D-Link’s DNR-2060-08P JustConnect Network Video Recorder (around £750 ex. VAT) is designed to bridge the gap between still very popular analogue CCTV and digital IP surveillance systems, the aim being to make IP systems as easy to install and use as analogue. This it manages surprisingly well, although there are couple of limitations to take into consideration and it may not suit everyone.
What You Get
Looking like a cross between an old-fashioned VCR and a network switch, D-Link’s JustConnect Network Video Recorder (NVR) can be used freestanding or, by attaching the brackets supplied, fitted into a standard equipment rack.
You can also attach a monitor and operate the NVR using a combination of buttons and a VCR-like dial control at the front plus the TV-style remote included in the box. Alternatively it can be connected to the network and managed remotely from a browser, plus there’s a JustConnect+ app for remote monitoring from Android and iOS devices.
The software needed to configure and run an IP surveillance system comes pre-installed along with all the interfaces required to talk to cameras, sensors and so on. The only extras required are some hard disks to save recordings to and the cameras to take them.
We expected to find NAS-like bays to take the disks, but to fit them inside the JustConnect box you’ll need a screwdriver to take off the lid whereupon you’ll find brackets and cabling inside for up to six SATA spindles. These can be any capacity up to 4TB each, the JustConnect software automatically formatting whatever you put inside ready for use when the unit powers up.
In theory you ought to be able to use SATA disks from any of the leading vendors, in practise however most buyers will want to stick with those on a list of disks tested for compatibility available from the D-Link website.
The Camera Angle
Once the storage is installed it’s just a matter of adding some cameras which for ease of deployment have to come from D-Link. More than that the JustConnect NVR will only work with a specific set of D-Link cameras, a limitation some buyers may baulk at, especially contractors looking to maximise profit margins.
This approach, however, insures compatibility and could well save hours of potentially fruitless work trying to get third party cameras to talk to the JustConnect hardware. Moreover, with a good range of robust and very competitive cameras to choose from it’s not that much of a drawback, D-Link supplying us with a couple of very professional products for our review.
We were particularly impressed by the DCS-7513 (£505 ex. VAT), a bullet camera with a high-sensitivity 2-Megapixel sensor for HD recording. Equipped with built-in IR illumination this camera can also record at night and is specifically designed to be used outside to cover entrances and exits, business frontages and so on. The other turned out to be a vandal-proof dome camera, the DCS-6511 (£404 ex. VAT), again offering HD recording with IR illumination for night time operation.
AC adapters were provided, but both cameras support PoE so we didn’t need them. Instead it was just a case of running one UTP cable from the camera back to the JustConnect box. This compares with two cables needed for most analogue setups, typically power plus coax for data. Up to eight cameras can be attached via a bank of clearly marked PoE Fast Ethernet ports at the rear of the unit.
Also on the back panel are eight digital I/O connectors for connection to motion sensors, electronic door locks and so on plus a separate Ethernet port for remote management over the LAN. There’s also a USB port for an optional keyboard/mouse and an eSATA port for attachment of external storage if needed, for example, to take backups for offsite storage.
Plug In & Go
For our tests we connected a monitor to the JustConnect NVR then powered it up to familiarise ourselves with all the buttons, dials and remote control. We then plugged the cameras into the PoE ports and a few seconds later the recording light started to flash and live video from the cameras came up on the display. It really was that simple, with no IP addresses or any other network setting to configure – just plug in a camera and it starts recording, just like on an analogue CCTV system.
There are several cooling fans in the NVR making it quite noisy, so next we opted to setup a PC to run the remote Web interface elsewhere. This took a little longer than expected, mostly because we had to hunt through the user manual to find the default admin password. We also had to install some Active-X controls before the interface would spring into life enabling us to monitor our cameras from the comfort of an office PC.
Your Own Remote Control Room
On first connecting through a browser you’re presented with a default grid showing live feeds from all the available cameras. You can also switch to smaller grids to see more detail as well as select a camera and have it fill the display. Depending on the model involved you can also zoom and focus cameras and track to pre-set positions with digital zoom an option on all the supported cameras.
As already outlined, recording begins by default as soon as a camera is attached but you can fine tune this and schedule recording to suit your needs. It also makes life easier when it comes to finding footage later. Plus it saves on storage space.
As well as live viewing it’s possible to browse through recordings, check particular cameras and search by date and time as well as look for event-triggered footage. You can fast forward, go back and step through recordings frame by frame, zoom in, take snapshots and export recordings in a number of formats including AVI.
On the downside it takes a while to get used to how all the options fit together and how to find what you want, particularly if mixing the different interfaces. However, it can be mastered and it’s no worse in this respect than other NVRs we tried. We also noticed a degree of lag in the live display, but this wasn’t significant and for some reason was more pronounced on the local monitor than through a browser.
Picture quality is largely dependent on the cameras but with support for 1080P at 50fps the ones we tried gave clear and very usable results. The thumbnail grid, however, looks best on a large screen and we would recommend as big as possible with a choice of HDMI and VGA for local display attachment. On the recording side the NVR can use both H.264 and MJPEG video codecs. Audio is also recorded where available.
The Full Picture?
Clearly, the big selling point with the JustConnect NVR is ease of installation, support for PoE and automatic camera configuration making it very simple indeed. It can’t be used with analogue cameras, however, so an existing analogue CCTV system would need to be completely replaced and new wiring installed if considering the D-Link product. The dependence on D-Link cameras could also be an issue for some. But then D-Link is a growing force in the surveillance market and, from what we saw of it, the JustConnect NVR certainly looks to meet a need.