What’s the Difference Between NVR and DVR?

by | Nov 18, 2021 | Blogs, Learning Center

Technology moves very fast. 

What’s cutting-edge today may be obsolete tomorrow. 

Vinyl gave way to cassettes, which gave way to CDs, which gave way to MP3s (the fact we’ve gone full circle and returned to vinyl albums is a subject for another day). 

Betamax to VHS to DVD. Floppy disk to USB thumb drive to cloud storage. Movie theaters to Blockbuster Video to Netflix. And so it goes. 

As the technology evolves, there’s bound to be some overlap with two or more styles, versions, or types competing to be the preferred one. 

Security systems are not immune to this, such as the debate over bullet vs dome cameras, for example. 

And unless you plan to personally sit and watch a live feed of your cameras — or are willing to pay someone else to do it — you’ll need some way to record that footage in case it’s needed later.

So, what’s it going to be: NVR or DVR?

The Case for Cameras

Crime isn’t going away anytime soon. 

Take property crime, for example. It’s over 5x more common than violent crime, includes larceny-theft, burglary, motor vehicle theft, and arson, resulted in losses of $15.8 billion in 2019, and there were just under 6.5 million reported cases in the US for 2020.  

The good news? It has been trending down for the past 30 years, after topping out at nearly 13 million cases in 1991.  

But 6.5 million is still a lot, and burglaries accounted for just over one million of those reported instances. 

We know that security systems and cameras can help mitigate the risk to you, your family, and your property:

Alarms and cameras do make a difference, both before and after a crime takes place. 

They serve as deterrents, and if you are still robbed, the footage provided to authorities can increase the odds of catching the criminal and getting your valuables back, to say nothing of the other crimes that have been solved with the help of both public and private surveillance cameras. 

The key takeaway? Your footage must be recorded and saved, and that brings us back to the question of NVR or DVR systems.

What’s the Meaning of NVR and DVR?

Security cameras can be aimed at strategic entry points and objects to capture video footage, but that footage must be processed and stored somewhere if you want to return to it later. 

Most of the time, that’s either going to be an NVR or DVR. 

DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder while NVR stands for Network Video Recorder. Both can capture and save your raw footage. The main difference is in how they process it beforehand. 

An NVR processes the video data at the camera, and a DVR processes at the recorder itself. 

Does that matter? What difference does it make? Is one superior to the other?

Let’s look a little closer.

DVR Systems in a Nutshell

In this setup, video footage is captured by analog cameras, and that raw data must be transferred to the recorder via coaxial cables. Once there, it is processed into a digital format by the DVR itself and stored for later retrieval. 

This is exactly like the DVR you may have attached to your television to save your favorite shows.

Each analog camera must have its own power source, and it must be directly connected to the DVR by a coaxial cable of no more than 300 feet (any longer and the video quality begins to suffer).

Digital video recorder systems have been around longer, so you’re dealing with slightly older technology. 

On the plus side, you’re looking at lower upfront costs, a less complex setup, and easier maintenance. A DVR will work with just about any analog camera, so you’re not required to purchase everything from a single brand. 

That said, it has some serious limitations:

  • You’ll need a separate power source (i.e. electrical outlet) for every camera you want to include
  • You’ll need enough coaxial cable to physically link every camera to the DVR
  • Nothing can be more than 300 feet from the recorder (and realistically much less)
  • Lower video quality than an NVR
  • Limited to the number of video input ports (if it only has eight of them, and you want ten cameras, you’d be forced to buy a second DVR)
  • Does not natively transmit audio signals (coaxial cables transmit video only, no sound)
  • DVRs aren’t typically connected to a network, so you can’t access your footage remotely
  • As an aging technology, it will become increasingly difficult to find replacement parts, analog cameras, and coaxial cables

A DVR system is still a reliable option, and any security system is better than none. If you’re looking to control costs and/or you have some coaxial cables already installed, it’s a good choice for your security needs.

NVR Systems in a Nutshell 

Network video recorders are the newer technology. 

Video footage is captured and processed in the camera itself, then transmitted to the recorder for storage. This can be done either wirelessly or via an ethernet cable. 

In an NVR system, IP (internet protocol) cameras have their own power source (battery or electrical outlet), and the video is transferred via your wifi signal. PoE (power over ethernet) cameras are wired to the recorder via an ethernet cable that provides them with power and a means to transfer the video footage. 

Additionally, IP and PoE cameras can record and transmit both video and audio data, so captured footage will have sound if the camera has that ability.

Beyond that, the video footage will be of higher quality than that which is possible with an analog camera, you have greater flexibility with wireless cameras (can be placed anywhere so long as they can connect to the network) and PoE cameras (a range of up to 328 feet, with ethernet extenders available for even greater distances), and the entire system is available online. 

And because NVRs have access to the cloud, they are not hampered by physical storage limitations. A 60GB NVR may also be connected to an additional 200GB, 5TB, or more of cloud storage. 

But it’s not a perfect solution:

  • Newer technology comes with a higher price tag
  • Security risks (anything connected 24/7 is at greater risk of being hacked or compromised)
  • Incompatibility issues (most NVRs require cameras from the same manufacturer)
  • Some may find network configuration difficult and complex

An NVR system comes with a lot of bells and whistles just not possible with its DVR counterpart. If you’re comfortable with technology and/or willing to pay more for a premium product, then you should definitely consider an NVR security solution. 

NVR and DVR: A Side-by-Side Comparison

As with most things in life, it’s going to come down to your specific wants, needs, and preferences.

NVR DVR
Wireless or Wired (Ethernet) Wired
Native Audio and Video Video Only
Data Processed at Camera Data Processed at Recorder
IP and PoE Cameras Analog Cameras
4K at 30fps Available 4K at 7-15fps at Best
Wide Coverage Area Limited to Within 300 feet of Recorder
More Expensive More Affordable
Footage Available Online Footage Available at Source

Both NVR and DVR systems provide a deterrent to would-be burglars, and the ability to record and save video footage. That’s what you need at a minimum, and either system will increase your security and peace of mind. 

If price is your only concern, then opt for DVR. It’s the cheaper choice.

If video quality and coverage area are top of your list, you’ll be much happier with an NVR. 

If you’re looking for something quick and easy to troubleshoot, then a DVR system is probably the way to go. 

But if you’re comfortable dealing with tech, you can’t beat the options available with a robust NVR set-up. 

Your needs, your comfort level, your budget. 

Nothing and no one knows more about that than you. If you’ve done your research and examined the available options, it’s time to make your choice. Don’t agonize. 

Go with the best fit. Only about 17% of Americans have a security system in their home. Get in that group. 

When it comes to home security, there’s bad, better, and best. Having nothing in place is bad. Don’t wait until it’s too late. Having either a DVR or NVR security system is better. 

But choosing whichever one checks all of your boxes is best.

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