Less materials = lower cost of manufacturing. As you said, it's a lower-end guitar, they have to cut the cost somewhere to make it at the sub-500 range
That makes sense.
When I first saw this guitar, at GC for $329, it was way better in so many ways than the similarly priced Epiphone Dot at $299. That was thirty dollars very well spent. That being said, both were really great guitars as far as playability and finish, and phenomenal for three hundred.
I think both the popular makes cut corners and on the Epi somehow in the fact that while they were all good, they weren't consistent from one guitar to the other.
As for the Ibanez hollowbodies, they had a great consistency but like mine, the corners were cut with no kerfling on the AS73. Other Artcores had less than acceptable inlay work and materials, but then again we are talking budget level instruments with a few higher end qualities.
Ibanez cuts the best corners imho since they always focus on the neck more than any other maker, save maybe Schechter, and save on places not as important. Other makers may have better pickups but a bad neck, or a great finish but a bad neck. I don't care much for the cosmetics and a lot of the construction as long as the guitar plays well. The Artcore line could use alnico pickups throughout the whole line though if they want to be the very best hollowbody under $1,000 dollars. But compared to Epi, Schechter, Eastwood, Gretsch, and Dean, the Ibanez are still my favorite affordable hollowbody on the market.