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NVR vs. DVR: What’s the Difference?

May 23, 2023|

Network video recorders (NVRs) and digital video recorders (DVRs) are two common types of security camera systems that do the same job differently. The main difference is that NVRs record and store digital camera data, while DVRs record from analog or HD security cameras.

An NVR system is generally more complex and requires a top-tier router for solid network connectivity. In contrast, DVR is a simpler system where you can connect directly to a TV or another display device.

Understanding the differences between NVR and DVR systems can help you make an informed decision while avoiding buyer’s remorse. Let’s examine the most significant differences in the components, capabilities, and applications.

Vivin playback recording device.

How network video recorder (NVR) systems work

A typical NVR security system connects to IP cameras and records the video data they capture. The NVR stores this data on a hard drive or another storage medium, which you can access remotely with a network connection.

The main components of an NVR system include:

  • IP cameras. This type of camera is the backbone of Wi-Fi-enabled recording systems. They capture and transmit audio and high-resolution video data over a network and can back data up to the cloud. They’re usually used in large-scale surveillance systems and typically include more high-tech features like video analytics.
  • Network video recorder. NVRs record and store IP camera video data on internal hard drives or dedicated storage devices. These devices don’t process video data. IP cameras handle that step instead.
  • Network connectivity. Some security camera systems run on wireless components, but others use high-capacity ethernet cables. These cables provide several benefits over the coax cable used in DVR setups.

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How digital video recorder (DVR) systems work

A typical DVR system is connected to analog cameras and records the raw video footage they capture. The DVR stores this data on a hard drive or another storage device, which you can access from any display device, such as a TV.

The main components of a traditional CCTV system are:

  • Analog cameras. Analog cameras are traditional devices that record video data and transmit it over a coaxial cable. People use them in small-scale surveillance systems, but they are also well-suited for large-scale applications.
  • AD encoder. The AD encoder processes the analog video data from CCTV cameras and sends it to the DVR. Because analog cameras don’t process video data, installations involve connecting each one to a respective power source and an AD encoder.
  • Coaxial cables. Traditional coaxial cables connect analog cameras and AD encoders with the DVR system. Coaxial cables provide good picture quality but need a physical connection between all devices. This can make them unsuitable for large-scale and long-distance applications.
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Pros and cons of NVR

NVR systems are the more expensive choice, so people review this option more carefully than DVRs. Does it provide a good balance of pros and cons that make the cost worthwhile? That depends on your needs.

Pros of NVR

  • Provides more advanced features, such as license plate and facial recognition
  • Eliminates the need for a separate power cord when using Power over Ethernet (PoE) cords
  • Facilitates the storage of data on an external device or cloud-based storage
  • Offers more flexibility with wireless security cameras and network connections
  • Enables remote viewing and monitoring
  • Supports multiple video formats
  • Processes and transmits audio and visual data
  • Easier to set up and source the ethernet cords needed for installation and expansion
  • Expanded storage capacity due to cloud-based storage capabilities

Cons of NVR

  • Requires a high-performing computer system to run properly
  • Requires more internet bandwidth for cloud storage
  • Limits physical connections to 100 meters or roughly 328 feet
  • Greater need for security of routers and other components
  • Costs more than DVR systems

Pros and cons of DVR

Despite the name, the DVR setup is the less digital of the two because it records from analog security cameras and converts data to digital formats. Its use of older technology significantly reduces the cost, but how well does it compete with NVR systems?

Pros of DVR

  • More user-friendly because users can connect it to a TV or display device
  • Longer cord-running distances of up to 500 meters or about 1,640 feet
  • Simpler installation and expansion process due to components used
  • Better stability for video signal, which reduces the likelihood of signal loss
  • Often far less expensive than NVR camera systems
  • Minimal bandwidth usage compared to NVR recorders
  • Eliminates the risk of wireless hacking

Cons of DVR

  • Doesn’t transmit audio due to the nature of coaxial cables
  • Greater difficulty managing thicker coaxial cables
  • Requires separate cord for power
Video recording on the Vivint app.

Which is better: NVR or DVR?

When reviewing DVR vs. NVR security systems, both systems offer advantages, but the best option depends on your property size, budget, and surveillance needs. While the NVR provides better access to smart features that could better protect your home, they could cost you more than the benefits they realistically offer.

Crime rate

Crime rates can vary from street to street. If you’re new to the area, do thorough research and determine the frequency and type of crime that occurs. For example, homes in high-crime areas might benefit more from the additional capabilities of POE cameras.

User type

Any home can become a target of crime, but some people have more stringent security needs than others. For example, high-profile homeowners might feel more comfortable with NVR systems that include license plate and facial recognition capabilities. Meanwhile, DVR systems better serve homes in low-risk areas.

Security requirements

Some people have strict security requirements, and their surveillance system should complement their access control systems to facilitate this. Both DVR and NVR systems can meet smart home and high-security needs. A typical homeowner might love their DVR system, while an Airbnb host remotely managing their smart vacation home might prefer NVR.

Recording format

Most surveillance companies don’t need to record or transmit audio data, making DVR systems a great way to save money. Audio formats have become a common request among homeowners who want to keep an eye on their pets or instruct the Amazon delivery person where to hide the package. These homeowners might prefer NVR setups.

Remote viewing

Users can access NVR systems remotely. These setups store data on an external device or cloud storage. That capability can be a game changer for homeowners who travel frequently or companies with multiple locations and centralized security teams or access control systems. Some DVR systems can also be configured to provide remote access, but the capabilities are less robust than those of NVR systems.

Existing components

You can save a lot of money using components you already have at the location or from a previous surveillance project. For example, if you don’t have a reliable, high-speed internet connection to run smart surveillance and NVR systems at home, consider whether DVR cameras can meet your needs.

High-capacity storage

How much data does your surveillance system generate? How much physical storage do you need? How long will you need to store this data?

For example, some homeowners choose DVR recorders because they’re OK with wiping their data every week. Meanwhile, others prefer the cloud capabilities of NVR so they can store surveillance video footage for several months.

Image quality

NVR systems provide better image quality, often up to 4K resolution. High video quality is crucial if you need facial recognition capabilities or other detailed functions. While the 720p or HD provided by RCA connectors won’t wow tech-savvy homeowners, they’re more than enough to meet basic video surveillance system needs.


People with tight budgets might find that a DVR provides all the necessary basic features. Those with a larger budget may feel tempted to splurge on a high-tech NVR system. Still, it’s essential to review whether the extra capabilities will deliver high returns on investment to justify the greater cost.

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Discover the best Vivint security system options

Choosing the right security system for your home can significantly impact safety and functionality. While getting every possible feature available is tempting, start with your specific needs, prioritize compatibility, and choose a system that complements those needs.

Vivint offers both DVR and NVR security options, and our experienced professionals can help you build a video surveillance system that meets your current and future needs.

We focus on providing a comprehensive and reliable solution for monitoring your property with the latest features. Whether you need to secure your Airbnb business or see what Fido is up to on your lunch break, we have the right solutions for you.

Check out our home security offerings or give us a call at 855.822.1220 to get started today.

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