Kiloview Cube R1 Review: two parts hype, one part product

June 13, 2024

The kiloview cube R1 is a fascinating product - it perfectly fills a need that isn't really met anywhere else to my knowledge. For a multi-camera IP Production environment, that is a critical missing piece of infrastructure. When this came across my radar, I got so goddamn pumped like you wouldn't believe. This was the missing piece! Spoilers: it's not really, but it might eventually get there. Or maybe not.

kiloview cube r1 home screen

Bizarrely, the Kiloview Cube R1 has next to zero user testimony online. The search results are all just hype videos and press releases. This thing has been on the market for around a year at time of writing (June 2024), and I found one or two forum posts from actual users. Maybe that's just because Google has become a useless hellscape of dangerous results (don't forget to eat your rocks), but even my favorite subreddits have little to say on the subject. So this article is my attempt to fill that void, to add just one actual user's experience for anyone else looking at buying one of these things. When I came across this device online, I reached out to my contact at Illuminated Integration and asked if they had a demo unit. They sent me a loaner for a show, and what follows a is my notes from about a week with the device. This probably isn't comprehensive, but it's a damn good start.

So what is it?

The Kiloview Cube R1 is a dedicated 9-channel (sometimes, more on that later) NDI recorder. It's a linux box with a network connection and a couple of drive slots on the front for their proprietary NVME sleds that can pull NDI (full or HX) feeds from your network and encode them. It has a few limited playback options, but more on those limitations later. There's an HDMI port that does nothing (absolutely baffling), 3.5mm line-in and line-outs, redundant dual power supplies, a 1gb RJ45 and a pair of 10gig SFP ports. If you are coming from SDI world, this would be like having 9 Hyperdecks in a half-width 2U frame. That's not the whole story, but it should give you enough of an idea to move forward.

The Competition

The main competition here is software solutions. Kiloview offers one that looks remarkably similar to the UI of the Cube R1, and there's also Livemind, OBS, Vmix, Studio Monitor, and so on down the line. The performance of these is fully dependent on the computer you install them on, so your results will vary wildly. For my case, I'm ideally looking for a hardware solution - I don't want to deal with windows updates, driver conflicts, or any of the mess and overhead that comes with running a full OS.

Another option is Newtek Remote Storage, a NAS, recorder, and playback solution all wrapped up in one box. The lowest model, the NRS-D, is $8500 for a 4-bay/24tb rig. That's a whole heap of money, but to be fair it also does significantly more than the Kiloview recorder is capable of. This might be the right tool for some, but is a bit rich for my blood.

Plenty of brands make single-channel hardware NDI decoders (Vizrt/Newtek, Birddog, etc) that can either push out a webcam signal over USB or an HDMI/SDI signal that you can capture in all the usual ways. I saw one singular reddit comment that suggested the Birddog 4K HDMI miiiiiiight record to a USB drive, but I haven't found any evidence to support that.

I'll keep updating this list if I find more, but this is what I know about at time of writing. You can hopefully see why the Kiloview Cube R1 would be an enticing buy at $2500 for 9 channels of hardware recording.

My current rig and my ideal setup

I work at an arts center, where I produce 6-8 camera shows via NDI and NDI HX2 all the time using a mix of Canon PTZ cameras and Birddog and Magewell encoders to get SDI sources into the network. To record all of those feeds I have been using a Dell Precision 5820 Windows machine with a beefy graphics card and a Vmix license. But that opens us to a whole host of problems - most of them introduced by Windows itself. I have zero complaints about Vmix, but using Windows has been the bane of my existence. I've had one too many blue screens of death to feel great about this as a reliable platform. In theory, that's where the Kiloview Cube R1 comes in - if I can offload all of the recording and transcoding to a dedicated hardware box, I can just use Vmix as a switching and streaming tool, which either takes the strain off of this machine or lets me pivot to one that is less powerful but more reliable. It opens up a lot of options.

If the Cube R1 did everything it says it should on their own website, it should be a box that I never have to think about again once it is configured and installed. I would ideally rack-mount it in the equipment closet with a network switch and a NAS, trigger it remotely from my Vmix PC (companion integration would be nice), and trust that the Cube R1 would transcode all of my files to a consistent h.264/1080p30 and push that footage to my NAS, either on the fly or upon completion.

Sadly, thanks to a whole heap of broken promises and missing features, that's just not possible today. Maybe someday they will be patched in, but I'm not in the habit of buying hardware on promises of future updates. I learned that one the hard way from buying BirdDog hardware (yes this is a callout, I'm still mad about my Quad 4K).

So let's talk about a few of them!

Storage options are missing and I am sad

One of the most egregious missing features to me is the storage options. You have none. Their product site used to say "the USB Type-C interfaces can easily extend the recorded storage space." Hell, that sounds great to me. I have a handful of T7 drives like the rest of us, and I'd love to just be able to throw one of those on if I need a few extra tb quickly. Unfortunately, the storage menu only lets me select the two internal SSD slots, and their support team says:

As for the USB-C port, it is currently only used for data transfer. This means you can use it to copy data from the R1, but not to expand storage.

