My system showed up with a bunch of movies already loaded, and since my daughters were in the room, they took the remote and proceeded to watch movies for the rest of the evening with no instructions from me. I went to my computer to try out the Kaleidescape movie store.
The online store is accessed only from a computer (or tablet browser); you can’t browse the movie store from the Cinema One itself. Currently the store only includes titles from Warner, which includes a lot of excellent movies, but it’s just one studio.
One big difference between the experience of downloading a movie and streaming it from Netflix, is that downloading takes a while. With my Verizon FiOS connection, it took about four hours to download the three hour Cloud Atlas at 24Mbps. While that may seem slow, remember it’s the full 1080p movie in DTS-HD with all the Blu-ray disc bonus features. If you plan on watching a movie in the evening, you should buy it during the day, and it will be waiting for you by the time you pour your after-dinner drinks.
If you have DVDs in your collection and you want to upgrade them to a high-definition download version, you can (provided they’re in the Kaleidescape store) for $6.99 a title. Also, every movie you buy through the Kaleidescape store gets added to your online UltraViolet account, which can be viewed on a tablet or computer through services like Flixter and VUDU.
I also tried adding some of my own DVDs. Each one took about 20 minutes or less to load.
A few days after I’d received it, I finally found an evening when my kids weren’t around to hog up the system. When you turn it on, the guide presents you with a wall of movie covers that you can scroll through left and right or up and down. When you pause the cursor over a movie, the whole grid reorients itself to show you similar or related movies. There’s also an old-fashioned alphabetical list view.
When you select a movie, you can read some metadata on the title, select scenes or bonus features or jump right into the movie—that’s the neat part; Kaleidescape never makes you sit through any commercials or INTERPOL warnings. The movie just starts.
Video quality for your stored movies, whether they’re downloads or movies you’ve physically loaded yourself, is stellar. You don’t have to put up with buffering or loading messages like you get with Netflix. The movie won’t pause because there’s heavy network activity on your street. It just plays perfectly. Cloud Atlas is a visually dynamic movie, and it was pristine on my 120-inch screen lit up with an Epson 5020 projector. I’d previously watched that movie in its Amazon streamed format, and there’s just no comparison, especially when you’re viewing it on a large screen.
I’m sure at this point there are people thinking that they could build a high-definition movie server for a lot less money. And they’re right. I could build a meth lab too, but that doesn’t mean the law would smile on me. Like it or not, there are rules of usage governing our digital media, and to date, Kaleidescape offers the only system in which you can legally copy and store DVDs and Blu-rays. Of course it can also play Blu-rays and DVDs directly from it’s own disc drive, so you won’t need a separate player in your system unless you want 3D—the Cinema One does not play 3D movies.
If you’re a serious movie collector, the Cinema One is definitely worth considering. It’s not perfect though. For one thing, the company really needs to add more studios to the movie store. I’m told that’s in the works, so I hope for some news soon (UPDATE: Kaleidescape Adds Over 2,000 Movies from Lionsgate to Online Store). I also believe the price of the Disc Vault is a little out of sync with the price of the Cinema One, considering the fact that it does almost nothing—but I suppose that AACS license is expensive.
The Cinema One an easy way for home theater enthusiasts to begin to organize and add to their movie collections, and it offers good expansion options as those collections grow.
Kaleidescape Cinema One
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Grant Clauser has been covering home electronics for more than 10 years with editorial roles in several consumer and trade magazines. He's done ISF-level damage to hundreds of reviewed products and has had training from THX, the Home Acoustics Alliance, Control4 and Sencore. His latest book is Necessary Myths
. Follow him on Twitter @geclauser.