Understanding the limits of your system: Buyer Beware
SoCalTech last edited by
First time poster, long time user, possibly punctuation issues and spelling issues, don't fry me for it.
This post is from the perspective of a IT consultant who has multiple years of experience in installing Reolink cameras and NVR systems and has purchased and installed all of the wired devices they offer and handful of wireless ones.
This is a long post so grab your coca and popcorn and read on:
I started installing these systems for small businesses at commercial locations and clients in their homes. I always configured the devices for motion recording and never seemed to have a issue with 8-16 channel setups. The app integration of mobile devices and tablets and operating systems made a simple and easy way to maintain multiple locations all from one device. I had a job pop up that needed the ability to remotely monitor a construction job site to keep an eye on the building and equipment as it was in a high theft area.
At the time I noticed that the 4k cameras were released so I suggested that the client purchase what was available which was the 8 channel RLK8-800B4 NVR kit with 4 additional 4K cameras. We went in, ran the infrastructure with cat6, verified the cables and threw a battery backup on the system in-case of loss of power. Once I adjusted each camera for optimal settings and enabled motion recording we also decided to install some super bright LED lights around the building. What we got in return was a great quality picture with audio recording and motion video recording as well. So far so good.
Once the interior build out was completed the client wanted more cameras and different views of the interior, knowing that we were going to need more than the available 8 channels that were provided on the 4K NVR unit, I instructed the client to purchase the RLN16-410 5mp Kit which was the largest unit they sold. I wanted to make sure we expanded the hard drives to capacity so he would have all the footage that he would need as there were multiple vendors coming in and out of the building that created a lot of motion. To my dismay the maximum amount of hard drive recording space you can add is only 12 TB on that system. The 4K unit which records even larger files has a even smaller maximum drive size of only 8 TB.
The drives come in, the equipment gets installed things are working how they should. We throw in a few of Reolink's fancier products such as the RLC-423 PTZ camera and a few dome cameras as well. At this point my client is all in on Reolink and happy with what he has received. After a few weeks there are small glitches that are starting to pop up on the system, cameras not showing up on the mobile app but they can be viewed locally on the NVR, or cameras that turn off and only come back on with a reboot of the NVR. Eventually we had a situation where 6 cameras were not functioning so I start researching online and I see that there are some updates for firmware for all the devices so I figure why not install them, the constant reboots were not working for my client as a long term solution and updates are good right?
Well the process of updating the firmware is a bit complicated. For one there is no way to upgrade the individual cameras without being onsite. The NVR will allow you to update its own firmware if you have access remotely to a computer on the network which you can install via the windows/mac application. After updating the NVR firmware, I found that I could either download the firmware onto a usb drive and insert it into the NVR directly via the NVR UI or I could update by unplugging the camera cable from the NVR and plugging into our local networked PoE switch to allow the device to power up and be detected by the reolink windows application, which then gave me the ability to view the settings for the firmware upgrade for that device. A few hours later of updating both systems everything seemed to be working, the system seemed a little snappier, I left the job site feeling happy that the issue was resolved.
I get a call from the client a few days later telling me now that one of the 4K cameras is out and not displaying video. I logged in, rebooted the system and the unit came back on line. I thought that was strange because we were not having any issues with that system so it must be a isolated incident. The next day the same thing happens. I search the log on the NVR, the log shows nothing. No " system rebooted " " system error " just nothing. So I start thinking that possibly my line is damaged. However the next night that camera is fine and another camera on the system does the exact same thing. The night after that one of the units completely loses all per-programmed settings causing me to reconfigure it. Two nights later that same unit loses all pre configured settings again.
I have been scouring the forums, the help articles (which are strange because the comments replied to in some of those articles regarding specific system or camera information about firmware from the developers are posted no where here on the help forum) but don't find any resolution. I believe the issue is with the firmware or possible the machine itself cannot handle the encoding of the information.
On top of all of those headaches I get approached with a different problem with the units that I now need to solve. I came to find out that this building requires a camera system per state and local law that will record certain views for a minimum of 90 days of continuous footage. I pull up some calculators for video storage online and quickly realize that in the locked resolutions that are provided by default there is no way this camera can save the amount of data that is needed for something like that. Why the NVR hard disks are locked to 3 TB in size is anyone's guess. The only comments that I have found state from developers that " they have not tested anything else " but then they turn around and put in the directions that there is a max drive size for the unit. In addition the biggest slap in the face is the encoding lock on h.264. This increases the file size needed drastically for video storage. Now You can find multiple topics on setting up a FTP transfer, which is great if you have three to four thousand dollars worth of hard drives and storage arrays to facilitate that kind of storage needed. Just for the 16 channel NVR, at 5mp and dropped to 15 fps 90 days continuous storage I am looking at 77 TB of storage. Same settings at 3mp is 48 TB, Same settings at 720p is 14.1 TB.
