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DVR vs. NVR: 7 Key Differences With Pros and Cons for Each

CCTV Security Camera

DVR vs. NVR: 7 Key Differences With Pros and Cons for Each

Key Points

  • DVR and NVR are two different recording systems used for security systems, with DVR being more affordable and NVR being more expensive.
  • NVR systems use IP cameras that record and process data at the source, while DVR systems use analog cameras that send raw data to the recorder to be processed.
  • NVR provides better image quality than DVR, with cameras starting at 2K resolution and going up to 4K and above.

If you’re running a business or are in charge of security, pretty soon you’re going to need a security system in place with recording capabilities. When it comes to DVR vs. NVR systems, the choice isn’t very easy. So, we’re going to get into what sets these two recording systems apart and help you decide which you should go for.

NVR vs. DVR: Side-By-Side Comparison

CategoryDVRNVR
Stands forDigital Video RecorderNetwork Video Recorder
Cameras usedNot all cameras and NVRs are compatible, as the signal is encoded before being transmittedIP (Internet Protocol)
Data processedAt the recorderAt the source
Cables usedCoaxialEthernet
PriceMore affordableMore expensive
Signal integrityDegrades once cables exceed 300 to 500 feetNo drop in quality over long distances (switches required)
CompatibilityEasy to transmit several video signals to one DVR and use different modelsNot all cameras and NVRs are compatible, as signal is encoded before being transmitted

DVR vs. NVR: What’s the Difference?

You can see a quick comparison in the table above. But let’s take a deeper look at what sets these two recording technologies apart from each other.

Recording

One of the key differences between NVR and DVR is how they record and process footage. Concerning DVR, the cameras used are typically analog, also known as CCTV (Closed Circuit Television.) These cameras produce a raw signal that’s sent to the DVR to be processed by the encoder. As such, what the cameras capture is essentially a bunch of data, rather than a viewable video recording. You can only view these recordings remotely.

On the other hand, NVR systems use IP (Internet Protocol) cameras, which connect via the internet. These cameras can record and process the captured data at the source. This footage is still sent to the NVR, which stores the recordings digitally like DVR, but the footage has already been processed before it arrives.

Image Quality

Another area where you’ll see a difference is in image quality. Of course, in an ideal world, you’d want the best quality possible, so this is an important factor. While DVR technology has come a long way over the years, it still tends to lag behind NVR in this aspect. This is partly because coaxial cables just aren’t designed for modern, higher resolutions. You may be able to get away with sending data in 4K, but this will drastically reduce the frame rate to around 10 per second or fewer.

Thanks to the tech, NVR pulls ahead in this regard. Cameras usually start at around 2K but can go up to 4K and even above. Naturally, the cost will increase as the image quality does, and you may not need the sharpest images, but it’s something to keep in mind.

SD vs HD
A 4K Television display with a comparison of different HD resolutions.

Cables

As well as the cameras and data processing, DVR and NVR differ in terms of the cables they rely on. DVR must use coaxial cables to send the raw data to the recorder. These cables don’t provide power to the camera, so an additional cable must be used. Audio isn’t supplied either, so if you want to record audio as well as video, you must add an RCA connector. Be sure to check how many audio inputs you have in your DVR, as these will be limited, and you’ll need cable for each camera you want to connect. You’ll also need to position the DVR near a power source. The plus side is that coaxial cables are usually thicker, sturdier, and more rigid than alternatives, so they tend to last longer.

It’s hard to recommend coaxial cables over the Ethernet used by NVR systems, however. Although you can opt for a wireless Wi-Fi setup instead, which offers more flexibility, Wi-Fi does introduce a greater possibility of signal loss and security breaches. Using Ethernet cables also simplifies matters when it comes to audio and power, as these are both supplied through the same cable as the video data. Ethernet cables are also slim and compact, and they are easier to fit into a variety of spaces than coaxial. Comparatively, the connection is faster and more reliable as well.

Signal

When you’re recording secure footage, you naturally want as consistent a signal as possible. Video recordings are no good if they have blind spots or time lapses. While DVR is generally reliable, coaxial cables are more prone to signal loss than Ethernet. This does depend on the quality, brand, and model of cable, but you do tend to experience signal loss once distances exceed 300 to 500 feet. On the other hand, Ethernet provides a secure connection that doesn’t degrade with distance. You may need to add network switches, however, with distances greater than around 200 feet, but this isn’t an option with coaxial.

