This study presents the benefit to an operating direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) by coating a micro-porous layer (MPL) on the surface of anode gas diffusion layer (GDL). Taking the membrane electrode assembly (MEA) with and without the anodic MPL structure into account, the performances of the two types of MEA are evaluated by measuring the polarization curves together with the specific power density at a constant current density. Regarding the cell performances, the comparisons between the average power performances of the two different MEAs at low and high current density, various methanol concentrations and air flow rates are carried out by using the electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) technique. In contrast to conventional half cell EIS measurements, both the anode and cathode impedance spectra are measured in real-time during the discharge regime of the DMFC. As comparing each anode and cathode EIS between the two different MEAs, the influences of the anodic MPL on the anode and cathode reactions are systematically discussed and analyzed. Furthermore, the results are used to infer complete and reasonable interpretations of the combined effects caused by the anodic MPL on the full cell impedance, which correspond with the practical cell performance. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.