I swear by either Gibson SG's or Fender USA made Stratocasters.
I have owned 1964 1973 and now 2001 Strats and the 2001 is almost as nice as the 64 I once owned. Fender is really making kick *** instruments again. The worst period was the late seventies and eighties. I find Les Pauls too heavy in weight, and not as nice to play as Fender Strats. I like SG's cause they have nice tight fretboards and play nice and are much lighter and easier to handle than Les Pauls. But you have to play the guitar to really judge, each guitar is like a women, there all different.