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10 Best NAS for Home Surveillance

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When I started using a  as my DIY NVR, it was more of an experiment than anything else. I had purchased the NAS mainly for backing up all our devices and media serving duties, but it could also serve as an NVR. So why not try that before buying a dedicated NVR?

Over the last few years, QNAP and Synology NAS devices have matured into a real competitor to a dedicated NVR, and I have documented my DIY NAS NVR setup here. My current NAS, the QNAP TS-253A even has an Intel processor and can run Linux or Windows virtual machines. So its a good time to take a detailed look at the NAS market and see what choices we have for a multi-purpose low-power all-in-one DIY NAS NVR.

Best NAS for Home : 2020

Best Budget 2 bay: Synology 218j

 


FEATURES

 

  • Dual Core 1.3 GHz (Marvell Armada 385 88F6820)
  • 512MB RAM
  • Max. 2 x 14TB hard drives
  • 1x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 14 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • Max. 210 FPS @ 1080p (1920×1080)
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine

 

PROS:
  • Good performance
  • Can record 14 IP cameras at 15fps and 1080p
  • Low power consumption

 

CONS:
  • Disks are not hot-swappable
  • No , Transcoding not supported
  • HDD bays are not slot loading type, no front USB port

 

The DS 218 family comprises of the DS218j, the DS218, the 218play and the 218+. The ‘se’ model of yesteryear has been discontinued but it was anyway too weak for surveillance purposes.

The 218j has a dual core Marvell processor with 512MB RAM. While this may not sound like much memory, bear in mind that these NAS boxes are basically extremely energy efficient Linux PCs. Linux doesn’t need as much RAM as Windows and so 512MB RAM is good enough for recording up to 14 IP cameras at 1080p and 15fps on Surveillance Station.

Best Value 2 bay: QNAP TS-251+

 


FEATURES

 

  • Quad Core 2.0 GHz (Intel Celeron J1900)
  • 2/8 GB DDR3L RAM
  • Max. 4 x 10TB hard drives
  • 2x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 2 x USB 2.0
  • Max. 40 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • Intelligent Video Analytics available
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Transcoding, Virtualization

 

PROS:
  • Strong performance, ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • HDMI port lets you watch IP cameras on a TV
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port

 

CONS:
  • Mkv files not supported fully by QNAP media player
  • QTS OS not as user-friendly as Synology’s DSM OS
  • Mac support is spotty

 

Moving into QNAP’s Home and SOHO product offerings, the TS-251+ improves upon the popular TS-251 model. If you want a powerful Intel chip in your NAS, the x51 series are the go-to QNAP models.

On paper, the much older quad-core Celeron J1900 processor of the TS-251+ looks faster than the dual-core Celeron J3355 of its direct competitor, the Synology 418 play. But in reality the newer J3355 is slightly faster overall. Also the J3355 has the Intel Graphics 500 chipset on-board and supports faster DDR-3L memory. Both CPUs support virtualization which means you can run virtual machines which can even the network ports. This is great for running different operating systems on your NAS, such as testing/development on Android.

While you can run Plex on this NAS, bear in mind that only the QNAP apps work over the HDMI port. So you can live view your cameras over the HDMI port, which is the feature I am most interested in. Since the NAS has low power consumption, it makes the ideal DIY NAS NVR.

4K is not supported though, so consider the QNAP TS-253Be below if you need that feature.

Best High-end 2 bay: QNAP TS-253Be

 


FEATURES

 

  • Quad Core 1.5 GHz (Intel Celeron J3455)
  • 4/8 GB DDR3L RAM
  • Max. 2 x 14TB hard drives
  • 2x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 5 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 40 IP Cameras (4 free licences)
  • Intelligent Video Analytics available
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, PCIe, Transcoding, Virtualization

 

PROS:
  • Strong performance, ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • Two 4K capable HDMI ports, Snapshot backup feature
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port, LCD screen

 

CONS:
  • Rather useless 3.5mm mic input
  • HDMI ports are 1.4b versions and limited to 30fps
  • No tool-less disk installation

 

This spot on the list used to be occupied by my TS-253A. But QNAP replaced it with the short-lived TS-253B and now the TS-253Be.

The e in the model name represents the PCIe 2.0 x2 slot this NAS has. This slot allows you to extend the NAS capabilities by adding SSD caching, 10GbE support or a wireless card.

Best 4-Bay NAS for Home Surveillance

Best Budget 4 bay: QNAP TS-431P2

 


FEATURES

 

  • Dual Core 1.7GHz (Annapurna Labs AL-314)
  • 1/4 GB DDR3 RAM
  • Max. 4 x 14TB hard drives
  • 2x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 3 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 30 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • Intelligent Video Analytics available
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs

 

PROS:
  • Very good performance, ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • Supports up to 30 IP cameras
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port

 

CONS:
  • First-run thumbnail generation slow
  • No HDMI, QTS OS not as user-friendly as Synology’s DSM OS
  • Mac support is spotty

 

The QNAP x31 series is the starter option in the QNAP NAS family and range from 2 bay model to 8 bay models. The P2 models are roughly on par with the older 231+ model and have a bit more power which is really useful when it comes to running Surveillance Station.

