This a good comparo. Like everyone else, I like my Conti Extreme Contacts a lot. I am running them out fast, I have had them on the car since 2008 and for the 2011-2012 winter I do need new tires. I am concerned they are not quite as good as the previous ones. They changed the pattern for the DWS spec - traction seems that it stayed high. I too run them 3-5 psi higher.
Something you folks ought to consider: weight per tire
Bstones - 25 lbs
Conti DWS - 21 lbs
Michelin - 24 lbs ( the old spec tires were 28 lbs each, I remember clearly cause i cross-shopped)
Pirelli - 23 lbs
So that softer side wall is directly linked to the tire weight. But reducing rotational mass and unsprung mass (in car talk) will be advantageous.