Hikvision iVMS-4200 Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Sep 14, 2015, 12:00am EDT (Research)

Though best known for their camera and recorders, mega Chinese manufacturer also makes their own VMS software.

In this report, we share test results of Hikvision's iVMS-4200 [link no longer available], their VMS that works with their own cameras and recorders.

In a future report, we will test their 5200 VMS offerings, which works with 3rd party cameras but is not released in North America now.

We tested their iVMS-4200 client software to see how it compared to mainstream VMSes in live viewing and event management, playback and search, configuration, and more.

Inside we have 5 videos and detailed analysis. Here is the first overview video that reviews the basics of the client and what each common tab is used for:

The overall layout of the VMS is modern and streamlined, making it fairly straightforward to navigate / access key features.

However, iVMS-4200 suffers several key limitations, most notably in playback and search:

  • Time sync issues: Since iVMS is designed to connect to multiple devices, with video not centrally recorded and timestamped, issues may arise if the time of all connected devices is not properly synchronized, including event or instant replay video not playing back, or synchronized playback being out of sync.
  • Limited export options: Users may export only one camera at a time, regardless of which search method is used. No multi-camera export or standalone player is available.
  • Limited event search: Users may only search for events on one camera at a time. A global search for intrusion detections or line crossing is not possible, for example, which may increase investigation time. 

These issues are made worse by the limited documentation and error verbiage provided by the product manual and iVMS client, which may be aggravating for inexperienced users.

These issues aside, there are several features found in iVMS-4200 which many VMSes do not include:

  • Analytics: iVMS-4200 is fully integrated with Hikvision's analytics on both cameras and recorders, including line crossing, intrusion detection, loitering, people counting, heat maps, and others.
  • Edge storage: iVMS supports edge storage for Hikvision IP cameras, either local SD storage or network shares.
  • Cloud cameras: Cameras connected to Hikvision's EZVIZ cloud platform may be connected and viewed along with other devices connected locally (though not supported in North America currently)

Price

iVMS is available from Hikvision as a free download.

Recommendations

Users with multiple Hikvision DVRs/NVRs will find iVMS-4200 most beneficial, as multiple devices may be viewed and configured from a single platform, instead of logging into the web interfaces of multiple devices. The integration of camera/recorder analytics into the software is an added bonus, as many VMSes do not support these integrations.

Those with more stringent playback/search needs will find iVMS-4200 lacks some key features, such as multi-camera export, cross-camera event searches, etc., and the potential risk of time sync issues may be a showstopper in large systems.

Regardless of application, users should be very careful to sync devices to the same time source when using iVMS-4200, as synchronous or event playback may simply fail without it.

What About iVMS-5200?

iVMS-4200's successor, iVMS-5200, has been available outside North America for some time. Hikvision informs us that it is running in field trials currently, but has no firm release date. 

iVMS-5200 includes several features not found in 4200:

There are several differences between 4200 and 5200:

  • Client/server architecture: 5200 will run in a typical VMS client/server architecture, with a central machine storing configuration for multiple clients, instead of requiring export/import of settings to each client machine.
  • Active Directory integration: Because of this new architecture, iVMS-5200 may be integrated with Active Directory, instead of requiring a separate login for each user.
  • Health monitoring: iVMS-5200 also provides health monitoring (up/down status, storage information, etc.) for all connected devices.

iVMS Limited Documentation

iVMS-4200 documentation is limited, at best. The manual contains good detail of client operations, such as live view and playback. However, information on configuration and troubleshooting (especially lesser used components, such as the Storage Server) is nearly non-existent. 

Hikvision support was helpful in remedying most issues, but this lack of documentation and need to contact support for most issues may frustrate many integrators and users.

Time Sync A Must

It will become clear throughout this test that time sync is very important when using iVMS-4200. Because it is intended as a CMS, with numerous devices potentially recording video, it is imperative that these devices use the same time server, or synchronized playback, event video, and other functions may not work properly. 

