Note that this is based on a global unlocked-unbranded SM-N950F unit that runs on Samsung's Exynos 8895 SoC. US models running on a Snapdragon 835 may run a bit differently over time, so pay that in mind.
Performance on this Exynos unit has also held up for the most part. It largely maintained the same performance as it had after the first unboxing although constant use has also given it the occasional hiccups every now and then. Do note that some Snapdragon units have aged very poorly, with some exhibiting copious amounts of bad lag after just a few months.
The software on the Note8 is mostly similar to the S8, which is also mostly similar to the S9, barring Android Oreo and the other features like S Pen stuff and S9 features. So I'll just say that if you like Samsung's flavor of Android, you'll feel right at home here but if you still don't, then you should look elsewhere.
The S Pen hasn't changed much in overall feel although the finer tip (debuted on the ill-fated Note7) does help with precise input. While there are lots of features the S Pen can do, I mostly use it for photo touchups in Photoshop Fix and as a precision input device among others. It's a tool I use everyday and it's the main draw to a Note for me.
However, it's worth noting that using HDR+ on the Note8 significantly improves its output, putting it closer (but not exactly) to the level a Pixel 2 would produce. While indoor shots can sometimes look worse than off the main camera, and some conditions would produce a lot of chroma and luminance noise, the HDR+ performance is usually better than the stock camera 9 times out of 10, with improvements in detail, exposure, color and especially dynamic range.
Battery life has also held up. I got 5-6 hours of on-screen time over 18 hours of normal use during the first few weeks, and nearly 6 months later, that still holds true. Sometimes it's longer, while sometimes it's shorter, but it rarely dies on me before bedtime.
I also haven't got much use out of the secondary camera. It's useful at times and can be great for macro shots, but it's also very sensitive to changes in light and even with minor changes, it will often switch to the main camera, probably due to the weaker light-sensing abilities of the secondary camera. Live Focus, eh, isn't used much by me, nor any of the "fake blur" modes on other phones.
The rest of these are nitpicks, but still worth mentioning.
- It's a real fingerprint magnet, like most glass phones, and feels really slippery as well.
- While others have had success with Bixby, I have not, especially with speech recognition. When Bixby recognizes what I say, it does a good job but most often, it would get what I say wrong, to the point where I just forgot all about it.
- The fingerprint sensor location has been covered to death, but my main issue with it is that it's slower than some other phones I've used. This is supposed addressed with the S9 but it also scratches easily. I've now had a couple of lines on the scanner itself. It still works but not something I'd like to see on such an expensive phone.
- Samsung, isn't it time we started to improve on quick wired charging?
- And can we natively remap the additional key to do what the Active key used to do?
If you own a Note8, you can definitely be understood if you decide to keep it. It's still relevant and the S9 isn't that big of an upgrade. But if you're deciding which to buy, you have to think whether the S Pen is really what you need. If not, you can just get the S9+.