I would attempt to upgrade the firmware either from the GUI or via TFTP before writing it off. Note that there are three hardware generations of the Netvanta 1234. Check the full part number of your device to be sure you are uploading the correct firmware for your hardware.
Also double check the port configurations and verify the port your laptop is plugged into is set to auto negotiate. If you are getting a duplex mismatch between the lap top and the switch port that can cause you are describing.