Support email, June 5 2024

After my email they updated their website to remove the USB-C statements, which I really appreciate, but the claim still persists in other places. I'm choosing to leave this section in to address anybody who didn't catch the update or doesn't get their information straight from the source, but just know that Kiloview apologized and corrected the site when I pointed this out.

"the USB Type-C interfaces can easily extend the recorded storage space." LIES

The same thing goes for their purported ability to record straight to a NAS. The fewer things I have to touch, the fewer opportunities I have to mess something up. If this thing is already connected to your network, it makes total sense to me that it could fire off its recordings to a dedicated storage device. Sadly, this goes into the "coming soon" bucket. Maybe it will actually come, maybe not.

Regarding the NAS storage setup, the R1's NAS storage is still in the internal testing phase, and will need to wait for us to perfect it before it can be used via a firmware update.

Support email, June 5 2024

Basically, that leaves you with two options: downloading one file at a time through your browser via their web UI, or popping the drive out, connecting it to your computer via USB-C (not thunderbolt, sadly), and copying all your files over at about 300mb/s. That's not terrible speed, but in the face of everything else that was promised this workflow feels a little sad to me.

Another missing feature, not promised anywhere but so obvious that its exclusion almost feels spiteful: there is no way to format a drive from the Cube R1 itself. You have to format the drives on your computer and then plug them back into the Cube. It's such nonsense.

Transcoding? Nope.

On their product page, Kiloview says:

CUBE R1 also supports popular codecs such as H.265 and H.264, so you can transcode your recorded files to make the most of your space with amazing video quality.

The funny thing is that, no matter which transcode option you choose, the files all come out exactly the same. This was the one and only question I got an answer on from their support team.

We appreciate your feedback and want to inform you that the issue you're experiencing with the transcoding settings (where the files seem to have the same codec and bitrate regardless of the selected option) is a known issue. Currently, the recording transcoding feature on the R1 is not fully functional.

Support email, 5-31-2024

In addition to all that, if you choose any transcode setting other than "original", then the device is suddenly only capable of recording 4 streams - notably LESS THAN HALF of what is advertised. The device will let you select 9 feeds, turn on transcoding, and check all your settings, but the moment you press record it hits you with this message:

That's

Discovery Server drives it up the wall

The Cube R1 makes it very confusing and difficult to connect it with an NDI Discovery Server. The options are buried and obfuscated, to the point where I spent several days operating on the belief that it just wasn't possible. When I tried to connect it seemed to make the whole thing unstable. I gave up. Sad.

This isn't available under "network settings", "record settings" or anything that would make sense. Nope, this is the menue you get when you click the gear next to the word "auto". Very intuitive, and also only available in the web UI.

Playback is poorly implemented

Playback only works when the recording is active. Why? I can't figure it out. There is no ability to review videos that you have already stopped recording, at least as far as I have been able to discern. That to me feels ludicrous, but ultimately it's not a feature I would use often and I can mostly live without.

Also worth noting, because this took me several days to solve, is that playback ONLY works when the record mode is set to "Original" format, meaning no transcoding. No error message, no manual, no support team will inform you of this. I solved it through sheer accident and trial and error. Hopefully my misery is a blessing to you.

Rack Mounting? Ha!

For my last gripe, I want to submit to you an image from the R1 product page. A suggestion. A not-quite-lie:

This does not exist. There is currently no ability to rack-mount this thing. They call it a "rendering", but I for sure know that my brain dropped that word and only held onto the image of the rack-mounted pair. Again, they actually don't explicitly claim that this is possible anywhere. But they heavily imply it and hope you don't pay attention.

So look, I might actually buy one

I just spent several hundred words dunking on this device, so you might suspect I hated it. Somehow, I don't. I'm honestly considering buying one of these soon, but only because I'm not aware of anything better and ultimately it delivers on its core functionality well enough that I'm hesitantly on board. My windows machine crapped out during intermission at the show where I had the loaner, but for the first time I could just reboot it and proceed with the show, unconcerned about corrupted recordings or being unable to continue. Certainly that situation isn't ideal, but the peace of mind that comes with knowing my recordings are safe is worth a lot. Is it worth $3k? Maybe.

The Kiloview Cube R1 delivered well on its singular core promise - a single box with up to a 10g SFP connection that can record (sometimes up to) 9 feeds at once. That's about all it does, to be honest. Their website will promise you the world, but coming soon in a future firmware update.

In summary: the Kiloview Cube R1 records NDI feeds. There are no bells, no whistles, no cool features, no ability to expand or integrate this box or even to rack-mount it. But, at least in my initial tests, it recorded reliably and cleanly. If you go in with low expectations, you might be a happy customer. Just don't read the website and don't believe anything they promise you. It works, and depending on who you are that might be enough.