Sound — 7
I play lots of genres, classical stuff, rock, metal (think Metallica, not death metal or anything), alternative stuff, blues, random riffs and licks like EVH or solos. It can sound good for each of it, actually. It's a little thin in the midrange for metal, but still sounds decent, especially considering the price. I usually play it through a Crate GTD65 (solid-state combo amp), usually clean, sometimes through the built-in overdrive channels or through a Boss DS-1. It is actually not that noisy for a non-shielded guitar, and when put on position 2 or 4, almost all of the hum is gone. With high gain it does tend to hum more. I can sometimes get some good squeals off this guitar. Also it sounds great clean, think Metallica's One intro, sounds really good for the price. Note I keep stressing the price, because obviously you can't compare this to a Fender.
Overall Impression — 8
For my music, this is a good guitar. It sounds decent both clean and distorted. I've been playing for around two and a half years, and it is a good starter guitar. If I'd lose it, I'd buy a new guitar, because this is a starter guitar, but I like it because it's decent quality for the price. It's a good guitar for the price.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I would trust this guitar at a gig without a backup. Of course, never gig without a backup, but still. The hardware seems very solid, strap buttons are rigid, and it would definitely withstand Live playing. The finish is pretty long-lasting, though I've hit it against a wall on accident once and a scratch came up showing the greyish primer.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The guitar was almost in tune and the action was fine for me when I bought it. The pickups were at a good height, and all the routing was fine. The only thing wrong with it was that the fretboard had a wood discoloring in the corner, but I actually think it looks cool, since I've never seen it before. The finish was good, and the strings on it were good stock.
Features — 8
Made in Indonesia. Don't know what year though. 21 frets, but a nice thin maple neck, with a rosewood skunk stripe along the back, all satin finish. The body has a solid top, of course, nothing special, you can choose between black, metallic blue, and metallic red if you take it with the starter pack ($250, which includes a Fender Frontman 15G amp, a cable, a bunch of picks, and some other stuff). I picked red; ). If you buy the guitar separately, it's only $150, and more choices too: Same colors, but you get to decide whether you want a rosewood fretboard (starter pack) or maple (true Vintage look! ). According to Musiciansfriend.com, you can also get British racing green with rosewood fretboard, baltic blue with a rosewood fretboard, and arctic white as colors. Alder body like most Strats, and a maple neck. The neck inlays are simply dots, with a double Dot at the twelfth fret. They're most likely plastic, can't really tell, but in a rosewood fretboard they're plain white, in maple they're black. And of course the fretboard has side inlays. The finish is a solid gloss on top of the body. The bridge is a good ol' Vintage trem with a screw-in tremolo bar with a white tip. Three springs were attached properly in the back when I got it. Plain old passive single-coils, three of them, and they're all right. They sound fine, but expect nothing special. A single master volume and two tone knobs (one for neck, one for middle pickup), and a 5-way Switch to Switch between pickups. Very classy, again, of course, and works fine. The pickups are no-namers, I believe, or maybe Squiers. Everything is mounted in a big one-ply white pickguard, of which the edges tend to become dirty quickly. Non-locking tuners complete the guitar, again just "mystery" no-name tuners, but they do tend to keep the guitar in tune pretty well. I haven't even lubed the nut or the string ferrules or anything, and I can do huge bends and it stays in tune fine. Sometimes I play something and find a string went a little flat, but I retune it within two seconds, literally. The nut is a cheap plastic thing, not exactly good, but not too bad for the price. The strap locks are pretty reliable, I have never had it fall of the strap. When I bought it with the starter pack, it came with a "Fender" gig bag, a Fender Frontman 15G practice amp, a Fender Professional Noiseless cord, a "Fender" strap, two hex wrenches (for saddle adjusting, I guess), an extra tremolo spring, about 5 Fender medium picks, the tortoiseshell ones, that's about it, I think.