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.