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TVs grab spotlight at CES gadget gala

LG Electronics showed off a "wallpaper" thin television as TV makers vied for the spotlight ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show officially opening here on Thursday.

[LAS VEGAS] LG Electronics showed off a "wallpaper" thin television as TV makers vied for the spotlight ahead of the Consumer Electronics Show officially opening here on Thursday.

As in years past, the South Korean consumer electronics giant staked out the opening slot in a day rich with back-to-back press briefings by industry titans.

LG and rivals touched on hot themes at this year's show - including robots, appliances equipped with artificial intelligence, and self-driving car technology.

A surprise star of the presentation was a strikingly thin LG Signature OLED flat-screen television simply branded "W".

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The super high-definition TV measured just 2.57 mm thick in a 65-inch screen model. LG boasted that a larger screen model garnered a CES Best of Innovation Award.

"Why the 'W'?" LG Electronics USA marketing vice president David VanderWaal asked rhetorically during the presentation.

"Wallpaper. Window. Wow," he said.

The screens are designed to affix to walls with magnetic brackets, protruding less than 4 mm.

China's fast-growing television maker TCL was at the show with a mission to expand its market.

TCL unveiled 25 new Roku-enabled TV models heading for North America, boasting improved high-definition imagery and enhanced audio.

"We are here today because we are investing in the future of technology, specifically smart TVs," TCL marketing executive Ranjit Gopi said during a press briefing.

"We are, as of 2016, one of the fastest growing brands in the world." TCL partners include internet titan Google and its Android TV offering.

TCL is investing some US$7.7 billion in high-quality television screens and is aiming to make the world's slimmest curved television, according to Mr Gopi.

He introduced a new flagship "X" series television that will launch first in China and then be rolled out elsewhere.

South Korean consumer electronics giant Samsung unveiled a new 75-inch QLED TV model at its CES press gathering, along with a company-first gaming laptop.

"Despite some challenges, we've made big strides in 2016, gaining market share in TVs, home appliances, wearables and smartphones," said Samsung Electronics America chief operating officer Tim Baxter.

"We are delivering on our vision of the future - one that is powered by connected and elegantly-designed products and services that put consumers firmly at the centre."

Samsung ramped up its smart TV platform with an offering tailored for sports lovers, and added a new entertainment application. Features in the new models included being able to recognise who is speaking while being commanded by voice.

Sales of televisions globally have been slipping, a seeming result of viewers turning to smartphones, tablets, and computers for video, according to Steve Koenig, senior director of market research at the US Consumer Technology Association trade group behind CES.

Mr Koenig forecast that US$105 billion will be spent this year on televisions, down from US$108 billion last year.

However, those who do buy televisions are expected to prefer 4K high-definition models, with the number of those screens sold jumping to nearly 82 million this year compared with just shy of 53 million last year, according to Koenig.