Running a successful small business means keeping a watchful eye on the bottom line, and that often literally includes monitoring your company's physical premises. Small business owners can turn to any number of surveillance camera/DVR kits for this task but this $280 Foscam NVR, the Huntvision 720P NVR Kit Security System (model HT-NR1108-XP-AB41), stands out not just for its low cost, but for the capabilities it offers for that price. (Huntvision, a Foscam subsidiary, focuses on small- and medium-business.)
You can read the entire review of the Foscam NVR Huntvision 720P NVR Kit Security System, or you can click on any of the links below to go directly to that section.
A compact 8-channel NVR (Network Video Recorder) with a 1 TB internal hard disk forms the cornerstone of this Foscam NVR kit. It also includes four bullet-style (fixed directional) indoor/outdoor cameras capable of 720p recording and rated IP66 for resistance to dust and moisture. The cameras sport a 75-degree viewing angle and, thanks to IR LEDs, they can see about 20 meters (65 feet) in the dark. (An eight-camera version of the kit—with a 2 TB hard disk—sells for $520.)
The Huntvision (a Foscam company) 720P NVR Kit Security System includes a 1 TB hard drive and four IP-based cameras.
Whereas NVR kits in this price range typically come with analog cameras, the Huntvision Foscam NVR kit sports digital IP cameras that generally provide better image quality than analog. In addition, these cameras include PoE (Power over Ethernet) capability, so they deliver both video and power via standard CAT 5 Ethernet cable rather than bulkier and heavier BNC/power combination cables used with analog equipment.
It's important to note, however, that the 720P NVR Kit equipment uses a proprietary form of PoE rather than one of the industry-standard variants (802.3af/at). The upshot: even if your premises are already wired with PoE-enabled Ethernet switches (to support IP phones, for example) you can't power the Huntvision Foscam NVR cameras from those switches. Rather, you'll need to run a dedicated Ethernet cable from each camera back to a corresponding port on the rear of the Foscam NVR. The kit comes with a pair of 25m (82 feet) and pair 15m (50 feet) Ethernet cables to connect the cameras to the DVR, plus a 1.5 m (5 foot) cable for connecting the DVR to your local area network (LAN).
Physically setting up the Huntvision Foscam NVR kit was quick and easy (though admittedly our testing didn't require running cable through walls). We connected the four cameras to the NVR, connected the NVR to our network and to a monitor using the supplied HDMI cable (the kit also supports, but does not include, a VGA cable) and powered on the NVR.
Within a minute or two, we were looking at a quartet of high-quality video feeds. The kit includes a USB mouse rather than a remote control to navigate the configuration menus directly on the Foscam NVR, but since this is a networked kit, we did the majority of system setup and monitoring via a Web browser (and we assume most readers would do the same).
The Web-browser based interface is logical and easy to navigate.
Speaking of browser support, you can view and manage the 720P NVR Kit equipment using most major browsers—namely Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari. It doesn't currently work with Chrome, as that browser recently stopped supporting plug-ins this kit uses, although the company informs us that it's developing a new Chrome-compatible plug-in. (It also won't work with the Edge browser in Windows 10, which as of this writing doesn't support plug-ins at all.)
Regardless of which browser you choose, the 720P NVR Kit provides a clean, well-organized user interface with functions divided into three logical categories—live feed, settings, and playback—accessible via oversized icons. An additional large padlock icon lets you conveniently log out of the console in one click.
From the settings menu we controlled most aspects of how the NVR operates, including how and when to record live video (manually, continuously, or when triggered by motion). In the case of motion activation, you can configure the NVR to automatically send a still image of what triggered it to an email address or upload it to an FTP site, as well as exclude certain areas of a camera's view to minimize activation by things you may not want to need to capture (such traffic or pedestrians passing in the distance).
To maximize the capacity of the 1 TB hard drive, the Foscam NVR lets you adjust the quality of recorded video—resolution, bit rate, and frame rate. At the default settings of 1,280 x 720, 2 Mbit bit rate, and 19 frames per second (fps) with the four included cameras recording continuously, the 720P NVR Kit holds about 12 days of footage. Note that the cameras don't record audio, as they lack microphones. Also, although the NVR supports 8 cameras, you can play back from only four of them simultaneously.
You can adjust the quality of recorded footage to extend the capacity of the NVR's hard disk.
We particularly like two aspects of the Huntvision Foscam NVR, and they'll be of special interest to small businesses. First, in addition to the full-access Admin account, the 720P NVR Kit lets you define numerous additional "Operator" and "Visitor" accounts for employees. You can allow viewing of live feeds but restrict access to the settings and playback areas of the NVR.
Second, it was extremely easy to set up remote access to the Huntvision Foscam NVR. One reason is that the company maintains its own Dynamic DNS service; clicking a check box to activate it generated an xxxxxxx.huntvisiontech.org URL which, thanks to UPnP, we could access from outside the network without having to configure port mapping on our firewall first. (Several third-party DDNS services are also supported, including no-ip and DynDNS.)
We downloaded Huntvision's iOS app (also available for Android) and quickly linked to our Foscam NVR by scanning a QR code found within the device's settings menu. The catch is that the app doesn't do much—you can view the live feed, capture snapshots from it, and stop/start recording, but you can't change NVR settings or, more importantly, view recorded footage. For what it's worth, the app has controls for those and other features that are labeled "Coming Soon."
In addition to the minimalist mobile app and nonstandard PoE implementation, things we don't like about the 720P NVR Kit include a manual that leaves much to be desired. An NVR is the kind of product that many people may need manual for assistance, but this one exhibits particularly poor translation into English (many comparable products suffer from this to some degree).
But we also found inaccuracy and omission in the manual. For example, it states the PoE is the standard variety rather than proprietary, and although it mentions the existence of the Operator and Visitor accounts, doesn't detail how their permissions differ from that of an Administrator account. Suffice it to say, the 720P NVR Kit's manual is a lot less helpful than should be. [Editor's note: Huntvision contacted us to say that our version of the manual was out of date, and that they include an updated version with shipping products.]
We also don't like the marked inconsistency between the native NVR interface (i.e. accessed via the connected mouse) and the one available via Web browser. For example, it refers to saving recorded video from the NVR to a PC via a Web browser as "downloading," but it calls saving a video to a USB drive from the NVR itself "backup," and it uses completely different controls.
Another example becomes evident when deciding whether the NVR will copy over older recordings when its hard drive fills up. You do this by selecting Yes or No to an "Overwrite" setting—which seems logical enough—when done directly from the NVR. Do the same thing from a Web browser, however, and they call the setting "Disk Saturation." They call the option to overwrite old footage is "Cover the Earliest Record" (there's the bad translation again).
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While we find the aforementioned weaknesses and limitations annoying, we don't think any of them are deal-breakers given what you get for the $280 price tag. Plus, we appreciate the two-year warranty. If you want to keep tabs on the comings and goings at your small business, take a good look at the Huntvision 720P NVR kit Security System.
Joseph Moran is a technology writer and IT consultant specializing in services for consumers and small businesses. He's written extensively for numerous print and online publications, and is the author of File Management Made Simple, Windows Edition from Apress.
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