Price paid: $ 94.5
Purchased from: Thomann
Sound — 7
I've only tried it with practice amps so far, and haven't really been disappointed. The pickups are a bit noisy as you would expect from single-coils, but two of the 5-way Switch positions seem to be with one of the two pickups' phase inverted, which cancels a lot of electrical noise. I haven't changed the strings yet, so I believe it could sound brighter, but the sound still has a bright, twangy attack to it. I guess it would be nice for funk or blues, although I don't really play those styles.
Overall Impression — 6
I mostly play music between classic rock and metal. I prefer my Ibanez RG321 for this, mostly because it's a bit lighter, nicer, and has jumbo frets (the Harley Benton's frets are a bit too thin for my admittedly rather sloppy playing style). I bought this as a cheap practice guitar for when I'm away from home, and it's done that duty quite well. I expected almost nothing from it, and only bought it because it was the cheapest damn guitar on the list, and I got more than I hoped for. If this were stolen or lost, I'd probably buy a different cheapo imitation with a fixed bridge and a nicer look to it (the black Strat body with white pick guard isn't that nice in my opinion), probably a HBS580WR or similar. I just wish it had bigger frets, and that the second tone pot actually had a more noticeable effect.
Reliability & Durability — 6
I haven't tried it Live, but it seems like it could withstand live playing just fine. Maybe not for years, but at least for enough gigs to make money to afford something better. If you do play it Live though, I'd suggest changing the strap buttons, the stock ones are a bit small and the strap has been said to slip off unexpectedly. If I played Live, this would be my backup at a gig, I don't think I'd be able to rely on it for everyday bashing and thrashing. One noteable flaw: You can't use the tremolo without the entire thing going out of tune. I removed the tremolo arm and haven't used it since. Even when the bridge was static, it took several weeks for the strings to fully settle, until then I had to tune it once every 30 minutes.
Action, Fit & Finish — 5
One of the first things I did when I got this was properly set up the intonation, it was off quite a bit when I got it. The pickups and action didn't need any adjusting at all so far. The overall finish impression is slick, smooth and shiny, although the neck finish is a bit splotchy in some places, and the black body has a small white spot on the back side. A couple of screws around the pick guard have rough edges that are easily remedied with a steel file.
Features — 7
This is a pretty accurate Strat clone. It comes with three no-name single-coil pickups with a 5-way selector for switching configurations. It's a bit soft, but not mushy, you can still feel a pronounced 'click' when you switch. The body is maple, with a screwed-on rosewood neck. It's got a nice shiny black finish and a white pick guard (would have preferred white on white, but it wasn't in stock). The rest is what you would expect from a Strat clone: Strat-style tremolo, volume and two tone pots, slap some cheap tuners on it and call it done.