Microsoft also offers a program that, for $99, will turn users' Windows 7 PCs into Signature versions, if the owner brings the computer into one of its 16 stores, due to grow to 21 outlets in coming months. All Signature computers come with 90 days of free phone support, as well as help at the stores' "Answer Desks," which are like the Genius Bars at Apple stores.
In my speed tests, Signature beat all the stock machines on all my trials, but the margins weren't dramatic, usually from a few seconds to 25 seconds. On the H-P, the differences were especially minimal. Across all three machines, the biggest differences were the time it took to set the PC up out of the box and the time it took to shut down the PC.
One Microsoft official told me that Signature represents "Microsoft's perspective on Windows," rather than that of the hardware maker.