Before I discuss the M500’s performance, there are two caveats worth mentioning. First, while you can import Blu-ray discs to the server, you can’t play an imported title unless that disc is in a player’s tray somewhere on the Kaleidescape system. So, if you like to rent/rip/return movies, you won’t be able to do that with Blu-ray titles. (Of course, you can drop a disc in the tray and play it without importing it.) Kaleidescape plans to address this limitation by releasing a Disc Loader sometime next year (price TBD) that will hold “at least” 100 titles. Discs loaded in this vault will remain verified, allowing for the system to stream Blu-ray content to any player.
Second, when the player decodes Dolby True HD or DTS-HD Master Audio soundtracks internally, the channel count is limited to 5.1 and resolution to 48 kHz. You can get around this limitation by sending a bitstream output to processor or receiver with built-in Dolby True HD/DTS-HD MA decoding. But if your current gear can’t decode next-gen audio formats, you won’t be able to fully experience everything that Blu-ray audio has to offer.
The M500 passed every high-def video test I threw at it, including those found on discs from Qdeo, Spears & Munsil, and Silicon Optix. (It even outperformed my PlayStation 3 on a couple of them.) Regular DVD performance was also stellar, delivering a much better result on the AVIA 200 TVL Resolution wedge pattern compared to the company’s previous Mini Player.
Speed wise, the M500 took an average of 26 seconds to recognize a Blu-ray disc and present the option of playing or importing it when it was placed into the tray. Once recognized, discs loaded into the tray and not stored on the server started playing in about 18 seconds, while stored content took 11 seconds. In both cases, titles bypassed all warnings and trailers and jumped right to the film’s start point. With some discs, especially Disney titles where you are forced to watch a seemingly endless stream of pre-movie content, this is a very welcome benefit.
With the new M-class of players, Kaleidescape has significantly improved the resolution of its GUI and cover art, which now get displayed in full 1080p glory. This lets you easily read even the smallest of print (the “For Superior Sound And Picture Quality” tagline on THX-certified discs, for example). The difference between the old and new GUI is so striking that the old version looks blurry in comparison.
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