The basic difference between NVR and DVR is how they process the video data and what type of camera you can connect to them. DVR systems process the video data on the recorder side, while NVR systems process the video data on the cameras’ side.
The NVR works with IP cameras and the DVR works with analog or HD over coaxial cameras, although there are new types of DVRs that work with every type of camera
In this guide, we will talk about security camera recorders and which one is better. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages, you need to go for the system that fits better to your needs and specifications.
What’s the meaning of NVR and DVR
NVR stands for Network Video Recorder and its function is to record the video feed coming from the cameras. The video gets captured by the cameras and then is transmitted to the NVR via Cat5 or Cat6 cables and the devices record the footage in their internal hard drives.
NVR works with IP cameras, also known as network cameras. These cameras use Ethernet cables with RJ45 plugs to connect to the network or the NVR.
There are three types of network video recorders:
Regular NVR. In this case, the cameras connect to an external PoE switch and they communicate with the NVR via the network. These NVRs come with an RJ45 port at the back that allows them to connect to the local network (via the router or switch).
NVR with built-in PoE NVR (also known as PoE NVR). The NVR has multiple PoE ports at the back when the IP cameras can be plugged in. Instead of connecting to an external switch, the IP cameras go straight to the NVR which may contain 4-64 available ports.
WiFi NVR. This is a special type that works with WiFi cameras. Obviously, no wires are being used here between the camera or the NVR, all the devices are connected and communicate wirelessly.
DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder and its function is to store the video feed coming from the cameras. These cameras are analog only and use coaxial cables (with BNC connectors). They can be old type analog cameras (TV lines), or the newer version of HD over coaxial such as HD-CVI, HD-TVI, AHD, etc.
The analog cameras send uncompressed video to the DVR which converts and compresses them to a digital signal before storing it into its hard drives or sending it out to other devices.
Some sellers call the new generation of DVRs as HD DVR or HVR. HD DVR is a recorder that works with analog high definition cameras, they still use the coaxial cables as the old-style cameras but they are able to generate HD or even UHD images. Technically, it’s still a DVR, but the sellers try to give them fancy names in order to upsell to the customers.
HVR (hybrid video recorder) is a combination of the DVR and NVR, which works with both analog HD cameras and IP cameras. Basically, you can combine these types of cameras on the same recorder.
The HVR is more focused on analog cameras than on IP cameras (usually it downgrades the camera resolution). This type of DVR is ideal if you just need 1-2 special IP cameras (more expensive) while the rest are regular analog HD cameras (cheaper).
What are the differences between DVR and NVR
The main difference between DVR and NVR is how they process the video data and the type of cameras you can use with each system. The chart below summarizes the differences between a DVR and an NVR.
The video is processed by the IP camera
The video is processed by the recorder
Works with IP cameras
Works with analog cameras such as CVBS, HD-TVI, HD-CVI, AHD
RJ45 ports for the IP cameras
Coaxial ports (BNC) for analog cameras
Ethernet cables or wireless. Less cable runs overall
Coaxial cables. More cabling since you need to power up the cameras separately
The highest resolution and FPS
Low to medium resolution and low FPS
The most advanced tech in security systems, future proof.
Traditional security systems
Footage with audio (if supported by the camera)
Footage without audio
NVR works with IP cameras, including PoE cameras and WiFi cameras, which both can process the raw video data format to digital signals on their own and then transmit it to the NVR where the footage is saved.
PoE IP cameras mean that you can use the same Ethernet cable to transmit the data (video or audio) and the power. This saves time since you just need to run one cable only per camera.
DVR works with analog cameras that can be old-type cameras (TV lines) or the new HD technology such as HD-CVI, HD-TVI, AHD, etc.
The signal these cameras generate is a raw analog signal that gets transmitted to the DVR where it is processed and converted to the digital one. Once processed, the footage is stored in the internal hard drives.
The NVR receives digital data that has already been processed in IP cameras which it doesn’t need to encode the signal. This means that the NVR simply recorders the data or analyzes it based on the software.
