A Network Video Recorder Review: LenovoEMC px2-300d NVR

by Joseph Moran

This network video recorder removes much of the hassle from setting up and maintaining a small business video monitoring system.

As anyone who shoots a lot of video knows, video files consume a considerable amount of storage space. And as anyone with days, weeks, or months of stored video knows, organizing all that footage so that you can find what you’re looking for takes a considerable effort.

Imagine then, the challenge faced by a small business that must manage the numerous cameras and prodigious output of an on-premises video monitoring system (VMS).

LenovoEMC (formerly known as Iomega) aims to simplify VMS deployment and management for small businesses with its px2-300d NVR (Network Video Recorder). At a glance, the px2-300d looks like a fairly standard network attached storage (NAS) device, and under the hood it does have a roster of NAS features similar to its progenitor, the Iomega StorCenter. But the px2-300d also sports built-in Milestone Arcus software, which lets the device function as the hub for a company’s video surveillance.

NVR Hardware Features

The $999 px2-300d NVR is a two-bay device with a pair of 2 TB drives for 4 TB of raw capacity, though given that the unit comes configured for RAID 1 out of the box, you give up half of that in order to gain data redundancy. The two tray-mounted, user-replaceable hard drives lock securely into the chassis behind an access door.

The NVR's backside sports a pair of Gigabit Ethernet ports and a pair of USB 2.0 ports, while a USB 3.0 port resides up front. The front panel also features a backlight LCD display that reports such useful information as date and time, available capacity, and the unit’s IP address.

LenovoEMC px2-300d NVR

The px2-300d is a two-bay device with 4 TB of raw storage, the data redundancy provided by the default RAID 1 configuration reduces usable storage capacity to 2 TB.

The px2-300d’s Milestone Arcus software supports an extensive list of IP surveillance cameras from a wide variety of manufacturers, including Axis, Bosch, Panasonic, Pelco, and Samsung. See this PDF for the complete list of supported cameras. The px2-300d includes licenses for four cameras, and it supports up to 20 cameras total—you can purchase additional camera licenses. (LenovoEMC provided two Axis cameras—an M1054 and M1031-W—for our testing.)

Organizations with an investment in analog cameras will be interested to know that LenovoEMC will soon offer an optional PCIe add-in card for the px2-300d that will allow the unit to record from up to 16 analog cameras.   

We tested a px2-300d, but it’s worth noting that LenovoEMC also offers a beefier px4-300d model which, for a bit more than twice the price ($2,199), offers double the bays and raw storage (4 bays and 8 TB) as well as 16 camera licenses.

NVR Hardware Setup

LenovoEMC boasts that the px2-300d network video recorder offers "automated installation and configuration," a claim that we thought to be somewhat hyperbolic when we read it in the product literature. It turns out, however, that the assertion isn’t all that far from the truth.

Milestone Arcus main settings

Milestone Arcus displays basic NVR and camera recording status at a glance.

To get started, we connected our px2-300d to the network and powered it on. Within several minutes it was up and running with the LCD status display showing the unit’s IP address. Then we set up the two Axis cameras, plugging them into power and Ethernet. Then, we left the NVR and cameras running—but unattended—for nearly 48 hours.

Next, we pointed a web browser to the px2-300d’s IP address to begin the configuration process. Owing to its focus on video recording, the px2-300d’s configuration UI doesn’t dump you in the midst of myriad general NAS settings. Rather, it puts you directly into the Milestone Arcus software, from which we could immediately see the live feed from our two cameras. Moreover, a telltale red square in the upper corner of each video window indicated that recording was in progress.

Sure enough, all it took to get the VMS established and recording was physically connecting and powering up the hardware—no need to manually configure cameras or activate their licenses, as is usually the case. We did need to modify one setting—the unit’s time zone in the general NAS settings—which had been set automatically and erroneously to Pacific Time (accurate time information is particularly important when it comes to video surveillance).

LenovoEMC px2-300d NVR Video Management

The Milestone Arcus default setting comes configured to continuously record from each camera and to retain the video surveillance footage for a week. If those parameters aren’t suitable, getting to the place where you can change them takes only two clicks via a Settings tab. For each camera you can customize things such as the device name and IP, as well as the resolution, frame rate, and codec used.

Milestone Arcus motion detection settings

Cameras record continuously by default, but you can configure them to record only when they detect motion.

You can also set cameras to record only upon motion detection rather than all the time, and motion trigger parameters are fine-tunable via simple slider bars. Lastly, you can adjust the aforementioned video retention period as well as invert the video image (useful in cases where cameras must be mounted upside down).

Milestone Arcus also makes viewing recorded footage a very straightforward affair; at least once you familiarize yourself with the minimalist controls for doing so. Clicking a tiny playback button in the lower-left corner of a live video window summons them, while clicking a calendar button provides scrolling bars from which you can select the day, hour, and minute you want to view.

A small preview window displays the associated footage as you move backward or forward through time, and overlaid atop it are buttons that let you advance or rewind the video one frame at a time. Once you’ve pinpointed your area of interest, a Go To button expands the image to full size for further review.

Exporting footage from the px2-300d is similarly painless. You use day and time scroll bars to select your start and end points, while a counter displays the duration of your selection so you don’t inadvertently gather too much or too little.   

Incidentally, the px2-300d includes a year’s worth of extended support for Milestone Arcus, which entitles you to any bug fixes or feature improvements/ additions released during that period.  

Mobile Access

These days no VMS product is complete without a mobile viewing feature, so Milestone Arcus has one. It uses free Milestone Mobile apps for Android and iOS—we installed the former on a Samsung Galaxy S3 and had no trouble using it to access the live feed off our cameras, as well as to play back previously recorded video. Milestone Mobile for Android even let us save still frames and exported video files to the phone or tablet. (Though as one might expect, exporting files can be a lengthy process given bandwidth constraints.)  

Milestone Arcus view footage setting

Simple scrolling controls and a preview window make locating past footage—and exporting it if necessary—a simple task.

Although most of our experience with the px2-300d was smooth as silk, we did hit a few bumps. For example, for some reason our exported video files didn’t contain an overlay of the camera name or the date time, making it impossible to determine the location or timeframe of footage once it was out of the system.  Also, there’s no way to automatically send emails based on camera events, such as a motion triggered recording or if a video feed goes out. (The px2-300d can send email alerts in the event of general system problems—e.g. the hard drive goes bad or the unit is running too hot.)

In spite of these problems, the px2-300d really does eliminate much of the heavy lifting associated with setting up and maintaining video surveillance system, so small businesses that need to monitor their premises should give it a serious look. 

Price: $999

Pros: compact, high capacity network video recorder with extremely easy setup and management; wide variety of compatible cameras; includes four camera licenses

Cons: exported video did not contain camera name and time/date overlay; no way to issue email alerts based on video events

Joseph Moran is a veteran technology writer and co-author of Getting StartED with Windows 7, from Friends of ED.

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This article was originally published on Tuesday Aug 13th 2013
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