Why you can't buy the most popular laptop on CNET

Readers tell us the Editors' Choice winning Toshiba Portege R835-P70 is suddenly very hard to find, so we go searching for it.

Have you seen the Toshiba Portege R835-P70?

While many of our most-read laptop reviews are of household name systems such as Apple's MacBook or HP's Envy, the single most-read laptop review on CNET right now is the Toshiba Portege R835. It may not be as popular on college campuses or coffee shops, but we absolutely loved this 13-inch laptop's near-perfect mix of design, components, and most importantly, price.

Even better, retailer Best Buy has an exclusive configuration that includes an Intel Core i5 CPU, 640GB HDD, 4GB of RAM, Intel Wireless Display, and even a WiMax antenna, all for $729. That version, the Toshiba Portege R835-P70, was easy to recommend as a great budget alternative to Apple's 13-inch MacBook Pro, or any number of other more expensive 13-inch laptops.

But over the past few weeks, we've gotten a steady stream of inquiries from readers who, after reading our Editors' Choice review, were unable to find the R835 in stores. We did a quick check of Best Buy and found that the system was indeed unavailable for online purchase, and also unavailable in nine out of the 10 local Best Buy retail stores. In the greater New York area, it was only in stock at a single outlet in Queens.

We asked Toshiba why such a popular, well-reviewed product would go missing in action. A Toshiba spokesperson provided the following statement:

The award-winning Toshiba Portege R835 laptops sold better than we expected at retail. We are working closely with our retail partners to replenish their inventories for the holiday season. In the meantime, we encourage consumers interested in purchasing a Portege R835 to visit ToshibaDirect.com, where a variety of configurations are currently available for shipping.

While that doesn't help anyone looking to buy the bargain-priced retail configuration, different versions of the Portege R800 are indeed available direct from the company.

The least expensive is the Portege R835-P81, which has the same CPU and HDD, and bumps the RAM up to 6GB, but loses the WiMax. That model is $879, a temporary price cut from its normal price of $899. That's still a decent deal, but nowhere close to the $729 version CNET readers have written in asking about. Amazon has the R835-P56x configuration for $779, also without WiMax.

While we wait for retail inventories to replenish, there are plenty of other excellent laptops to consider. You can see all our latest laptop reviews here, and some of our recent favorites here.

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