Sound — 7
Humbucker has an everpresent buzz which is annoying during rests, but otherwise sounds ok, especially when mated with a tube amp. Other pickups work fine. Low E string doesn't stay in tune, especially when using the whammy bar a lot, other strings keep their tune pretty good for a while, although it does tend to go out of tune if left for a while. The whole guitar is actually quite difficult tune from scratch, I keep having to go back and retune strings during the tuning process, which can take a while. I tend to use this guitar most with just a 60W Fender red knob tube amp, although I run it through an old DigiTech RP-1 if I need additional effects. Over all the guitar seems fairly versitile, with a good bright sound using the bridge pickup that's good for metal and heavy distorted rock, and the humbucker doing a good job for a more grungy/bluesy sound (aside from the buzz that is very annoying).
Overall Impression — 7
I've been playing since 2000, and honestly this is the best guitar I've owned. It's also only the second guitar I've ever owned, my first one being a really crappy one I bought off my buddy for $25, so I haven't had a good comparison. It's a good beginners guitar, or a guitar for that last song of the set when you want to smash it afterwards. It plays well for rock, metal, blues, etc. provided you have decent pedals and amps to back it up. I have done pretty well with it over the past 2 years. However, I think my next guitar will definatly be something more upscale then this though. Maybe a real Fender Strat.
Reliability & Durability — 6
Aside from the above gripes, this guitar should hold up fairly well to the odd Live gig. I wouldn't want to have to rely on it for touring though. This may be just the fault of the strap I have on it, but every now and then it slips off the strap button, and I've almost dropped the guitar a few times. The finish is fairly good, I have no scraches on the body which is pretty good considering that I abuse the guitar a fair bit. The pick guard, on the other hand, seems to scratch pretty easily, like they made it out of really cheap soft plastic. Again, this may be more noticible because of the mirrored guard, but you would think they would make the guard out of harder plastic then the picks! Despite it's faults, the guitar has been fairly reliable until the other day, when it quit working. Took it apart, thinking the wires were loose, however, everything looked good on the inside. Aside from the sawdust that is.
Action, Fit & Finish — 5
I was dissapointed with the build quality of this guitar. I don't care if it is a cheap model, the build quality and factory setup needs work. My pickguard had a crack in it radiating from one of the screw holes (very noticible with the mirrored pickguard). I ordered a new one from Fender and they sent me the wrong one (different colour, slightly different screw pattern). Playing high up on the fretboard sounds like crap, strings make a horible buzzing sound, especially on the lower strings. The controls became very loose. After two years, the guitar suddenly stopped playing, so I took it appart thinking a wire came loose or something. The insides were covered in sawdust! Again, I understand that it's a cheap guitar, but still! I'm pretty sure you can make a $400.00 guitar and not have any of these problems.
Features — 8
Bought it in 2005, Black with mirrored pick guard, 2 single coil pickups + bridge humbucker, 3 chromed knobs + 5-way selector. Looks great, but upon closer inspection the quality obviously isn't there (but then again, what do you expect from a $400.00 guitar).