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HD-ready SoC moves up to Cortex-A8 core

Nov 11, 2009 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 2 views

ZiiLabs is sampling a Cortex-A8 system-on-chip for HD-ready mobile devices that supports Android and ZiiLab's Linux-based Plaszma OS. Like ZiiLabs' ARM9-based ZMS-05 SoC, used in its Zii Egg PMP, the ZMS-08 supports 1080p H.264 decode and 720p videoconferencing, but it adds a 1GHz Cortex-A8 core and plus OpenGL ES 2.0 graphics.

The ZMS-08 system-on-chip (SoC) is aimed at web tablets, netbooks, connected TVs, video conferencing systems, and home media hubs, says ZiiLabs, a Creative Technology subsidiary that was founded in 2004 as the fabless semiconductor firm 3DLabs. In July, ZiiLabs began shipping a portable media player (PMP) called the Zii Egg StemCell Computer (pictured below) based on its homegrown, dual ARM9-core "ZMS-05" SoC and "Plaszma" Linux distribution. The Zii Egg offers a 3.5-inch display supporting 1080p HD video, plus an HD video camera, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth.

Zii Egg StemCell Computer

Like the ZMS-05, the ZMS-08 offers ZiiLabs' StemCell Computing array, which features 64 programmable floating point processing elements that offload media processing tasks from the ARM core(s). As a result, both chips offer 1080p playback using H.264, plus 1080p, 24fps encoding, and simultaneous H.264 encode and decode at 720p for videoconferencing, says the subsidiary.

Like the ZMS-05, the ZMS-08 is supported by ZiiLabs' Linux-based Plaszma OS and related software development kit (SDK), as well as a "Zii Optimised Android" distribution. (For more on the ZMS-05, StemCell Computing, Plaszma, and the Zii Egg, see our original in-depth coverage here.)

By moving up to a 1GHz ARM Cortex-A8 core, said to make the SoC four times faster than the dual ARM9 ZMS-05, the ZMS-08 boosts video playback to Blu-ray quality and 60fps frame rates, while improving videoconferencing performance to 30fps, claims ZiiLabs. The ZMS-08 is also said to add OpenGL ES 2.0 2D/3D graphics support, with a touted 1 Gpixels/sec fill rate. Other touted new features include an integrated HDMI controller, dual USB controllers, Flash acceleration, and Xtreme Fidelity X-Fi audio.

ZMS-08 block diagram

(Click to enlarge)

Like the new Samsung Hummingbird SoC, the ZMS-08 clocks its ARM Cortex-A8 core all the way up to 1GHz. The ZMS-08 features a 256KB L2 cache, plus dual 32KB L1 cache allotments. It also offers ARM's TrustZone security technology and Neon integer and floating-point pipelines for media and signal processing. Supporting up to 1GB addressable RAM, the ZMS-08 provides 64-bit and 32-bit memory controllers that support mDDR and DDR2 memory at up to 333MHz, says ZiiLabs.

New integrated peripheral functions include dual USB 2.0 OTG controllers with PHY and ULPI interfaces. In addition, four HD video processing units are said to support camera and display input and output processing in conjunction with the integrated HDMI and analog video encoders. Other I/O includes three SDIO/MMC ports, UARTs, SPI, and GPIO.

Naturally enough for a Creative Labs subsidiary, ZiiLabs is all pumped up about the SoC's audio support. The new X-Fi technology is built around a crystalizer that is said to intelligently restore audio detail lost during file compression.

X-Fi also incorporates "CMSS-3D" technology, which adds a surround sound experience for headphones and speakers while it "up-mixes stereo to sound great on surround sound speaker systems," says ZiiLabs. Audio processing modules available to ZMS-08 developer are said to include smart volume, dialogue enhancer, acoustic echo cancellation, graphic equalizer, microphone beam former, and noise reduction modules.

Stated Ian Drew, EVP marketing, ARM, "Combining advanced ARM technology with their own media processing IP has enabled ZiiLabs to deliver the high performance and low-power consumption required to enable the next leap in the mobile internet revolution."


The ZMS-08 is sampling to "certain customers" and is scheduled for volume shipment in the first quarter of 2010, says ZiiLabs. The chip is housed in a 13x13mm, 424-pin FBGA package. More information may be found here.

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