NVR suggestions

Good Afternoon,

I have posted in a couple forums here asking about NVR system suggestions. There are a million different camera systems and Im having a hard time narrowing it down. I would like an 8 CH system, at least 1080p, and I would like for it to be able to integrate into ST or actiontiles. Ill be purchasing it off of Newegg and am hoping to spend under $600. From what I have read, Amcrest seems decent. Laview seems well priced. Again, there are just so many mixed reviews. I kind of like the look of the dome cameras better than the bullets but again I am just looking from input from some more experienced users. Thanks in advance!

Have you considered rolling your own with Blue Iris and a PC? Lots of flexibility and there are some excellent community integrations with SmartThings. It also has solid support for MJPG output which works well with dashboards like AT or SharpTools.io

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I have done some research into it. I built my own higher end computer and I know it could do it, I guess I’m just not sure about how much that would effect the components over time. I guess maybe I should look more into it. Is that what you ended up doing? I have a couple HDD in it for mass storage in a raid set up already so I guess that’s one thing that it’s already partly set up if I ended up going that route.

Yeah, I tried Surveillance Station on a QNAP NAS and a dedicated hardware NVR from Reolink and I was disappointed with both.

I bought an HP micro PC for something like $220 on eBay and it works like a champ for 8 cameras with hardware decoding and direct to disc recording enabled. Most of the recording just stays on the PC itself, but I backup some recordings to the NAS.

If you don’t mind me asking, why were you disappointed in the Reolink system? Were you having playback issues or you just didn’t like the software? So with the micro PC, you have blue iris installed and it just handles all the processing for you? I never thought about direct to disk but I can see how that would be really useful if you ever needed to submit footage. And then do you have blue iris set up on AT? What cameras did you go with if you don’t mind me asking?

The dedicated NVR from Reolink would have been great if I wanted to use their apps and if I was fine with their built in motion detection. I wanted much more control over the motion detection which Blue Iris gave me.

Yes, the Mico PC is dedicated to Blue Iris. The software handles are the recording, transcoding, making all my various cameras available via a single interface, moving files, etc, etc.

I’ve had to pull footage a couple times, and using the Blue Iris desktop app was nice for that. Their mobile app is OK, but I prefer to pull up the cameras in the TinyCam Pro app for Android. Much nicer interface for live streaming (but I use their mobile app for checking history/events).

I stream some of the cameras to SharpTools.io web dashboards. (I’m the developer of SharpTools)


I have a mix of cameras… Reolink, Amcrest, Yi Home (custom firmware), LaView Doorbell.

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Couldnt you have streamed from the Reolink NVR to BI? Or would that have not gotten you the features that you wanted? I was also under the impression that if you have a dedicated NVR with cameras that supported MJPEG protocol, then you could stream directly into ST or AT? If so, then would you even need to use BI? I guess Im just not sure why anybody would prefer one over the other. Just speaking from the PC side, I would think that there could be some potential issues such as a power failure, CPU stress and cooling, and HDD longevity. Granted they both have HDD so maybe that point isnt as valid. I know you could set up the PC to power back up after a power failure but again that is relying on more of a software setting performing correctly. Versus if you went with a dedicated NVR I would think that there would be a lot less headache and arguably more reliability since that was what the system was designed to do. Im not sure if I’m over thinking this. I just know that sometimes with tech it is better to rely on hardware and to keep it simple.

So is SharpTools similar to AT? I clicked on the hyperlink and was looking at the forum there just to see some differences. My wife and I have Iphones so whatever I end up doing, it needs to be compatible with iOS. That panel does look really sharp and it looks like it has basically what I am going for. What kind of tablet is that?

With your cameras, is there a brand that you prefer from those companies you listed?

I could have, but what would the point have been? That would basically be one NVR streaming to another NVR. :wink: Blue Iris is an NVR… just a software based one where you supply the processing/storage.

Sure, if the NVR supports MJPEG output, then you can stream to a web based dashboard. But that wasn’t my problem with the Reolink NVR or the QNAP Surveillance Station. :slight_smile: I wanted better control over the motion detection, more advanced features, and better integration with other systems. The hardware NVRs I tried were lacking in these areas and Blue Iris excelled in these areas.

Stability and reliability are a reasonable concern… but as you mentioned, what makes a hardware NVR any more reliable or any better? I’ve been running Blue Iris on this machine for a few years now and haven’t had a single hiccup. I have it connected to a UPS along with the NAS it offloads storage to and they both automatically gracefully shut down and boot back up in the event of an extended power outage.

The PC I’m using is just an enterprise grade small-form-factor PC from HP - these things run in enterprises for years on end and are designed to be reliable. I’m not convinced that a cheap NVR would be more reliable than enterprise hardware from HP. If anything, the build quality of this PC is superior to the NVRs I have been hands on with.

