Even with a large capacity MicroSD card, an IP camera still requires regular maintenance to continue recording for weeks and months. The D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder is a large-capacity storage device built for the sole purpose of recording video from an array of IP cameras.
D-Link is traditionally known for its routers, switches and NAS devices. But in recent years, it has expanded its portfolio to include networked surveillance systems based around IP cameras, along with a web portal and smartphone apps to monitor video feeds remotely. Its aim is to make the technology simple to use, for configuring an IP camera and setting up a location for it to store recorded video streams can be tricky for novices. Its latest products, the DCS-942L Wireless N Day & Night Home Network Camera and the D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder, are a further step in that direction.
The D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder is, in essence, a NAS device with built-in software that can recognise IP cameras on your network and configure itself automatically to record their video streams. It comes without any hard disks, but if you pop the lid off it has space for two 3.5-inch SATA disks, which can be set up individually, as a spanned JBOD array, RAID 0 or 1.
At £249.99, the D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder is more expensive than standard NAS enclosures. For the extra outlay, you'd expect the NVR to work seamlessly with D-Link's cameras, requiring little effort to set up and use.
The D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder pretty much achieved this, although we did run into some issues. After running through the software wizard for our chosen DCS-942L camera, we were able to view a video feed, set the camera to record to the SD card, and change the recording time.
However, things didn't go quite as well when we tried pairing it with the DNR-322L NVR. The wizard completed successfully, formatting and creating a volume on the hard disk. Once complete, we chose to log in to the camera's web interface remotely to check the video feed, and here we ran into problems.
The D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder's on-board software picked up the camera on the network, we entered our login details for it under the Camera Setup heading, and it connected successfully. But when we tried to view a video feed from the camera, it fell over.
The D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder isn't compatible with Macs. When trying to view a live feed from the NVR in Safari, it prompted us to download a Windows plugin. It didn't work in Google Chrome on our Windows PC either.
However, once we switched to Internet Explorer, it started behaving itself. The Live Video tab worked perfectly, with our camera at the top of a list on the right. There's support for up to nine cameras in total, with the D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder able to monitor and record a feed from each.
Recorded video, either captured manually or from a scheduled recording, can be viewed through a timeline under the Playback header. Skip through to a certain time you wish to view, under any of the connected cameras, and it plays back the video from that point. Video clips can be downloaded to a local computer, or saved automatically.
We tested the D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder with a single camera, but in a setup with three or four cameras, we can imagine that this timeline is even more useful, especially if you need to hone in on a specific camera's feed, at a certain time.
Of course, with more cameras, you need more storage in the NVR, and it makes sense to drop the video resolution and bitrate to reduce file sizes, which is done by setting different recording profiles. If running the cameras wirelessly, each will put strain on your router, so with the full complement of nine, you may want to connect a few using wired gigabit ethernet.
Both the camera and NVR can be set up to use motion detection, jpeg snapshots can be automatically emailed to you, along with notifications if the storage fill up, and there's a microphone to capture audio too. Multiple logins can be created under the Maintenance heading, with different privileges for either viewing or playing back recorded video. Only the administrator can adjust the NVR's settings.
Despite the relative ease in setting up the D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder, we there is plenty of room for improvement, especially with the software. While it works, it could do with a makeover.
The icons in the playback window have tooltips that appear when you hover the mouse over them, but it isn't particularly intuitive. We're none too keen on the ugly orange and brown look of D-Link's standard web interface, used on all its products, including the D-Link DNR 322L Network Video Recorder, as it now looks dated compared with the efforts of other networking companies.