The 431P2 has a quad-core Annapurna Labs ARM-based processor with 1GB or 4GB RAM options. The 4GB RAM model is a very capable multi-tasker. My old NAS, the TS-231+ had specs similar to this model and could easily record 4 IP cameras at 1080p resolution at only 10% CPU utilisation. That leaves a lot of headroom for streaming media using Twonky (DLNA).

Best Value 4 bay: Synology 418play

 


FEATURES

 

  • Quad Core 2.0 GHz (Intel Celeron J3355)
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • Max. 4 x 14TB hard drives
  • 2x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 2 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 25 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • Max. 750 FPS @ 1080p (1920×1080)
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, 4K Transcoding

 

PROS:
  • Strong performance, ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • Can record 50 IP cameras at 15fps and 1080p
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port

 

CONS:
  • Can slow down during 4K transcoding
  • No HDMI, Ubiquiti G3 cameras currently not supported
  • Plex 4K transcoding may be troublesome

 

The play variants of Synology’s NAS boxes are aimed at those looking for a rich multimedia and DLNA streaming experience. So it has a beefier Celeron J3355 processor which is also great for running Surveillance Station. The outgoing 416play model had an older Celeron N3060 processor.

You can stream music, a single 4K stream or up to 3 simultaneous streams of 1080p video across your network using DLNA. H.264 (AVC), H.265 (HEVC), MPEG-2 and VC-1 video formats can be decoded by the 418play. There is no support for virtualization.

There is no HDMI port but if you don’t want one the 418play may be the right choice for you. But there is an interesting option if you want to expand on the surveillance abilities of this Synology Diskstation, you can buy the add-on Visual Station VS360HD device. Synology describes the VS360HD as a “live view and management companion”. It is basically a turnkey NVR which offloads the Surveillance Station functionality from the NAS on to itself.

Best High-end 4 bay: QNAP TS-453BT3

 


FEATURES

 

  • Quad Core 1.5 GHz (Intel Celeron J3455)
  • 8 GB DDR3L-1866 RAM
  • Max. 4 x 14TB hard drives
  • 2x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) & 1x 10GBASE-T LAN Ports
  • 5 x USB 3.0, 2 x Thunderbolt
  • Max. 40 IP Cameras (4 free licences)
  • Intelligent Video Analytics available
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, PCIe, Transcoding, Virtualization

 

PROS:
  • Strong performance, 10GbE, Ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • Two 4K capable HDMI ports, Snapshot backup feature
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port, LCD screen

 

CONS:
  • Rather useless 3.5mm mic input
  • HDMI ports are 1.4b versions and limited to 30fps
  • No tool-less disk installation

 

Just like the TS-253A, the TS-453A has been replaced by newer models. But the 453 family is quite large comprising of the TS-453B, the TS-453Be, the TS-453BT3 and the TS-453Bmini.

The T3 in the model name represents the 2x Thunderbolt 3 ports on this NAS. Thunderbolt support is a must-have for creative professionals and video editors, so that’s the target audience here. However it is also useful for high speed data transfer which is great for surveillance data access purposes.

Best 8-Bay NAS for Home Surveillance

Best Budget 8 bay: Synology 918+

 


FEATURES

 

  • Quad Core 1.5 GHz (Intel Celeron J3455)
  • 4 GB RAM
  • Max. 4 x 14TB hard drives
  • 2x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 2 x USB 3.0, 1x eSATA
  • Max. 40 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • Max. 1200 FPS @ 1080p (1920×1080)
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Transcoding

 

PROS:
  • Very good performance, Ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • Can record 40 IP cameras at 25fps and 1080p, transcoding supported
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port

 

CONS:
  • Can slow down during 4k transcoding
  • No HDMI, Ubiquiti G3 cameras currently not supported
  • FTP feature can be tricky to get right

 

Synology positions the DS-918+ in its new Plus category (the erstwhile Workgroup and SMB category), but that doesn’t mean its not suitable for home use. If anything it has more than enough power for home surveillance applications.

While the outgoing 916+ model had an Intel Pentium 3710 chip, the new 918+ has switched to the Celeron family. The Celeron J3455 chip is still a quad core model which helps it breeze through typical NAS duties. The new chip is much faster and has the newer Intel HD graphics 500 chipset. But it may still struggle when it comes to 4k->1080p transcoding.

The 918+ is available only in 4GB guise – but you can upgrade it to a total of 8GB RAM. The extra RAM can be useful if you are running close to the maximum 40 IP cameras.