The DVR is different, it accepts the analog signal from the camera and needs to convert the original analog signal into a digital signal, and then store it in its internal hard drive. So, the DVR has to do more “leg work” compared to the NVR.
Ports and Wiring
The NVR’s ports are RJ45 ports where the IP cameras get plugged in. The DVR’s ports are called coaxial ports (sometimes BNC ports). You can tell between an NVR and a DVR just by looking at the ports in the back of each device.
As seen in the picture, the BNC ports are very noticeable and characteristic. You may have 4, 8, 16 ports depending on the number of the channel. An NVR has no BNC ports at all.
The NVR and the IP cameras are connected by Ethernet cables (Cat5, Cat6) or in a wireless way. The network cable can transmit the data (video and audio) and the power to the camera. So, you need one run per camera.
The DVRs need to transmit analog signals, so they use coaxial cables which are less flexible and difficult to run. Moreover, you need to run a separate cable to power up the camera.
For each analog camera, you need two cables, one for the analog signal and one for the power. Although there are some newer solutions where you can use ethernet to analog converters.
IP cameras are the future of security systems and they offer superior HD and UHD resolutions. They start from 1080p and go up to 4MP, 8MP, 4K, and even more.
The DVR analog systems use lower resolution cameras, although some brands have manufactured 4K camera systems. Since the DVR setups use coaxial cable, the picture is prone to getting interference, rolling lines, or other glitches.
Price-wise, the NVRs, and IP cameras are more expensive when compared to DVR and analog cameras. More expensive, better image quality, simple as them. However, nowadays there are NVR systems in the market that are quite affordable.
Another major difference is that many IP cameras come with built-in microphones which means you can get not just the video but the audio as well.
The mic is embedded on the camera and there’s no need to run a separate wire, just the camera, and via the same cable, you will get video, audio, and power.
And some special IP cameras come with two-way audio features. They have a mic and speaker built-in in the unit, this way you can hear and talk back straight through the camera. Moreover, there’s no need to run extra wires. Only IP cameras that work with NVRs offer these features.
On the DVR it is very difficult to record audio. It’s doable but you need to run data and power cables for an external mic, install it somewhere close to the camera and then plug the other end on the RCA connector of the DVR.
It’s complicated, the audio will be low quality, and you’ll need to run a lot of wires which increases the number of fail points in your system. Additionally, the DVRs usually come with 1-4 audio ports, while the NVRs have no limitations. You can have as many IP cameras with audio as you want (matching the NVR’s channel number).
IP camera systems with NVRs are more flexible regarding the installation distances. You can extend them as far as you want by using PoE switches when the distance is extended.
Normally you should run the cameras 100-150 feet before adding another switch (or booster) on the line. Or you can even use PtMP (point to multipoint) devices to connect two NVRs miles away.
Additionally, you can use a WiFi camera that can work anywhere as long as you have strong and reliable internet coverage.
Regular and HD analog cameras have a transmission distance from 300ft to 1500ft, depending on the camera type and cable quality. But, the longer the run, the more issues you will have such as low-quality images or artifacts on the video.
NVRs work better with cloud-based technologies and are more specialized to store the footage on the cloud. This way you can reduce the burden of the local storage capacity and protect the recordings in case there’s hard drive damage.
Most of the DVRs have no cloud storage functions, but some newer versions do. While they can record on the cloud, their functions and hardware are not as good as NVRs. They are simply not designed for that purpose.
The Pros and Cons of DVR and NVR systems
Which one is better, DVR or NVR? Well, let’s talk about their pros and cons so you can get a better idea.
To cut it short, if you’re building your security system from scratch, go ahead and choose an NVR camera system. The IP systems are future-proof and the picture quality is much better.
Moreover, it’s a new technology with a bunch of smart features, it has a higher frame rate per second, and higher resolution (UHD). Cons: generally speaking it’s more expensive although the prices have been going down, and it may be a little difficult to configure all the security features.