That got me thinking, I could drop these cameras all the way down to 720p which they should be able to support and maybe remove one camera from continuous recording that isn't under code enforcement specifications and then I would be ok. However when I check that 720p is an available option, I only find 3mp as the lowest I can go. Apparently the 4mp camera only has 720p. So I would need my client at this point to purchase all new cameras to fix something that is locked by firmware. I start searching the net on finding an alternate solution for storage and come across numerous articles for setting up the NVRs to dump to a FTP. This is awesome, however when looking into the costs the client would be spending almost 2-3 thousand dollars purchasing a good quality QNAP device that will run a FTP and have the SATA controller speeds and the appropriate drive bays to make this work. If they were to go down this road, they would lose the ability to use the mobile app or windows app to view recordings, since I am already dealing with stability issues with the NVR's and cameras that seems like a waste of money.
The other thing to consider is a backup of the information. What if one of the drives fail or the NVR corrupts the information? My client would be completely out of luck because there is no way for this system to backup or replicate the data stored on it. You can only export video from the system via a USB drive.
I need a laundry list of things to happen to make this system work for my clients job at bare minimum.
The ability the change to any resolution I want to on that camera, and telling me that it cant be done is a lie because you provide the ability to see and encode into a even smaller sub-stream resolution.
The ability to use h.265 encoding on the camera. From what I read on one of the product advertisement pages comment section where they praise the benefit of using h.265 encoding over h.264 which all of their cameras use ( ??? ) the engineers are stating that the issue is the h.265 license and getting that applicable for all of their systems. They have been stating that this is happening for over year with no resolve.
Finally the ability to use whatever size hard drive I need to. This is a stupid limitation with no justification. Even the ability to store on a NAS device would be fantastic as well and enable a customizable backup feature for local storage.
Here is what I am working against in summary and what you need to be aware of before getting involved:
extremely limited hard drive expansion options for all units
firmware causes glitches and is riddled with bugs
this unit cannot process 24/7 recording and support live viewing at the same time without something crashing
limited resolution and options to choose encoding too
NO H.265 support even for 4k cameras which is ridiculous
Need more cameras? You need to buy more NVRs, no way to expand the NVR by adding a switch, even PoE. NVR is licensed for only the amount of cameras it can support maximum.
Would I recommend this system in a 24/7 commercial environment needing 24 cameras or more?
Absolutely Not. Biggest drawback is storage ability and the loss of the usability of the application features. Compared to other camera apps These NVRs have no backup of data functionality and currently no NVRs support the Reolink cloud feature to save your footage in the cloud. Being limited to 16 channels on one DVR means that you need to buy more DVRs which is more points of failure and more segmentation. The applications are awesome and easy to use, but if I lose the ability to use those because I need to change my storage to something that is going to cost more than buying a device that will do what I need to do with backup and h.265 encoding and no limitation on drive storage why would I buy this?
So what are your options ?
Don't be fooled by the price, a 32/64 channel h.265 system with a backup raid feature and storage capability internally of 80 TB total is going to run you about 800-900$ that's just for the NVR. The problem with those NVRs is the raid backup feature is only available on most 64 channel systems or its a feature but the internal maximum on drive size is set to only 40 TB. That brings us to looking at the cost of the drives themselves (google the cost of a 10 TB NVR hard drive and do the disk math on that) and then you still have the cameras which are anywhere from $150-200 for only 4mp h.265 encoding. The NVR of course is not going to provide you with the PoE connectors for all of those cameras so you are going to need to buy a quality switch which is around 300-500 dollars depending on your needs. The total cost of a project like this? If money is not a limitation and the client wants good hardware, expect to pay around 8-9k USD for that system I just mentioned that's with about 30-31 cameras.
The total cost of the Reolink 2 DVRs in my story with upgrades was around 2.5k USD ( thats including all cameras and drive upgrades )
Again, don't let the price fool you.
Would I recommend this in a motion only commercial environment?
