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The best NVRs and NVR camera systems for CCTV in 2021

Best NVR
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Looking for the best NVR? This guide will help you find the right one for you, help you through the jargon, and get your recorder at the best price.

NVR is short for Network Video Recorder, a device which acts as a hub for an IP-based security camera system. It is a storage and review point for your CCTV which means you don’t need to sign up to remote service to store your video.

That means, of course, it’ll need cameras, typically connected by power-over-ethernet (PoE) cables (see our guide to the best PoE cameras), and at least one hard drive. 

The retailer often offers the NVR in several different bundles with different types and numbers of camera, and complete with different drive capacities .There are real bargains to be had with some of these all-in-one kits, and the only real downside is some spectacularly confusing product names.

An NVR, incidentally, is not quite the same thing as a DVR (or Digital Video Recorder), which appeared in the late 90s. They look similar and store video too, but a DVR is built to accept and digitally compress analogue or digital video via coax sockets.

The advantage of an NVR-based system is that, because the video is being compressed by the cameras, processing power remains for extra functions, so your video doesn’t need to be sent into the cloud for useful AI features to spot the clips worth reviewing. Networking brings other obvious advantages, like remote access and – of course – the ability to work with all IP cameras, wired or wireless.

Key features to look out for are power over ethernet, which can simplify wiring, hard drive capacity, the resolution input, and number of channels or cameras it can handle, and if there are any means of backup. 

Best NVR in 2021

(Image credit: Amcrest)

1: Amcrest NV4108E

Best DVR for multi-brand compatibility

Capacity: 1 x SATA (6TB max) | Resolution: 8mp/4K @ 30fps | Streams: up to 8 channels | Compression Tech: H.264/H.265 | Remote streaming: Yes | Bandwidth in: 80Mbps | External drive socket: USB | Display socket: HDMI (4K), VGA | Interface: TV, Web, PC, Mac, iOS, Android | Dimensions: 260 x 225 x 48 mm

H.265 makes for more efficient 4K storage
Software available for Phone, Mac, PC, Web
Plug-and-play setup
Playback timeline feature is intuitive to review video
Limited to 7 4K cameras  
Doesn’t support camera features like 2-way talk
Lacks smart motion detection, so more possible false positives 

Running on a Quad Core CPU, Amcrest’s UI is pretty nippy but if you’d like a different the ‘Amcrest View Pro’ phone or tablet app allows you to live stream with surprisingly little lag from wherever you keep that comfy chair. In terms of tech adoption, Amcrest also now have a cloud backup service for those willing to surrender their subscription-free life.

ONVIF device compatibility, is increasingly popular thanks to the wide selection of PoE cameras (and prices) it opens, though compliance isn’t guaranteed so if you’re getting started there is much to be said for a kit or a bit of research.

In terms of alerts, the box houses a buzzer which can be linked to the motion sensing tech to wake you if needed, though we prefer the email and video push; assuming sensible configuration of the motion detection zones, which can all be done from Amcrest’s thorough range of interfaces (Mac users aren’t snubbed here). 

(Image credit: Reolink)

Best DVR for reviewing video history

Capacity: 1 x SATA (Max 8TB) + eSATA | Resolution: 8mp (4K) @ 25fps | Streams: up to 8 | Compression Tech: H.264 | Remote streaming: Yes | Bandwidth in: 100Mbps | External drive socket: eSata, USB | Display socket: HDMI (4K), VGA | Interface: TV, Web, PC, iOS, Android | Dimensions: 260 x 230 x 41mm

Person and vehicle detection
Easy to use app and TV interface
Sold in 4K Plug-and-play PoE kits
H.264 compression fills up faster 
Exclusively Reolink camera compatible 
AI only filters vehicles or people

Despite having only one SATA bay, the Reolink system makes a lot of room for storage by adding an eSATA socket at the back. The system is also typically bundled with its preferred Reolink 4K cameras which provide stand-out sharp footage which is easy to review thanks to the fresh modern interface

Built-in operating systems can be a tad clunky, but connect the supplied mouse to the NVR and the Reolink interface, whether on 4K TV or VGA screen, is a bit clearer. The 24/7 recording is accompanied by a timeline which highlights events (people or vehicles) and can be filtered as you browse. While it doesn’t sound a lot, in practice most CCTV reviewing is for these things.

When connected to your local network via the LAN socket, assuming an internet connection, the system can use the same alert tech to send specific activity alerts to your devices.

(Image credit: Hikvision)

3: Hikvision DS-7608NI-I2/8P

Best for high data throughput

Capacity: : 2 SATA drive (8TB each) | Resolution: : 12mp | Streams: up to 8 | Compression Tech: H.264 / H.264+ / H.265 / H.265+ / MPEG4 | Remote streaming: Yes | Bandwidth in: 100Mbps | External drive socket: USB | Display socket: HDMI, VGA | Interface: TV, Web, iOS, Android | Dimensions: 380 x 290 x 45mm

Supports up to 12 megapixel cameras
ONVIF compatibility for multi-brand systems
Plug-and-play operation
Hikvision’s range of cameras can be confusing
No fisheye dewarping function

This Embedded NVR has a distinctly professional appearance, and it’s certainly suited to higher-end set ups, in fact it’s even more future proof than many given it’s not only capable of handling 12MP cameras but isn’t too picky about the brand. The compatibility with ONVIF (S & T) means it’s possible to build your camera collection over time from multiple brands. We also appreciated that it’s got two SATA bays and each can accept a drive of up to 8TB for a total of a whopping 16TB.

