so far.
The TS-231+ is missing an HDMI port though. This isn’t very surprising as it is a budget NAS. For an apples to apple comparison, we need to choose a NAS with an HDMI port. So I have chosen the QNAP TS-251+ on the NAS side of the comparison. This model is quite powerful with a quad-core Intel Celeron processor with 2 GB of RAM.
One of the most popular NVRs among my readers here at VueVille is the Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P, so it makes sense to choose this 8-channel NVR for the dedicated NVR side of the comparison.
QNAP NAS Surveillance Station
Both Synology and QNAP call their surveillance software ‘Surveillance Station’. Most entry-level NAS units come with 2 IP camera licenses free that you can use with the Surveillance software on the NAS. This essentially makes it a 2-channel NVR. Additional licenses need to be purchased directly from QNAP.
The Surveillance Station software on my QNAP NAS is quite powerful. In my opinion, it is a real alternative to a dedicated NVR system. If you are unfamiliar with the Surveillance Station’s featurs, here are the highlights:
- Records up to 8MP (4K UHD resolution), H.264, MPEG-4, M-JPEG, and MxPEG formats supported
- Records up to 64 channels (dependent on NAS model)
- 3000+ IP Cameras supported, ONVIF compatible
- Scheduled and manual recording
- Smart recording (24/7 recording at lower resolution, switches to higher resolution when motion is detected)
- Live View up to 64 cameras simultaneously on a single screen, HDMI port available on some NAS models
- Software based motion detection and email alerts, can react to camera triggers
- 7 types of event actions, including recording, PTZ Control, alarm output, email notification, SMS notification, buzzer notification, and user-defined actions available
- Instant playback function (plays recorded video in reverse from live view screen)
- Supports PTZ cameras
- Regular motion detection and alarm events marked on playback timeline
- Synchronized camera playback
- Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA) – can find ‘missing’ objects automatically
Check out the QNAP IP camera compatibility list to see whether your existing cameras will work with a QNAP NAS. It is regularly updated as QNAP is quite proud of the wide range of cameras it supports.
Hikvision NVRs stray from the pack when it comes to the IP camera brands they support. While other manufacturers limit the NVR to supporting only their own cameras, the Hikvision supports a wide range of IP cameras from top tier manufacturers such as Bosch, Canon, Sony and Vivotek. Although Hikvision doesn’t officially claim ONVIF support in the spec sheet, they do mention “Third-party network cameras supported”.
The main features of the Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P are:
- Up to 6 Megapixel Resolution
- 80 Mbps Incoming Bandwidth
- Supports H.264+ and H.264
- Synchronous HDMI and VGA Output 1920 × 1080p Resolution
- 8-ch Network Cameras Can Be Connected
- Up to 2 SATA Interfaces (Note no RAID though)
- Plug & Play w/Up to 8 Independent PoE Network Connections
- Supports Network Detection, Including Network Delay, Packet Loss
- Alarm and Audio I/O
Features – Head to head
|Feature||QNAP QNAP TS-251+ Surveillance Station||Hikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P|
|Max camera resolution||8MP (4K UHD resolution)||6MP|
|Max incoming bandwidth||2 Gbps||80 Mbps|
|Recording formats||H.264, MPEG-4, M-JPEG, and MxPEG||H.264+ and H.264|
|Cameras supported||Any ONVIF||ACTi, Advanced Technology Video, |
Arecont, Asct(Raylios), Axis,
AVTECH, Bosch, Brickcom,
Canon, Certix, Hunt,
GE, Grundig, Infinova, Panasonic,
Provideo, Sanyo, Pelco,
Samsung, Sony, ViewZ,
|Alarm In/Out connections||No||Yes|
|Audio In/Out connections||No||Yes|
|Smart recording (24/7 recording |
at lower resolution,
switches to higher resolution
when motion is detected)
|Simultaneous Live View channels||64||8-ch@720P, 6-ch@1080P|
|Event marker on timeline||Yes||Yes|
|Synchronized camera playback channels||64||8|
|Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA) - |
find 'missing' objects automatically
|ONVIF compatibility (supports 3rd party cameras)||Yes||Limited - Panasonic, Sony, |
Axis, Sanyo, Bosch, and Acti
|Instant playback function (plays recorded video|
in reverse from live view screen)
Analysis – Its not that straightforward
The NAS has some very strong advantages:
- It supports the industry standard ONVIF protocol. This means virtually any ONVIF-compatible camera can be added to the NAS. That’s an insane level of flexibility you often can’t get with dedicated NVRs because manufacturers like to lock customers into their own product eco-system. The Hikvision NVR actually is the most flexible you will find among dedicated NVRs as it does support a few major 3rd party manufacturers such as Panasonic, Canon, Sony etc.
- RAID facility which provides redundant storage. A NAS does this by default, all you need is add a second hard drive and configure it for RAID 1. Most consumer level NVRs just cannot do RAID.
- You can use a NAS for a whole lot of other things, such as a VPN server to increase the safety of remote access. Another good use is as a home media server, or a Kodi server.
The dedicated NVR has one very strong advantage and some other minor advantages:
- Cost – NAS devices usually only include 2-4 IP channel licenses, whereas with an NVR you get more channels for your money. Each additional channel on a NAS is an extra licence that costs you money.
- The NVR does one thing – and since it does one thing only, its likely to be more reliable. A multi-functional device like a NAS runs on complex software and that is a weakness. For example, a less than perfect software update from the manufacturer can cause you headaches if it breaks some NVR functionality such as email alerts. This is the inherent risk of using one device for everything. That said, in the 3 years I have used QNAP NAS’ as my NVR, everything was fine on the software front.
As with most things in life, it depends on what you want:
- If you want no more than 2 or 3 IP camera channels, go with a NAS, especially if you do not have another device running 24/7 to provide media server or VPN server duties.
- If you want 4 channels or more, an NVR starts becoming cheaper. Especially as it avoids having to buy a separate PoE switch. Do take regular backups though as most consumer NVRs will not support RAID disk mirroring.
- A hybrid approach is to use a dedicated NVR and then configure it to save the camera streams to a NAS as well. This gives you the best of both worlds – the familiarity of a dedicated NVR and the data safety provided by a NAS. This is probably the setup that I will move towards eventually.
So what do you think? What do you use – a NAS or a dedicated NVR? Let’s talk!