Hikvision Tribrid Recorder Tested

By Ethan Ace, Published Nov 05, 2014, 12:00am EST

HD over existing coax, IP and legacy analog cameras, all in a single recorder.

A 16 camera 'tribrid' DVR that does all that for less than $400.

This is what Hikvision is claiming with its 7200 series HDTVI tribrid DVRs [link no longer available].

We bought one of them, the DS-7204HGHI-SH to determine:

  • How well does it handle TVI, analog SD and IP?
  • What limitations existed on the recorders?
  • How well / poorly did the DVR client / software work?
  • Here are our key findings from our test of the Hikvision Turbo HD TVI DVR:

    • HDTVI, SD analog, and IP cameras were all supported and recorded without issue.
    • TVI and analog cameras are detected automatically via the rear connectors, with no manual configuration required to switch signal type.
    • Hikvision IP cameras were automatically detected and in most cases added to the recorder. Some cameras required manual addition and configuration of secondary streams (such as the DS-2CD6332 panoramic model).
    • Only supports Hikvision IP cameras. No third party cameras are supported.
    • IP cameras limited to one in 4-channel DVRs and two in 8- and 16-channel models, maximum of 1080p/2MP resolution.
    • Local and web interfaces were simple to use, though limited compared to many clients, with few live view layout options and limited search capabilities.
    • No synchronized playback via web or local interface. Multiple cameras may be played back at once, though searching and loading each is tedious.
    • No multi camera export via web, local, or thick client interfaces.
    • iVMS-4200 software remedied some usability issues of other UIs, with more live view options, synchronized playback, and additional export methods.
    • DVR supports RTSP streaming out, so could be used as encoders with any VMS which accepts RTSP streams.

    Pricing

    Hikvision's HDTVI DVR line [link no longer available] prices out as follows, not including hard drives:

    • DS-7204HGHI-SH 4 Channel: ~$120 USD estimated street price
    • DS-7208HGHI-SH 8 Channel: ~$230 USD estimated street price
    • DS-7216HGHI-SH 16 Channel: ~$375 USD estimated street price

    Compared to Dahua's 4-channel HDCVI DVR the HDCVR5104C, the DS-7204HGHI-SH is priced similarly or slightly higher. Note that this model supports only HDCVI cameras, with no analog or IP support.

    • Hikvision DS-7204HGHI-SH: ~$120 USD estimated street price
    • Dahua HCVR5104C: ~$100 USD online

    Hikvision's HDTVI DVR line is less expensive than even entry level NVRs, including Hikvision's own 7700 series recorders. 

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    • Hikvision DS-7216HGHI-SH: $375 USD estimated street price
    • Axis S1016 [link no longer available]: ~$3,600 estimated street price ($3,999 MSRP)
    • Hikvision DS-7716NI-SP/16 [link no longer available]: ~$700 online
    • Lorex LNR363W: ~$1,100 online

    Note that these are not direct comparisions to the TVI DVRs. For example, both the Hikvision and Lorex NVRs include built-in PoE switches and support third-party cameras via ONVIF. The Axis S1016 includes on-site warranty service and tech support. All of these are features not found in the lower cost Hikvision recorder.

    Recommendations

    Hikvision's Turbo HD DVRs are a good choice for those seeking HD quality over coax, given their low price and added features, such as analog and IP camera support.

    However, users wishing to reuse existing coax cabling for HDTVI cameras should beware of poor condition cables' effects on image quality, with in-place testing recommended before deployment. Additionally, those looking for higher IP camera counts will be better served by dedicated NVRs instead of these hybrid recorders.

    Market Impact

    Overall, we expect HDTVI to have significant impact compared to analog HD compeititors HDCVI and AHD due to Hikvision's bigger presence in the western market. Hikvision continues to grow in popularity among integrators, while Dahua HDCVI product must still be found through OEMs in North America, some of which sell directly to end users online.  

