NAS NVR or Dedicated NVR – Which is better?

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.

Which is better - NAS NVR or Dedicated NVR - VueVille.com

The Contenders

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 comaprison.


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 NVR

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

FeatureQNAP QNAP TS-251+ Surveillance StationHikvision DS-7608NI-E2/8P
Max camera resolution 8MP (4K UHD resolution)6MP
Max channels648
Max incoming bandwidth2 Gbps80 Mbps
Recording formatsH.264, MPEG-4, M-JPEG, and MxPEGH.264+ and H.264
Cameras supportedAny ONVIFACTi, Advanced Technology Video,
Arecont, Asct(Raylios), Axis,
AVTECH, Bosch, Brickcom,
Canon, Certix, Hunt,
GE, Grundig, Infinova, Panasonic,
Provideo, Sanyo, Pelco,
Samsung, Sony, ViewZ,
Vivotek, Zavio
Scheduled recordingYesYes
PoENoYes
Alarm In/Out connectionsNoYes
Audio In/Out connectionsNoYes
Manual recordingYesYes
Smart recording (24/7 recording
at lower resolution,
switches to higher resolution
when motion is detected)
YesNo
Simultaneous Live View channels648-ch@720P, 6-ch@1080P
HDMI OutputYesYes
Motion DetectionYesYes
Email AlertsYesYes
Push NotificationAlertsYesYes
PTZ supportYesYes
Event marker on timelineYesYes
Synchronized camera playback channels648
Intelligent Video Analytics (IVA) -
find 'missing' objects automatically
YesNo
ONVIF compatibility (supports 3rd party cameras)YesLimited - Panasonic, Sony,
Axis, Sanyo, Bosch, and Acti
Instant playback function (plays recorded video
in reverse from live view screen)
YesNo

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 IP channel licenses, whereas with an NVR you get more channels for your money. Each additional channel on a NAS over the free allowance is an extra licence that costs 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 1 year I have used my NAS as my NVR, everything was fine.

Verdict

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!

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4 Comments
  1. Reply
    Visitor January 23, 2017 at 9:33 pm

    What about QNAP and Synology NVR series compared to their NAS? I have made me a shortlist of candidates for my home project:
    QNAP TS-453A
    Synology DS916+
    Hikvision DS-7732NI-I4

    but then also found the that QNAP and Synology have their own NVR series. QNAP VS-4108-PRO+ is a 4-bay alternative but expensive. Synology NVR216 is about the same price as the ones I have on my shortlist but only two bays.

    It feels like the more I read, the more difficult it is to choose…

    • Reply
      Daniel February 3, 2017 at 12:40 pm

      Hi,

      The NVR versions of the NAS are aimed at small and medium size businesses and this explains the higher price points. They also tend to come with more camera licenses, the QNAP VS-4108-PRO+ for example has 8 licenses included. For home use I would still suggest going with a NAS as you can use it for so many other things as well.

      The biggest advantage of the NVR route is the RAID redundancy – to get the same feature in a traditional NVR like Hikvision’s will cost a lot more than a NAS.

      Daniel

  2. Reply
    Mike February 9, 2017 at 10:28 am

    Hi, is it possible to set the NVR up to only allow access to it via VPN? If not, then that seems like a strong advantage of a NAS setup. I want lots of cameras though, so I will need/want a NVR. But I don’t want to open it up to the world without the VPN security. What to do?

    • Reply
      Daniel February 9, 2017 at 6:30 pm

      Hi there,

      In order to put your dedicated NVR (and the rest of your network) behind a VPN, some other device on the network needs to act as a VPN server (the Hikvision NVR doesn’t have VPN server functionality). That could be a PC, a laptop, a NAS or even a router such as the Netgear Nighthawk.

      Daniel

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