What I notice is under the cheap limit of $500, wood of guitars dont make a whole lot of difference because the pups are really not all that good. On the other hand, I don't like strat shaped guitars because I have played one too many and don't find them really appealing any more though I like some of the Yamaha Pacifica guitars.
What I have back in India is a Greg Bennett Avion AV3 with a completely scalloped neck with a Marshall 10W, a Boss MT-2 and a Zoom G2n gifted by none other Head-fi user Wrathzombie
As of now, I just got an e-mail from the dealer telling me that the Jackson Rhoads will take 2 months to reach here from the distributor. The other guitar (2nd hand) and a hundred euros lesser is an Ibanez SA260fml, snapshot below. I like this guitar because I have played it and its neck is really close to the wizard neck. However don't have the super jumbo frets. The pickups are not good but the SAT-II pro bridge is much better than the Fender non-locking bridges. I love them more than many squiers and Mexican fender strats for the playability... I am still inclined to the Rhoads model due to the playability in the higher frets(12-16'' radius) and been inclined to trying a Floyd rose(licensed or otherwise) for quite sometime now...
Seeing your videos...now ..
I'll have to disagree about the fender non locking bridges, a Callaham strat bridge with raw vintage springs is a thing to behold. A good set up is always critical. I've hardly ever played a well set up guitar in any store here. But there's no right or wrong, whatever floats your boat :
I've played a very good AV3, you could get lucky running the racks and find the 'one'. I don't like vintage frets either, medium jumbo lets me feel the neck, any bigger and I feel I'm playing a piano.