Testing Avermedia's Hybrid DVR (EH5216+)

Author: Scott Oie, Published on Nov 23, 2009

Hybrid DVRs make the transition to IP simpler. Plus, if the units are close in price to entry level analog only DVRs, the case is easier even for basic applications.

In this test we examine Avermedia, a manufacturer of multiple lines of hybrid DVRs. Specifically, we test the EH5216+ Hybrid DVR, a Linux appliance that MSRPs for under $2,000 for a 16 channel DVR (storage added separately).

We tested the EH5216+ Hybrid DVR with a mix of analog and IP cameras, including the Arecont AV3105, ACTi 4000, and Sanyo VCC-HD4000.  Here is a summary of our findings:

  • Initial setup of the system was quick.
  • The system's monitoring/playback interface was simple.
  • The video search functionality, called Visual Search, simplified investigations
  • The system had limited third party H.264 camera support.
  • The system had limited total megapixel throughput.
  • System has a hard limit of 16 total cameras (analog or IP).

Compare to our test results from NUUO, a manufacturer offering similar solutions.

Product Overview and Key Recommendations

The Avermedia combines traditional DVR functionalities (see datasheet) with fairly broad IP camera support (about 20 different manufacturers).

The system is not designed to concurrently run numerous multi-megapixel cameras. We were able to simultaneously run (2) multi-megapixel cameras with 2 analog cameras in a limited stress test. However, significantly greater megapixel load is likely to cause the UI to be less responsive and for frames to drop.

The maximum resolution is 1080p or 1600 x 1200 for each camera input except for the 16th channel where a 5MP camera may be used. We did not test the system with a 5MP camera.

The 5216+ is part of a larger family of DVR and NVR appliances. Enterprise management for the 5216+ is provided through Avermedia's CM3000 Gold. A free version of this enterprise management software is provided for use with up to 16 appliances.

Avermedia supports a number of PoS systems (via additional serial box) but has very limited integration with 3rd party systems such as access control, video analytics, PSIM, intrusion, etc.

Our key recommendation is:

  • This appliance is best positioned for simpler applications that are predominantly analog. In these scenarios, Avermedia can provide a low-cost, simply way to migrate from analog adding in some IP and megapixel cameras.
  • For more complex applications, 'open' VMS software should be considered. For IP only applications, pure NVR appliances should be considered (examples include Avermedia's Windows based NVR, QNAP NAS appliances, etc.)

System Setup

We examined the essential setup steps that an installer must perform to bring the EH5216+ to operational status. The key points to note include:

  • Requires the purchase and installation of SATA Hard disk drives. Unit must be opened in order to install up to 4 drives.
  • Installers should change the defaults for auto recordings, auto login, and auto network.
  • If using a 5 MegaPixel IP camera, only 1 can be installed on the system, only on channel 16.
  • Most IP cameras supported use MPEG4 or MJPEG.  With the release of IPCamPatch_V.1.0.0.52, there is limited H.264 support.
  • For IP cameras, advanced adjustments often need to be accessed directly on the specific IP camera's interface.
Watch the screencast below for an visual review of the setup:
Avermedia provides a single thick client for monitoring, investigations and setup. This client is the same for both direct use on the DVR and for remote viewing on one's PC.
Live Monitoring
Compared to NUUO, the graphical user interface of the EH5216+ was easy to navigate through and all the essential functionalities were logically placed.  Key findings include:
  • Alarm alert frequency greatly depends on the initial setup of the alarm setting's motion detection trigger.
  • Double clicking an alerted alarm entry automatically brings up it's associated video playback.
  • The E-Map feature may be simplistic for large command and control environments.
  • A USB device needs to be physically installed for the snapshot feature to work (when connected directly to the DVR appliance).  The embedded Linux based Operating System of the DVR does not allow direct storage of JPEGs.
The following screencast gives an overview of the system's monitoring functions:

