Blue Iris vs NVR: Which Is the Best?

A reliable VMS software or a standalone video recording machine? Blue Iris vs. NVR could bamboozle for a fair fight, but it's anything but fair!

Security has always been the topmost priority for man since time immemorial. Monitoring Cams have taken over most households now.

Blue Iris has oft been hailed as one of the best VMS systems to get right now. On the other hand, NVRs cost relatively less than the former and require less maintenance than Blue Iris.

Blue Iris supports almost all types of Camera systems available as of right now. You also get a ton of configuration options and advanced alert mechanisms. NVRs cost less and are easy to set up. But they are less flexible in configuration and have limited support for cams.

With that said, let's get on with the comparison:

Blue Iris: Premium Service with Premium Features

Blue Iris

If you have been looking for a complete all-in-one service for integrating all your Monitoring Cams, Blue Iris may have come up frequently as the preferred destination.

And no, it isn't a coincidence that Blue Iris happens to be the go-to VMS service in the market since it does check all the right boxes.

Sure, there are a lot of Blue Iris alternatives like iSpy and ZoneMinder, but they often lack the precision and features of the former.

Featuring a killer UI and a plethora of premium features to rival its peers, one might have a hard time comparing Blue Iris with the rest of the bunch.

Do mind that Blue Iris is a paid service, with prices ranging from $30 for the basic plan all the way up to $60 for the full/premium plan.

Blue Iris supports Cams of almost all makes and types, including Webcams, USB cams, IP cams, and even PoE cams.

Smart Doorbells are also supported on Blue Iris. Some of the best doorbells that support Blue Iris are Amcrest, Dahua, and Hikvision.

Syncing and installing Cams is a breeze with quick access tabs.

After setting up the Cam with the app, you can watch the Live Stream or the recording playback of your Cam on the app through streaming Windows.

Compared to other Surveillance services, Blue Iris features a more comprehensive UI interface that can sustain multiple Stream Windows without compromising the size and playback quality.

For the sake of configuration, Blue Iris has made available everything you need on the UI as drop-down menus and quick access options.

Other mainstay features of Blue Iris are Motion detection and recording, audio sensing/recording, Pan and Tilt settings, FOV configs, etc.

Event alerts and trigger notifications are yet another forte of Blue Iris.

Apart from the common app alerts and E-mails, you also get notified of any activity through voice calls, quick messages, and social media alerts.

Enough said about the pros, let's now talk about the cons of Blue Iris.

Let's start with the camera quota of Blue Iris. As mentioned earlier, you can get a licensed copy of Blue Iris for $30 and $60.

The difference between the two variants is Cam support.

With the basic plan, you can pair just a single Cam. Need more? Get the premium plan.

But even with the premium plan, you can pair just 64 Cams with the app.

Another major con is the overall cost involved in setting up the service.

This cost includes the price of the app plus the cost of the PC that can support Blue Iris. When you factor in the inclusion of multiple Cams, Blue Iris does require a lot of firepower.

Such setups can run you a cost of a couple, maybe more, hundreds.

On the contrary, NVRs cost less and are virtually maintenance-free. Hence, making them a worthy adversary.

NVR: The Cost-Efficient Alternative

Network Video Recorder

Cost makes Network Video Recorders (NVR) one of the better alternatives to a VMS.

As with the case of Blue Iris, the total cost of setting up a surveillance application can exceed your expectations.

Now, you can get a software NVR and call it a day, but why would you do so if you can get a much better deal with a hardware NVR?

Companies like Reolink, Dahua, and HIKvision have made a case in point for this statement.

Another aspect that makes NVRs much more alluring than traditional surveillance software is their low-maintenance approach.

Once you set up the NVR with all your Cams and configs, you needn't check up on them as frequently as you may have to do with Blue Iris.

To set up the device and add Cams, connect the NVR to a display via the HDMI or the USB port.

Talking about Cams, a major con of using an NVR is the compatibility factor. NVR manufacturers encourage users to opt-in on their proprietary Cams over the others.

Moreover, NVRs rely on PoE (Power over the Internet) Cams with wired connections.

But that's not the case with all of them. Manufacturers have enabled ONVIF on their systems so as to encourage the use of IP cams as well with their NVRs.

And being standalone devices, NVRs suffer from a lack of channels to which the Cams are connected. A typical NVR can have a port selection of about 4 to 32 channels.

