Pros: Low cost.
Cons: They freeze, small choice in boots.
I am writing this review as an experienced snowboarder. This is my 10th season (January 2003)and i have ridden all kinds of snow with all types of bindings. I do not have a biased towards certain brands as I have worked in many shops and have ridden anything I can get my hands on, so I will write this review with simply my experience to project into it.
First off I wish to comment on the choice in boots. If you purchase step-in bindings, Switch, K2's Clicker system, etc. You have Almost no choice in boots. Vans is the only company to produce boots for the Switch binding system, and although I enjoy there durable skate shoes, there boots are of poor quality. They are heavy, making tricks harder to do when you get tired, they are poorly insulated, making your feet cold, and they are bulky, making them almost impossible to use them in conventional strap bindings. If you purchase Strap-in bindings you have a very wide range of boots to use. The greatest pair of boots I have ever ridden in were made by Salomon (http://www.salomonsports.com/).
Second is the issue with the bindings freezing. It is true that Strap-in bindings can freeze, but that is only if the ratchet system is made of metal. This problem is avoided if the ratchet is constructed of plastic, as most are now. The switch bindings are metal, causing them to freeze quite easily, and if you enjoy a lot of back country boarding through thick powder snow will build up and freeze very quickly. As I just stated there is a problem with the binding on the board freezing and filling with snow, there is also a problem with the metal part of the binding that attaches to your boot filling with snow. This part never freezes, but it ads to the snow in the binding which, due to low temps and the wind will eventually freeze.
Lastly is the control issue. This particular pair of Switch bindings does not have a high back. Because of this the boots are made stiffer, which forces the boarder to work harder, and this is why. When a binding has a high back, which is the vertical plate at the back of the binding, you can use a softer, more flexible boot. With the high back, when the snowboarder wishes to turn on there heel-side edge, the lean back, and the back of the calf pushes against the binding, in combination with the boot pulling on the straps. Without this you must pull your feet up more, wich can harm your ankles, and requires a lot more energy making the rider tire much, much faster.
When you ride strap-ins after step-ins, you feel much more control over the board and you don't tire nearly as fast. ***You use more energy in turning your board then you ever will in sitting down to strap into a binding.***
I will clear up some misconceptions about step-ins now.
1. People say they want step-ins so they dont have to waste time or keep there friends waiting by sitting. The majority of people who have boards have strap-ins, so you are almost gauranteed, when with a group of friends, that most of the riders will be strapping in. So you will be the impatient one waiting.
2. The snowboard shops rent boards with step-ins, so they must be good. -The reason shops rent step-ins is because 1 size fits all. Strap-ins have Small, Medium, and Large sizes, where Step-ins are 1 size. It is a time and cost saver. When you rent the shops higher-end boards, they ALWAYS give you strap-in bindings.
3. I dont go once or twice a year, so i dont want to spend too much on bindings. - Then RENT a good board and bindings. Youll enjoy your once-a-year trip MUCH MORE.
There are those people out there that enjoy there step-ins as a few of these reviews show, but they state the only advantage is time saving, and thats if they dont freeze. Ask yourself, would i rather save 20 seconds, or have a smoother, more comfortable 15 minute ride.