Posted on August 4, 2020 By Phil Jones and Art Feierman
This review was unique because unlike most manufacturers, Kaleidescape gave both Art and me the ability to spend several months with their product. In fact, Art spent six months with the product at the heart of what is a home theater system connected to both his OLED and a variety of projectors.
This allows us to give you a detailed recap of the true experience of owning this product.
Thanks to the nice folks at Kaleidescape, who lent me a unit for 6 months, here is my take on living with a Kaleidescape system.
First, this product isn’t for everyone. My wife is happy watching content on her tiny 50” TV, her laptop, and even her phone. She does not care about having one. I do! You have to care about quality, or at the very least, be willing to pay for some really nice convenience.
Kaleidescape provide me with a Strato S with 12 Terabytes of storage, which could hold up to about 180 4K movies! (or far more of lower res content). You hook up the Strato S like any other device to your AV receiver (or directly into your OLED TV, Laser TV, home theater projector…)
To get content, I setup an account with Kaleidescape and configured the Strato S on my Wi-Fi network. Wi-Fi configures about as easily as most other devices these days, with the usual on-screen keyboard for putting in passwords, etc.
Once setup I was able to browse the massive Kaleidescape library and download some movies. Searching the Kaleidescape content store is easy enough of using the on-screen menu but please note, there are even more powerful search capabilities, available on their website, or their App.
That’s my big picture overview of the Strato S. Phil will fill in the technical details. Now let me tell you what it was like to have the Strato S at my disposal for almost half a year!
Kaleidescape systems download content with minimum compression, to ensure the highest picture quality. The range of quality of 4K content starts with about the same compression as 4K UHD disc but other 4K content on this system is even less compressed than 4K disc, for even higher quality.
Also “retired” audiophiles like me will appreciate that many titles are offered lossless audio. While not all titles output Master Quality audio like Dolby True HD or DTS Master Audio, it usually as good as the Bluray or DVD disc release. There are some movies offer on disc encoded in DTS:X and ATMOS audio but they are offered only in 7.1 or 9.1 on the Strato S.
Tons Of Content
I really enjoyed using the Kaleidescape. Kaleidescape provided a demo unit, pre-loaded with one of their optional content packages – in this case with about 50 movies and a few documentaries. Using their demo account, I watched many of the available movies which about 1/3 of them I already had on 4K UHD disc. The picture quality from Kaleidescape never disappointed.
They did let me download some additional content early on, but it was a loaner review unit, it was set to their demo house account. A few months ago, I switched from the provided demo movie library account to my own personal account so I could download any additional titles I wanted.
What I like best about the Kaleidescape system is the huge amount of 4K content available to download and savor! Using the search function available on the Strato S unit as well their website and mobile App I was able to find hundreds – yes hundreds of 4K and 4K HDR titles.
Kaleidescape has deals with major studios to provide 4K content, even when those studios aren’t interested in releasing that 4K content on disc. The independent Kaleidescape Owner’s online forum also lists a large selection of titles available on the system that are simply not out on 4K UHD disc.
While not Kaleidescape’ s fault, I am not happy a lot content still isn’t available in 4K in any format. I wish more studios would remaster and allow the distribution of older classic film in higher resolution.
While you could typically stream them in 4K and HDR, the compression would result in visibly inferior picture quality on a high-quality display. Furthermore you would may need to subscribed to multiple streaming services (including not just Netflix, Disney, etc. but NBC, ABC… and dozens of others) to get to all the movies you want, especially if you want them in 4K and/or HDR.
Below is a short list of “just a few” 4K movies in their library not available on 4K disc but the list is massive. I could list a couple hundred more 4K titles available for download, that you can’t buy on 4K disc.
I downloaded of my two old favorites, which at the time of this review, were not available on 4K UHD Blu-ray: The Princess Bride, and The Mask of Zorro.
In addition, I own tons of other titles on Blu-ray that I want in 4K. Here is just a tiny taste of the great movies, that are available from Kaleidescape but not on disc: Mrs Doubtfire, Big, Crazy Rich Asians, Wall Street, Night at the Museum, Avatar, Dirty Dancing, Beverly Hills Cop (1,2,3), The Running Man, The Good Liar.
Powerful Content Search Capabilities
As I mentioned before, the Kaleidescape content search feature is very powerful (cross search genre, director, Rotten Tomato score, actors, etc). Multi-level search available on the App or the site are great. On the device itself, it’s basically single search – ie. look for Sci-fi, or look for Spielberg, but you can’t look for Sci-fi, only from Spielberg, with Harrison Ford, on the device. (But, you could just look for Sci-fi, or for Spielberg, or Harrison Ford, individually).
The Kaleidescape, for those of you who love to watch fav scenes, let’s you bookmark scenes. (a Great feature from Blu-ray that seems to have vanished on most 4K disc.) That’s not really my thing, but it would be great for my photo shoots for my projector reviews.
You can order bundles of movies from Kaleidescape. Just like the review unit they sent me. There seem to be some good savings buying the bundles, but I never broke out the costs. It’s a great way to build a nice library of movies quickly.
Integrated Rotten Tomatoes Ratings
I like that the Rotten Tomatoes reviews can be integrated into the info on each movie. I really like that when I’m hunting for something new to watch, I can check ratings in addition to reading the summaries. No opening a browser or app, you can just click on the Rotten Tomato info.
No more FBI warnings
Lastly, the Kaleidescape system solves one of the most hated pains we enthusiasts must deal with which is sitting through FBI warnings and other non-essential messaging before the movie starts.
I love that “simple” feature. I figure I have probably wasted hundreds of hours of my life waiting for FBI and other forced warnings (and trailers you have to advance past) to finally be done so I can start watching a piece content.
When you hit play to watch a movie, it goes right to the beginning (which is usually the studio’s opening (think Sony Pictures, or Universal, Columbia, etc.) with no FBI warning trailers, etc.
The pure pleasure of noticing that you haven’t just lost another 15-20 seconds of your life looking at an FBI warning that says you can go to jail for 5 years. You, and I, certainly have better things to do than be indoctrinated, almost every day, that “piracy is not a victimless crime.”
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