Review of PI Manufacturing Security Surveillance System

View the Top Ten Home Security Systems here

The title up there is a bit general because this review is actually of two separate things from a company called PI Manufacturing. This company sells many thing, but they specialize in security and most most everything related to it. They’ve sent me over what I would consider an inexpensive surveillance kit that they put together just for this review here on DIY Guides. The kit is two parts basically, a DVR and four dome style cameras. The DVR has a built in 500gb hard drive that will provide you with up to two months of video storage. The four cameras are small dome style camera with built in infrared LEDS that really brighten up any situation, they turn night to day really. So I’ve this whole kit for review for you, I’ve got many pictures and information to share, so read on…


Since this is two separate things we’re going to be doing this review a little bit different from others.
PI Manufacturing sent the kit in two boxes to me, one has the DVR and the other has the four cameras.


The first box we’ll look at is the DVR, but let’s take a look at the specs before that:

4 Channel DVR H.264 with Remote Viewing (Computer or Mobile Phone Support) and Audio Recording, BNC/VGA Outputs, 500GB HDD included

Part #: DVR-MP-4S-500G
Price: $185.00

4 Channel DVR H.264 with Remote Viewing (Computer or Mobile Phone Support) and Audio Recording, BNC/VGA Outputs, 500GB HDD included
Introducing PI Manufacturing’s newest line of H.264 DVR standalone surveillance systems. Our DVR features the latest H.264 compression technology, allowing higher quality pictures while taking up less storage space. Our H.264 compression uses main profile compression technology, which saves 20% or more recording size than traditional H.264 baseline profile codec. A 500GB SATA hard drive is included in our DVR that will allow recording for up to 2 months. 2 USB ports are provided to plug in a mouse and an optional USB flash drive for quick and easy backup. This particular DVR supports 4 channels, allowing up to 4 cameras to be recorded real-time, with support for motion detection, alarm controls, PTZ support, and voice recording.

View the Top Ten Home Security Systems here

Remote Viewing via Computer or Mobile Phone
View remotely at home, in the office, or in a hotel using your desktop, laptop, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, or Windows Mobile Phone.

DVR Features:
* Record more than 3 weeks of continuous video at 704×480 resolution using four channels at HQ quality
* Supports internet viewing on PC and mobile phones
* BNC and VGA display output
* 4 channel real-time display at 120fps/NTSC
* Triple stream, recording at D1 and viewing at CIF remotely
* H.264 main profile compression technology, which saves 20% or more recording size than traditional H.264 baseline profile codec
* Watermark and scrambling examination to verify recorded files
* CMS (Central Management System) supports unlimited DVR/cameras with PTZ controls
* DIDO/PTZ/RS-485 support
* Intelligent 3G/GPRS mobile surveillance: Windows Mobile, iPhone, Blackberry, Android, and Symbian
* GUI with 32 bit true color
* USB backup
* Smaller size allows user to work efficiently and save space
* 500GB hard drive included; record up to 2 months
* Remote control included

There’s more info on the PI MFG site, just hit the link above to go there and read it if you wish to.

Upon opening the box you’ll find the DVR packaged nicely along with another accessory box, CD and a paper about network settings.


In the smaller box you’ll find the power supply, remote, batteries and a quick start/reference sheet.

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The DVR can be controlled with the front panel, remote control or even a USB mouse. The remote has basic controls on it, sort of like you would find on most other multi-media style remotes. On the bottom of the remote are specialized controls for pan tilt and zoom, changing views, picture in picture and several other things.

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The DVR is a small, black box basically with controls on the front of it.

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On the left side of the front panel is a set of LEDS, then eight buttons with various functions. On the right side is what looks like a directional pad that can be used for navigation and for function control, father to the right are two USB ports, one of the them is covered though. I found out that on this particular model the covered USB port is non-functional but it is powered, at least the one I have is.

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On the back panel of the DVR is where you’ll find the connections as you might expect.


On the left side of the back panel you’ll find a VGA port to hook up a monitor and below that is the power connection. Then you’ll see six BNC connectors, four are for cameras and the other two are labeled Main and Spot. Next to those you’ll see standard RCA style jacks for audio in and out. Over towards the left side you’ll find a switch for NTSC/PAL, a USB port, an Ethernet jack and connections for alarm sensors.

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On the bottom of the DVR you’ll find four rubber feet and a fan port.


Opening up the cover voids the warranty, so don’t do this, but I did for you and here’s what it looks like. The hard drive sits on rails across the motherboard. It’s a Seagate Barracuda 7200.12 slim hard drive, but standard height drives can fit. I also noticed on the motherboard are two SATA headers and an extra power connection.


When the unit is powered on the first thing you’ll notice is the very loud fan, annoying loud actually. The LEDs light up for power, network and recording during normal operation.


Ok, so that was the DVR, let’s take a look at the cameras they sent along to me. First up is the specifications:

Dome Camera Kit, Set of 4 (Dome Cameras – 420 TVL, Video/Power Cables, Power Adapters) (Width: 3.5in)

Part #: CAMERA-KIT-1
Price: $139.0

Dome Camera Kit, Set of 4 (Dome Cameras – 420 TVL, Video/Power Cables, Power Adapters) (Width: 3.5in)
The CAMERA-KIT-1 is designed for customers that want a complete camera system for their home or office. Our camera package includes 4 high quality 420TVL dome cameras (PSIF-603AP), 4 100 feet video/power cables, and 4 12VDC power adapters.

The CAMERA-KIT-1 dome cameras features a high quality 1/3″ Sony CCD with a 3.6mm lens, perfect for the home or office. It also features a 23pcs IR LED, allowing the camera to capture images even during the night. All accessories, including wiring, components, and adapters are included, making installation fast and easy.

