Review: AVerMedia AVerDiGi EB1704HB WiFi-4 - Page 2

By Lisa Phifer

February 27, 2009

Getting on-line

EB1704HB WiFi-4 configuration can be accomplished by pushing buttons on the NVR's front panel or using the included remote to interact with the on-screen display menu (see below). After initial set-up, the NVR can also be reconfigured through Internet Explorer.

Fig1-OSD.jpg

First-time set-up tasks include formatting the disk, setting passwords, enabling video and/or audio recording for each camera, and establishing an hourly recording schedule. Default settings are sufficient to get rolling—reaching this point took us less than 30 minutes, including camera placement. However, you must enable network access and determine the NVR's IP address before you can preview, store, or play back video from afar.

These and many other configurable parameters are described in a 66-page illustrated manual on the included CD. Given this product’s entry-level market, a bare minimum Getting-Started worksheet would be a nice addition. For example, the CD includes five programs but no guidance as to which must be installed or why. By trial and error, we found there was really no need to install anything from CD—most users can proceed directly to the WebViewer.

Going remote

After initial set-up, we powered off our NVR's monitor and relied upon the WebViewer (below). Like most network media servers, the EB1704HB WiFi-4 provides web-based configuration and content delivery. Of course, to render audio and video feeds, the NVR needs more than a basic HTML portal. But rather than use a common media player, the EB1704HB WiFi-4 downloads and installs a WebCamX ActiveX control, with optional DirectDraw video optimization.

Fig2-WebViewer_sm.jpgClick to enlarge.

At this stage, we encountered our first stumbling block. For starters, you must use Internet Explorer, configured to permit ActiveX installation. (Sorry Firefox users!) Through experimentation, we learned that administrative rights are necessary to complete the install. At that point, our WebViewer launched, prompting for User ID and Password. We dutifully entered the factory-set ID and our 6-digit PIN, triggering a login failure pop-up.

After a day of trouble-shooting, a laptop without anti-virus did the trick. It turns out that anti-virus programs like our lab standard ESET NOD32 block the WebCamX control. We bypassed this problem by disabling ESET's web access protection and configuring an exception. To AVerMedia's credit, the NVR's home page does warn that "some anti-virus software may deny the connection." However, we believe that the average homeowner would benefit from a more complete list of WebViewer dependencies and potential work-arounds.

Once connected to the NVR, we found this ActiveX GUI relatively easy to navigate. As shown above, the default quad-split screen displays live "preview" video feeds from all four Wi-Fi cameras. From here, you can easily click on any pane to view a single camera, digitally enlarge to full-screen mode, enable/disable audio, or take still BMP snapshots.

PTZ controls (see above, top right) come in handy to fine-tune the vantage point of any PTZ-capable camera. Since we were working without PTZ, we carried a wireless laptop running the WebViewer to each camera mount point, letting us visualize and tweak our fixed camera angles.

As its name suggests, the WebViewer is a convenient way to watch live video in near-real-time. In our experience, the bandwidth consumption shown above (48 KBps) was typical when using the WebViewer's LAN mode to view video recorded at High quality by all four cameras. We also used the WebViewer over slower remote Internet connections, although you may want to crank down traffic by adjusting quality or frame rate or selecting just one camera to preview.

Gaining control

Clicking the WebViewer's remote set-up button requests a "superuser" login before launching the control panel shown below. This two-stage login gives view-only access to the ordinary network user ID while restricting remote configuration to the superuser ID. Many settings established through the NVR's on-screen display can be modified through WebViewer remote set-up, including user passwords, recording parameters, camera brightness and contrast (for analog cameras only), NVR IP address, and DDNS-enrolled hostname (to facilitate Internet video access).

 

Fig3-WebSetup_sm.jpg

Click to enlarge.

The Alarm setup panel (above) lets you send email whenever a physical sensor connected to the NVR triggers an alarm condition. In addition to cameras, the EB1704HB WiFi-4 can be connected to up to 4 external sensor devices and one relay device. Such devices can be used, for example, to turn on a light and start recording whenever a door is opened. External sensors and relays are not supplied along with the EB1704HB WiFi-4 but can be purchased separately. The NVR can also generate an audible alarm whenever video feeds are lost—we found this more useful for Ethernet cameras than for Wi-Fi cameras where occasional disconnects are normal.

Sensor Recording is one of four recording modes supported by the EB1704HB WiFi-4. We tested the other three modes: Always Recording, Button (manual) Recording, and Motion Recording. The NVR's recording schedule specifies a single mode for each one hour period. We configured our EB1704HB WiFi-4 to record full-time during the day but for just 60 seconds whenever motion was detected off-hours.

Always and Button recording worked as expected, but we never could get Motion Recording to really work for us. As shown above, cameras are individually configured to enable Motion Recording—those cameras must detect motion to trigger recording for the specified duration. Sensitivity tunes the degree of motion required to trigger recording. These camera parameters are combined with the NVR's recording schedule to enable Motion Recording during selected hours.

In theory, motion-based recording conserves storage by saving only video following events of interest. This makes it far easier to locate noteworthy events when conducting video surveillance over lengthy periods. Unfortunately, our Wi-Fi cameras appeared to always detect motion, resulting in full-time recordings. According to tech support, this might be caused by flickering pixels (digital noise) being perceived as motion. We tried reducing sensitivity, using bright lights, connecting cameras to Ethernet to reduce RF-induced noise—all without success. At press time, tech support was evaluating a possible NVR/camera version mismatch as the culprit.

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