Review: AVerMedia AVerDiGi EB1704HB WiFi-4
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AVerDiGi EB1704HB WiFi-4
Price: $1,599 (CMOS) or $2,599 (CCD)
Pros: Super-simple hardware installation; plug-and-play set-up; Web and mobile video viewers
Cons: No Pan-Tilt-Zoom over Wi-Fi; non-reconfigurable WLAN; motion recording problems
When we saw the AVerDiGi EB1704HB WiFi-4 at CES 2009 ShowStoppers, we were intrigued. At first glance, this plug-and-play Network Video Recorder (NVR) with four Wi-Fi cameras seemed to be ideal for no-frills-no-fuss video surveillance in homes, "mom and pop" shops, and small offices. But when we took the EB1704HB WiFi-4 home for a test drive, we encountered a few surprises that prevented this innovative bundle from realizing its full potential.
But don't declare victory just yet. Recording video requires you to install a SATA disk. We were surprised that a turn-key bundle didn't include storage, but adding your own drive does let you balance space vs. recording quality and cost (see calculator). Just insert a compatible HDD into the easily-accessible bay on the NVR's front panel. Recommended disks range from 250 to 750 GB; the $50 40 GB Seagate we used worked fine and took days to fill at "high" quality.
You don't have to run Ethernet cables to the included Wi-Fi cameras (although you can if you wish). You don't have to buy or connect analog video cameras (although four analog ports let you do so). You are, however, limited to no more than four (4) Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and/or analog cameras. And, when it comes to Wi-Fi cameras, we discovered that you must use those supplied with the NVR.
What you see is what you get
Bundled Wi-Fi differentiates this plug-and-play NVR from other AVerDiGi surveillance systems. Larger businesses can combine sibling NVRs like the EB1704HB DVD with a lengthy list of supported (non-Wi-Fi) cameras. But the entry-level EB1704HB Wi-Fi4 is paired your choice of two factory-configured Wi-Fi camera models: CCD or CMOS.
CCD cameras use charge coupled devices to capture and convert light into images, while CMOS cameras use less expensive (and less sensitive) complementary metal oxide semiconductors. CCD cameras usually render higher-quality images under varied lighting conditions, while CMOS cameras are more compact and power-efficient.
The CCD cameras supplied with the full-blown EB1704HB WiFi-4 ($2,599) appear to be bigger and better than the CMOS cameras included with our EB1704HB WiFi-4 "Lite" bundle ($1,599). In particular, the CCD bundle supports Day/Night Mode and Infrared Filteringfeatures that can be essential for after-hours surveillance. Unfortunately, the SerCom RC8020 cameras in our CMOS bundle (see right) lacked brightness or contrast controls. In afternoon or evening indoor light, they generated grainy images containing digital noise that appears to have triggered motion-based recording.
Both supplied camera models transmit dual MPEG4 and M-JPEG streams at rates up to 30 frames-per-second, with very respectable 640 x 480 max resolution. However, both camera models are fixed-focus. The EB1704HB NVR can send pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) commands, but only to IP or analog cameras actually that listen to PTZ protocols and use them to adjust position or focus. Since the NVR's integrated 802.11g AP connects only to the factory-configured Wi-Fi cameras, we found that there was no way to use pan-tilt-zoom during wireless surveillance.
Lack of wireless PTZ made the EB1704HB WiFi-4 less useful than we'd anticipated. According to AVerMedia, good PTZ Wi-Fi cameras are still too expensive for the average homeowner. Agreed but we believe that some would pay $200 apiece for PTZ-capable cameras, just as some will pay for more light-sensitive CCD cameras. Pre-configured Wi-Fi cameras are a big part of this bundle's charm, but an upgrade path would make the EB1704HB WiFi-4 a better investment.