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Samsung, LG stuff CES with flashy gadgets

Are you in Vegas or downtown Seoul? Convention halls of Consumer Electronics show can be deceiving.

LAS VEGAS--At the Consumer Electronics Show, South Korea is playing the role of Donald Trump.

Korean consumer electronics giants Samsung and LG Electronics together occupy some of the most visible, valuable and largest tracts of real estate on the floor at CES here this week.

In the main hall, their booths--stocked with burnished aluminum video cameras, cell phones and other devices housed in Lucite cases--are nearly impossible to avoid and take a few minutes to cross on foot. Executives from both companies, along with executives from Japanese giants like Sony and Sharp, are here in numbers--and for good reason.

The two rivals have evolved from being second-tier companies a few years ago to global brands in a growing business, in part because they produce components such as flat panels as well as finished products.

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Samsung and LG also produce a dizzying array of televisions, MP3 players, DVD recorders and household appliances every year.

LG, for instance, will introduce at the show 10 new plasma TVs, four of which come with built-in 160GB digital video recorders. It will also debut 20 LCD (liquid-crystal display) televisions, three of which come with integrated digital video recorders, and six rear-projection TVs that run on liquid crystal on silicon, or LCOS, chips. Two of these rear-projection TVs come with integrated DVRs.

Screen sizes range from 15 inches (on an LCD TV) to 71 inches diagonal for a rear-projection TV containing three LCOS chips. The TVs will be released over the next few months.

Although LG introduced a television with a built-in DVR in 2005, it is expanding the concept this year with more models. Only one model came out in 2005.

The company is also showing off a Blu-ray disc player coming in the second quarter. Another product it's unfurling at the show is an "up-conversion" DVD player. The player takes DVD content, which is not high-def, and improves the picture to near-HD quality, if the TV is capable of displaying an HD picture.

Samsung, meanwhile, will display an 82-inch diagonal LCD television when the floor formally opens on Thursday. The company has talked about the large TV before, but hasn't yet shown it off at a mass gathering. Plasma and projection TVs are historically larger than LCD televisions, but manufacturing advances are allowing companies to economically produce larger LCDs.

Like Toshiba, Samsung is expected to talk up its carbon nanotube TV at the show; it will come to the market later in 2006 or early next year. The nanotube TVs have the higher picture quality of traditional CRT, or cathode-ray tube, televisions but are slim like LCD TVs.

In addition, the company will unfurl its first Blu-ray recorders. Panasonic and others are also showing off these units, which will hit shelves in a few months.

Like others, Samsung will tap celebrities to pitch its products at CES. NFL quarterback legends Dan Marino, Steve Young, Boomer Esiason and Troy Aikman will all appear at the company's booth during the show.