Hikvision vs Exacq VMS

Published Jun 15, 2016 16:57 PM

Hikvision and Exacq are two of the most commonly used recorders in the market, but how do they really match up? With Hikvision so much less expensive than Exacq, what features, if any, are users giving up? 

In this report, we look at Hikvision's iVMS-4200 CMS with NVRs versus ExacqVision to see how they compare, analyzing more than 20 different aspects from our tests, including:

  • Price
  • Custom layouts
  • Saved views
  • Instant replay
  • Mapping features
  • Event management
  • Timeline use
  • Event search
  • Smart/pixel search
  • Multi-camera playback
  • Export
  • Camera discovery
  • Third party camera support
  • ONVIF support
  • Camera VMD/analytic support
  • Enterprise viewing
  • Enterprise management

Inside, see our results with image examples for these and other factors and full analysis.


Hikvision's NVRs and iVMS-4200 CMS have several limitations when compared to ExacqVision, especially in playback, search, and third party camera/event support. But, in our tests, we found iVMS to be stable, without major usability issues in basic live viewing. Those looking for basic surveillance systems, without need of extensive integrations and search/export functions, will likely find that Hikvision's NVRs and CMS fit their needs at a much lower price than Exacq.

What About iVMS-5200?

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

There are several differences between 4200 and 5200, including but not limited to:

  • 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.

Key Findings Overview

This chart overviews the key findings from our comparisons below:

Pricing: Advantage Hikvision

Hikvision's recorders are dramatically less expensive at both the low and high ends compared to Exacq, as much as 60-80%. For example:

  • Low end: For example, a 4 channel Hikvision PoE NVR (DS-7604NI-E1/4P-1T) [link no longer available] sells for under $300 online. By contrast, Exacq's lowest cost recorder (LC Series 1 TB) sells for over $1,000, and does not include PoE (though supports up to 16 cameras, 4 licenses included).
  • High end: At the high end, a 64 channel Hikvision DS-9664 [link no longer available] NVR sells for ~$2,600 (w/12TB storage), while an Exacq A series 64 channel 12TB model sells for ~$1,000 more (~$3,500 online), plus for ~$6,000 in additional IP camera licenses (the NVR includes only 4 from the factory).

Additionally, Hikvision NVRs and iVMS-4200 are license free, with no recurring costs. By contrast, Exacq users must purchase a Software Subscription Agreement (SSA) if they wish to receive updates past their initial license period (varies from 90 days to 3 years, depending on software only or NVR). 

Live View: Similar

Live viewing in Exacq and iVMS-4200 are more similar than other operations in the clients, such as search and configuration. Both use the typical camera tree layout with video panes to the right, seen here:

Saved Views: Draw

Both clients allow users to save specific camera views, located in the "Views" menu in Exacq and under "Custom View" in iVMS.

Custom Layouts: Draw

Both Exacq and iVMS allow creation of custom layouts, merging/splitting panels to fit specific camera configurations. Exacq is slightly more flexible in how rows may be added/deleted in order to niche layouts, but both are generally similar.





Context Menu Access: Draw

The comparison below shows the context menu accessed by right clicking on a camera in Exacq and iVMS-4200, respectively.

Many options are the same, with both giving easy access to screenshot options (save/print), digital zoom, and instant replay.

Notably, iVMS-4200 includes manual recording here, which Exacq lacks. Users may set up a manual recording button using Exacq's "Camera Links" feature introduced in recent versions, but there is no manual recording option by default.

Instant Replay: Advantage Exacq

While iVMS allows users to launch instant replay for a single camera only, Exacq allows users to launch playback for a single camera or the entire layout, seen below, making it easier to quickly review video from multiple cameras. iVMS users must manually launch instant playback from each camera.

Mapping: Draw

Both the Exacq and Hikvision clients allow easy map creation by dragging and dropping cameras onto a floor plan, but maps operate in different ways.

In Exacq, the map and its contained cameras load in a layout. Maps may also be included in saved layouts (above). However, in iVMS-4200, maps occupy a specific tab separate from other live view functions. Double clicking a camera opens its video in a pop up window, with the typical live view context menu available.

Event Management: Advantage Hikvision

Exacq and iVMS-4200 handle events very differently, with Hikvision's approach more integrated into the iVMS client than Exacq. 


Unlike Exacq, Hikvision's event list is integrated to the client, docked at the bottom of the screen or shown in its own full size tab, with events entering the list as they occur. Double clicking an event, like Exacq, pops up a playback video window:

Note that iVMS supports events only from Hikvision devices, while Exacq supports third parties, discussed below.


Alarm events are received in specific "armed" tiles, with the ability to switch to a specific camera or layout upon event. Users may open event video for playback by double clicking the event, seen below. Note that the event list does not dock into the client, hovering over instead.



