We are looking for our first DVR and the salesperson asks if you prefer a PC based DVR or a Standalone DVR. How would you know? They both record on a hard drive, both have remote access, motion activated recording, can be networked, etc. So what is the difference?
Glad you asked. At the U-Spy Store, they love to answer questions so we asked them. The answer is, a lot although not as much now that the Standalone DVRs are catching up. And I should clarify that we are speaking of low and mid priced Standalone DVRs versus Low and Mid priced PC based. And I should also tell you that a cheap Standalone will be cheaper to buy than a cheap PC based DVR. So let the comparisons begin.
The PC based usually does a great job of compressing video in most cases All DVRs are not created equal however as a PC based DVR with about 120 frames per second recording and 16 cameras and a 500 GB hard drive will record about 2-4 times as long on the hard drive as the average low end Standalone. This efficient compression capability makes the PC based DVR the clear winner. Right? Not yet. H.264 Compression has arrived and offers a more efficient and higher quality compression compared to JPEG and MPEG4 compression varieties. About 30% more recording efficiency which will give you 13 days when you were getting 10 before.
The PC based is also very easy to operate using a mouse for most commands and functions. Plus it is a PC already so it can do anything on the network you need it to. If you are familiar with PCs, then the PC based will be easy to pickup. Searching and backing up is easy on the PC based unit. Very easy to input names for files, backup, search, change settings, etc.
The Standalone is more cumbersome to deal with when using the buttons on the actual DVR or remote control. But…… if you use your local Network or remotely access the DVR, things become easy again. It’s very similar to the PC based DVR in the backup, settings, searching etc. Not totally as easy but definitely easier. I find that when using the Standalone Web or Network interfaces, it is simple and enjoyable to control your DVR.
As you get into the more expensive models of the Standalone DVRs, you will find them easier again. http://uspystore.com just received our first H.264 8 & 16 Channel DVRs. If these babies are anything like the 4 channel Standalone DVRs they are currently selling for $399, then our customers will love them. And we see that the new H.264 has some of the great features that PC based DVRs bring you. Such as Mouse control, Audio recording which is audible through remote access (not available with most Standalone DVRs), Backup to Flash Drive or via Network, two – 1 TB Internal Hard Drives capacity plus the capability for an additional 1 TB External Hard Drive as well. This equates to a maximum 3 TB of hard drive storage, which by the way is huge. The 8 and 16 channel DVRs are Mac compatible as is their little 4 channel brother.
We spoke of the down side of the Standalone but what is the down side of the PC? For one, most of the PC based are running Windows XP. While this is not Vista which is my personal nightmare, it still can be buggy. So crashes can occur and other Windows related issues. Also, if your hard drive dies, you will have to reinstall Windows. Not so with the Standalone which simply requires you to pop in another hard drive and away you go. You should restart any PC every week or so and the same applies for the PC based DVR. Windows files get funky after a while and if you don’t restart on a regular basis, you risk having your DVR malfunction and you may not know it. Restarting fixes many of the issues. In fact, if you ever have a Windows issue, the first thing an IT person will tell you is to restart.
All in all, I am still a big fan of the PC based DVRs. But the new Standalone H.264 DVRs are a rival to consider. Easy if you access the DVR by the web interface or client software and reliable! Plus, this DVR is now Mac compatible. Apple users are excited to have the option of accessing their DVR using their Mac. This is something our Mac users have been waiting for and now have. You can’t use the Windows based software but you can use Safari or Firefox to basically do everything you can with the client software. Backup, Live view, Change Settings.