I can't imagine programming an 8-zone Zone Perfect system without it. Think about 4 heating and 4 cooling settings for each zone for each of 7 days. That's 448 settings to enter manually on the main thermostat.
Yikes, you better get a stool to sit on.
We have Bryant Evolution HVAC system. There are fairly large PC boards with medium and large scale ICs in both air handler and compressor. The everything is programmed through the thermostat (daily schedule, vacation schedule, lockout temps, etc.) and it gives CFM, compressor run time, air handler run time, electric heat stages running, etc, etc.
It is connectable to internet but we did not get the $500 option. I thought maybe you had same system with the WiFi connection and I wanted to know how you liked it.