Investigations / Playback
One of the positive features of the EH5216+ was it's ease of use. A feature that promoted aid in investigations was the implementation of the Visual Search feature, which graphically laid out screen captured video images organized by time.  In addition, the Event search feature was also an easy feature that was used to filter video triggered  via motion.  Key findings include:
  • Although Visual Search and Event Search was featured, there was no way to directly input a the specific time to the minute of video. This can be confusing for someone who wants to go the exact minute (e.g., 2:12 p.m.
  • Only a single video channel may be exported and saved individually.  No multi-channel exporting.
  • In addition to accessing a web interface, a thick client may be downloaded to download and review playback video.  The web client does not support video playback downloading.
  • A USB device needs to be physically installed for the Video Export feature to work.
The following screencast gives an overview of the the system's playback functions:
Transcript of Screencasts:
Setup:
The system does not include storage so it is required to install up to four SATA hard drives inside the appliance. you can see here  a visual representation of it's form factor.
Upon startup, the system boots it's embedded Linux based operating system.  After bootup, the installer clicks on the setup button on the bottom right hand side of the screen and enters the default password.
This brings up all the setup options organized by functionality.  The first setup task that needs to be completed is establishing the SYSTEM settings.  Here, hard drive setup, system language, POS settings, date and time settings are configured. 
It is important to note that by default, the system does not record automatically upon system bootup. The installer must be aware to check the Auto login, Auto record, and Auto start network check boxes in the login portion of the system settings.
Under the CAMERA setup button, the analog and ip camera associations are established.  Here, the installer selects the type of camera, enters the camera name, and associates the IP address if it's an IP camera. Clicking the DETAILS button, allows the setup of an IP camera's advanced features like resolution and bitrate, but it will be necessary to configure framerate by accessing the IP camera's settings directly.
The RECORDINGS setup button allows the option of different recording options like Always Recording and recording on motion. This can be set globally or by individual camera.
The NETWORK button sets up options for remote access.  Options include IP address configuration and control over remote camera viewing selection.
One other setup option that is key to point out is the ALARM settings.  This will configure what will be reported on the event log. Setup includes motion detection triggers for each camera.  Selecting the abnormal events checkbox can report if the system was shutdown, recording was turned off, or if a hard drive failed.  Action items are also setup here. Upon an alarmed state, conditional actions may be automatically performed like sending an email alert, enabling a spot monitor, and launching a map. 
  
Other setup options include Scheduling recordings, Data Backup, Sensor, Relay, and login administration.
Live Monitoring:
My general first impressions of the interface is that it is a clean UI. The buttons are placed in a  logical manner which makes for easy navigation. 
You can verify if a channel is being recorded by the red triangle on the upper left of the screen. Motion detection is represented by the green triangle.
The Alarm Status button is on the top right. Depending on what parameters were established in setup, this will display alarm event actions and its associated camera can be called up by clicking on the alarm.
The E-Map button allows the setup and display of an overview map with camera icons.  Up to 8 maps can be associated to this feature.
The Snapshot feature is only selectable if you already have a USB device plugged in.  The snapshot feature will capture a  JPEG of the current screen mode and in this case its in quad view.
 
And finally, the buttons on the bottom right allows the switching between Live mode and Playback mode.
Playback:
In playback mode, you can see the standard VCR type of playback buttons across on the right. The numbers on the bottom  (00-23) represent the hours in the day and the red bar represents the recorded hour that the playback footage is displaying currently. Clicking the DATE button on the bottom right allows for specific date  retrieval of  a recording.
There are a number of ways for an investigator to retrieve video:
An Event search can filter video for motion, sensor activation, or video loss.
A noteworthy way to retrieve video is by utilizing the Visual Search feature.  The Visual Search feature indexes and presents the video by laying out camera images on screen.  After selecting the date, 24 screen images are displayed spaced by the hour.  The investigator clicks the hour of interest. That hour gets broken down into images spaced by the minute, then after selection, gets broken down and spaced by the second.
After finding the video of interest, you can retrieve the clip by clicking the segment button, once at the beginning of the clip, then clicking it again to end your clip. 
Upon exporting your selected clip, note that the system can only export a single channel of video. You would have to save each channel individually.
Before you can save the clip, a USB stick must be inserted into the unit. Make sure to check the box to include the playback software.

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