What To Look For
The distinctions between the Shimano Sahara and Symetre spinning reels are small but will matter to serious anglers. Both offer many of the same features, including a cold-forged aluminum spool and aluminum and graphite bodies. The distinctions are in the number of bearings and the bail trip, as well as the general look and feel.
Don't simply buy the biggest or smallest models of these reels, assuming it will fit your needs. The weight capacities of the reels varies significantly, so you should match your reel to the fish you have in mind. Otherwise you could wind up with a reel much bigger and heavier than what you actually need.
Where To Buy
Because of the similarities between the reels, many smaller fishing equipment stores or general sporting goods stores may only carry one or two sizes of each, or even just the Symetre or the Sahara but not both. Your best bet is to compare the models online, do a hands-on test at a sporting goods store and then return online to make your purchase.
In 2009, both of these models were priced around $100, and this price point should be expected to remain roughly equivalent for the near future. A rod and reel combo can cost as much as $200. These models are entry level, particularly when compared to Shimano's ultimate reel, the Stella, which can cost as much as $600.
Much of the distinction between these two models will be based on personal preference and action, so be sure to try a Symetre and a Sahara out in person. You don't have to try every size, but at least get your hands on one of each to see if one stands out from the other.
The rod-and-reel combination is a good value and cheaper than buying the components separately. Unless you have a favorite rod you plan to use the reel with, you can save some money with the combo package.