That depends how crucial that recording is to you. You are still looking at a critical point of failure with no backup and the bugs that are rampant in the firmware. If you are using to monitor employees or just peek in every once in a while it would be fine but be prepared for the possibility of issues.
What about Home use?
Same thing as above. I throw caution at using the windows or mac application to record video directly to the computer drive. If there is a power failure or software issue with the connection the camera is not recording and your stuck. The NVR with all of the issues it has, is a better more stable option.
I hope this will help someone and save them the time and effort that I have sunk into this project with still no hope on the horizon besides me potentially having to tell the client we need a whole new system. I also look forward to the always helpful we will pass this information onto the developers post!
Wish me luck!
Cynthia last edited by
Dear Customer, we appreciate your effect on the Reolink products, and really sorry for the inconvenience caused for you.
Our system is not perfect at present, and it may not be quite suitable for professional monitoring, but we are keeping improving our product to make it more suitable for home usage, and more suitable for most of the common users. And also, our support team will always try their best to provide a fair solution for the users once there is any problem with the system.
Once again, we appreciate your effect on the Reolink products, and also we appreciate the support from all the users who selected Reolink products.
slicker55 last edited by
Thank you for taking the time to share your valuable experience which I have read with interest.
Please bear with me whilst I be honest enough to pass on my initial response to this unfortunate predicament.
Clearly, there is more than one issue here, the most important being the suitability of the equipment you have chosen when taking into account compliance with local legislation.
I am sure that had you been aware of this constraint from the outset you would have chosen an alternative product.
No offence intended but, this points to a lack of communication during the consultation phase although not necessarily the fault of any particular individual.
On reflection, we now know this equipment can not comply with local legislation even if you installed multiple NVR’s and ran with fewer cameras and/or lower resolutions to spread the load.
I think in reality this could have been a routine installation was it not for the necessity to store footage for such a long time. Crazy, when you consider that in some countries, footage can only be stored for 24 hours.
Unlike yourself, I am a first time user and I have recently installed a Reolink 8Ch NVR with 7 x 4K and 1 x 5MP cameras around my home.
I view the cameras on a MacBook Pro using the Mac Desktop Client and couldn’t be happier with the reliability of the equipment, features of the software, ease of use and quality of the video and still images.
I do need to point out that increasing the internal HDD to 4TB and adding an eSATA enclosure and 4TB HDD were essential upgrades to achieve my goal - minimum 14 days 24/7 before over-writing.
I created a spreadsheet containing formulas, which I update daily to monitor storage space.
All of my camera's are recording at their highest resolutions 24/7. I have enabled motion detection enabled on five of the 4K cameras, carefully masked through experimentation to minimise false positives.
Whilst confining motion detection to specific cameras has no bearing on utilisation of storage space, as those cameras are recording 24/7 anyway, the number of trigger notifications sent to my iPhone is considerably reduced with increased reliability.
The system was commissioned on 20/02/20 and ran for 17 days before over-writing.
I appreciate none of this helps in your particular situation but I thought it might be of value to potential customers planning a similar installation where local requirements do not necessitate further considerations.
In conclusion, the system I have installed meets my expectations and appears well suited for domestic or small businesses subject to the number of cameras and the recording over-write period meeting ones requirements.
Like yourself, I questioned the published information in respect of maximum HDD capacity but was only given a stock answer. I only wish I had access to a larger capacity HDD to carry out tests for myself but these drives are too expensive to gamble with.
This bugs me because in the absence of any technical explanation, I compare this scenario to a Garmin GPS which the manufacturer says is compatible with microSD cards (maximum 4GB) yet mine works perfectly with a 16GB card.
When I contacted Reolink regarding the published limitation on maximum HDD capacities I was informed that further testing has not been undertaken. If this is true, Reolink are missing a trick because their products will gain a competitive edge if higher capacity drives are compatible.
I sympathise with your particular situation and in my mind am trying to separate performance and reliability issues with physical limitations.
The former may be indicative of a hardware fault somewhere in the system particularly since you say all was working well initially.
Of course, I take the point this is of little comfort if, ultimately, you cannot are achieve the required recording time.
Unfortunately, the requirement to comply with local legislation imposes considerations which you was not aware of when you installed the system and I guess, had you known, you would considered alternative solutions right from the start.
Good luck with everything - will follow this thread with interest - feel free to ask if there is anything I may be able to help you with.
I do plan to upload my spreadsheet with simply instructions after a second round of testing.