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Sonali Computers

launches training

division inline with

the 2006 Department of Education Information Communications Technology (ICT) Curriculum.


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Refurbished PC's

Sonali Computers has secured a 10 year agreement with a Taiwan based company  for the importing of Refurbished Pentium Computers. Famous brands such as Dell and Compaq at a fraction of the cost.

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With so many factors to consider, deciding which desktop PC to buy can be a real challenge. From components to software to accessories, new PCs offer a bewildering array of choices, and, for some folks, sifting through the large number of options can be daunting. At Sonali Computers, we test dozens of new desktop PCs every year. What follows is the collective knowledge of our Technical team  and Supplier analysts.

The Big Picture
Before you go out shopping for a new desktop computer, you have to decide what you want to use it for. We'll guide you through the options

Today, almost any PC on the market can more than adequately handle such standard office chores as word processing and spreadsheets, as well as basic Internet functions such as e-mail and general browsing. So for R3000 or less, you can get a PC that will suit most people's needs.

If you're a more demanding user who wants to edit digital video or manage a large database, however, you may need more than the basics. You're better off looking at systems that start in the R4500 to R6000 range. For high-end needs, check out our reviews of power systems, which cost R8000 or more.

The best way to pay only for what you need is to carefully consider what you want to do with your system now and anticipate what might interest you next year. Specific applications call for certain types of hardware, whether at home or in the office.

Key Features

Processor: If you plan to use your PC for standard office productivity and basic Internet tasks, most any processor will do. But if you want more power, Intel Pentium 4 or AMD Athlon 64 systems are your best bet. For the highest performance, buy a system with a dual-core processor, which will allow for faster multitasking. To save a couple hundred dollars, buy one or two levels down from the top--you're unlikely to lose more than 5 to 10 percent per tier in performance.

The Pentium 4, the Pentium D or Extreme Edition (both dual core), and the Athlon 64, 64 FX, or 64 X2 (dual core) can support most high-end work. Dual-core systems are best for the most demanding applications, such as video editing or high-resolution game play. Our tests currently show that the top AMD-based PCs tend to do a bit better than the leading Intel-based systems on our WorldBench 5 applications test suite. You can find bargain PCs with either of these chips, even at fast speeds. To pay a lower price, you'll have to sacrifice graphics performance, hard-drive size, and possibly monitor size (among other things).

Memory: To give Windows XP and applications sufficient room to work, you should get a minimum of 512MB of RAM. If you can afford to get more, do it. RAM costs a lot less today than it did some years ago. High-end PCs should have at least 1GB--that amount lets you keep more applications open and comfortably handles memory-intensive applications like Photoshop. (But if Photoshop is your app of choice, get 2GB of RAM; you won't regret it.)

Storage: In most cases basic PCs come with hard drives of 80GB or larger. This amount of storage is fine for the majority of mainstream tasks. If you plan to work with graphics files, large databases, video, or music, however, you'll want to bump the storage capacity up to at least 120GB. You'll need it because 30 minutes of uncompressed digital video takes up nearly 6.5GB of space, while 250 4-minute MP3s at 128 kbps use more than 1GB.

Graphics and display: Responsible for generating all images on your monitor, the graphics subsystem in a PC ships either as a removable expansion board or as a chip that's soldered permanently--or integrated--onto the motherboard.

Only dedicated gamers or people who work with 3D modeling need a top-of-the line graphics card. Home users who want an inexpensive system with decent graphics should choose a card with an older-generation nVidia chip such as the GeForce 6600 or a base-level ATI chip such as the Radeon X1300; for as little as R200, they can boost performance even with recently released games. If you want to do some gaming and are keeping an eye on the future, get a card with at least an nVidia GeForce 6800 chip or a Radeon X800 chip. Try to get a board with 256MB of RAM.  In the office, integrated graphics should satisfy your needs and save you money unless you're doing high-end graphics, Web, or multimedia development. Some motherboards with integrated graphics, such as models from Intel or nVidia, allow you a graphics upgrade option via an unoccupied PCI Express slot. Ask for the slot when you buy, if you want to be able to upgrade later.