SharpTools.io is a web based dashboard and rule engine that works on any modern web browser. The pictures of the panel are a Fire HD 10 tablet running Fully Kiosk Browser in a FireWall mount. It’s a relatively common setup as the tablets and mounts are reasonably priced and Fully Kiosk Browser works really well for a dedicated dashboard device. I also view the dashboards on my iPad and Pixel 2 XL (Android)

A few highlights are SharpTools.io has a drag-and-drop dashboard builder, deep tile customization, flexibility with icon customization, support for multiple platforms, and an integrated Rule Engine.

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I prefer the Reolink cameras for outside. I use the RLC-410 bullet cameras and have POE run to them. My one complaint is the IR light is visible on the RLC-410 at night, but that’s relatively common. Inside, I use the Amcrest Pro HD as my primary cameras for the baby/toddler - great quality, has PTZ support, and you can either be wireless or wired via Ethernet. The Yi Cams are great because they are small and discrete… the 720p versions can run modded firmware to output an RTSP stream into an NVR. The resolution isn’t as good, but they are nice where you need a smaller camera.

For example, my 2.5 year old just started complaining about the main Amcrest camera that has been above his bed since he was a baby, so I took it down… but I left one of the Yi Cams in his room with a minion cover on it and he doesn’t mind it.


Thank you for answering all of my questions. I know its a lot but I wanted you to know I really appreciate it. I just like to learn and understand the reasons for different methods rather than only copying a “how to guide”. Not that those arent useful because they definitely can be. I just want to learn haha.

The reason I asked and the point of streaming from the Reolink NVR to BI was: if whatever hardware NVR you had did not support MJPEG, then you could use BI in conjunction with it so that you would then be able to get that live feed in ST or AT. Just a type of workaround for whatever piece of equipment you had so that you dont necessarily need to buy something else to make it work.

Ah okay I see what you mean. You could stream but you wanted more custom control over it. So before you worked on SharpTools, were you trying to get these hardware NVRs to integrate with ST or AT first? If the hardware NVRs were lacking in those areas, do you mean more of the control aspect or more of actually being able to see live/recorded footage?

A UPS is a really good idea just as a fail-safe method until main power comes back on. Do you have the computer set on a routine to cycle off and on every so often? See you might have convinced me with this point you made. I didnt even think about how any decent PC, or in your case an enterprise one, is built to handle a longer life time and that a hardware NVR (where as yes this may be its sole purpose) is still made from less quality/lower performance parts. Thats actually a really good point. See this is exactly why I wanted to talk this out with somebody haha.

I might be confused since I havent had the opportunity to play around with any of this in person yet. In what way is AT different from SharpTools? Im just curious because I definitely like to try different things until I find something I really like. Ill probably try ST, AT, and SharpTools just to check them all out. A huge factor in that will be my wife and how much she likes them once theyre set up. She is technologically…umm…stunted haha. In fact, a perfect example was last night when she called me on the phone to tell me that the TV wasnt working. She was using the remote and rewinding and then couldnt get it to play again…now you would think batteries would be a first step to fixing it (sigh). I like that SharpTools is a web based dashboard…because my wife will definitely want to have it up on her work computer so she can watch our dogs and lock the house or arm the ST ADT panel etc. And the service there isnt the best so Apps dont always work for either of us until we are headed home. I think I will definitely get a Fire HD 10 tablet with Fully Kiosk. Do you by any chance have any videos on youtube of the SharpTools functions and interface? I really wish that there were more videos online of how ST, AT, and now SharpTools.io work…reviews of each one…reasons for why they went a certain route vs others. Maybe I just havent dug deep enough yet.

Thank you for sharing your experience with the cameras. Ive looked into those two brands a lot, its just hard when there are so many different companies out there and mixed reviews. Ill probably just limit my search to those two brands.

I know that last response was a lot. So I guess to summarize things: you prefer Reolink RLC-410 bullet cameras outside, you run them to a POE switch and then use a dedicated enterprise HP mini computer to run it all with BI. The NAS is just your personal preference correct? Versus just having another HDD in a raid setup? Of course, a mini computer depending on the size probably doesnt have the room for that either. Ive been thinking about setting up a HTPC for a while now and I am almost thinking that it could also work for this as well. Do you think that the computer needs to be totally dedicated for surveillance? Or would it be alright to be used for the living-room and watching movies and act as a network storage system? I also forgot to ask you if you knew which model enterprise HP computer you went with? I would be curious to see. Thanks again!

Primarily control over the motion detection. I don’t remember the exact details now, but I recall the Reolink NVR having some basic motion detection features for sensitivity, but I wanted more control. Blue Iris lets you set motion zones, blackout zones, cross-over zones, and use different algorithms for motion detection. These were especially important to me for my outside cameras where shadows or small animals would trigger the motion event and I didn’t really care about those events.