Best Value 8 bay: QNAP TVS-863

 


FEATURES

 

  • Quad Core 2.4 GHz (AMD G-series GX-424CC)
  • 4/8 GB DDR3L RAM
  • Max. 8 x 14TB hard drives
  • 4x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 5 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 40 IP Cameras (4 free licences)
  • Intelligent Video Analytics available
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, PCIe, Transcoding, Virtualization
PROS:
  • Strong performance, ethernet link aggregation/failover supported
  • Two 4K capable HDMI ports, Snapshot backup feature
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port, LCD screen

 

CONS:
  • Rather useless 3.5mm mic input
  • HDMI ports are 1.4b versions and limited to 30fps
  • No tool-less disk installation

 

The TVS-863 uses a fast and powerful AMD processor with on-board Radeon graphics. This makes the NAS particularly suited to multimedia and surveillance duties.

Even though the NAS is aimed at small businesses, the multimedia features are what makes this NAS box shine. On offer are two HDMI ports capable of 4K output, audio in and audio out which can be very useful for surveillance applications, and powerful hardware to keep everything chugging along nicely.

Best High-end 8 bay: QNAP TVS-882

 


FEATURES

 

  • Dual Core 3.7 GHz (Intel Core i3-6100 )
  • 8/16 GB DDR4 RAM
  • Max. 6 x 3.5″ 10TB hard drives, Max. 2 x 2.5″ SSD
  • 4x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 5 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 80 IP Cameras (8 free licences)
  • Intelligent Video Analytics available
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Transcoding, Virtualization, SSD support

 

PROS:
  • Excellent performance with PC class processors, DDR4 RAM, and SSD support
  • Three 4K capable HDMI ports, Snapshot backup feature
  • Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port, LCD screen

 

CONS:
  • Suggested retail price is at the top end of the market

 

If you want the ultimate backup server, media server, and DIY NAS NVR, don’t look any further. The TVS-882 is at the top end of the market but that’s because you get the latest hardware technology together with enterprise level features.

There are 3 HDMI ports which can each support 4K at 30fps. This means you can have mirrored or extended display configurations to monitor your IP cameras. Speaking of which, this NAS is so powerful that it can record up to 80 separate channels.

Also consider: QNAP TS-231P2

 


FEATURES

 

  • Dual Core 1.7GHz (Annapurna Labs AL-314)
  • 1/4 GB DDR3 RAM
  • Max. 2 x 14TB hard drives
  • 2x RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet (1 GbE) LAN Port
  • 3 x USB 3.0 ports
  • Max. 30 IP Cameras (2 free licences)
  • Intelligent Video Analytics available
  • DLNA, Hardware encryption engine, Hot-swappable slot loading HDDs, Transcoding
PROS:
  • Good performance
  • Hot-swappable HDDs, Front USB 3.0 port
  • Low power consumption

 

CONS:
  • First-run thumbnail generation slow
  • No HDMI port
  • No tool-less disk installation

 

The precursor of the TS-231P2 was the TS-231+ which was my first NAS.

Running on ARM processors, the 231P2 is still plenty powerful enoughfor running a 4-8 camera setup.

How does a NAS do surveillance?

A NAS is basically a computer that runs a custom Linux operating system created by the manufacturer (Synology, QNAP, Asus etc.). Most manufacturers offer various apps that can be installed on their devices to add or extend its abilities. These apps are usually called ‘stations’.

Examples of stations include Photo stations, Video stations, Backup stations and Surveillance Stations. In my opinion, the best surveillance station apps are the ones from QNAP and Synology.

Choosing the right NAS NVR

The modern household is a tech-heavy environment. Every family member probably has at least a smartphone, and probably a laptop. Sharing media and documents across the home is a challenge without a central media server. This is where a NAS typically comes into the picture.

Providing redundant RAID storage, a NAS can serve up documents, stream music and movies to any device through the DLNA standard. But the NAS can do so much more. I use mine as a VPN server to securely connect from outside the home and access my home automation system, turn on lights, turn up the heating, check out my security cameras and more.

Almost every NAS sold today has a surveillance camera feature, but only two companies have the software that can really pull it off – QNAP and Synology. They are broadly comparable and so I consider them to be equally good.

To ensure you can record a decent number of IP cameras, and still have enough headroom for typical NAS duties, I suggest the following:

NAS NVR Must-haves NAS NVR Nice to haves
Basic Advanced motion detection – tripwire / dwell / linger / missing object / new object/ face detection
Motion Detection Email alerts Push notifications
At least one high speed port (USB 3.0 / eSATA / Thunderbolt) Automated scheduled backups to an external drive
Live view of at least 4 channels simultaneously 24/7 Live view of all channels on external monitors through HDMI ports
Synchronous playback of at least 4 channels simultaneously Synchronous playback of all channels on external monitors through HDMI ports
Event timeline markers Intelligent video analysis to search for events

Conclusion

So there you have it, these are my recommendations to build the best DIY NAS NVR in 2020. Leave your thoughts below!

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