Since it began to licence out Sound Blaster technology, Creative Technologies has generally slipped under the radar, waking us up from time-to-time to announce a new ZEN music player or refresh to the Sound Blaster line-up. Creative subsidiary, ZiiLabs, however, has been very busy and is now sampling its new ZMS-40 ARM-based CPU and is demonstrating this chip in its Android 4.0 JAGUAR reference tablets at this week's CES.
The CPU is a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 clocked at 1.5GHz and features 96 'StemCell' general purpose GPU cores. This is not the first chip ever produced by ZiiLABS, however the previous release, the ZMS-20, saw little commercial uptake outside of China. Unlike the ZMS-20, however, the ZMS-40 essentially doubles the number of cores both CPU and GPU, whilst maintaining a similar power consumption or alternatively can operate at twice the efficiency running at the same performance as the ZMS-20.
The 96 'StemCell' GPGPU cores are no laughing matter and, according to ZiiLABS, can churn out a gigantic 58GFLOPS of performance, which, to put into perspective is four times the general purpose processing power of the PowerVR SGX543MP2 found in Apple's iPad 2. Whilst graphical performance is reliant on many factors beyond general purpose processing and remains to be seen, the 'StemCell' GPU is perfectly suited for high-performance video encode/decode, Augmented Reality, sound processing, simulation and many number processing heavy tasks and, much like ARM's own upcoming Mali T658 GPU, will feature full support for Android compliant OpenCL 1.1 to enable standardised access to all the raw power.
We're unsure why the ZMS-20 didn't see more light outside of China, perhaps the power consumption of this chip is too high relative to the competition or perhaps it's simply down to pricing, however with the performance figures listed by ZiiLABS, the ZMS-40 looks like a serious contender for the tablet market, with a GPU so powerful that the SoC doesn't even require a dedicated video decoder, leaving the entire chip heavily programmable, ZiiLABS are even claiming it will be capable of handling the future H.265 codec. What's more is, as a Creative subsidiary, the chip features support for Xtreme Fidelity X-Fi audio effects.