Gerald, good question / topic.
First, what are you paying $135 for? Exacq Start or Professional? I ask because this impacts price and features provided. For example, Start is under $50 but Professional would be around the range you cite. I guess you mean Professional, though, since Start is limited to 16 cameras.
We just finished up a test on Hikvision's free VMS software, the 4200. We find Exacq to still be more polished, even for basic use than Hikvision, though Hikvision has surely closed ground in the past few years.
To your point about the price difference, agreed it is not trivial especially if you are not going to use higher end Exacq features.
I am in the same predicament: Customer has a several small/medium system and finds themselves paying much more for licenses than for cameras ... They react strangely to that and systems for up 40 cameras starts costing serios amount, most of it due to licenses, very quickly. And of course VMS manufacturers have to add those SUP here and SUP there and before you know it .. It has become a very expensive system. On top of that you can't back the darn thing up! For that you require the more expensive licenses that allow tiered storage and the like .. With the NVRs.. It seems you just back the thing up and can play it later if there is a need for it. I sincerely believe the VMS people need to wake up: Their pricing may not be sustainable in the long/medium run