The new Alto drops the price of entry to the Kaleidescape ecosystem and gets all its locally stored content from the cloud.
I'm not a big fan of physical discs, but I love the image and sound quality of Blu-ray. Earlier this year, I reviewed the Kaleidescape Cinema One movie player
, which I enjoyed using a great deal. But there were two issues that prevented me from imagining myself as an owner—it cost $3995, and the cloud-based movie collection was limited.
The new Alto addresses the cost issue; its price—$2495—is in the same range as a good pre/pro or flagship AVR. Kaleidescape fixed the second issue—limited selection—through a number of recent content deals with studios; the cloud-based library is much larger than it was. Currently, there are over 8500 movies and 1600 seasons of TV shows available for purchase and download.
The Alto stores downloaded content on its hard drive, which can hold up to 100 movies in Blu-ray quality or 600 movies in DVD quality. When it's combined with as many as three additional Alto players, the result is a system that supports up to four viewing zones. A system with four players stores up to 400 downloaded movies in Blu-ray quality or 2400 titles in DVD quality.
The Alto looks identical to the Cinema One, but it is a distinctly different product. It does not rip discs to a hard drive—not even CDs or DVDs—although it does have a Blu-ray drive built in. Instead, it uses the drive to catalog and play physical discs. Unlike previous Kaleidescape products, the Alto's design is not centered around importing data from discs in an existing library. It's about offering convenience, quality, and selection to users who want a top-quality, reliable cinematic experience from the cloud and still have the option to play discs.
When you put a disc into the Alto, the system identifies it within seconds. If the title exists in the Kaleidescape online store, it offer users the ability to upgrade their DVDs and Blu-ray discs to digital versions, which it then downloads from the store. Additionally, Kaleidescape's store honors UltraViolet-licensed content. Once I linked my account, most of my Vudu HDX movie collection was available for free download from the Kaleidescape online store, in Blu-ray quality and at no extra cost.
Even if you use it to play physical discs, the Alto offers speed and ease of use that I have not seen in any other player. When you press play there are no previews or other distractions—the Alto takes you right to the movie. In fact, it never took more than 20 seconds to load and start playing the actual movie on a Blu-ray—that's much faster than any player I've owned.
I've already watched several films on the Alto, including one title with an Atmos soundtrack—Step Up: All In. Since the movies are downloads—there is no streaming functionality—there is never a risk of interruption due to bandwidth issues, or in the case of a disc, a scratch or fingerprint. Ultimately, any unintentional interruption of an immersive cinematic experience is a disaster.
The Kaleidescape online store offers movie titles on the same release schedule as the UltraViolet versions, which is often weeks earlier than the physical disc. The purchase price is about the same as services like Vudu, Amazon, and iTunes—but you get better sound and better picture quality with Kaleidescape's Blu-ray quality downloads, as I've discovered in numerous comparisons between online delivery formats. In addition, I found the pricing and selection of older titles in the Kaleidescape store very appealing—many movies sell for under 10 dollars.
I'm not going to get too deep into describing the Alto's operation just yet. I have a demo unit, and I should have a review of it completed soon. I can say that I really enjoy the Alto, and it no longer seems unimaginable that I'd buy one someday. Way to go Kaleidescape.
Like AVS Forum on Facebook
Follow AVS Forum on Twitter
+1 AVS Forum on Google+