thanks for the replies! yeah, i'm definitely aware that slapping on "better" gear won't instantly transform me into a better rider, which is why i try to take some time, feel out where i am in my progression, do some research, and talk with a few others to get an idea if my current setup is fine, if it could use a tweak (maybe more forward lean, etc.) or if i would benefit from picking up different gear. usually something in that order. i also know that at least on some level, the average snowboarder won't ever need to worry about all the little esoteric differences between the infinite combination of setups out there.
i guess it just sucks when you pick a perfectly good setup a year ago, and then you read all these crazy reviews from people and you get that twitch in the back of your mind that compels you to buy stuff. but that's consumerism for you!
and mitch, i had the union contact from last year and from my personal experience they feel like they pinch a lot more than other bindings, especially in the toe straps. once i swapped them out for the burton toe caps it was gone for the most part. no idea about the 2012 models but i heard they didn't change much except the toe (Which i still hear mixed reviews about). but i like to strap in tight so it might just be me.