Regardless of this explicit lack, connecting and setting up Cam on an NVR has to be the easiest of all surveillance systems.

Cam to an Ethernet cable linked to a port switch, and done!

Manufacturers like Reolink grants you access to recordings and live streams of your Cams on Mobile or PC through proprietary apps or Web UI.

If you can get a hold of the port situation and the lack of support for Cams, NVRs could be a banger of a deal.

Blue Iris vs. NVR: A Comparison

Blue Iris vs. NVR: A Comparison

Now, what we have in our midst are two diagonally opposite services made to serve the same purpose: Monitor and Control Surveillance equipment.

Although Blue Iris and NVRs share a lot of features, you're likely to come across a dissimilarity than a similarity.

Below, you can find the most relevant aspects in which these products show an explicit difference.

Let's start with the most obvious category, PRICE!

Price and Cost of Operation

Price and Cost of Operation

One of the discerning factors that users look for when comparing Blue Iris and NVRs is the price discrepancy.

Brushing aside the costs of Cams, you may have to shell out about $500 to set up a decent enough Blue Iris system.

'How?' you may ask. Simple, the price of a PC to sustain Blue Iris should also be accounted for when assessing the overall build.

If you have a powerful PC capable of hosting multiple Cams without affecting the Live Stream reception and recording quality, then, by all means, you've got yourself a deal.

Do note that Blue Iris does demand a power-rich PC for it to work without any hindrance. Take a look at the recommended specs:

  1. CPU with processing power equivalent to Intel i7 (6th Gen+)
  2. 8 GB+ RAM
  3. Windows 10

A PC with the recommended specs can cost you north of $300 ($200 in case of used). And if you consider the peripherals and a decent graphic card to integrate into your build, the price will shoot well over $400.

Lastly, look at the pricing of Blue Iris. The base license will cost you about $30 for the base plan or $60 for the premium one.

On top of this cost, after the initial year of owning the service, you'll have to pay an annual service fee depending on the type of service you want. Expect the cost to be in the range of $20-60.

Additionally, if you plan on availing the services of the Mobile version of Blue Iris, that will cost you another $10.

At the same time, on the opposite end of the spectrum, NVRs cost you much less than a basic Blue Iris setup.

NVRs from Riolink and Dahua are available for $299, but you can get them well below this price more often under sales and other offers.

Some manufacturers also throw in an extra mouse or other peripherals on top of the Ethernet cables required to connect the Cams with the NVR.

And so, NVRs are the no-brainer deal when you consider the price.

Compatibility and Setup

Compatibility and Setup

In this round, we will look into the overall compatibility of the product and Cameras coupled with the setup procedure for the Cams.

Blue Iris is currently supported on Windows systems with limited mobile support via the mobile Blue Iris app. You view and control Camera recordings and live streams on the mobile app.

NVRs don't require a PC or an operating system to work. They're standalone systems with their customer UIs. OEMs like Riolink does provide mobile and PC applications for Cam viewing purposes.

Both products provide universal Live stream viewing via Web UIs and web sharing. (some NVRs do not have this provision)

One aspect in which these products show a disparity is their support for Cameras.

Blue Iris supports almost all types of Monitoring Cams, as long as the cam supports ONVIF. Some of the Cams supported on Blue Iris include WebCams, IP, USB, and PoE Cams.

One of the best Cams to integrate on Blue Iris is Wyze Cams. Wyze Cams natively support RTSP, hence making them ideal for Blue Iris.

With NVRs, however, most of them are limited to supporting only PoE cams, and that, too, for those made by the same manufacturer.

But, nowadays, manufacturers have started accommodating PoE cams of other makes. Some have even enabled ONVIF support on their devices to support even more makes and types of Cams.

Setting up Cams on Blue Iris may not be the easiest of jobs.

Nonetheless, Blue Iris has optimized its UI quite well for its users to easily find and configure Cams with their drop-down menus and quick access tiles.

Complex setups, like IP cams, may take their sweet time and effort to set up.

Installing Cams on NVRs is quite simple. Start by connecting the Cam to the Ethernet Cable linked to a PoE switch, followed by plugging the opposite end to the NVR.

The hardest part of setting up cams with NVR is cable routing. Take care of that, and you virtually have no issue with the setup.

