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Hands On - more

Once your selection is made, you are brought to the Playback screen, which I really enjoyed. Video speeds can be set from 1x to 32x. You can save an image of what you are looking at, or save the entire video as an AVI. An additional option is sending it to the printer. And of course, you get the obvious things such as zooming, stepping forward or back and cueing.

The playback screen worked well once you got past that they worked differently on mydlink.com and the Advanced Settings page. The functionality was the same, but the controls were not.

mydlink Playback page

mydlink Playback page

The Live Video and Playback screens between mydlink.com and the local interface were close to the same, yet different as you can see in the Advanced Settings Playback image below. It took a little adjustment to go from one place to another and get used to the different button configurations.

Local Advanced Settings interface Playback page

Local Advanced Settings interface Playback page

The DNR-202L has other functions, such as motion detection, but those controls are simply an intermediary for what is set up on the camera. The DCS-5020L cameras have their own grid-selectable motion detection within their interfaces and I wasn't initially sure if the DNR-202L took that into account or not, since the manual was rather vague.

My testing appeared to indicate that Motion Detection was enabled and set up on the camera at its local interface first, then enabled on the DNR-202L. It makes sense, but as an integrated mydlink package, it just seemed a little more complex than it needed to be. The positive side is that it's more configurable that way. The camera's motion detection can be configured at mydlink.com as well as via the local interface.

Storage

Depending on the camera configuration you use, it would be wise to plan drive configuration accordingly. Constant recording of video will eat up drive space very quickly. D-Link provided an example storage amount, but I found their example to be a little deceiving because of the configuration selected. It's based on one 1280x720 HD camera at medium quality and 5fps.

The DNR-202L can manage up to four cameras and most people are probably going to want high quality at 30fps. Framerate will dynamically decrease depending on activity in the frame, but medium quality at 5fps would be useless for any sort of forensic analysis. Below is the example storage provided.

DNR-202L example storage

DNR-202L example storage which I found to be unrealistic

Realize that is 5fps of medium quality for just one camera and adjust accordingly. I feel realistic estimates should be given, if for no other reason than to help the consumer make appropriate storage choices. D-Link provided me with a bandwidth and storage calculator that showed four 1280x720 cameras recording high quality at 30fps would use 1.7 TB of storage for 7 days of video, and 7.5 TB for 30 days. Storage is the price of admission with surveillance and you're going to need roughly the same amount no matter what solution you choose.

Two drives of up to 4 TB each are supported on the DNR-202L. A two-drive configuration is recognized as two single volumes. All video goes to the first drive until it is full, then video automatically goes to the second drive. You can not choose which drive cameras record to, or set them individually.

D-Link doesn't specify the drive formats supported, however the DNR-202L's format tool formatted the drive in NTFS. I also formatted a drive in exFAT and it connected fine. Interestingly enough, the DNR-202L would not see the same drive if I formatted it to NTFS with a laptop. For fun, I installedthree drives via a USB hub, hoping to "trick" the DNR-202L in to seeing more than two drives. But it was having none of that. I received a "Disk Error" for my efforts.

The DNR-202L does provide status of current drive usage and can be set either to automatically overwrite or not. The Advanced Settings Live Video screen shows a a graphical representation of space available, while mydlink.com shows just the numbers. Both are adequate for knowing how much storage is used. The Advanced Settings Live Video screen is below, you can see the line graph for disk usage on the lower left.

Advanced Settings Live Video screen with disk usage on the lower left

Advanced Settings Live Video screen with disk usage on the lower left

A few final caveats, I tested the DNR-202L with two 640x480 cameras and the interface and playback were responsive. Four 1280x720 HD cameras may (or may not) tax this little device more than what I saw. I also had both cameras wired in via Ethernet vs wireless. Since the cameras stream constant footage to the NVR, 4 HD cameras could potentially make your main wireless very busy. A successful configuration using wireless cameras may be best suited for its own SSID and channel, separate from your main wireless network.

For a broader look at the DNR-202L, as well as some app screenshots, check out the gallery below.

Image Gallery

Closing Thoughts

If you own mydlink cameras and want a more powerful way to record video, the DNR-202L could be a useful little device. Basic record and playback support for mydlink cameras on the DNR-202L is truly plug-and-play. Functionality such as motion detection requires more thought and is configured on each camera individually.

As a complete solution, the DNR-202L probably isn't as visually elegant as a single NAS. With the DNR-202L itself and 1-2 external USB drives, you will have USB cables, wall-warts and multiple devices to contend with. Contrast this a NAS that's a single box that you just need to connect power and Ethernet to.

Depending on where you choose to locate the DNR-202L, the tangle of little boxes and cables may not be a problem at all, but it is something to note. If you use the DNR-202L for security, choose the location wisely; it's small and easily taken and there is no K-Slot to help you lock it down. If someone disconnects a camera, the DNR-202L will broadcast its location loud and clear if you haven't disabled the buzzer.

Compared to other solutions such as Y-Cam, the DNR-202L's big win is that it can record constant video vs. only motion detection triggered events. But more video requires more storage space, which is the main downside I find for the DNR-202L. Footage is available in remotely, but managing your "personal cloud" storage space and hardware is done by you locally. Some may find this to be a strength, while others will see it as a disadvantage. You can forego managing storage yourself with something like Dropcam, but you'll pay dearly for it.

If you have up to four mydlink network cameras and want to easily add recording and playback that's viewable from anywhere you can hop on the net, it's hard to beat the DNR-202L for only $100 (plus the cost of drives).

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