I wasn’t really researching integration with SmartThings or related products at the time, but I was keenly aware the Blue Iris had some advanced features for notifications, posting events to web servers, etc. etc.

I do not have it set to cycle on/off on a routine. I keep it running 24/7 and only occasionally reboot with major updates.

I don’t mean to say that all NVRs are cheap and made of bad parts… just that a decent enterprise PC should last a long time and should be made of good parts. (Although I’m sure there are people who have had bad experiences with either approach!) A dedicated hardware NVR is straightforward and if it does exactly what you need, then great. I just preferred the additional flexibility and control over my system.

We’ve been heads down focused on building out the SharpTools dashboard and Rule Engine, so I haven’t put out a lot of ‘marketing’ material. I’ve posted a few videos on my personal YouTube channel which you can find here:

That’s good feedback though and we have plans to release more videos and better informational pages on the main SharpTools.io site.

Do you already use SmartThings or another home automation platform?

Yes. And the small form factor PC I went with is really small. It’s a HP Elitedesk 800 G1 Mini. I got it on eBay for $240 - it had a deep scratch in it so the guy refunded $20. It’s hidden away under my staircase, so $220 for a dedicated PC based NVR isn’t bad! Honestly, I haven’t laid eyes on it in many many months, but I think it this is it:

It’s your call on mixing and matching them. Keeping the surveillance system really stable was important to me, so I went with getting a reasonably priced box that I could dedicate to it. My NAS (QNAP TS-451), runs my Plex Media Server and I use a NVIDIA SHIELD TV as my primary media center / TV box.

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This is a very practical point youre making and you made me think of another consideration. Sometimes you can buy the cameras in a bundle with a hardware NVR cheaper than if you just bought them individually. So what I might do is look around at pricing options for some of those bundles vs how much it would be to purchase individual cameras, a POE switch, and a mini computer. If theyre pretty close, then itll be a little harder to decide. If the hardware NVR option is a lot cheaper, then it might be worth it to try that first just to see if it serves your needs well enough. If it doesnt, then changing some things around a little wouldnt be that hard if you only then need a switch and a computer (if i dont already have a spare at that time).

Thank you for this youtube link. I will definitely be watching that tonight. I think that if you eventually have some of your own tutorial videos or some practical application videos, that it could set your software apart from AT. There are some videos with people using AT, but I havent seen anything other than basic overviews…which are great except its hard if I want to see some of its applications etc. Everybody loves watching DIY youtube videos so it definitely couldnt hurt one day. I know I would watch them at least haha.

I dabbled in Vivint a little bit and quickly realized how much they are more like the “iphone” in the home automation world. Great for people who dont want a lot of customization, but terrible for someone like me who wants to be able to do so much more with automations and control from a single interface. So we returned that system and I have already ordered the ST ADT starter kit and some of their sensors, ring doorbell pro, kwikset smartcode 910, and nest 3rd gen thermostat. Ive had some other devices for a while now like some Sonos Ones and some phillips hue lights and Im sure Im forgetting some other little devices here and there. So I definitely want to incorporate all of these together. I know one of the things I want to do is have a chime play over the Sonos speakers when someone rings the doorbell. Or if a window/door sensor is activated I want that notification to play over them. Just stuff like that.

Yeah honestly that isnt bad at all. Like I said, Im going to have to price both options out and see exactly what the difference is. Its definitely going to be a tough decision haha. I think I am looking for less of the motion sensing and customizing that you wanted in your set up…and I think I am looking more for a smooth interface that my wife and I can view from our work computers and the tablets at home…in other words, a semi-seamless integration with everything that we have and full house control from a single source. That will also help save me the headache of having to show someone how to use different apps etc…not naming any names here :joy:

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I think for now, I am going to try using a hardware NVR just to keep it a little more simple/straightforward. Were you able to integrate your Reolink NVR with sharptools or AT or ST? im having a hard time trying to figure out for sure what systems will work. ive been researching constantly since the last response and its honestly getting a little frustrating.

I did not try to integrate Reolink NVR with any of those, so I can’t speak to its capabilities.

If you find an NVR that you like, you might check the iSpyConnect database to see if it has an MJPEG stream available. If so, then it should work with most web dashboard solutions. If not, check if it at least has a JPEG snapshot option - in which case you could at least show a snapshot image and have it refresh every few seconds (which on some devices like some of the Fire Tablets can actually be more performant).


Hi does SharpTools.io needs any special CAM or NVR or does it work with any of them?

You can add camera views in SharpTools.io directly if the camera supports JPEG/MJPEG, but if not , you will need a NVR. I personally use a dedicated PC with Blue Iris, but many use TinyCam as the NVR too.

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