Get at least a 17-inch LCD monitor--prices are low enough that you should be able to buy one for about less than a R 1000. You can spend R800 or more for a high-quality model. For about R900, you can have a 19-inch monitor, which provides over 20 percent more screen area than a 17-inch model. Better models range from R950 to R1100.

Removable storage: Your most cost-effective removable-storage option is a CD-RW drive. However, home users may want to consider substituting the more flexible DVD-rewritable drive: You still get CD-RW functionality, and DVDs store at least 4.7GB of data, versus 650MB for most CDs. They also let you create your own video DVDs to play in your living-room DVD player. DVD write speeds are much slower than CD write speeds, though.

DVD drives cost more than CD-RW drives, but prices are falling quickly. If you want the latest, buy a drive that supports dual- or double-layer DVD writing, which allows you to put more data on a single disc.

USB thumb drives and micro-drives are also growing in popularity. These keychain-size devices, made by a number of manufacturers, can store large amounts of data, even 1GB or more. If you use Windows 2000 or XP, a thumb drive requires no additional software; Windows will detect the device as soon as you pop it in a port, and will assign it its own drive letter in Explorer. If a standard key-fob style doesn't suit you, some companies have integrated thumb drives into pens, watches, and even a Swiss army pocket knife. Whichever model you choose, make sure you pick one that transfers data at USB 2.0 speeds; the older USB 1.1 devices move files at a pokier pace.

Communications: Most PCs come with a modem for dial-up Internet access and an ethernet port for broadband access. If you want to connect to the Internet wirelessly, you'll need a wireless network adapter.

To share your broadband connection or to network your PCs, get a gateway or router. A PC and router with gigabit ethernet will give you a faster local network connection than products with 10/100 ethernet. If you go wireless, you'll also need a card or an external adapter for each PC.

Sound: In the office, the basics should suffice; integrated sound in your PC is more than adequate for most work. At home, though, you'll probably want surround sound. If your PC doesn't already support surround sound, for R100 or more you can buy an upgraded sound card with Dolby 5.1 support, plus a decent set of speakers that includes a subwoofer.

Design: A good case can make your everyday work easier and can simplify the task of upgrading or servicing components--an especially valuable perk in offices with multiple systems. A well-designed case will offer tool-less access to the interior, hard drives mounted on easy slide-out trays, and color-coded cables for internal and external parts.

At home, look for at least two USB ports in front so that you can easily hook up peripherals. If you have a digital video camcorder, get a PC with a FireWire (IEEE 1394) port.

If you plan to keep the system for a while, make sure you have some room for expansion. You'll want at least a couple of open drive bays and probably a free PCI slot as well.

Software: Most home and office PC users should find Windows XP Home a perfectly acceptable operating system. You should buy Windows XP Professional only if you want to take advantage of its management features, such as Remote Desktop, which lets users control the computer remotely over the Internet. Most vendors offer XP Home, XP Pro, and the increasingly popular Windows XP Media Center Edition.

Warranty and tech support: Because most PC problems tend to crop up in the first year, a one-year warranty should be fine. A two- or three-year warranty will add about R350 to R500 to your cost. Businesses can get options like 24-hour on-site response, but they must pay dearly for it.

Keyboard and mouse: Almost all systems include these commodity components, usually a Windows-compatible 102-key keyboard and a two-button mouse with a scroll wheel. Many vendors are switching from PS/2-connected devices to USB models that offer more features, such as additional programmable keys that can launch favorite applications or Web sites. Wireless keyboards and mice are especially useful for Media Center PCs. Optical mice, which use a small camera to detect motion, provide smoother, more precise control over mouse movement. They also eliminate the need for you to remove and clean a coated ball, as with older mice.

The Specs Explained

The vast majority of people buy a PC to browse the Web, check and send e-mail, and perform word processing or spreadsheet work. Today, even the least-expensive, lowest-of-the-low-end PC can perform any of those jobs admirably. You'll want a little extra performance if you use peripherals such as a printer or scanner. You'll want even more performance if you're a gamer, if you're interested in digital video, if you perform other processor-intensive tasks, or if you simply need to have the latest and greatest.

