Hello and thank you for trying to help.
I have experience (limited) with the old AVR Dragon debugging tool, I dropped out of embedded coding for a while but the bug has bitten me again... I am a hobbyist electronics kind of guy with an automation focus. I have been writing code for years at the PC/Mobile level including C/C++, Python, VB all the usual suspects. I have used the Arduino platform enough to know there are some real limitations if you need real world timing to be really accurate, among other things. Please don't flame me for that I love arduino for it's intended purpose however I am that guy that actually tries to understand the equivalent circuit diagrams on data sheets for 74xx series chips. I think you need to really get an understanding of the underlying technology to be able to use it properly.
Ok enough history. My intent is to use microcontrollers in various projects involving both home and industrial automation. I am employed at a steel fabrication shop and have the go ahead to do what I can to speed up production. I also have a burning need to automate my lawn mower, coffee pot, AC, yeah you get the picture. (<- AC mains will kill the you this is just a flippant comment.)
I have been researching ISP programmers for AVR chips and there are a couple of new products I am not familiar with. My working budget is around $200 to $300 for a programmer. At my level I cannot justify the AVR one kit at $600.00 or the other one "Real" ICE for MPLab. That leaves the STK600 and the Atmel ICE full kit. I have scanned the Starter Kit for the STK600 and the users guide for the Atmel-ICE and I can't nail down the benefit of the STK600. Both products seem to do about the same thing if you disregard the convenience of having sockets for SMD chips with the STK600. The STK600 seems to have two other pcbs required to interface with any particular chip footprint / pinout. Also I assume unbricking a chip with incorrectly set SPIEN, RSTDISBL, or DWEN register still requires high voltage programming?
TLDR; Is there any benefit in shelling out the extra bucks for a STK600 and all it's bit or should I just grab an ICE full kit and go with that?
Thank you in advance for any advise.