Hey everyone!! Hoping to buy a cheap but decent acoustic when I've got some nicker, so I was wondering what you guys thought of this Ibanez:

Ibanez AW40

Also, would I be able to safely get the pickguard off and replace it? I think the one that's on it looks tacky and detracts from an otherwise beautiful guitar!!

Try the cheap Washburns, those have gotten quite a lot praise and they've won a few guitar mag awards.
You've read it, you can't un-read it!
Tbh, Washburns just aren't my thing.. I really like the look of this Ibanez, and it's at the price I'm willing to pay, so I just need to know if it's any good?!
Well it's not the look that's important, it's the sound.

Don't buy a guitar online unless you can return it and have them send you another, with them covering the shipping. If some guy at the Ibanez factory has a hangover one day, you could get a lemon.

That said, it's got a solid spruce top and mahogany back and sides, that's a proven formula. There's great guitars made from those woods, and there's also terrible guitars. A large portion of the price is probably going toward that tree of life inlay though, reducing the probability that it's going to sound great.
Your going to be paying a premium on that fretboard inlay, I personally begrudge paying anything for looks that's going to detract on sound, i'd buy the ugliest POS in the world if it sounded great. However that being said this wouldn't be a terrible buy, the bare minimum with any acoustic is that it have a solid top. You'd certainly do better with a Washburn, but it would seem that no-one is going to sway you in that direction.

As for the pick guard (which isn't that bad IMO), not a great idea trying to pull it off yourself, those things are glued down tight and you'd be prone to splitting/cracking the top in the process.
You could a) hire a luthier to do it for you or B) get some black celotape (or whatever the hell they call it), cut a piece to match and just cover it, shouldn't affect the sound.
Ive played a few of these models and i recommend you dont buy it. Theres many better choices in that price range. Have a look at the best guitars under $300 thread.
I got an Ibanez PF5.......GREAT STUFF.

It cost me $180 and I am still learning and playing it. I'll probably hold onto it forever even after I get a new acoustic and a new electric. Plus the black makes me look bad ass.
I hated that guitar (AW40NT).

It was absolutely terrible in every respect. I couldn't find a good thing about it. Here's a mini-review I posted in the 'guitars for less than $300' thread.

It was absolutely horrible. I couldn't actually play that much because my hand was sticking so much to the neck. The tone was dull and lifeless, the bass was flat and uninspiring, the treble was tinny and uneven, and the inlay on the neck looks like it was done using scrap cut-offs from a schecter.
^That sounds similar to my experiences with the ibanez AW40s ive played.
Looks pretty good but I've never played that particular guitar. Ibanez usually makes good guitars though, but as with any other brand you have to shop around and play them.

That's why I would not buy guitars online, I have to play it before I decide if I want it. At least 30 minutes. As for the sticky neck someone mentioned, a couple of minutes with some 0000 steel wool will cure that, I steel wool most of my guitars to smooth the finish on the back of the neck. It made a huge difference on a couple, minor difference on others.

My advice would be forget online purchases, especially for acoustics, go to a local music store and play every one in the store. The one you want is the one that plays and sounds good and is comfortable to you. You can't play a guitar online, if you get it and find out it's a gorgeous guitar but sounds like crap, it's a major hassle even if they do cover return shipping, and you're without your guitar for at least another 2 weeks plus whatever time it takes to jump through hoops and get an RMA.

I use online resources to see what companies are offering, finishes, colors, styles and electronics and such, but I go local and play them before I even think about buying. If I buy one new, it will be at a local music store where I can take it back and deal with it on the spot if there's a problem, and I Know before I shell out a cent it's a good guitar, plays and sounds good, and I can look it over for defects, parts quality, finish blemishes, etc before making a decision. Online shopping is great, but not for guitars...
Hmmm...I wonder what this button does...