Samsung to invest $4 billion in Austin fab

AMD founder Jerry Sanders is famous for saying that "only real men have fabs." If that's the case, Samsung just grew a little more chest hair. The company has announced a $4 billion investment in its semiconductor plant in Austin, Texas. The cash will be used to revamp the fabrication line with an eye toward producing 28-nm SoCs on 300-mm wafers. Although there's no word on its expected capacity, the line is expected to be cranking out parts in volume during the second half of next year.

Samsung makes an awful lot of SoCs for smartphones and tablets (iDevices included), a market that seems likely to grow substantially in the coming years. Its next-gen part, the Exynos 5, features dual ARM Cortex-A15 cores, the latest Mali-T604 GPU, plus USB 3.0, 6Gbps SATA, and support for display resolutions as high as 2560x1600. That sounds like glorious overkill for smartphones and very intriguing for tablets. The Exynos 5 also has potential for keyboard-equipped hybrids running Windows RT.

According to research firm iSuppli, Samsung's 2011 semiconductor revenues were higher than any other firm except Intel. Samsung reportedly made $28 billion from semiconductor sales last year, while Intel raked in $20 billion more. Interestingly, Intel's semiconductor revenues rose by about 20% over the previous year, while Samsung's were up only 0.6%. At least Samsung is in no danger of losing the number-two spot to its next closest competitor, Texas Instruments, which made just $13 billion from semiconductor sales in 2011.

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