I am a big fan of outdoor IP home surveillance cameras; I personally think they are one of the best deterrents for thieves and criminal behaviour on your property, and in the event of something happening, you have some video footage to show the police or insurance companies.

Many of the wire-free surveillance cameras I have reviewed use cloud recording or record to microSD, but if you want the best solution recording to a network video recorder is by far the best option.

Some Wi-Fi cameras can do this, both Ezviz and Reolink have options for it, but you are restricted to using the companies own NVR with the cameras.

The vast majority of POE outdoor cameras will be compatible with ONVIF, which is an open standard that allows IP based video surveillance products to talk to each other.

So any ONVIF compatible camera can record to an ONVIF NVR or server running CCTV software.

NVR vs DVR

DVR means “digital video recorder”. It’s regarded as the predecessor of NVR and can only handle lower resolution video due to the nature of the analogue cables.

  • With IP cameras there is no hard limit on the resolution, with Ethernet comfortably going up to gigabit. Realistically most IP cameras and NVRs cap out at about 8MP vs 2MP of a DVR.
  • IP based cameras have a lot of smart features built-in, some include a microSD for storage, most have motion detection, line crossing detection, direct recording to network drives and more
  • Some NVR devices offer the option to record footage from Wi-Fi cameras.
  • A DVR has a limited range, the analogue signals don’t travel far. The maximum length for Ethernet is 100m, but you can extend this to an almost unlimited distance if needed by daisy-chaining switches.

Self-built NVR

If you are the sort of person that has old laptops or PC hardware lying around it could be worth building your own NVR, it is more rewarding, you get better features and generally a superior solution to cheap alternatives.

There are a few caveats here. Self-builds tend to be big and ugly, they will use more electricity, and depending on what software you use and what you do with it the CPU may struggle.

There are two popular options Blue Iris and ZoneMinder.

Both options have some snazzy features allowing you to use more than just standard IP Cameras. They also both have some advanced motion sensing features that can dramatically reduce alerts.

Blue Iris

This is what I have used, and I am currently experimenting with. For most people this will be the easiest solution because it is a Windows application, you install it and away you go. So if you have an old laptop already running windows you could be fully set up in 30 mins or so.

The main downside is that it is not free. You can try it out for 15-days but after that, you will need to pay $34.95 for a single camera or $69.95 for unlimited.

ZoneMinder

ZoneMinder is free which is a big plus. However, it only runs on various Linux distributions so is not quite as easy to set up for some people. It supports Ubuntu, RedHat, Debian, and Gentoo so you can get it to work on all sorts of existing systems

Synology Surveillance Station

Another option is if you have a Synology NAS you can use the Surveillance Station software. Synology includes a licence for 2 cameras and you will need to purchase more if you plan a larger system, and this will cost around £50 per camera, so not particularly cheap.

You will also need to make sure you Synology NAS can handle the number of cameras. However each NAS can normally accommodate a large number of cameras, the affordable DiskStation DS218play can handle 15 cameras in total.

Affordable NVRs on Amazon

If you just want to buy something off the shelf, install an HDD and start recording 24/7 there are a lot of cheap options on Amazon. From my experience, the user interface is never amazing, and you generally get what you pay for, but once set up, you should be able to leave it and not worry.

With some NVRs you have POE ports so you can plug the cameras directly into the unit. Some do not, and therefore require a POE switch, or power via a plug.

 PriceReviewsRating1 star %ONVIFPOE Ports / ChannelsResolutionNotes
Hikvision Hilook NVR-104MH-C104.9953.10.23Yes4 POE8MP 4KHEVC H.265 NVR
Hikvision DS-7608NI-K2/8P235.6764.70YES8 POE8MP 4K2x3.5HDD slots
HEVC H.265 NVR
Hikvision DS-7616NI-K2/16P263150Yes16 POE8MP 4K2x3.5HDD slots
HEVC H.265 NVR
HiWatch NVR-104-A75.193.90Yes4 POE4MP
Dahua nvr2108-s2 £82.52650Yes4 Channels6MP
lookcctv PoE NVR115.9983.80.26Yes8 POE / 16 Channels5MPHEVC H.265 NVR
Seculink89.99123.20.24Yes8 POE1080P
Foscam FN3109H99.991063.60.16Yes9 Channels1080p
Evtevision 32CH158.886640.14Yes16 POE / 32 channel5MP
Ezviz CS-X5C-8114.994.20.1Yes8 Channel1080PWorks with Ezviz wireless cameras too
Reolink 8CH162184.10.14NO8 POE8MP, 5MP, 4MPMust use Relolink cameras

Recommendation

I was a little underwhelmed with the options on Amazon, I think mainly, people wanting a good NVR go to a specialist, and a good NVR is generally not very cheap.

Evtevision is one stand out option, they have models from as low as £69.90 for an NVR without POE and capable of 16 channels doing H.265 recording with 5MP/1080P cameras. The 8 POE port, 16 channel model is £113.88 and the 16 port, 32 channel is £158.88.

I personally have the Ezviz CS-X5C-8. I wouldn’t say it is particularly good, but it does work with Ezviz wireless cameras, including the Floodlight camera, I also like the Ezviz mobile app.

The Foscam FN3109H should be considered, Foscam is a reputable company in this field and the NVR is reasonably well-reviewed.

For a larger budget, the Hikvision DS-7608NI-K2/8P is often recommended by professional CCTV companies and Hikvision is the biggest name in the business.

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Last update on 2020-03-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API