Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Commentary - Lorex DVRs


Lorex is a popular brand of DVR found at Costco and other big box stores, as well as on-line at stores like TigerDirect. For less than $500, consumers can purchase a 4 camera DVR complete with everything that they need to get into the wonderful world of CCTV. From the standpoint of price, I can see the allure of the Lorex brand.

That's where the allure ends.

Having spent the better part of an afternoon on-hold and then briefly talking with a Lorex tech-support employee, I found myself wondering if it would be more painful to place the business end of my screwdriver into my left eye, or spend more time dealing with Lorex.

Here's why.

Every Lorex model is unique. Every Lorex model of DVR requires a unique player. Why? According to their tech-support employee, they change codecs and various other aspects of the internal recording mechanism (from DVR model to DVR model) depending on several variables which no one can seem to comprehend, much less me or their customers.

My trip to tech-support purgatory started with the DVR's model number, which I had. The technician directed me to the Lorex web site and pointed out the location to input the number. The site should return the page for the DVR, listing all support options, players, manuals, and so forth. Good so far. When I told the tech that I had tried that already and it didn't return a result (thus my wait in for the better part of my afternoon - can you say "billable hours" - whilst the lone Lorex technician worked down the call list - in the order received - until he reached me), he asked that I do it again. So, I did. Nothing. (Insanity = doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result)

He then asked for the model number, which I happily provided. He said that no such model exists. I checked the number. It was correct. I told him so and described the unit. I told him where the owner bought the unit. He said that the units sold to the store in question don't include the type that I described. (... frustration ... blood pressure ... )

So where are we? The model number doesn't exist in their system as printed on the unit and/or on the customer's invoice. The store at which the DVR was purchased shouldn't have had the type of unit described.

Moving on to the file and the reason for my call. I asked (the Lorex employee) for a (Lorex) player that would play a .clp file (from a Lorex DVR). He said that many Lorex players play .clp files, reminding me of a previous point in our conversation about players being model specific. Without the model number, he wouldn't even begin to know which player to recommend. (the circle is complete)

To conclude this commentary, if all you want to do is view the cameras that you've installed in your place of business - not record the video or attempt to play it back after the fact, then a Lorex DVR should be fine. If you want to record what the cameras see and maybe even use the recordings for insurance or prosecution purposes ... then beware. Make sure that the model you are about to purchase is listed on Lorex's web site. Download all drivers and players immediately. Save your installation discs. Save your manuals. Ask your dealer if there is a demo model. See if you can make heads/tails of the controls. Ask your dealer to record something and then give it to you on CD - before you purchase the unit. Check the quality of the recording.

So, if the model is listed on Lorex's site, and you have all players / codecs, and you understand how to operate the controls, and you've checked that the unit will record and export a usable file of reasonable quality - then purchasing a Lorex for $499 might make sense.

My guess is that you won't be able to line up all of these things for any single Lorex unit below $500 - just my humble opinion.

If you have to process files taken from a Lorex unit, be prepared to do a lot of work tracking down the appropriate player if one wasn't provided to you. In that case, let me know, I've now got at least 10 Lorex players that you can try.

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