    Physical Overview

    The DS-7204HGHI-SH's construction is fairly typical of low cost DVRs, with typical connections on the back of the unit for TVI/analog in (input only, no looping outputs), Ethernet for IP camera connection and remote viewing, four alarm in/one alarm out plus RS-485, and video out via VGA or HDMI.

    Removing the cover, the the inside of the DVR is fairly unremarkable as well to the casual observer, showing only a single board plus hard drive. Few components on the top of the board are labeled. (Click for full-res 8MP version)

    Compatibility

    Hikvision's Turbo HD DVRs are "tribrid" models, compatible with not only HDTVI cameras, but analog and IP cameras as well. 

    This video demonstrates all three types of cameras connected to the DVR at once, as well as how to check what type of camera is connected in setup.

    TVI/Analog Support 

    HDTVI and analog cameras are both supported on the same BNC connectors on the back of the DVR. Signal type is detected automatically, and no manual switching is required.

    This short video shows this automatic detection, switching from TVI to analog on the same port:

    IP Camera Support 

    The 7200 series DVRs support a limited number of IP cameras on each recorder: one IP camera (up to 1080p/2MP) on 4-channel models and 2 on 8- and 16-channel DVRs. Only Hikvision cameras are supported, with no ONVIF or direct drivers.

    This video shows the IP camera connection process:

    This limited support makes managing even small numbers of IP cameras impractical using these recorders. It is likely most useful in two cases:

    • Specialized cameras: Users may wish to use a specialized camera not available in TVI, such as pinhole or panoramic cameras. For example, a small store may opt to record an IP panoramic camera overview for general activity monitoring while capturing greater details of select areas with TVI cameras.
    • Outbuildings/remote cameras: In some cases, a small number of cameras are desired in outbuildings where running dedicated coax is impractical, but which the LAN already extends to. Using IP cameras in this cases is likely more cost effective than extending coax cabling or adding another DVR locally.

    Outside of these use cases, a dedicated NVR or VMS is a better choice for managing multiple IP cameras.

    Usability

    Users may access the DVR in one of three ways: locally, using mouse only (no keyboard support), web interface, or Windows client application. We review usability of each of these below.   

    Web Interface

    First we review operation using the web interface of the DS-7204HGHI-SH. Options using the local interface are very similar, though use is more limited due to lack of keyboard control (only USB mice supported).

    There are several usability limitations in the web interface:

    • Limited split screen view: Live view is limited to 1x1, 2x2, or 3x3 layouts, with no custom options. Because of this, when viewing the maximum connected cameras (five: four analog and one IP), users must use the 3x3 view, with cameras appearing relatively small compared to the 4x4 view.
    • No synchronized playback: Search is limited to one camera at a time. Multiple cameras may be loaded and played back independently in a split screen view, but there is no option to simply synchronize video.
    • No event search: Video may only be searched by time. There is no option to review motion detection or other event recordings.
    • No multi-camera export: Video may only be downloaded one camera at a time. There is no option for export of multiple cameras.

    This video reviews live operation:

    In this second video we review issues in search:

    Finally, we review configuration of the DVR in this video:

    iVMS-4200

    Hikvision's iVMS-4200 Windows client addresses two limitations found in the other user interfaces of the DVR, adding more live view layout options as well as synchronized playback and event search. Additionally, the client includes automatic switching from low bitrate to high quality streams (lowering bandwidth when viewing multiple cameras) as well as the ability to connect to multiple recorders at once.

    However, multi-camera export is still unavailable in iVMS-4200. Users must still download each camera separately.

    Cable Quality

    HDTVI performance was degraded when using low quality cable compared to the factory terminated RG59U used for most of our test. The image below shows a direct comparison of the 25' factory terminated cables used for most of our test vs. a 1000' length of RG-59U with low quality connectors. Significant smearing was present in the image when using poor quality cables.

    This video shows these two cable types in action and shows the image quality effects of the lower quality cable.

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