Dahua Smart H.264+ Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Aug 17, 2016, 12:09pm EDT (Research)

The smart codec trend continues, with Dahua adding Smart H.264+ to many of their models in new firmware.

In this test we see how it performs and how it compares to Dahua's key competitor Hikvision and their H.264+ smart codec in day and night scenes, both low and high motion.  

For more Smart codec details, readers should see our Smart Codec Guide as well as tests of Axis ZipstreamHikvision H.264+Panasonic Smart Coding


Smart H.264+ reduced bitrates by as much as 90% in still, well lit scenes and about 30% in busy daytime scenes.

However, it was less effective at night, with reductions of 35-60%. Additionally, bandwidth actually increased in high motion nighttime scenes, an issue not seen in other smart codecs we have tested.

Note that Smart H.264+ is available only on Dahua's mid-range "Pro" series, not their lowest cost or highest performance models.

Impact Vs. Hikvision

Smart H.264+ is competitive with Hikvision's H.264+, with lower bitrates on similar models in our tests, neutralizing a key advantage of Hikvision's in supported Dahua models.

However, Hikvision offers H.264+ on a broader selection of cameras (nearly all current models), including low cost and high end models.

If Dahua releases this smart codec support on more models, it will further strengthen their line.

Vs. Axis Zipstream

Axis' Zipstream generally averages better overall savings than Dahua's Smart H.264+, especially in low light and high motion scenes. However, given Axis' much higher camera pricing, this moderately better performance is unlikely to have a major impact.

Firmware Availability

In North America, Dahua has released Smart H.264+ for their Pro Series cameras, mid-range 2MP and 4MP models (such as those tested in our 4MP Shootout and Hikvision vs Dahua High-End 4MP tests. We have asked Dahua whether there are plans to bring Smart H.264+ to other models, such as the Lite or Ultra lines and will update this report if/when they clarify.

Users may download new firmware from Dahua's Wiki. Firmware is available on each camera's individual page (see the HDBW54X1 page for example).

No Setup: On/Off Only

Like Hikvision's H.264+ and Panasonic Smart Coding, Dahua's Smart H.264+ has no configuration options other than On/Off, seen below. This is unlike Axis Zipstream or Vivotek Smart Stream II, which allow adjustments of I-frame interval and dynamic compression.

Smart Codec Reductions

Bitrate reductions with Smart H.264+ on vs. off varied from about 35% in some scenes to ~90% in still, well lit scenes, seen in the chart below.

However, in a very high motion nighttime test (generated by using a stage laser), bitrate actually increased when using Smart H.264+, unlike other scenes, as well as other smart codecs we have tested. This appears to be due to a reduction in quality with the smart codec off, not seen in other cameras (see below).

Visible Effects

In most scenes, there were little to no discernable visible effects introduced by Smart H.264+. For example, in the daytime still scene below, the test chart and most of the background appears similar. Some slight smearing can be seen in the pattern of the carpet in this scene, but no real practical effects.

However, in our low light very high motion scene, image quality was noticeably worse with Smart H.264+ turned off, with smearing of the foreground, pixelation of objects, and less detail overall, seen in this image below:


Versus Hikvision

We tested Smart H.264+ against Hikvision's H.264+ in several scenes to see how they compare.

During the day, the Dahua 4MP camera's bitrates were significantly lower than its Hikvision equivalent, with Smart H.264+ both on and off. Tests were performed at 10 FPS, ~28-30 quantization average (before turning smart codec on).

At night, Smart H.264+ was less effective than Hikvision's H.264+, with Dahua's bitrate more than double that of Hikvision.


Finally, as discussed above, the Dahua camera's bitrate increased in our high motion low light scene with Smart H.264+ on, while Hikvision's bitrate drops by ~12 Mb/s, about an 80% decrease. Note that despite this, the Dahua camera's bitrate is still lower than Hikvision.

Firmware Used

The following firmware versions were used in this test:

  • Dahua HDBW5421E: 2.400.0000.30.R20160623
  • Hikvision DS-2CD2742FWD-I: 5.3.8 

Firmware was also confirmed working in the Dahua HFW44X1S.

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