What Is The Difference Between NVR And DVR?

If you are conversant with video surveillance systems, then you will agree that one question comes up very frequently. “What is the difference between NVR and DVR systems?


Over the last few years, these systems have become very popular in residential and commercial facilities. The reason is that video surveillance systems are vital in curbing crime and improving security.

Two of the most popular video surveillance system out there today are NVR and DVR. NVR stands for Network Video Recorder while DVR stands for Digital Video Recorder.


Both systems possess highly beneficial features depending on a user’s application requirements. This post will address the NVR vs. DVR issue as we look at their differences, pros, and cons.

NVR vs. DVR – What’s the Difference?

The easiest way to answer the question, “what is the difference between NVR and DVR systems” is to view their processing capabilities. How both systems processes raw videos are pretty different.

An NVR only processes digital footage while a DVR converts analog footage into digital format. Also, an NVR system encodes and processes data in the camera before it transmits it to the recorder. On the other hand, a DVR system processes all its raw video data in the recorder.


Another way to differentiate between an NVR and a DVR is by considering their connections. NVRs only connect to IP cameras over Wi-Fi or Ethernet connections. DVRs, on the other hand, only connect to analog CCTV systems via coaxial cables.

To further understand the differences between NVR and DVR, we will have to look at their components, pros, and cons.

NVR Security System Components, Pros, and Cons

NVRs work with the latest technology to give a feature-rich and enhanced security system. They are sometimes referred to as POE security cameras.

One of the chief differences between NVRs and DVRs is that NVRs are more complex and flexible. Below are some of their components along with their pros and cons.


Cable (Ethernet)

NVR systems are designed to connect a camera to a recorder (DVRs are wired in the same way). The difference is that NVR systems make use of standard Ethernet cables like cat6 and cat5e for data transmission.

Installers prefer to use Ethernet cables as they provide more advantages than their coaxial counterparts. Some of these advantages include:

  • Ethernet cables are easier to route or terminate since they are thinner and make use of smaller connectors.
  • These cables power cameras via Power over Ethernet. As such, a camera needs a single cable to capture audio and video as well as power the camera. This way, you eliminate the messy splitters that are present in the DVR systems.
  • Ethernet cables are less expensive and more available than coaxial cables. Because of this, it is easier to expand the system or run maintenance.
  • Finally, Ethernet cables can transmit audio data natively.

Camera Type (IP Camera)

Cameras that work with NVRs are far more robust because of their ability to process video data within the camera. This is why NVRs make use of IP cameras that possess the ability to capture images independently. These cameras come with a chipset that can process video data before transmitting it to a recorder.

IP cameras, unlike their analog counterparts, can record and process both audio and video. They also possess more powerful hardware making them able to handle video analytics and other smart functionalities like facial recognition.

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NVR systems in themselves don’t process video data like DVRs. The reason is that the IP camera already handles this function before transmitting data to the recorder. Instead, NVRs only store data and allow for viewing.

Audio and Image Quality

NVRs receive pure digital signals from their cameras. This makes video quality better than what is obtainable from DVRs with similar resolution. Also, the cameras that have microphones can record and transmit audio data to the NVR since Ethernet cables can carry audio.

System Flexibility

As mentioned above, NVRs are more flexible than DVRs. One of the main reasons for this is that the security cameras don’t need to be connected physically to the recorder.

All you need is for the IP cameras to be connected to the same network. Because of this, you can connect as many cameras as you like to the NVR and still view them as a comprehensive system.

DVR Security System Components, Pros, and Cons

So far in answering the question what is the difference between NVR and DVR, we have seen the components of NVR systems. This section will reveal the components, pros, and cons of the DVR system.

A lot of advancement has occurred in the last few years to reduce the gulf between DVR and NVR system. One of the advantages of DVR systems over their NVR counterparts is that they are less expensive. While the affordability is attractive, the question of what you stand to tradeoff still lingers.

Cable (Coaxial BNC Cable)

DVR systems connect to cameras using a coaxial BNC cable. While this may seem insignificant, it has a few limitations:

  • Coaxial cables cannot power the camera so you need at least two cables, one to transmit video data, and another to power the camera. This also means that you must install your DVR close to a power outlet.
  • Standard coaxial cables cannot support audio so you need an RCA connection to work along. The challenge here is that a DVR doesn’t have so many audio input ports. As such, you are limited to just a few cameras to collect audio data.
  • Coaxial cables are rigid and large making installation a tad more challenging.
  • After a distance of 90 meters or 300 feet, the image quality of the videos collected by coaxial cables begins to degrade. If the cable quality is poor, you will even lose signal over shorter distances.

Camera (Analog)

DVRs make use of analog cameras or CCTV cameras. This is one of the chief reasons why DVRs are cheaper than NVRs. Asides from the cost, this system also offers reduced complexity. However, the cameras cannot process raw data except they transmit the data to the recorder.


DVR recorders make use of an AD encoder (a hardware chipset). This encoder processes the raw data that streams from the camera into comprehensible recordings. You have to connect all your cameras to the recorder via cables.

This is different from NVRs since the cameras under NVRs need to only be connected to the same network. Finally, for DVRs, you need a splitter to supply the power that your cameras need to function.

Audio and Image Quality

DVR systems use analog cameras so the image quality produced is poor compared to what is obtainable with NVRs. Also, coaxial cables cannot transmit audio signals natively so you need an RCA. There is a huge limitation here as DVRs have just a few ports dedicated to audio input.

System Flexibility

DVRs are not as flexible as NVRs because of the mounting options and camera types. NVR systems integrate the use of both wired and wireless cameras while DVRs can only work with wired cameras.

That aside, mounting DVR systems is more difficult because of the size and weight of coaxial cables and the need for power outlets for each camera.

What is the difference between NVR and DVR – Wrapping Up

So far, we have answered the question of what is the difference between NVR and DVR. The truth is that the NVR vs. DVR battle is basically a discussion of design and implementation.

Choosing the one that is best for you depends on your needs and capabilities. Regardless of their differences, they are both efficient and offer top-notch security solutions.

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