I've never played a guitar with a painted neck that I thought was really comfortable. Every guitar I've ever owned with a painted neck was sold quickly (Jackson Pros, a few LTD Deluxes, some 400 series LTDs, etc.) or had the finish sanded off (Agile, Carvins, ESP)... I just find that the clearcoat/paint is stickier than a good un-painted neck sealed with Linseed or Tung oil.
I assume there are people out there who prefer the feel of a painted neck, but I don't recall ever meeting one of them. And if there aren't any folks out there who prefer painted necks, why do companies do them? Is it because it's easier to completely paint neck-thrus than masking off the neck? Is the paint supposed to cover some imperfections in the neck wood? I'm at a loss.
What about you guys? Is a painted neck on a neck-thru/set-neck guitar a turn-off or no? Do you like the feel of a painted neck?
2 guitars being equal in every way, but one with a painted neck, the other unpainted, which do you choose?
I'm completely indifferent to whether necks are painted (either gloss or satin) or oiled. A cleaned and polished painted neck will be smooth and slick... i'm sure that the people who complain of necks being "sticky" never clean their guitars. Also, in my experience, modern poly finishes are definitely smoother and slicker than older nitro finishes, which do seem to have a tiny bit more "drag" to them, but still nothing that bothers me at all.
Hard finishes offer better protection for the wood, particularly if it isn't a closed-pore wood like maple. Mahogany necks or multi-wood necks with open grain likely aren't going to do as well with an oil finish over the long term. Manufacturers may want to minimize the possibility of warranty claims due to oiled necks. It is also easier and more cost-effective from a production perspective to finish everything the same and eliminate as much hand work (masking, multiple types of finish) from the process as possible.