Choosing between NVR and DVR for your security system

dvr vs nvr system

When setting up a security system, you will need either an NVR or DVR. You will therefore need to understand the difference between the two so that you can be able to make a decision on what to go for.

What is an NVR and DVR

DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder, whereas NVR stands for Network Video Recorder. The difference between NVR and DVR is how they process video data. A DVR converts analog footage into a digital format, while an NVR typically only works with digital footage. DVR systems process data at the recorder, while NVR systems encode and process data at the camera before transmitting it to the recorder for storage and remote viewing.

Advantages and Disadvantages of DVR

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Camera Type – Analog: DVR systems typically use analog security cameras, better known as CCTV cameras. Analog cameras transmit analog signals to the recorder, which then processes the video data. Compared to an NVR system, most DVR cameras are less complex and expensive.

Cable – Coaxial BNC Cable: The analog camera connects to the DVR through a coaxial cable which has some limitations

  • Coaxial cables do not supply power to the camera. This means two types of cables are needed – one for power and one for video transmission.
  • Coaxial cables are wider and stiffer than Ethernet cables, which can make installation a challenge. Coaxial cables also tend to be more rigid, compounding this problem.
  • Audio is a limitation since standard coaxial cables are not able to support audio transmission. A variant that with an added RCA connection is needed but even with these a DVR has a limited number of audio input ports so only a small number of cameras can record audio.
  • The image quality on coaxial cable will begin to degrade after about 300ft/90m, which can limit the ability to which you will extend your security presence outward. Lower quality cable will result in a signal loss at shorter distances.

Recorder: DVR recorders rely on AD encoders to process raw video data from the camera into viewable footage. As a result, every camera in a DVR system needs to be connected to the recorder as well as a separate power source.

System Flexibility: DVR security systems are less flexible than their NVR counterparts in terms of camera type and mounting options. Whereas NVR based systems can integrate both wired and wireless security cameras, DVR systems can only use wired security cameras. DVR systems also have less flexible mounting solutions, because routing coaxial cable can be more difficult in tight situations and a power outlet is required for each camera.

Image & Audio Quality: The analog signal results in a lower quality image compared to NVR systems. Coaxial cables also don’t natively transmit an audio signal, and DVR recorders usually have a limited number of audio input ports.

Advantages and Disadvantages of NVR

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Camera Type – IP Camera: NVR systems utilize IP cameras, which are capable of processing video data before relaying it to the recorder. IP cameras are typically more robust, and able to record and transmit audio in addition to images. The more powerful hardware on IP cameras also enables improved smart functionality and video analytics, such as facial recognition.

Cable – Ethernet: If they’re not wireless, IP cameras typically connect to the recorder via Ethernet cables. They can only run up to 100 meters, but have a number of advantages over coaxial cables.

  • Some camera solutions may come with a Power over Ethernet (PoE) connection, which means your camera needs one cable running to capture video, audio, and power the camera, thus eliminating the need for messy splitters like a DVR system.
  • Ethernet cable tends to be easier to route and terminate because it is thinner and has a smaller connector allowing for less drilling
  • Ethernet is cheaper than coaxial cable and much more readily available, making cable replacement or system expansion more accessible and affordable. Many modern homes and businesses are being built wired for Ethernet, making installation even easier
  • Despite a shorter max Ethernet cable length, 328ft or 100m, network switches can be used to extend total distance without impacting image quality.

Recorder: Unlike a DVR system, the recorder in an NVR system doesn’t process video data. That step is completed at the camera before it is transmitted. NVR recorders are only used for storing and viewing the footage.

Higher Storage Capacity: NVR camera systems can upload footage to cloud-based servers – an advantage of being connected to the internet. Unlike DVR systems they aren’t limited to on-premise storage, and as a result, they can support a higher capacity compared to DVR systems.

Image & Audio Quality: As NVR recorders receive a pure digital signal from the cameras, video quality is better than compared to a DVR at the same resolution. In addition, as Ethernet cables carry audio, all cameras with microphones could record audio to the NVR.

System Flexibility
NVR systems are inherently more flexible because security cameras don’t necessarily have to be physically connected directly to the recorder. Instead, IP cameras only have to be on the same network. As such, you could feasibly have cameras all over the world on the same network that connect to your NVR can then be viewed as a comprehensive system.


Both NVR and DVR systems record video data and are reliable.The difference between DVR and NVR systems come down to the cost, how the data is transmitted, and type of cameras. NVR systems tend to have better picture quality, as well as easier installation, increased flexibility, and native support for audio on every camera that has a microphone. However, they are quite expensive compared to DVR system. When it comes to choosing one for your security system, you will need to put in consideration your specific security needs of your property and your budget.

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