CAMERA-KIT-1 Package Includes:
* 4 x Dome Cameras (PSIF-603AP)
* 4 x 100ft Video + Power Cables
* 4 x DC12V 500mA Power Adapters

CAMERA-KIT-1 Dome Camera Features:
* CCD: 1/3″ Sony Color
* TVL: 420TVL
* IR LED: 23 IR LEDs
* IR Distance: 66 feet
* 3.6mm lens
* Overall dimensions: 2.25 x 3.5 x 2.25 in (L x W x H)
* Dimension of the arch: 2.3 inches

Same here, if you wish to read more about the cameras, just hit the link above to visit the site.

The cameras were padded fairly well for shipping.


Upon unpacking everything I found four small white boxes that contained the power supplies, four sets of wall mounts, four cameras, user guide and four sets of 100foot power and video combination cables.


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The cameras are dome style and have 23 infrared LEDs around the lens and a sensor is there to detect day and night. The infrared LEDs are supposed to illuminate up to 66 feet.

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To give you an idea of how the LEDs work here’s a screen shot taken in the dark. It’s about 7pm, it’s dark out, cars have their lights on but yet it looks very bright on my porch.


Coming out of the camera you’ll find a split cable with power and video connections on it.


On the bottom of the camera you’ll see the mounts and spaces to run the wire through.


The camera is actually three parts. You can mount the base and then clip the housing to it, it screws and locks into place.


Setup is easy, well as easy as drilling holes and running wires can be I guess.  It’s time consuming for sure and it’s quite a bit of work so you’d better plan ahead as to where you want the cameras to go. The cables included are 100 foot so you can put the cameras pretty far away from the DVR unit.

The included cameras are indoor cameras, but I put one outside as you saw earlier. It’s on my porch under the roof and inset above the door, so it’s very much out of the way of the weather. It’s been below freezing here several times now since I got it hooked up and the cold didn’t seem to bother the camera at all.

The DVR can be used with a regular monitor via the VGA port, or you can view it over your home network or even on your mobile phone. For my uses I hooked it up to a 17” LCD and I monitor it on my network as well on my main computer while I’m working. I got the app for my Android phone and it works but my router doesn’t quite like port forwarding. I can DMZ it to make it work fine, but you can only DMZ one device and I already have my NAS box set that way. So until I find a better solution I won’t be able to access it while I’m away.It all depends on your router and how your network is setup as to what will work for you, and maybe how much work it will take to get it working for you.

I did find that using a mouse is much easier than using the remote control or the panel controls, mouse it is all the way for me.

One thing I do like very much is the network view is exactly the same as the main view is, as long as you login with admin permissions you can do everything remotely you can do on the DVR itself.

To get the view from the DVR on your network you’ll need to install and run the DVR Remote software. Here’s the view with three cameras up and running, I just can’t figure out where I want to put the last one, but it is a good example of what it looks like when a camera is not working. At the bottom corner of the interface is s small control panel for changing the quality and taking snapshots or going to full screen.


The camera picture quality isn’t bad, but the colors are a bit off. You’ll need to go in and adjust them to get them correct.

Right clicking anywhere on the main screen will make the quick menu pop up that has drop downs for more controls for some of them.

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One of the options is zoom for the cameras, this does work but it’s digital so it’s rather pixellated. You can zoom up to 16x, here’s my car fully zoomed in. There’s a small box in the top right corner that you use to move the zoom around the frame.


The first drop down choice is for the main menu, which looks nice actually. I’m not going to list the options as you can see them just fine.


The first choice is Record for Record Setup. Here you can change the position of the on-screen display and set up quality and frame rates.


The choice is for Event Setup. here you can set up the sensors and mark the motion detection area.

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The next option is for Schedule. here you can set when you want to record and when not, fairly straight forward.


Next choice is camera setup. You can adjust the setting like brightness, contrast, Hue, Sharpness and name the camera.


Then next up is network settings, again fairly straight forward here, not much to explain.


The next option for Diagnostic just tells you the status of the system really.


Under the Utilities option you’ll find several choices for Initializing hard drives and USB drives, along with upgrading, resetting and copying and downloading the setup.


The next choice is for system. Here you can name the DVR, set date and time and more.


The next choice is to adjust pan tilt and zoom if you have cameras capable of it.


The last option is for account, here you can create an icon for the DVR and setup your account to access the DVR and their permissions along with changing the admin password.


So that’s it for now with all of that.

The DVR does beep loudly when you make selections with the remote or control panel, that can be annoying. I didn’t find anyway to turn it off, but I may have missed it.

I mentioned the fan is loud, but it bears mentioning again as it’s very loud. I was originally going to set the DVR up in my little office but the fan was just to loud for comfort for me. I like quiet. I’m sure I could swap out the fan for a quieter one, but again opening the case voids the warranty.

The total price on this setup is $324 then of course there’s shipping to add to it.

The DVR is nice I think, it’s simple to set up and use, and has advanced features like PTZ controls and sensor access. The ability to access it from multiple points is a nice bonus as well. it would be nice though if it were wireless instead of only ethernet enabled. Then again four cameras can use a lot of bandwidth possibly. I’m running a gigabit network in my home so the connection is nice and fast. I also have 25/25 FIOS so access while I’m away is decent.

The cameras aren’t bad for being inexpensive, yes they’re not outdoor cameras, but with care you can use them outside as I do.  I’m really impressed with the LEDs in these little cameras, they’re very bright and work very well. They come on even in low light situations like just having a single lamp on in the room, even though there is light the camera makes it brighter still for you.

if you’re looking for a fairly decent, easy to setup security system then you can’t go wrong here really. This setup from PI Manufacturing is not bad I think.