#1
Has anyone found a real difference in playability between the different Fender Strat models?

I have a HW1 with RW board and I'm wanting another Strat with a Maple board. I've been comparing the specs. Such as, for about $150 between the HW1 and the American Special, I get the Texas pups instead of "hot"alnico pups, and a poly finish instead of Nitro. If I go up to the American Standard, I get better tuners and a 2 point trem, if I go Deluxe, I get even better tuners and trem and better pups. And so on.

I really don't care about any of that. What I would like to know if is there is a real difference in quality in the fretwork and what model I need to go for to get good work.

I don't have any particular problem with the HW1, so I'd not like to spend more than I need to searching for something that. But, at the same time, I had a Squier Strat that I thought was just great, and I can't seem to get as good action on the HW1 as I could on the Squier. I've since given the Squier away, though, so I can't make an analytical comparison.

I think I build necks as good as this Strat and I'm a pretty novice builder. However, I've got the tools, so I've checked the fretboard and find no problems with the fretwork... Maybe I'm just expecting too much.

Anyone have any thoughts? I'm really only looking for opinions on what Strat is capable of the best buzz-free set up (that doesn't need to be 4/64th's at the 12th), if they aren't much different, and not buying into "deluxe" hype. I'm not concerned about trem or tuners or whatever. Just the things I can't buy off a store shelf.

I'm also going to switch back to 10's. I think that's half my problem.
#2
well once you "forget" about the quality of the hardware there really isn't alot left. the higher end strats will have better grades of wood used but that's not to say that you can't find a great example at a lower price point. just play a bunch until you find one that speaks to you.