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Security Camera Channels in DVR and NVR Security Systems

If you’ve been looking into buying a security camera, you may have already felt confused about the differences between the DVR and the NVR channels. Additionally, there are terms like 8-channel DVR or 16-channel DVR which only adds to the confusion. While there are a lot of them on the market, 16-channel and 32-channel NVRs are the most common, but let’s try to explain what those terms mean.

When it comes to security cameras, “channels” is the way the capacity of a DVR or NVR security camera management system is discussed. A 16 channel DVR can support 16 cameras, for instance. DVR and NVR systems are both described in terms of channel capacity, but past that there are a lot of differences in the two types of systems.

Both NVR and DVR systems are reliable and record video footage. The fundamental differences between them are the price, how they transmit data, as well as the types and numbers of cameras they support.

If you’ve ever found yourself asking questions about what types of camera systems DVR or NVR systems accommodate, the differences between them, or the number of cameras you actually need, then you’re in the right place. This article will decode everything you need to know about security camera channels and which management system, DVR or NVR, is right for you (our guide on how to view the footage too).

What is a Security Camera DVR System?

Simple Surveillance DVR - Smaller

DVR is an acronym for Digital Video Recorder that is an electronic device to record videos to a disk drive in a digital format. Speaking about disk drive, you can use a wide variety for storage depending on manufacturers’ specifications, including hard disk, SSD, USB flash drive, SD memory card, networked, or local mass storage devices.

DVR also encompasses set-top boxes capable of direct-to-disk recording, TV gateways, digital camcorders, and portable media players. Hence, most DVRs fall under the consumer electronics category in the market. You can even use a personal computer as a DVR by connecting it to a video capturing device. However, in this scenario, you will need software for recording video in a digital format.

Elements of DVR Systems

DVR is actually more of a generic term. It’s extremely useful to talk through a few examples, so that you know what the various possibilities are for your system, and what form a DVR system can really take. Here are some elements DVR systems.

1. Integrated Television Sets

Some TV sets support DVR integration; moreover, they have simplified operation and wiring, i.e., single power cable. There are no interconnected ports such as HDMIs, and you can control them using a single remote control. Additionally, integrated television sets allow for the reception of analog signals like NTSC, SECAM, and PAL.

2. VESA compatibility

You can attach VESA-compatible Digital Video Recorders to the mounting holes on the back of your LCD TV panel. This allows you to combine DVR and TV into a single integrated unit. If you need to find the specifications for the VESA size of your TV, the easiest way might just be to measure it on your own.

3. Set-Top Box

Your set-top box is an over-the-air DVR that records live television programs. Several cable companies have launched their own set-top boxes for their consumers in the last decade. You can even get your own set-top box from a consumer electronics store that allows you to subscribe and attach your own hard disk, SSD, or USB flash stick to record videos and other media such as images and audio, etc.

So, in the same way that DVRs allowing you to record cable TV work, you can set up your own DCR recording system for your security cameras.

4. PC-BASED Digital Video Recorders

Did you know there are hardware and software available in the market that allow you to turn your PC into a DVR? The best part is, this software supports all major operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Let us look a little bit into each of these variants.

·       Linux-Based PC DVRs

There are many open-source and free software DVR applications for Linux. For instance, TV gateway works as a DVB tuner, a network tuner, and provides TV server functions. This allows live viewing and recording capabilities over IP networks. Other applications include MythTV, LinuxMCE, Video Disk Recorder (VDR), VBox, Kodi, etc.

·       Mac OS X

Apple offers applications allowing any Mac (as long as it has a FireWire Port) to record an MPEG2 transport stream. However, you will need a cable box equipped with FireWire, such as the Motorola DCT62xx. These applications are also capable of changing channels on your cable box via the FireWire interface. However, you can only record broadcast channels because the rest of the channels run on encryptions.

·       Microsoft Windows

There are various free DVR applications for Windows, such as Orb, MediaPortal, and GB-PVR. However, you can purchase several commercial solutions such as CyberLink. Most of the TV tuner cards come with software allowing you to turn your PC into a recording TV.

·       Embeddable DVRs

An Embeddable Digital Video Recorder is a standalone recording device designed to easily integrate into a complex system. You can get an embedded DVR as a bare circuit, a compact board that allows you to mount it as a component within a larger machine. An embedded DVR has a control keypad connected to a detachable cable. This allows you to locate it anywhere on the system’s exterior while the DVR circuitry sits within the equipment.

What About NVR Systems?