NVR IP camera system: Pros and Cons
⦿ The highest quality in the market (support cameras starting from 1080p up to UHD levels)
⦿ Supports PoE (single cable for power and data) or can work wirelessly
⦿ AI and smart functions such as auto-tracking, people counting, and other advanced analytics
⦿ Video with audio, two-way audio
⦿ Flexible and easier to install
⦿ Typically more expensive
⦿ A bit complicated configuring all the AI or smart functions
DVR security camera system: Pros and Cons
⦿ No network skills are required when installing
⦿ Basic configuration
⦿ Perfect solution to upgrade an existing CCTV analog system
⦿ Lower to medium image quality
⦿ Needs separate data and power cable for each camera
⦿ Can’t record audio natively, needs to run separate mics
⦿ The image is prone to interference
DVR vs NVR, Which One to Choose?
There’s not a definite answer of which one is better DVR or NVR. It all comes down to your budget and the technical requirements designed for your system. As with anything, the better a system, the more expensive it will get.
However, NVRs are the mainstream and the future of the security system in the age of the internet. If you’re installing a system from scratch, it’s better to go with the NVRs and IP cameras. If you already have an old system, you may go with DVR and keep the same cabling but upgrade to HD cameras.
NVR Camera Systems: Things to keep in mind
Below we’ve listed the advantages of IP systems compared to DVR systems (analog HD cameras).
IP systems provide higher quality videos
The network video recorders or NVRs work with IP cameras with a resolution starting from 2MP (1080p) and up to 12MP or even UHD. These resolutions cannot compare with HD analog cameras.
Moreover, the IP cameras’ resolution will always improve over time, while the DVR system’s resolution is limited and it’s almost impossible to get any better.
Many installers, users, and security experts agree that NVR IP systems are the winner and at the end of the day resolution is what matters. The clearer the image, the better chances to identify the intruder.
NVR IP camera system is easy to wire
Another superior feature of the NVR IP cameras system is the cabling. While analog cameras require two cables per camera (data and power), PoE NVRs require just one Ethernet cable for the data and power. You can use external PoE switches or NVRs with built-in PoE switches.
Additionally, WiFi NVRs require no cabling, they connect to the cameras wirelessly via the WiFi and avoid the headache of running wires all over the place. You need to make sure that cameras are properly covered by the WiFi signal.
Compared with NVR systems, the DVR system needs an exact point-to-point connection between the cameras and the digital network recorder, and, as we said, you need two per camera.
If you want to install some microphones on the DVR, you need to run a data and power cable for them as well (while the IP cameras come with built-in mics).
NVR IP system is flexible in placement
Since the NVRs use IP cameras, it’s more flexible to install them and place them in the right spots as long as you have an internet connection or coverage.
While the DVR systems are limited by the coaxial cable runs, the IP cameras can go anywhere as long as you place them under a PoE switch or WiFi coverage.
You can run the network cable and install the IP camera, or if the spot is difficult to reach, you can use wireless cameras. Additionally, it’s easier to hide the Ethernet cables in spots such as attics, ceilings, walls, closets, or anywhere.
NVR systems are easy to use and configure
While the NVRs may be difficult to set up (although the new ones are mostly plug-n-play), their interface and logic are pretty basic.
Thanks to advances in technology, there’s no need to do port forwarding anymore, all you have to do is install the app on the phone, scan a QR code on the menu, and boom you’ll see the cameras on the phone.
The app allows you to live view, playback, adjust settings, and get notifications. You can even install the camera management software on the computer and control everything through the computer without the need to access the NVR physically.
Common questions about NVR and DVR systems
Is there any video lag on NVR camera systems?
There will be no lag in a properly installed IP camera system. You need to get an NVR that supports all the cameras you need to hook up into it, an NVR that can handle the camera’s bandwidth resolution and bit rate, an NVR that can properly process the camera’s video (download/upload streams).
If you design the network correctly, there will be no lag whatsoever, sometimes the lag may be 0.5s or 1s which is acceptable. If the lag is more than that, inspect your network to ensure there’s no bandwidth bottleneck at some point.
Are there NVRs with battery backup if there’s a power outage?
