One last point I wanted to explore.
(I do recognize this analogy runs the risk of taking things off-topic, and I'm depending on people's better nature's with this) From a strictly financial perspective I think guitars are a lot like guns. This is how I see an entry level purchase.
Budget shopper: If you're on a tight budget you can get something that's reliable and reasonably accurate at a budget price, understanding that the fit finish and build quality aren't going to be all that. Because of variations and lesser quality control you really have to do your homework and evaluate the item on an individual basis to make sure you're getting a good one. If you have more time than money and aren't a collector type personality this a good strategy. I'm thinking tarus or ruger
Value shopper: A value shopper has less of a hard financial constraint, but because they're not an expert user, quality and ease of use at a fair price point is the strategy. Something that comes to mind would be a smith and Wesson revolver. If you're looking at glass case display, those revolvers are going to have a bigger price tag than most of the surrounding products. But the build quality/fit and finish is to a good spec so you know what you're getting, and if you look at the resale value, it's usually not much off the retail cost and because it's a desirable item it's easy to find a buyer if you want to sell it later.
I do think once you get past that value level you're in enthusiast territory and there's sharply diminishing returns. A PRS custom costs several times what an american standard strat costs and the differences would not be meaningful to a beginner. The cost difference between epiphone/squire level instruments and fender usa instrument is not huge, but the difference in quality is apparent even to a novice. But if you don't have the money you don't have the money and you can be patient and find yourself a good bargain without ending up with a piece of crap that you wish you hadn't tried to save a few bucks by buying.
Ok, that's all I got.