Posted on August 5, 2020 By Phil Jones and Art Feierman
Kaleidescape System Review – Special Features: Kaleidescape Content Store, High Quality / High Bandwidth Downloads, User Interface
Kaleidescape’s catalog is massive with (at the time of this review / as of August 2020) over 11,000 titles and 2,000 TV seasons available to choose from. The amount of 4K content available far exceeds what is currently available of UHD Blu-ray discs. Titles are usually available from Kaleidescape before they are available on disc. HD titles usually cost between $10 to $20 while UHD/HDR run between $25 to $35.
While the library is huge, the Kaleidescape user interface makes it easy to search, find and purchase your favorite content. Kaleidescape owners can browse the store library from the Strato S onscreen menu.
For more extensive search capabilities, customers can use a mobile app or their computer browser search by title, actor, movie/TV genre and by collections such as 2020 Golden Globe Nominees. You can search by HDR, ATMOS or highest Rotten Tomatoes ratings. To help make your purchase decision, you can read a quick synopsis, watch the trailer, and check ratings.
There were multiple nights where I laid in bed browsing and purchasing content to watch on the Strato the next day. Since my internet speed is good, I have also ordered a movie while my family was eating dinner and it was available for playback by the time I washed the dishes.
After over a decade of not bothering with selling content, Kaleidescape has worked out distribution deals with all the major movie studios. Originally the studios were fearful of high-quality digital downloads due the possibility of piracy and unauthorized file sharing. Kaleidescape’s proven robust copy protection, anti-piracy and content security provided by their proprietary hardware and kOS operating system has made it possible for Hollywood motion picture studios to trust the Strato line of products with their most precious quality content for home entertainment. The benefit for us movie enthusiasts is that we finally get access a massive library of well-organized digital downloads in the highest quality.
Kaleidescape starts with the authoritative mezzanine video file from the studio. Then using their proprietary methods, they process the file using minimal compression to preserve maximum fidelity. Downloaded 4K and HDR content plays back at up to 100Mbps with 10bit color and up to 60 frames per second. The picture quality easily rivals, and can exceed, that of a 4K UHD Blu-ray. Both Blu-ray quality and 4K Ultra HD movies are also available with lossless multichannel and object-based audio, including Dolby Atmos and DTS:X.
Unfortunately for some flat-panel customers with lower-end video processing, HDR content is not available in Dolby Vision. This is not a big deal for projector customers because projectors do not support Dolby Vision anyway.
Since the Strato S plays downloaded movies and not streamed from the headend, you will have to wait for the movie to be fully downloaded before it can be played back. If a 12TB Strato S can hold 180 movies in 4K that means a single 4K movie file averages up to 66GB which is massive. A single Blu-ray Quality HD movie averages about 37GB.
The large files means an incredible amount of information to ensure the highest quality picture and sound, but they can take a while to download. I remember a few years ago, it took up to 8 hours to just to download a single HD movie on to a Kaleidescape in Blu-ray quality. Fortunately, internet speed has increased dramatically over the last few years.
On a Gbit Ethernet network you can now download a 4K movie in less than ten minutes. In fact, on my home network which average about 220 Mbps, it would take about 25 minutes to download HD movie and about 43 minutes to download a 4K HDR movie.
The ease of use provided by the Kaleidescape system combined with reliable high-quality has made the Strato the go-to video source for most manufacturer demos at major tradeshows. Its quality and reliability is also why many Custom Integrators choose to incorporate Kaleidescape into systems they design for their most demanding customers.
Another thing I have always loved about Kaleidescape system is their onscreen user interface. Cover-art mode is presented in 4K/UHD resolution and looks gorgeous. I love that when you hover over a specific movie/show, the tiles rearrange themselves to show relevant content.
There is also a List mode, for those who prefer in a more traditional way to search. You can browse for titles alphabetically, or search by genre, cast, or director.
On the rear of the Strato S and the Strato C look identical. There are two HDMI outputs. One is a HDMI 2.0a output which can send combined audio/video (up to 4K/60p HDR) to display and a compatible AV receiver. The second is audio-only HDMI 1.4 output to connect to an older Receiver that does not support HDMI 2.0b.
In addition, there are optical and coaxial digital audio outputs to mate with older audio components. Both the Strato S and Strato C have an Ethernet port, however the Strato S has built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi while the Strato C does not.
There is a USB 3.0 port, but it can’t be used to connect an external USB drive, it is “reserved” for troubleshooting and diagnostics at the factory.
There is a menu system that can be accessed from a Strato Player onscreen display. The on-screen menu also offers options to change time zones, adjust screensaver and standby mode preferences, Wi-Fi settings and more.
To access the detailed video and audio preferences through the Strato player’s browser interface use a separate laptop or mobile device connected to the same network. While you do not need to access this menu during daily operation it is loaded with a lot of useful information like HDMI display capability as well as a detailed rundown of the Strato player video signal output (resolution, color gamut, frame rate, dynamic range, chroma, etc.)
© 2019 Projector Reviews (V0625)