Thanks all, appreciate the advice.


To wrap up where I got to in case it's useful for others -


Came very close to getting the Pixel 2 mainly due to such a good camera reviews.


But kept seeing the Galaxy S9 come up with what seemed to me to be a lot more hardware for only slightly more dollars. Both slightly above my original budget however.


Also the S8 ($690) seemed a great price for what you get.


In the end went with the S9 ($870). Yes, above my budget but couldn't help myself.


I understand the samsung sw is a potential downside. Hopefully a bit of set up customisation can sort out this out. 


Other thoughts - Played with a Poco F1 (~$500) and Oppo R15 (~$680) and both seem great value options to consider.



Don't worry there's worse choices out there, ;) hope you enjoy.