I just finished a playthrough of 1.8 beta. This is my first honest no-mod playthrough since 1.5. Some comments.
* Trading is much better. I no longer need to hoard items. Selling things no longer get progressively worse, and you cannot cheat buying limits by bringing more than what they have.
* Without old-fashioned solar armor, there was no incentitive for me to sit and wait on stars for free fuel. I also upgraded armor as it was found instead of sticking with solar armor all game and relying solely on shields.
* Later in the game, I relied on armor much more than I used to in the past. (Note to self: I need to rethink external devices in my mods, because externals will break sooner or later if player allows hits on armor.)
* Molotok in Rigel may be overpowered. I had level 5 shield (Nephren) and armor (heavy plasteel). His Dragonfly cut through my shield and armor in about two or three hits/salvos, and there is no way to hide from them. I did not have targeting program, so in effect, he had better range than me. Also, since he is not an enemy, I had to aim my omni and tracking weapons directly at him. Eventually, I beat him by trading hits with my +75% dual turbolaser, but even then, my ship took a hard beating. Afterwards, Slicer was almost as hard... because he was very durable and rolled up the omni RK15. The Molotok is much, much stronger than all of the gladiators before the Slicer, and the Slicer is only comparable because of his armor and possibly loadout.
* Targeting program was obnoxiously rare in my game. I got my first targeting program as a reward for Korolov after Rigel. I found one more in St. K's (which eventually went to my Minotaur).
* I like the Ship Broker. It does not seem practical early in the game when ships are too expensive, if available at all (Eridani seems to have no ships for sale). By mid to late game, they are more useful. I traded my Wolfen for a Minotaur, and it was great. I also upgraded Jeena's Ronin to a Centurion, and she became a bit less fragile.
* One problem with Ship Broker: when you upgrade your ship, you lose all equipment upgrades. Since I loathe playing without targeting, I did not change ships until I got the Minotaur. If targeting was more easily accessible, I would have changed my Wolfen for another ship sooner.
* As a playership, the Minotaur may be significantly more powerful than the starter ships. That linked-fire omni weapon is a big deal, and it has as much capacity as a freighter. I do not think it is balanced with the other ships, but it is not so much stronger than them to be a major problem. It is definitely tame compared to what the player could get in Playership Drones. Minotaur is a noticeable upgrade, and powerful enough that I probably will beeline for it in most, if not every, game.
* I like the repeat drop option Teraton fabricators have. As for fabricators, I used them mostly to fabricate more M5 Nemesis missiles, although I also used it to craft a patch spider and a level 9 omni ion blaster. Speaking of NAMI Heavy Launcher, that weapon is more useful than it was before the weapon rebalance.
* With the weapon upgrades CSCs received, Antarctica can easily destroy the six Aquilas sent after it. (I wanted to kill Antarctica, but pressed the wrong key and sided with her by mistake.) The only way I could let the Aquilas kill her (so I can get my Lamplighter) was park my ship in front of Antarctica's line-of-fire, so that it could not shoot, but Aquilas can. Before 1.8, Aquilas were guaranteed to destroy the Antarctica if you did not interfere. Now, Antarctica is more than powerful enough to defend itself from all six Aquilas without your help.
* I noticed advanced Ares sentries will shoot at your ship even if hiding behind something. I hid behind two Teraton stations, and the Ares sentries destroyed them for me. Free loot!
That is it for now. I might try one more playthrough with mods, before resuming work on mods.