Lorex 4K NVR (attribution required) - Smaller
Parksondoi, Lorex 4K NVR, Cropped, CC BY-SA 4.0

While a DVR can only support a limited number of security cameras due to its limited channel ports on the back, NVR is a completely different beast – thanks to Power-over-Ethernet! Some models support the connectivity of more security cameras than the actual number of ports on the back of your NVR by using a PoE switch.

A PoE switch allows you to plug in multiple security cameras into a single port. Typically, the switch also supplies power and combines both signals into one Ethernet cable that runs back to your NVR port. In most scenarios, you can conveniently mount double the number of cameras available on the NVR.

That said – while the quantity of ports available on the back of your NVR does not limit the number of cameras you can use, the number of channels an NVR firmware dictates limits you in a number of ways. Your NVR may have 8 ports but it may be able to accommodate up to 16 channels.

A single cable simply recognizes two multiple signals as two different security cameras. On the other hand, you may have a limit of merely 8 channels with 8 ports. However, it will depend on the exact model you are using for the CCTV system.

Understanding NVR

Let’s dive a little deeper into the NVR and understand what is. NVR is an acronym for Network Video Recorder, a software program enabling you to record surveillance footage onto a disk in a digital format. Similar to DVR, NVR also supports various mass storage devices such as hard disk drives, memory cards, USB flash sticks, SSDs, and other similar devices.

An NVR does not accompany any dedicated video capturing hardware. However, the software does require a dedicated device along with an embedded operating system. Alternatively, apart from supporting enhanced serviceability and functionality, you can use Windows and Linux operating systems with standard video management software.

You can typically deploy an NVR in an IP-based video surveillance system. An NVR home security can even be wireless, and will be very easy to set up whether wired or note. You can access it remotely through a web browser, and it allows you to receive notifications in case an alarm goes off and you need to quickly turn it off. These features make NVR a more robust option than DVR in general, owing to the fact that they’re based on more advanced technology than DVRs.

Typical NVR Channel Counts

There are three common types of NVR channeled security systems. A 4 channel NVR system, such as the Reolink 4CH on Amazon, is an entry-level solution for your residence, small office, or retail store. The application offers compatibility with several IP cameras and has no specific software or hardware requirement. All you need to do is plug NVR into a LAN-connected device, i.e., a router or a switch.

8 Channel NVRs, like this one from Reolink (on Amazon) can support up to 8 IP cameras. Even a system of this size should be relatively plug and play. You’ll connect up the NVR to your router and let it do its thing, and when the cameras are powered on they’ll connect automatically. Using a system like this with 5mp cameras is going to be a great option for most people, it a great place to start if you don’t think you’ll ever need more than 8 cameras, and most people won’t.

These two units are most comment – the lower 4 camera count system to support really specific security concerns, like one hallway or doorway you want multiple angles on, or an 8 count system that allows you put up a decent number of cameras around your whole houes. Past that, there are plenty of options that fall in the category of really big systems.

This Reolink 16 camera option (on Amazon) is a great example, but there are 32 channel systems and beyond. Past that, you’re probably best considering multiple smaller systems and, let’s face it, if you’re falling into the third category here then you’re probably going to need a solution a little more commercial.

Keep in mind that if you deploy a system that’s much larger, you’ll need to scale all that storage as well. But with the larger systems, you may also get more features around privacy and even some motion detection (which can limit the amount of video capture that needs to be stored).

DVR vs. NVR (In a Nutshell)

To summarize the difference between a DVR and an NVR system, here are a few quick pointers:

  • Both systems are reliable and record video footage
  • DVR systems lag behind NVR systems due to the number of cameras and lower flexibility (no option to go wireless).
  • NVR system may allow more channels than advertised using PoE switches, but a DVR will always be limited by the hardware count on the box

NVR systems offer better picture quality as well and they’re easier to install. They’re more flexible and offer native support to record audio on cameras with built-in microphones. That said – NVRs also come with a higher price tag than the DVR. If you’re shopping for a security camera solution on a budget, it may sway your decision on which of the two you would choose.

How Many Channels do you really Need?

The exact quantity of channels you require is dependent on how many security surveillance cameras you have and the number of cameras you need to install for thorough coverage (more on that in our CCTV tutorial). Smaller homes or businesses will more likely be ok using an 8 or 16 channel NVR or DVR. However, a larger space will most likely need a 32 channel system, or even more in order to accommodate the required number of cameras.

In that case, you are better off using an NVR along with an IP system. This will allow you to deploy the scale of the surveillance system you need. If you plan to start with a smaller number of cameras but intend on expanding in the foreseeable future, we recommend you go for a 16 channel or 32 channel device. Now only will you have more flexibility if you need to add cameras, but you’ll also save time, energy, and money if you choose to do so.