Creative’s 100-Core Chip Looks like AMD’s Fusion, but with ARM CPUs
We received news from ZiiLABS, a subsidiary of Creative Technology Ltd that the company announced a "ground-breaking 100-core ZMS-40 StemCell Media Processor". After looking at the specs, some similarities appeared.
With yet another CES starting next week, the time has come for ZiiLABS to announce yet another media processor. This time around, the company revealed a 100-core SoC (System-on-a-Chip) ZMS-40 which combines 96 "StemCells", floating point units remotely similar to shaders used in graphics cards paired with four Cortex-A9 units operating at 1.5GHz.
If you take a look at diagram above, the concept looks similar to AMD's Zacate (E-Series) and Llano (A-Series) Fusion APUs, but ZiiLABS took few steps further with the architecture which targets Android 4.0 operating system. The base principle of the design is quite simple – pack general processing cores (be that X86 or ARM or MIPS) and pair them with an array of simple processing units such as MADD (Multiply Add) or FMAD (Fused Multiply Add), pack as many as possible and then program them to accelerate specific tasks using industry standard interfaces (in this case OpenCL).
A while back, ZiiLABS debuted ZMS-20 which packed 48 StemCell cores with two ARM Cortex-A9 cores, meaning the ZMS-40 is an evolution, doubling the processing power and optimizing the design. The main focus of ZMS-40 is to serve as a chip for tablets, even though no design wins were announced at press time. The only customer for previous-gen ZMS-08 and ZMS-20 was the parent company, Creative.
ZMS-40 supports video decoding and encoding using industry standard H.264 and the upcoming H.265 standard (known as HEVC – High Efficiency Video Coding). Furthermore, ZMS-40 can decode 3840×1080 pixels for true 3D stereo playback, while the maximum supported screen resolution is 2560×1600.
The company did not state what manufacturing process is being used or who the manufacturing partner is, but its previous chips such as ZMS-08 (65nm) and ZMS-20 were manufactured at TSMC.
The full list of specifications is as follows:
- Quad 1.5 GHz ARM Cortex-A9 MP Cores
- 96 fully-programmable StemCell Media Processing cores
- 58 GFLOPS StemCell compute power
- Wide range of accelerated video codecs including HEVC, H.264, VC1 and WebM (VP8)
- Support for ZiiLABS enhanced Android 4.0 implementation
- 2560×1600 (WQXGA) resolution support for next-generation LCDs and Displays
- High-Definition, low-latency video conferencing
- Optimized OpenGL ES 2.0 for robust 3D graphics acceleration
- Accelerated OpenCL 1.1 (desktop profile) integrated into Android NDK
- High Dynamic Range (HDR) Image Processing
- High-quality Text-to-Speech and Voice Recognition
- Integrated HDMI 1.4 with 3D stereo support
- 2GB addressable memory
- DDR2/3 at 533 MHz for low-cost
- LPDDR2 for maximum memory bandwidth and low-power
- 64-bit wide memory bus
- Quad independent video controllers supporting 24-bit displays and cameras
- 3V3 and 1V8 I/O's reduce peripheral power consumption
- Dual USB 2.0 HS OTG (Host/Peripheral) controllers with PHY for low system cost
- Three independent SDIO/MMC controllers
- Extended battery life with robust Dynamic Power Management and Instantaneous On
- Enhanced Security: 256-bit AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) and TrustZone
ZiiLABS will demonstrate ZMS-40 next week at the CES 2012 show in Las Vegas, NV. However, if you're member of the media or anybody who is not an OEM, you won't be let into the suite as the company is trying to avoid being asked non-scripted questions. With an attitude like that we would not be surprised to see ZMS-40 sticking with a single customer: their parent company.