Price paid: $ 1000
Sound — 9
The sound is fullfilling for a strat. You can get the entire range of singlecoil tones thanks to the materials used and the two texas specials, so I won't comment on this because if you know strats, then there's no need. On to the humbucker: I found it decent but not fantastic and if I actually kept this guitar (I returned it) I would have changed out that pup for a Seymour Duncan probably. I found it muddy and not terribly hot at the same time, a bit thin. This is compared to other similar pickups and keeping in mind the natural characteristic of a Strat of being thin. I'm marking one point down for the pup. If you must have that Strat sound, this will be good enough. Now a personal comment on the stat sound, not this one in particular, but basically all the ones I've played: they have a great, very characteristic tone but an equally characteristic drawback, which is lack of sustain. The same properties that give this type of guitar it's unique character also those that suck sustain directly out of this beast. After giving Fender another go (I'm a Gibson and PRS guy), I reconfirmed that this is a dealbreaker, hence I returned the thing.
Overall Impression — 7
I returned this guitar because I reconfirmed that I wasn't a Strat guy although some of my favorite players use them and I love their sound. But I like sustain and the Strat just doesn't have it, period. But judging this animal for what it is, and not what I wish it was, I'd advise against getting this at all. If you want a truly quality Strat you must go for the US$1500 deluxe level one. If you can't get that, you could probably settle for a Mexican one, although some of those are just downright bad, just as bad as Squiers. But this isn't really that much better. The only thing that sets it apart really are the pups, because the craftsmanship is similar. In fact, I've heard that they are all - Mexican and American - assembled in Mexico anyway. I love Fender amps. They are truly stellar. But their guitars, with this I reconfirmed that they are all Fame and hype and little actual delivery. Sorry guys, back to Gibsons and PRS.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Perfectly reliable in my opinion, but I only kept it a couple of days before returning to the store. However, I have had other strats in the past and they are all strong as oxes. They don't have any problems at all. Very sturdy work horse guitars. In all fairness I have to give it a 10 in this section.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
I found the craftsmanship disappointing on the neck and body. It was still competent, but this is supposed to be Fender's higher end grade and I just don't find it as good as even a discount Ibanez, for instance. With Fender you really pay a premium price and what you really only get that distinctive tone..and shoddy craftsmanship. The frets were slightly uneven and the body's finish just looked, well like I said, not any better than a cheap import guitar. Yes, this guitar is built well enough to be a pro's instrument, but I find these days most pros will probably have to go for the deluxe level Strat that costs about US$1500. Now for that money you can get a good Gibson or PRS. In my eyes, for that price Fender just can't compete. I think a 7 on this category is being kind.
Features — 10
Made in the US. Maple neck and fretbrd, 22 medium frets. Black body with a white pickguard. Two texas special SCs and an "Atomic" HB in the bridge. For more specs visit the Fender webpage. I give it a 10 on specs because it has exactly what a Strat should have.