If I were in the market for a new Kaleidescape system, I would eagerly snap up an M500 player: It handles Blu-ray discs, offers superior DVD upconversion over the company’s older players, and features a gorgeous, overhauled high-def GUI. That said, Kaleidescape’s Blu-ray launch creates a pricey “should I or shouldn’t I” upgrade dilemma for existing owners.
Here’s my take on the situation. The Blu-ray disc-in-tray requirement might appease the Hollywood studios, but it is a real bummer and a step back from the traditional Kaleidescape experience. Until the company's Disc Loader arrives, users importing Blu-ray titles basically trade 37 GB of storage capacity for a 7-second faster start time, seeing their discs sorted in Kaleidescape's GUI, and the ability to stream BD content to multiple players around the home. (Plus, streaming is the only way for the driveless M300 to play back content.) The player’s internal audio decoding limitations, meanwhile, are mainly an issue for owners of high-end gear that can’t decode these formats, including models from Meridian, Mark Levinson, Lexicon, Halcro, and Sunfire, to name a few. (Ironically, theseare the very people who are likely to own Kaleidescape systems.)
Viewed in isolation, the M500 player ultimately seems like a rather unremarkable and very expensive Blu-ray Disc player with several limitations. But you need to remember that this not a regular Blu-ray player, but a component part of a Kaleidescape system — something that, this many years later, continues to impress and amaze me. Considered in this context, Kaleidescape has delivered an impressive product that proves once again it’s at the forefront of the entertainment server market.
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