DVR and NVR security systems don’t come with battery backups, they need to be plugged into the grid in order to work. However, you can use a UPS unit to prevent your video recorder from shutting down when there’s a power outage in the area.
That way, if there’s a power issue, the system will continue to function. Also, it’s a good idea to use battery-powered cameras if your cameras are crucial for your business.
How far can the NVR and DVR cameras work?
For the DVR systems that use analog HD cameras, the transmission distance can be anywhere from 300 ft up to 1500ft on certain cameras. You need to use shielded high-quality cables, and power up the camera close to the source.
Still, the longer the run, the worse the signal, sometimes you may get interference that degrades the image displaying rolling lines or artifacts.
NVR camera systems (IP cameras) are not limited by the wires, you can run them as long as you need by placing PoE switches (or boosters) at a 100-130ft distance. You can repeat this as many times as you want. Moreover, IP cameras show no artifacts or degrading images (it either works or doesn’t show anything at all).
Do NVR systems use more bandwidth than DVR systems?
They do, but it’s almost irrelevant. Let’s say you have an NVR with built-in PoE, the cameras go to the back of the NVR and everything is in a closed loop. The Network is not affected.
Even if you use external PoE switches, you can place them on a separate network and they’ll not affect the network at all.
Moreover, keep in mind that NVR camera systems do NOT need the Internet to record and save footage. The security systems will consume bandwidth only when you access it remotely via phone or computer which makes no difference between the DVR and NVR systems.
Additionally, these systems use substream mode when accessed remotely, which has a lower bandwidth than the mainstream.
Should I buy the NVR or DVR and the cameras from the same brand/manufacturer?
You definitely should, especially if you’re playing to use IP systems. The NVRs and IP cameras from the same brand are optimized to work properly with each other. While NVRs can work with third-party cameras, it’s recommended to buy them from the same manufacturer.
Some users are not sure what NVR or cameras to get and worry if they’ll be compatible. Well, if you’re not sure, purchase the recorder and the cameras from the same brand and for sure they’ll be compatible and work without any issues.
DVR Camera Systems: Things to keep in mind
The DVR system has its price advantage and easier configuration. Below we’ve collected a few things you need to keep in mind when deploying DVR camera systems.
Running cable is challenging for DVR systems
The wiring is the biggest disadvantage of DVR security cameras. Each camera will have two cables to deal with, one for power and one for audio and video.
This could be more difficult if your monitoring places are out of reach of the coax cable. You’re gonna be overwhelmed with wires, especially if you’re running many cameras such as 8 or 16.
DVR systems deliver lower-quality videos
Even though the new technology has greatly improved the recording quality of analog HD over coaxial cameras, they still cannot catch up with the IP cameras. No matter how advanced they get, analog cameras will always be low to medium in terms of image quality.
IP cameras are able to provide high-resolution images (even ultra HD), but they’ll cost you more. So, the DVR system may be a good choice for small jobs that intend to use them mostly as a deterrent factor.
DVR camera systems have a higher maintenance cost
The DVR system transmits the signal via coax cables, which are much more vulnerable to the elements such as snow, heavy rain, wind, rodents, etc. If the cables are exposed outside, they’ll go bad pretty often.
Another thing to consider, when running the cables you need to avoid placing them close to electrical wires as this may cause interference and deteriorate the image quality of your video feed.
The Verdict: NVR vs DVR
NVR vs DVR: Which one is better? The choice is on you but we’d definitely recommend going for NVR systems. Easier to run the cabled, high-quality images, no interference, and future-proof. It may be a little bit more expensive, but hey, you pay for what you get. Superior systems are never cheap.
Nowadays, both NVR and DVR systems are easier to install. While the NVR system may sound complicated, it can be installed by anyone since the configurations have become plug-and-play. Run the wires, connect the cameras and scan the QR code to watch the cameras on the phone.
If you already have an existing traditional CCTV system, you may upgrade the camera to HD by using the existing cables and that’s the main pro argument about DVRs.
But, the system is new, from scratch, so definitely you should go with an NVR system. If you need some recommendations, check out our review about the best IP camera systems in the market.