See our guide to Resolving IP Camera / VMS Time Sync Problems for best practices on how to do this. We detail issues related to time in other sections below.

Live View

Overall, iVMS-4200's live view functions were average, with no major usability issues. Predefined layouts may be used and saved, or users may create their own custom layouts to fit specific camera combinations.

Events and alarms are shown at the bottom of the window or may be enlarged into their own tab. Double clicking an event opens a popup window with associated playback video.

While overall live viewing worked well, there are several quirks/flaws in live or event video which users should be aware of:

  • Instant playback failures: We found that the instant playback button (to view the last 30 seconds, 1, 5, 10 minutes, etc.) sometimes failed for no apparent reason, with little feedback as to why. Sometimes this was due to improper time sync and easily remedied. Other times it failed despite cameras synced and recording properly.
  • Record button = local only: Unlike many/most VMSes, the record button overlayed on video panels in iVMS saves an MP4 file local to the client machine. It does not initiate manual recording on the camera/recorder, as is typical, which many users may find confusing.
  • Event video sometimes unavailable: As with instant playback, event video sometimes did not load, or loaded at the wrong point in video. In many cases, the client informed us we needed to configure storage, despite the camera being properly configured and recording continuously.
  • Live view warped by default: Like other Hikvision products, video is stretched to fill each viewing pane, regardless of the camera's native aspect ratio, distorting video depending on screen wiidth. This may be changed in client settings.

This video reviews live and event use and its issues:

Playback/Search 

iVMS-4200's playback controls are similar to other VMSes, with typical play/pause/fast/slow controls, and a timeline which users may zoom and scroll through.

However, there are a few things notably different:

Synchronous Playback Issues

In our tests, we found that some devices played back video from different times, even when in synchronous playback mode (activated with a button control). A TVI DVR played back two channels properly synced with each other, but a third camera (IP with SD storage) played back video at a different time, with our subject absent from the scene. 

We found that cameras attached to a single recorder always played back properly, but when using multiple devices/recorders, sync issues were more likely.

No Multi-Camera Export

Exports are limited to a single camera at a time (.mp4 files), with no option for exporting multiple cameras with executable player. 

Event Search Issues

Unlike many VMSes which allow you to search for all events in a specific time period across cameras, iVMS-4200 allows event search only for one camera at a time, making investigations more difficult across multiple cameras.

Additionally, despite having analytic events set up and recorded by multiple cameras, when search for events only generic motion was found, not line crossing or intrusion detection. Searching for these events returned no results, despite them appearing in the event list.

Limited Bookmarking/"Tags"

iVMS-4200 includes the ability to add a "tag" to video during playback, similar to a bookmark in other VMSes. However, the tag references only one period in time, not a selectable duration, and cannot be renamed. Users may use tags to quickly find events they wish to export, but the export duration is not selectable, instead just a few minutes before and after the tag.

We review playback/search and the above issues in this video:

Adding Devices

Adding devices to iVMS-4200 is simple, with Hikvision cameras and recorders automatically found on the local network. Users must simply enter a name for each as well as the username/password. 

Only Hikvision devices are directly supported. However, third party cameras connected to some Hikvision NVRs (7700 and 9600 series) may be viewed and recorded, as well.

iVMS-4200 also supports Hikvision's EZVIZ cloud platform, by supplying their EZVIZ credentials. Cloud cameras may be viewed and played back (if a recording plan is used) next to typical cameras.

We review the device addition process in this video:

"Risky" Devices

Note that in our video above, cameras running older firmware or using the Hikvision default password (12345) are labelled as "Risky." Those which have gone through the secure activation process and follow Hikvision's password rules are labeled "Strong." See our report Hikvision Anti Hacking Firmware Tested for more information on these issues.

No Enterprise Management

iVMS-4200 lacks enterprise management. Changes made in each instance of the client are not pushed to other machines. In order to synchronize users, cameras, views, and other settings, users must export a .zip file of settings and import it to the other machine.

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