Camera Discovery: Advantage Exacq

Exacq includes a discovery tool which locates cameras (direct driver and ONVIF) on the network. Users may add cameras in bulk or one at a time once discovered, with some ability to assign IP addresses (limited to specific manufacturers including as Axis and Illustra).

Hikvision NVRs do not include a camera discovery process. Instead, users must manually add each camera via IP address. There is no option to add cameras via an IP range, either.


Third Party Camera Support: Advantage Exacq

In our tests of hundreds of cameras, we have had few issues with Exacq supporting cameras, either via direct drivers or via ONVIF.

By contrast, attempting to add Axis, Bosch, Samsung, Dahua, and others to a Hikvision NVR (via direct drivers and ONVIF), we encountered several issues, with some cameras simply not connecting. For example, in our tests we were unable to add any Axis camera to the DS-7604 when selecting Axis as the driver, though the same camera connects and streams properly when using ONVIF. Moreover, the NVR/iVMS provide very little troubleshooting information, typically simply displaying vague "IP camera exception" or "Network abnormal" errors.


Camera Event Integration: Advantage Exacq

Exacq includes support for camera side VMD on many manufacturers, both via direct drivers and ONVIF. Additionally, they now support camera analytics such as Axis VMD3/Guard Suite/Digital Autotracking, Bosch IVA, Sony VMF, and more. Note that analytic event actions are configured via Event Linking, shown here, not simply enabled by default:


By contrast, Hikvision includes support for VMD and analytics only on Hikvision cameras. The full list of camera analytics (seen below) is supported on cameras and NVRs which include them (see our report Hikvision Video Analytics Tested for more details).

Timeline Usability: Advantage Exacq

Exacq's timeline has several advantages compared to Hikvision:

  1. Multiple cameras displayed: Exacq's timeline shows all cameras in the layout, while iVMS-4200 displays only the currently selected camera.
  2. Smooth scrubbing: Exacq allows users to click and drag to scrub through video. iVMS-4200 requires users to click at a point in the timeline to move to it.
  3. Right click to export/bookmark: Exacq allows users to select a region to export or bookmark by right clicking. iVMS-4200 do not have this control and are limited to exporting event clips or blocks of recorded video only.


iVMS-4200's timeline does not allow scrubbing. Instead, users click on a point in the timeline to move the time indicator. Users must use fast forward/rewind to review large amounts of video.

Event Search: Draw

Both ExacqVision and iVMS include event search which function similarly, with some usability advantages to both:

In Exacq's "List Search", events in the current timeline period are listed one after another (including motion, event, and alarm) with a moving thumbnail preview. Double clicking starts playback at that point with all selected cameras, shown in the clip below:

iVMS does not include thumbnail previews, but allows searching of any VCA event supported by the Hikvision devices attached. Note that this could be performed in Exacq, but requires manual setup of each event, which can then be filtered in list search. Events are automatically classified in the Hikvision CMS.

Smart Search: Advantage Exacq

Both the Exacq and Hikvision clients include smart search/pixel search, though Hikvision's iVMS limits this search to Hikvision cameras only. 

In Exacq, users launch Smart Search from the top menu, draw a region, and matching frames are highlighted and played back, skipping non-matching regions in between. This feature functions with any camera.

iVMS' smart search (called VCA search) functions similarly, though works with only Hikvision cameras. After drawing a region on the camera's FOV, clips matching the search are loaded to the right, shown below:


Export: Advantage Exacq

Exacq allows users to export multiple cameras with a synchronized standalone executable player, which functions similarly to the full Exacq client for playback. This example shows video selection (shown on the timeline) and export to .exe file.


Hikvision allows only one camera to be exported at a time, making multi-camera investigations more time consuming.

Synchronized Playback: Advantage Exacq

Multi camera playback in Exacq is synchronized by default, with no way to view asynchronous video. In iVMS-4200, cameras are displayed asynchronously by default and users must push a button to synchronize them. However, in our tests, despite switching to synchronous playback in iVMS, occasionally video was still not synchronized, especially common when viewing from multiple devices.

Multi-Server Viewing: Advantage Hikvision

iVMS-4200 may connect to multiple NVRs without additional licensing. The client is available as a free download from Hikvision's website.

By contrast, Exacq users wishing to simultaneously view multiple servers must use the Professional version of the VMS, an increase of ~$100 USD MSRP per channel (~$50 vs. $150). Managing cameras and users on multiple servers requires Enterprise licensing (~$500/server).

Enterprise Management: Advantage Exacq

Exacq allows users to configure users and camera settings across multiple recorders in their Professional version. 


In iVMS, settings may be changed on only a single recorder at once, with no way to configure users or rights across multiple machines. Additionally, each instance of iVMS-4200 is configured separately, with no central server. Users must export a settings file and import it to other clients to share settings.

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