Hi idshred, I can answer those questions:
ok, you've owned a couple different pairs of unions, correct? Did your toe ratchets smooth out over time? I agree about the rachets not being as smooth as burton or flux right out of the box. However, i've owned three pairs of unions, and each of them got much smoother over time... my toe ratchets release as easily and as smooth as my burtons or my tt30's.
Yep, I rode the 09/10 Forces and 10/11 Contact and Contact Pros. They smoothed up a little and the magnesium cages with aluminum wheels on the Contacts were pretty good but they still tended to stick when I cranked them down on my boots. I didn't have this problem with Flux, Burton, TechNine or Raiden which all released smoothly straight out of the box.
Bear in mind, I guess this could be considered a minor complaint since the baseplates and highbacks never once failed me and that's what's really important. But as I previously stated, it's nice to have your buckles release effortless especially when you are paying north of 200 bones.
You had to replace them because you 'blew them up' or some other reason? If so, what were you doing when it happened? How many pairs are you talking about?
Landing on flat surfaces coming off faster rails or down bars that don't always have a transition on the bottom, I tend to stomp down my landing and I go through mounting discs. No brand can really hold up to repeated abuse like that, nor should the be expected to. However, the Union discs seemed to crack the fastest, far quicker than Raiden, Burton, Flux or TechNine.
TechNine I had some problems with the discs fitting but they held up ok. Raiden were average and Burton have been above average so far. Flux I can't comment on as I haven't ridden them with the frequency of those other bindings. The design and materials of Burton and TechNine seem much beefier than Union, though, and one would expect them to last longer.
Again, if Union are your thing, by all means have at them! I don't think they are bad, and in fact, I love the Contact Pro baseplates (awesome board feel and weight) and high backs. I just wish they'd do something about their straps, buckles and discs.
With that, if anyone has any more specific questions about what I didn't or did like about those bindings, please PM me. I'm afraid I've already eaten up enough of Leo's thread as is.