After reviewing a few Dahua cameras the next logical step is to review their NVR. This model, the NVR3204 I tested is the 4 channel model available for as little as under $300. They also make 8 (NVR3208) and 16 (NVR3216) channel versions priced $329 and $349 respectively. This is bargain compared to other NVR’s or the alternative of setting up a PC with NVR software.
It was fairly easy to set up, the menus are responsive and the interface is intuitive. More like an iPhone app than Windows PC. Has HDMI output so it can be used with a large screen TV or on a computer monitor using the VGA connector.
- Dual Core CPU – responsive
- Up to 2 SATA Hard Drives (not included) and 2 USB 2.0 drives
- Built in Web Server
- Comes with Remote Control and Mouse
- Front Panel USB for backing up video
- 12o fps at 1080P or 240 fps at 720P
- Power consumption, 20W (not including hard drives)
The NVR works very well with Dahua cameras. Had 4 cameras plugged in, 2 of them 1080P cameras, 2 were 1.3MP cameras, all actively recording and the menus were very responsive. For testing purposes I used a 1.5TB Seagate 5,900 RPM drive that I purchased locally for $69, mostly because these slower spinning drives are quieter allowing the NVR to be quite enough to use in a bedroom. Attached to a HDMI port on your TV, you can get a view of your cameras as quickly as you can switch to the HDMI input on your TV.
Pardon the image quality, but I had to take pictures of the TV screen to show as there’s no way I found to take screen snapshots from the NVR. This is the live view, what you see after you have the cameras set up. In this case, I have 4 cameras setup, the NVR was a 4 channel model, hence a view of the 4 cameras in a grid. 2 cameras were setup as 1080P in a 16:9 aspect ratio, the other two where setup in 1.3MP mode which has a 4:3 aspect ratio, but it displayed both in the same manner but did so a pleasing way with the images not looking stretched or distorted.
You navigate with the included mouse, the front panel or remote control. Clicking on a camera with the mouse, or using the remote or front panel of the NVR and pressing the button for the specific channel number will display that camera in full screen. To go back to seeing 4, press “mult” on the remote or right-click the mouse and select “View 4”. Right clicking with the mouse is how you get into the interface and looks like this in the middle of the screen.
Selecting “Main Menu” takes you to the main menu where you can start navigating and configuring the NVR.
Selecting “Remote Devices” is where you go to configure the cameras.
You can click IP search to find them automatically. In my case I already had the cameras configured for the reviews so I clicked “Manual Add” and you can see the screen below, not that many options and the defaults seem to work for most people. For Dahua, select “private” as the camera manufacturer. Below I show how I setup my Axis camera.
Selecting “Settings” from the main menu brings up another menu with lots more options
You have to set up the network options to access the NVR remotely with a web browser. Clicking on the “Network” icon takes you here where you configure the IP address just as you would a network camera. For remote access outside your network you’ll have to configure port forwarding for this address and port.
Motion detection is set by the camera, but you can change it from the “Detect” option on the settings menu. Each camera is selected separately using the Channel drop down.
One thing I’ll warn about. By default, this NVR will record all cameras all the time for continuous video. With 1080P cameras, you can quickly fill up a 1TB drive, maybe get a few days out of it. To only record motion detected events, select “Schedule” off the settings menu, select Channel All, Weekday All, uncheck Regular and check MD for period 1 (24 hrs) and click Save. You can select different recording schedules. Say you don’t want it to record from 7-8AM and 5-11PM while you are home and moving around the house, you can set the schedules accordingly for all days or by day of the week. The other thing that is set by default that you may want to change is the NVR is set up to rotate from one camera to the next automatically.
Another important option when you right-click on the main screen is “Search”. This is how you look for and play recorded video.
As you can see above, their’s a timeline along the bottom that shows the timeframes where video was recorded. In my case, I’m only showing one camera, but you can see all 4 camera at the same time and they pop up as you play the timeline and it finds a recorded video. Here’s a blown up section so you can see the timeline better.
In the lower right, there’s a tiny icon that looks like a grid. Clicking on that shows you the videos recorded by time and each represents a file. You can play by clicking on the time and it will play on the left. If you want to export the video so you can watch it on your PC for example, stick a USB stick or USB drive in the front USB port on the right side of the NVR and check the boxes of the videos you want to save. There’s a disk icon on the lower right, click that to save the files to disk in DAV format. You will then need the Dahua player program found on the camera CD’s to play them and export them to AVI format if you wish.
WEB BROWSER INTERFACE
If you wish to operate the NVR remotely from a PC using a browser, go to the IP address and port you specified in the Network settings and it should pop up. Click the Open All button to load the cameras on the grid and this is what it would look like with 4 cameras –
Selecting a single camera view from the choices below allows you see one camera at a time if you prefer the larger view
You can also configure the NVR from the web interface but I find the interface on the NVR easier to use.
Click Search from the tab on top pops up this menu where you can select time range, which channels to search and it provides a list. It’s limited to the first 100 recorded events. Clicking on an event will play it back on the main screen.
The NVR works pretty well considering the price and package. Just insert a 3.5″ SATA disk drive and connect it to your network. They claim to support a limited set of other brands of cameras. I tried Axis as that’s the most popular and found that while it worked, it did not work well. The picture kept dropping and I couldn’t get it to record motion events, only continuous recording. I would personally recommend this to anyone that has Dahua cameras but not for use with other brands of cameras although this may be improved in future firmware releases.
The web interface was not as intuitive or responsive to use as the direct interface. I would use this primarily on a TV where you want to use it most of the time and then use the browser interface when you are away from home.
There’s available smartphone apps from Dahua for IOS and Android called iDMSS that will work with this NVR and the cameras directly.
Click here to go to the company web page for the camera