That sums up the setup and compatibility factor. If you plan on using Cams of various makes, side with Blue Iris. If you prefer effortless setup procedures, go with NVRs.

Video Reception and Recording Characteristics

Video Reception and Recording Characteristics

Spiraling down to yet another crucial aspect of Surveillance systems, video reception, and its associated characteristics can make or break the deal.

Both systems seem to do quite well in this regard.

Blue Iris has a reputation for upholding superior video handling characteristics, even under load.

Expect buffer-free Live Streams and unblemished recording playbacks for the better part of your time with Blue Iris.

Blue Iris also features DirectX, which imparts a new level of digital scaling accuracy to your recordings and streams.

NVRs also enjoy quite the reputation of hosting quality-rich recording and seemingly lag-free live streams.

Though nothing seems to go wrong with the actual playback of the video recordings, users have expressed mixed feelings about the Live Streams on NVRs.

This ambivalence has to be attributed merely to the proprietary software employed by the manufacturers. Some seem to get it right, some not so much.

Also, with NVRs, you can view the Live streams directly from the device through HDMI ports to get a real-time output of the Cam.

Video quality strictly depends upon the Cam you use to pair with these products.

Anywho, Blue Iris can support Cams with a resolution of up to 4K recorded on an 8 MP sensor. NVRs, too, share quite the same capabilities as Blue Iris.

Features On-Board

Features On Board

Lastly, let's get on with the features these services offer.

And there's no getting wrong here, no need for any deliberation, Blue Iris stands leagues apart from NVRs in this regard.

Blue Iris has an abundance of features ranging from provisions for intricate Camera controls to superior alert mechanisms.

Custom routine and schedule creation through Home automation solutions, too, are available on Blue Iris.

Blue Iris also happens to offer one of the most acclaimed activity alert mechanisms as of right now.

Once the Cam detects an event, Blue Iris recognizes the trigger and sends out alerts to the host via not 2, not 3, but 5 modes.

Apart from the usual alert notifications like app alerts and E-mails, users get notified of any disturbance via Voice calls, quick text messages, or even social media alerts.

Even if NVRs fail to offer such a diversified platter of alert mechanisms, you do get the usual Email and app notifications.

You might also find an explicit lack of configuration flexibility with NVRs.

Another crucial aspect in which Blue Iris trumps NVRs is motion detection.

With the newly adopted DeepStack AI feature, Blue Iris can precisely distinguish objects, and trigger events as a result.

In the case of NVRs, motion detection and the subsequent event triggers are sketchy at best.

Often, NVRs either fail to detect motion or register a false trigger.

This is because NVRs depend on the Monitoring Cam's native motion detection feature to trigger an event.

And so, Blue Iris quite clearly outvies NVRs in yet another category.

Final Verdict

When you compare two amazing services such as Blue Iris and NVRs, the question of which is the best may depend on quite a few factors.

Blue Iris shines high and bright above NVRs in terms of features, Camera support, and alert mechanisms. A clear winner by a mile.

But, it can cost you dearly to set up a powerful-enough PC to sustain Blue Iris.

On the other hand, NVRs costs much less when compared to Blue Iris, and it demands little to no maintenance once you set up the service.

If you can get over the paltry sum of features and lack of support for Cameras, NVRs are the way to go.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is Blue Iris an NVR?

No, Blue Iris is not an NVR but a VMS (video management system) that integrates all your surveillance solutions into one single interface. However, Blue Iris does allow you to record and store video recordings in a storage location of your choice.

How do I choose an NVR?

Some of the factors to consider when choosing an NVR are:

  1. The number of channels to support cams.
  2. Storage solutions (built-in).
  3. Features on-board.
  4. Camera support.

Can I use my PC as an NVR?

Yes, you can use your PC as an NVR. Though, the setting up part can get quite tricky. Instead, download a compatible NVR application on your PC to make the setup procedure more streamlined.

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About Doug Stevenson

Hey! I'm Doug, My passion for tech started by fixing phones and computers for my friends and family.

I started Blinqblinq to give reliable tech advice to anyone who needs it, for free! If you have questions on anything tech-related, feel free to contact me.

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Doug Stevenson

Hey! I'm Doug, My passion for tech started by fixing phones and computers for my friends and family.

I started Blinqblinq to give reliable tech advice to anyone who needs it, for free! If you have questions on anything tech-related, feel free to contact me.

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