Amazon's new 1-hour delivery service put to the test

A last-minute holiday shopper puts the service through its paces.
A last-minute holiday shopper puts the service through its paces.CNBC

The holidays should be a time of joy and cheer, but for many (like me) it also brings its share of stress. Finding a last-minute gift is one of those seasonal headaches.

Recently Amazon began offering a new service in parts of Manhattan that appeared to be a godsend for city dwellers who missed a few folks on their shopping list. For an $8 fee, Prime Now offers one-hour deliveries on a select list of items ranging from paper towels to cat food to video games. 

Naturally for a guy known for his lapses in holiday gift-giving I had to check it out and see if Amazon actually delivers on its promise. I decided to order a last-minute gift and put Prime Now to the test by making a purchase on a drizzly evening during the heart of rush hour in New York City. 

The results were impressive.

The whole process took 30 minutes—from the moment I placed the order on my phone to the time I received my item (courtesy of a cheerful delivery guy who brought my video game in an unassuming paper bag). During my wait, I received notifications on my phone about the exact location of my item as it made its way across midtown Manhattan. 

For the most part, the process was smooth but it wasn't without a few hiccups. There were several minutes in which the map on my phone didn't update so I didn't exactly see my item travel in real time. Also, the recommended tip of $5 (that can be adjusted when you place the order on the Prime Now app) seemed rather steep. 

All in all, the one-hour delivery experience for a $40 item ended up costing $57 when you include the delivery fee, tax and recommended tip. However, current Amazon prime users will be able to select a free two-hour delivery option if they have time to spare.

Amazon will expand the program to other cities in 2015.