Fender's lacquer coating on their maple boards ruined me on maple early. I always thought maple was too slippery until I played a maple RG550. Now I love it.
Yes, there is a difference. I don't think the board matters in terms of a model number.
Would an ES-355 not be an ES-355 if it had a maple board?
One might argue that an RG2550, which is all black with rosewood and has had a pretty decent run, isn't of the 550 family because it has a rosewood board?
I agree about the Fender maple being to slippery. It looks nice, all shiny, but then when I put my fingers on and try to bend a string, or catch an awkward chord my fingers slide all over the place.
Plus: my fiancee likes crazy low action too, so there's almost no push back from the strings to grab onto.
But the Ibanez maple, lovely. Just the right amount of friction and slide....
I just wish they were easier to keep clean. Mine is so dirty, even after I tried to clean it, it looks like it's a uniform gray color, but it's really just dirt ground into it.
And the tarnish from the frets has seeped into the wood too. So the wood goes from gray to green as it gets closer to the frets.
But it's my baby, and I love it.