Everything is bigger in Texas. Take for example Samsung’s 1.6 million-square-foot manufacturing complex in Austin. The plant first opened in 1996, but Samsung just finished a $3.6 billion upgrade that added a 300mm automated S2 fab, capable of producing 40,000 wafers per month.
Rumors suggest that Samsung has been producing Apple’s A5 chip at the Austin fab, but earlier this month we learned that they are making other application processors there as well. Richard Yeh, Senior Director of System LSI Marketing, told me the S2 fab was now producing chips on their latest 32nm High-K Metal Gate (HK/MG) low-power process.
Apple’s A5 chip is produced on a 45nm process, but Samsung has several upcoming Exynos processor that will be built with the more efficient 32nm process. Those 32nm models include the already announced Exynos 4212 and 5250, and the rumored 4412.
This month at CES I met with Samsung System LSI, where they had the Exynos 4212 and 5250 on demo.
The Exynos 4212 is an enhanced version of the 4210 found inside most models of the Galaxy S II. It features two Cortex-A9 cores running at 1.5 GHz that offer a 25 percent increase in processing power and an enhanced GPU that promises 50 percent higher graphics performance over the previous generation.
Also on display was the Exynos 5250, Samsung’s first processor to use ARM’s latest Cortex-A15 core. This demo featured a development kit that was hooked up to a HDTV to show off the support for WQXGA 2560×1600 resolution. They also had a Exynos 5250 tablet running Android 4.0.x, but I was politely asked to delete the pictures I snapped.
Next to the demo area with the Exynos 4212 and 5250 was a second display closet that was covered with a large black cloth. The blogger in me wanted to peek behind the curtain, but I decided not to get myself in trouble. I asked if Samsung could share any information about the Exynos 4412, but I was told that they are not ready to talk about their quad-core plans quite yet.
I found all this very interesting because many of us have speculated which mobile processor Samsung would use in their flagship Galaxy S III smartphone. If history repeats itself we should see Samsung reveal the highly anticipated device at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but nothing is certain.
Samsung is endlessly trying to top the Apple iPhone, so I think we can rule out the dual-core 1.5 GHz Exynos 4212. I see that part as more of a minor bump of the 4210 in the Galaxy S II and doubt it will get used. Most likely we will see Samsung adopt the quad-core 4412, since Apple is also rumored to go quad-core with their upcoming A6 processor.
One not so far off possibility for the Galaxy S III could be the Exynos 5250. This part is slated for the second-half of 2012, but Samsung could leap-frog the competition with the first mobile device to feature the next-generation ARM Cortex-A15 CPU and ARM Mali-T604 GPU. This would require a delay of the Galaxy S III from its normal summer release schedule, but it’s the choice I’d make if I was in charge.
Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer to find out the mysteries of the Galaxy S III. Mobile World Congress kicks off on February 27th in Barcelona and Samsung has traditionally help their Unpacked events on the day before the big show.
Whatever processor Samsung chooses for the Galaxy S III, it’s still pretty cool to know it could be produced in my home state.