Compatibility

There are a lot of different brands of cameras and recorders that you could opt for. As such, this is a definite strength of DVR. Because the cameras only record raw data, you can usually use various models of cameras within the same system. On the other hand, NVR is probably going to become more and more common in the future. Thinking long-term, this may make NVR more appealing.

Although NVR will likely end up being more ubiquitous, IP cameras are not as widely compatible as analog. Your best bet is to buy your cameras and NVR from the same manufacturer. That way, you can be sure they’re compatible with each other.

Installation

If you’re not the most tech-savvy, then the difficulty of installation is understandably a significant factor to consider. DVR installation can be easy if you already have coaxial cables or analog cameras in place. However, the bulk of the cables and connectors can be tricky to set up. This is especially true in a tight or awkwardly shaped space. You also have the problem of making sure your DVR is close enough to a power source.

An advantage of NVR is that it’s usually easier to install. Ethernet configuration is essentially plug-and-play, as long as your components are compatible. You can usually configure IP cameras automatically, and the cables are slimmer, making them easier to put into place.

cat5 vs. cat5e ethernet nvr
NVR tends to be easier to set up thanks to slimmer, multifunctional Ethernet cables.

Price

For all the pros of NVR, the fact remains that DVR is usually cheaper to run. Although coaxial cables tend to command a higher price than Ethernet, analog cameras are cheaper than IP. Once your system is up and running, the long-term costs will be lower for DVR than NVR. In addition, Ethernet cables don’t last as long as coaxial cables, so maintenance costs will be higher. This is because you’ll need to replace the cables more frequently.

DVR vs. NVR: 9 Must-Know Facts

  1. DVR processes raw data into video footage at the recorder, while NVR processes data at the source
  2. NVR can use either PoE (Power over Ethernet) or a Wi-Fi connection. DVR must use coaxial cables
  3. DVR cables are more costly, but the cameras and installation are cheaper than NVR
  4. NVR will cost more in the long run, as you’ll need to replace Ethernet cables more frequently
  5. Installation of NVR is usually simpler, as the configuration is automatic and the cables are thinner
  6. You can use different brands of cameras for DVR, but NVR has more compatibility restrictions
  7. NVR cables can supply audio and power, but DVR cables cannot
  8. You can achieve better image quality with NVR than with DVR
  9. DVR quality drops over large distances, whereas you can supplement NVR with network switches

DVR vs. NVR: Which One Is Better? Which One Should You Use?

Your choice between NVR and DVR is tricky. Although DVR can be attractive as its upfront costs are lower, it’s harder to get great image quality and may be difficult to set up if you don’t have any pre-existing components. If your space is awkward, you’ll find NVR cables easier to set up. For a neat, future-proofed system with audio and power supplied in one cable, it’s hard not to recommend NVR. Similarly, if you plan on having a great distance between your cameras and recorder, then NVR is the better choice. However, if your budget is tight and you want a long-lasting system with no internet connection, then DVR is still a good contender.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between DVR and NVR?

DVR uses analog cameras, which send raw data to the recorder to be processed. NVR, however, uses IP cameras, which process the data into video footage at the source, which is then sent to the NVR over a network.

What's the difference between coaxial and Ethernet cables?

DVR uses coaxial cables to send data. Typically, they don’t supply audio as well, but you can use an RCA connector for this. However, a separate cable will be needed to supply power. NVR, on the other hand, uses Ethernet cables in a wired system. These can supply power, audio, and video and are generally slimmer and faster than coaxial. They don’t tend to last as long as coaxial, though.

What are the pros of DVR?

DVR can be easy to set up, especially if you have analog cameras or coaxial cables in place already. DVR is reliable and usually cheaper over the long term, even though coaxial cables are more expensive than Ethernet. You can also combine various brands of components, and you don’t need an internet connection. This makes DVR more secure.

What are the pros of NVR?

NVR is usually easier to configure and setup than DVR, and it can provide a faster connection and a neater system thanks to the slim cables. The cables are cheaper than coaxial and easier to install in awkward spaces. You can also get away with longer cable lengths, as long as you have network switches in place. NVR also gives you much greater video and audio quality than DVR.

Which one is better, DVR or NVR?

It’s hard to say which is better, but generally, NVR is the preferred system. This is because of the easier setup, greater image quality, technically unlimited cable length, and flexibility if you go with a Wi-Fi setup. However, NVR can be less secure than DVR due to the internet connection, and Ethernet cables must be replaced more frequently than coaxial. DVR gives you greater security and more flexibility with components, as well as a lower cost.

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