Most vendors let you customize and upgrade their base-model PCs with a mind-boggling selection of features. Need extra storage? Pick a larger hard drive. Ready to burn DVD movies? Choose a multiformat optical drive. Take your time and pick only what you need. And be sure to check our various Top 10 PCs charts before making your purchase. Below is a rough breakdown of some of your configuration options.


Low End 


High End

Installed memory (RAM)


512MB to 1GB

1GB and up

An important consideration. The more installed memory your PC has, the more applications you can run at once, and the better the system will perform. Upgrading memory in a desktop is a snap.

Processor (CPU)

2.4-GHz Athlon 64 4000+ or 2.8-GHz Pentium 4

2.6-GHz Athlon 64 FX-55 or 3.8-GHz Pentium 4

2.4-GHz Athlon 64 X2 or 3.2-GHz Pentium D

An important consideration. The processor determines how quickly the PC runs applications and performs many tasks, with speed measured in billions of operations (GHz) per second. AMD Athlon processors perform some tasks faster than Intel Pentium 4 CPUs running at the same clock speed.

Warranty and service plan

90-day parts and labor warranty, phone support during business hours

One-year parts and labor warranty, 24-hour phone support

Two- to three-year (or longer) parts warranty and one-year (or longer) labor warranty, 24-hour phone support and on-site service

An important consideration. A service plan provides a valuable lifeline for busy professionals or novice users who may not be able to repair difficult problems themselves.

Graphics board and graphics RAM

Integrated (onboard) graphics chip

128MB nVidia GeForce 6600-based or ATI Radeon card

Dual SLI nVidia GeForce 7800-based or ATI Radeon X850 XT card

Somewhat important. The graphics board or integrated graphics chip generates all images on the PC. Graphics boards come with variable amounts of on-board memory; only hardcore gamers need the speediest, most advanced models.


17-inch LCD

17-inch LCD

19-inch or larger LCD

Somewhat important. Many people can get by just fine with a 17-inch LCD monitor, but the prices of larger screens are dropping. Once-expensive, 17-inch LCD displays are the sweet spot, while larger LCDs are well within reach for people who like (or need) to work at the highest resolution.

Hard drive size

40GB to 80GB

80GB to 160GB

160GB and up

Somewhat important. The larger the hard drive, the more data you can store. Most business users don't need a hard drive larger than 40GB, but for mixed use, you'll need at least 80GB. People who work with big databases; spreadsheets; or digital photo, music, or video files should think larger, and consider RAID for increased security and performance.

Optical (CD or DVD) drive

DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive

Rewritable DVD combo drive

Rewritable dual-layer DVD drive and DVD-ROM drive

Somewhat important. All PCs need an optical drive to read CDs and DVDs. More-advanced drives also let you back up files onto disc (with a CD-RW or writable-DVD drive) or watch movies (with a DVD-ROM drive). Top-of-the-line drives write on double- or dual-layer discs.

Removable storage and ports

One or two USB ports on the front of the case

More than two USB and FireWire ports in the front

USB, FireWire, and audio/video ports in front

Somewhat important. Using a thumb drive is more common and convenient than carrying a floppy disk. You also want to make sure your PC has at least one or two USB ports on the front of the system, to plug in your iPod or other device, as well as more in back. High-end or Media Center machines should also have audio/video and FireWire ports within easy reach.


102-key PS/2 keyboard and USB mouse

102-key USB keyboard and USB mouse or trackball

USB multimedia-enhanced keyboard and USB optical mouse or trackball

A minor consideration. Some users prefer newer keyboards with programmable buttons, and optical mice that don't require cleaning; these items, however, aren't essential. Media Center PCs offer wireless keyboards and mice.


Telkom's ADSL service has reaffirmed its status as the best broadband service in South Africa. In recent tests on South African broadband services conducted by MyADSL and the Department of BIT, University of Johannesburg, Telkom's four ADSL offerings proved superior to the other services.

Microsoft VISTA
Microsoft has given developers access to a key piece of Windows Vista, months ahead of the operating system's release.

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