In practice, that might be more than you need for a home system – and certainly it’s more than a modest investment before you even get one camera – but this is a thoroughbred capable of serving up to 256 Mb/s for video review and includes smart search.

We also liked that the rear panel features an alarm interface panel amongst the usual connectors for serious setups.

Best NVR: 4K 8CH PoE NVR

(Image credit: Annke)

4: Annke 4K 8CH PoE NVR

Best NVR for affordable plug-and-play

Capacity: 1 x SATA (6TB Max) | Resolution: 8mp (4K) | Streams: up to 8 channels | Compression Tech: e H.264 / H.264+ / H.265 / H.265+ / MPEG4 | Remote streaming: Yes | Bandwidth in: 80Mbps | External drive socket: USB | Display socket: HDMI (4K), VGA | Interface: TV, Web, PC, iOS, Android | Dimensions: 315 x 240 x 48mm

Smart playback search function
Front USB makes exporting clips easy
Motion detection areas can be shapes
Even, compare to NVRs it’s not an attractive design
Not all ONVIF cameras are supported
Setup security questions definitely favor American-English

Clearly built for practicality, the Annke H800 makes connecting a USB drive easy without re-positioning by adding an extra USB socket at the front as well as the rear one for the mouse.

The in-built OS isn’t beautiful, but actually very smart; you can choose to disable motion detection by zone on each camera view and, even as you refine the detection, you see a handy live view of where the algorithm is spotting action. Other handy features include quotas for individual cameras to prioritise some recordings drive vapacity.

The system includes event-driven or “Smart” timeline review of recorded video, the latter allowing you to search video for movement within areas you specify – a handy tool for finding if someone went into a specific corner of the shot after the fact.

Phone integration for Android or iOS also brings notifications though only one user account can be connected.

(Image credit: Swann)

5: Swann SRNVR-88580H

Best DVR for AI features

Capacity: 1 x SATA (Max 6TB) | Resolution: 8Mp | Streams: up to 8 channels | Compression Tech: e.H.264 / H.265 | Remote streaming: Yes | External drive socket: USB | Display socket: HDMI (4k), VGA | Interface: TV, Web, PC, iOS, Android | Dimensions: 235 x 310 x 53mm

Facial recognition and smart alerts
Google Assistant & Alexa integrations
Very thorough manual in clear English
Only works with certain Swann PoE cameras
The high quality cameras can overload the bandwidth
Camera settings can only be changed via NVR, not app

What shines out with the Swann system is the more advanced facial recognition tools which put person/vehicle recognition – still very useful – in the shade. Since the known faces can be named and the software allows for customisations, you can have a specific alert when the kids get near the treats (without paying a monthly fee).

It feels like Swann appreciates what the fight against Nest and the others means from a user’s perspective, hence functional integrations with Alexa & Google Assistant via the NVR. 

A third USB socket covers mouse, backup drive and downloading to a USB stick without needing to unplug anything – usability plus. 

On the down-side, pet detection does require a cloud subscription (perhaps that just feels a worrying threshold to cross). In reality the fact Swann offer a cloud option – and secure backup using it – will be a handy option for some, even if it does bring with it a monthly fee.

(Image credit: Lorex)

6: Lorex D861A82B 4K DVR

Best NVR for smart home integrations

Capacity: 1xSATA | Resolution: 8mp | Streams: up to 8 | Compression tech: HVEC / H.265 | Remote streaming: Yes | External drive socket: USB | Display socket: HDMI (4k), VGA | Interface: TV, Web, PC, Mac iOS, Android | Dimensions: 324 x 249 x 60mm

Wireless & Wired connections (‘Fusion’)
Mac, Windows software available
Improved compression offers longer video history
Surprisingly expensive 
First time setup of Fusion could be easier 
Additional hub is needed to link to sensors

This elegant looking NVR actually has the same sockets as most other 4K 8-channel systems from the back, but can sit comfortably under a living room TV. There the central panic button, which triggers all lights & sirens built into connected cameras, could end a home invasion.

The main Lorex NVR software also allows you to set up effective deterrence rules using person and vehicle detection and features area search for easier review.

There is a similar level of design polish in the remote access app save for one thing; if you do connect wireless and wired cameras you’ll need to tidy up the alerts yourself to avoid duplicates. 

We also appreciated that the Apple TV wasn’t forgotten; and smart home fans will love the ability to add sensors (like gate or door opening) as well as cameras via a Lorex Sensor Hub.

Other useful buying guides: 

Best outdoor security cameras in 2021

Best indoor security cameras

Best PoE camera

Best PTZ camera

Best doorbell cameras

The best body cameras for personal security

Adam is Digital Camera World's resident drone expert. He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video, and The Drone Pilot's Handbook.