So I really want a strat. Not sure which one. I've heard mixed things about the QC of the Standard series, my teacher says they're not that good, but he's not exactly the guitar tech/gear junkie.

My parents say $400 budget, but I can probably stretch it to $500, plus I could ask my sister to throw in her $100 gift as an add-on to that.

So probably around $600 at absolute max.

I did play the Players Deluxe, I like it, but it's SSS. It's also noiseless, but I didn't play it through an amp (5 minute try-it-out kinda thing).

I do want a bucker though, so I was maybe thinking this: http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/Fender-Deluxe-Fat-Strat-HSS-Electric-Guitar?sku=510477

How's the bridge bucker?
Id go with a Player's Strat or a Mexi Strat with SCN noisless pickups if u want no hum, or Custom Shop '69 pickups.
well, you could buy any kind of strat and then just hot rod the pickups from guitarfetish.com. their pickups and ridiculously cheap and sound really good.
If you play a bunch of Standard MIM strats you can find a really good one, I'd go for that and then change the bridge pickup to a hotrails or a humbucker with the leftover cash.
I guess it'd be okay, but a bridge humbucker defeats the purpose of the Strat tone.
looks like a good deal... but the humbucker that comes standard isnt great... i think people usually recommend the dimarzio tone zone, or another dimarzio pickup as a replacement (think its called something among the lines of a super distortion)...by the way get it in white if you go for that model...

^ the start tone is usually best defined in the neck pick up imo, tele's are defined by their bridges, therefore it isnt blasphemous to replace the bridge pick up on a strat, or the neck pick up on a tele
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