Testing AHD 2014

By Ethan Ace, Published Sep 24, 2014, 12:00am EDT

This is where the innovation is at.

During Essen and days before ASIS, IPVM is leading with a test of an analog (HD) camera, reflecting both how bad the big names are doing and the key trend we see accelerating.

A number of non IP HD offerings are emerging (for background see: HD Analog vs IP Tutorial and HD-SDI Vs HD-CVI Vs HD-TVI Vs HDcctv?)

Earlier this year, we tested Dahua HDCVI and Testing Q-See Analog HD Kit, which generated a great member response.

Now, we are testing an emerging rival, simply named "AHD" which is increasingly the go to option for smaller Asian manufacturers.

We bought three AHD cameras and two HD DVRs for a grand total of less than $250 to find out.

We tested these AHD models against competitive HDCVI and low cost HD IP cameras to see how they compare, answering these questions:

  • How does image quality compare to HD IP and HDCVI cameras?
  • How does analog video support work?
  • Was latency an issue?
  • Were cameras and DVRs from different manufacturers truly compatible?
  • How well does Analog HD perform over long or low-grade cables?
  • Based on chips from NextChip [link no longer available], Analog HD cameras and recorders claim low latency live monitoring up to 720p resolution over existing coax. It does not support 1080p or higher resolutions. Additionally, analog cameras may be connected to AHD DVRs and vice versa, with the AHD camera automatically switching to standard def output when connected to an Analog DVR.

    AHD product is available online, but product options are from generally unknown manufacturers. We selected the two for this test, Hofo Technologies and Sunivision, simply based on shipping terms and availability. 

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    Key Findings

    Here are our key findings from this test:

    • Image quality was similar to HD IP and HDCVI cameras, though Sunivision's cameras' white balance tended more toward blue than other cameras tested.
    • No visible latency when viewing video directly from DVR.
    • No degredation of image quality or increase in latency when running over long lengths of RG-59, over 1,000'.
    • AHD cameras and DVRs from two manufacturers (Sunivision and Hofo Technologies) connected and streamed in less than a second.
    • One camera and DVR (Hofo) shipped configured for PAL instead of NTSC, incompatible with Sunivision products out of the box (which were set to NTSC). Changing camera output and DVR input to NTSC via menus remedies this.
    • AHD DVRs automatically detected and streamed SD analog cameras in addition to AHD.
    • When connected to an HDCVI DVR, AHD cameras sent signal, but either in monochrome or scrambled.
    • Up the coax control of camera settings not supported, unlike HDCVI.

    Pricing

    The prices for equipment in this test are as follows, not including shipping. All parts were sourced from AliExpress.com.

    • Hofo LIRDNAD130 720p integrated IR dome: $40
    • Hofo ADVR7004T-M 4-channel AHD DVR: $85, not including hard drive
    • Sunivision AP-1157AHD13 integrated IR bullet: $22
    • Sunivision AP-157SHAHD13 varifocal integrated IR bullet: $32
    • Sunivision AP-AHD4M 4-channel AHD DVR: $54, not including hard drive

    How these prices compare to HDCVI and upcoming HDTVI releases remains to be fully seen, as product availability is still limited. However, all of these technologies are inexpensive compared to even low cost HD IP cameras, typically ~$100 at lowest.

    Recommendations

    Given its lack of big brand name support combined with prices generally similar to HDCVI and HDTVI (backed by Dahua and Hikvision, respectively), AHD seems the most risky of the three emerging HD over coax technologies. However, those looking for absolutely rock bottom prices may find some deals on AHD cameras compared to other technologies, but at the risk of moving to unknown brands with untested quality.

    Finally, users with analog cameras they wish to maintain while upgrading and adding some HD cameras may find AHD beneficial due to its analog camera support. HDCVI recorders are available with this support, though this currently requires users to use a "tri-brid" (HDVCI/analog/IP) recorder, which are more expensive than AHD DVRs. Given the low prices of emerging HD over coax cameras (AHD or HDCVI), many users may choose to simply upgrade.

    DVR Usability

    Since the user interface of the AHD DVRs tested here is extremely similar to other low cost Asian brands, we have not included a full usability section in this report. However, features are much the same as other low cost DVRs we've tested, including the local UI, web inteface, client software, and cloud service. Users looking for these details should see our test of the $39 Wodsee ONVIF NVR which shares these features.

    Camera Compatibility

    Similar to HDCVI, the AHD cameras tested here connected and streamed to AHD DVRs across manufacturers. In this first video, we demonstrate this, connecting Sunivision and Hofo cameras and DVRs.

    Analog Camera Compatibility

    AHD DVRs support analog cameras in addition to HD models. This support is plug and play, simply connecting the camera as normal, no configuration required.

    HDCVI Compatibility

    AHD and HDCVI equipment is not compatible. When AHD cameras are connected to an HDCVI DVR, they produce images, but not consistently. Video is monochrome only, and the connection is dropped and reestablished repeatedly, seen in the video below. CVI cameras connected to AHD DVRs produce no image whatsoever.

    Cable Quality and Performance

    Most manufacturers list cable transmission distance as 300m. We tested AHD image quality performance over a 1,000' spool of RG59 with poorly terminated ends and found no visible degradation in image quality, nor latency. This video shows the camera connecting and displaying live video over this length of cable as it would over shorter lengths.

    Full Light

    In full light, AHD models (All 720p bullets and minidomes) produce similar quality images to HDCVI and HD IP cameras. The Sunivision cameras in this scene tended toward cooler, bluer images compared to others.

    Dark, <1 Lux

    In the dark with lights off, below 1 lux, again the AHD cameras perform similarly to HDCVI and IP. The AHD and HDCVI models produced more evenly exposed images than the Dahua IP model, which overexposed the test chart.

    Note that cameras were tested one at a time in this scene to avoid IR interference.

     

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