Take $100 of your budget and buy a bus ticket to the nearest city that has a guitar store. My brother was here just last week trying acoustics at the same price range your talking about. You wouldn't believe the difference from guitar to guitar from that same model at this price range.
I really don't like a/e guitars, especially at this range. At $500 you're just starting to get into decent guitars, add the cost of transducers and a preamp and your on the back foot again.
That said, my brother went with a Martin http://www.guitarcenter.com/In-Store-Us ... 1289975512
$500 new, decent electronics (so I've heard) and... it's a martin. I don't know how the engineered woodstuff will age but It's a good sounding acoustic guitar.
So ask yourself what you need, are you recording with it to a PC or are you playing coffee shops and street corners? If your looking to play with a band you might... consider not doing that. Or getting a good sound hole pickup. For the most part, you want a solid top. Rosewood sides project well as does maple but maple tends to be brighter and have less mid range. Mahogany, Sapele (sp?) and Korina are darker and warmer sounding but don't project as well, they tend to bloom mores. I always think the rosewood guitars sound more like a brass instrument and the Mahogany sound more like a woodwind if you can imagine that. Laminated sides are not always a sign of a cheap build.
With all do respect to the prior poster and his girlfriend's sister, Fender is notoriously unable to make a remarkable flat top. Think of all the great and coveted flat top guitars out there, is one of them a fender? No. Fender is great at easily manufactured component based platforms, well made acoustics do not fit that description. In their defense, Martin and Taylor have yet to make a desirable electric, Guild and Gibson are the rare companies that do both well.
I have played some Epiphones that you really have to dig into to justify why anyone would ever pay 5 times as much for a Gibson, their Jumbo, 00 and advanced Jumbo are amazing for the price and the master built's (starting around $500) are as good as many Gibson's and Martin's I've played. Find a guitar that fits your playing style and whether you stand or sit while playing out. A decent used guitar will often sound better than a new guitar so you need to consider that (new guitars will generally get better), acoustic's need time to break in and should have their braces re-tuned after a year (nobody does that) but a guitar that's 20 years old is probably getting ready to have a major reset. So buying used isn't always cost effective when you consider a belly-up or a neck reset.