Testing The Q-See HD IP NVR KitBy Ethan Ace, Published on Aug 14, 2013
The Q-See HD IP kit may be the hottest budget product around. At just $699 online for (4) 720p HD IP IR cameras plus a 1 TB NVR with a built in PoE switch, it is an absurdly inexpensive. It is hard to buy a single low cost NVR unit for this price, forget about getting 4 HD cameras thrown in.
But the big question is - how good is it really? How much do you lose by not going for a 'professional offering' like Axis + Milestone or an all Avigilon solution or Arecont + Exacq?
Key findings from this test include:
- The NVR's built-in four port PoE switch worked, making connecting cameras fairly idiot proof.
- This NVR supports only four cameras, in any combination of local or LAN, though other models support up to 16.
- The NVR automatically detected and displayed cameras plugged into the built-in PoE switch (both Q-See/Dahua as well as 3rd party cameras via ONVIF/DHCP ). This was pleasantly surprising as it is an uncommon feature.
- Motion based recording worked for QSee cameras but not for ONVIF ones. While it is impressive that they can be used on a unit this inexpensive, this means continuous only recording for 3rd party cameras.
- Local user interface was simple to use for basic setup and monitoring. However, the lack of a local keyboard was a pain, with the mouse being OK to use but the front panel and IR controllers were difficult.
- VMS Usability: While live monitoring was straightforward, searching had major limitations and some of the language choices are confusing / uncommon.
- Camera performance on par with other low cost 720p HD cameras in full light.
- IR illuminator performance in dark scenes was ok without major blooming or overexposure. However, artifacting increased in dark scenes plus edges clearly had lower illumination and captured less details.
- Q-See's 100 foot IR range marketing claim is unrealistic, both in terms of details and light. Actual performance was closer to ~45'.
- Bandwidth consumption and compression was on par or better than brand name competitors.
- Q-See tech support was helpful and responsive for basic installation and operation questions but not for advanced integration questions (like using ONVIF).
Pricing and Availability
Q-See surveillance kits are readily available on the internet and at warehouse stores such as Costco and Sam's Club. "Normal" price is ~$999 USD, but the four camera kit with recorder can often be found on sale for $699 [link no longer available]. Individual cameras are also available for $150. At $699 for the four camera kit, users are essentially paying $100 for the NVR.
Other kits are also available, including an eight camera bundle with NVR [link no longer available], and a kit with three bullet cameras and a PTZ [link no longer available], all 1080p. NVR models are also available separately, supporting up to 16 cameras.
This is an attractive offering for those wanting small HD systems on a budget. It combines setup simplicity (built in PoE switch / automatic camera connection) with HD video, 3rd party support, and IR illumination at a ridiculously low price. There's no other combination from major brands that we know that comes close to this, either in price or functionality. You could certainly match these features but at double or triple the price. And since Q-See's support is solid, it's not as is you are trading low price for being on your own.
The biggest weakness for mid size security users is the rudimentary search / investigations / export features, which will make the system cumbersome to use if regular incidents occur.
Beyond that, obviously, as you get to bigger systems that need more complexity functionality, Q-See is harder to justify but for someone looking for a few cameras, this is quite attractive.
This video reviews the physical layout of the Q-See NVR. Key points:
- Built-in four port PoE switch in rear of unit.
- HDMI, VGA, and composite monitor outputs.
- 16 alarm inputs, 3 alarm outputs, PTZ, and audio in/out connection.
- Front panel controls for configuration, live view, and playback, as well as optional mouse and IR remote control
This video shows how cameras may be connected to the QC804. Key points:
- NVR supports ONVIF, Q-See, Dahua, and a small selection of manufacturers (Axis, Sony, Panasonic, and more).
- Cameras connected directly to the back of the NVR are automatically discovered, as long as they are set to DHCP.
- ONVIF cameras on the LAN are automatically discovered.
- Adding cameras is typically simple, requiring only a driver type, username, and password edit, though discovery may sometimes take a few minutes. Average was about 30 seconds.
NVR Physical Control
There are three methods of controlling the NVR locally: mouse, front panel, and IR remote. Keyboards are not supported.
- Mouse control: Using a mouse is by far the easiest method of local control. Though it requires typing via on-screen keyboard, operation is much simpler than using arrow keys to navigate options via the other two methods.
- Front panel/IR remote: The front panel controls and IR remote operate essentially the same, with arrow keys, as well as enter, function, and escape keys. We found these difficult to use because it was not immediately clear or intuitive which key moved to a specific field, and on-screen cues were not clear.
This screencast reviews these methods:
General NVR Usability
In this video, we review key usability issues, primarily in search / investigations:
Camera Competitive Comparison
In order to test the performance of the included 720p bullet cameras (Q-See QCN7001B), we shot them out against competitive low cost models, including the ACTi D11 and Pelco Sarix IL10. We also used the Axis M1114 to provide readers a familiar baseline.
Full Light, ~160 lux
In full light, the QCN7001B performs similarly to other low-cost cameras, such as the ACTi D11 and Pelco Sarix IL10. Details are clear, with little artifacting.
Lower Light, ~30 lux
Lowering lights to about 30 lux, the Q-See camera remains relatively unchanged, while artifacting and noise increase in the D11 and IL10, reducing details somewhat.
Dark, <1 lux
Finally, in our dark, <1 scene, the QCN's IR has activated (other cameras were color only with no illumination), easily illuminating the subject at ~35' without severe blooming or overexposure. However, the increase in artifacting around the edges of the subject is notable, though the chart is still legible to line 3.
IR Illumination Performance
The QCN7001B's IR illumination pattern is poor at the edges of the FoV, resulting in a drastic performance reduction from the center to the edge, as seen in the comparison below. Illumination at the edges was approximately half that of the center, resulting in greater artifacting, obscuring subject and chart details:
Q-See claims "100 feet of night vision" in their marketing for th QCN7001B. However, we found performance was closer to about 45', similar to other Dahua bullets we have tested. Notably, Dahua claims only 20m IR range on the HFW-2100N, the model Q-See relabels as the QCN7001B.
At 100', the subject is only minimally illuminated, at best, with only detection possible. No details are visible, only a moving object in scene.
Only at ~45', less than half the claimed range, does the subject become clearly illuminated.
Bandwidth and Compression
Q-See's camera compression levels were consistent with major brand IP cameras. Bandwidth consumption was similar in well lit conditions but superior (lower) in low lit conditions, helped by their integrated IR.
- In full light, the QCN7001B had average bandwidth consumption similar to the low cost ACTi D11, but substantially higher than the M1114.
- However, lowering the lights to ~30 lux, prior to IR turning on, its consumption is nearly equal with Axis, and almost 1 Mb/s lower than the D11.
- In the dark, the QCN7001B's IR illumination keeps its bandwidth relatively low, while the M1114 jumps substantially (at this light level, the D11 was nearly black, so its bandwidth remained low).
Note that these measurements were taken with default settings, using VBR compression with no cap and one I-frame per second. Compression levels were left defaulted, as well, and all averaged between 26-28.
Q-See Technical Support
Since quality of technical support is a key concern when dealing with OEM products, we contacted Q-See technical support multiple times, with questions ranging from basic to advanced. On simpler questions, such as how to export video or upgrade firmware, their support was helpful and fast, and followed up via email quickly. On more advanced topics, such as connecting ONVIF cameras or connecting their camera via ONVIF to a VMS, they were less helpful, though level one tech support rarely knows answers to these detailed questions. For the target market of the QC804 kit, Q-See's tech support is likely more than sufficient.