There’s a sizable gap between the Mercku M2 Mesh router’s fancy packaging and its substance. Despite the proper look, the M2 is a slow mesh Wi-Fi router with minimum settings and features.
The router is available in three options: As standalone router for $99, as an M2 Swarm Wi-Fi system (three identical units) for $299, and as part of an M2 Hive Wi-Fi system for $222.
No matter what option you get, the M2 is an entry-level bare-bone Wi-Fi solution for those wanting to share a modest Internet connection. There’s not much else you can expect from it.
Mercku M2 Mesh's Rating
Nice design and packaging
Can work as a standalone router or part of a mesh
Easy to set up
Very slow Wi-Fi speed
Extremely limited in networking settings and features
Useless USB port, obscure port locations
No back-haul option, non-auto-sensing WAN port
Fancy design, modest specs
It’s a decorative red box that’d make a glorious Christmas (or, perhaps, Chinese New Year) present. On the inside, you’ll find the M2 router, a power adapter (both black), and a nice low-profile red network cable. The router itself is a small cuboid box with a tilted top — you won’t be able to place anything on top of it.
On the inside, the M2 is a dual-band dual-stream (2×2) Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) router. It sports a 1GHz CPU, 128MB of DDR2 RAM and 1Gb of flash memory. These, by all means, are entry-level specs.
On the M2’s underside, you’ll find a Gigabit WAN (Internet) port and a Gigabit LAN port. There’s also a USB 2.0 port. This USB port is just a place holder; it doesn’t do anything.
And that’s a good thing because the opening at the bottom of the M2 is barely large enough for a standard USB cable to go through without pushing the unit up (the router itself is rather light).
In fact, for this reason, only thin network cables will fit the M2, most standard network cables are just too thick for it.
Easy setup, scant settings and features
Setting up the M2 is like that of a standard router with a web interface.
You need to connect the router’s WAN port to an Internet source, such as a modem. Then hook a computer to its LAN port (or its default open Wi-Fi network.) After that, point a browser from the computer to the router’s default IP address, which is 192.168.127.254.
The setup process is extremely quick short since you only need to pick a new admin password for the web interface, name your Wi-Fi network, and choose a password for it. And that’s it. That’s mostly because the M2 only has the bare minimum in terms of network and Wi-Fi settings. Here are about all what you can do using the web interface:
- Change the router’s interface password
- Change time zones
- Configure the Internet connection (DHCP, Static IP or PPPoE)
- Change the name, password, and visibility of the Wi-Fi network
- View connected clients and Internet status
- Block/unblock clients using MAC address.
- Perform an Internet speed test
- Firmware update
- Add/remove a Wi-Fi note (in case you want to use the M2 as part of a mesh.)
The amount of settings is so limited that even mobile hotspots, like the MiFi 8800L, have significantly more. Keep in mind that settings, and even features, are a matter of software so the 2 might get more in the future via firmware updates.
Mobile app requires a cell number to work
Other than the web interface, you can also use the Mercku mobile app for the setup process and ongoing management of the router. This apps, however, requires a cell phone number to register an account with Mercku — a bit too personal for my taste — before you can use it.
Considering the router has very little in terms of settings or features, the app is not worth surrendering your number. But I did that for this review, anyway. Here are a few more things you can do when using the app:
- Manage the M2’s network even when you’re out and about.
- The speed test function now has the option to test the Wi-Fi speed between the mobile device and the M2. This option is only available when the mobile device connects to the M2’s Wi-Fi network, by the way
- You can — in a rudimentary way — set up scheduled access and website filtering for connected clients.
Bare minimum mesh
It’s easy to add another M2 (or a Mercku Bee mesh node) to an existing M2 network to form a mesh.
You first, on the web interface (or the mobile app), choose to add a node. Then on the node itself, press on the reset button once till the front status light flashes red. Now go back to the M2’s interface and click on Next to finish the process. I was able to add two nodes to the main router in less than 5 minutes.
After that, place the node at a distance from the original M2 and the network will be extended to that direction automatically.
The mesh network powered by the M2 is also extremely limited in what it can do. Here’s the list of what you can find in most existing Wi-Fi systems but won’t in the M2:
- No dedicated back-haul band (the M2 is not a tri-band router).
- No wired back-haul: In my testing, the M2 doesn’t seem to support using a network cable to link the nodes together.
- When used a node, the WAN port of the M2 can’t work as a LAN port. It just stays there, taking up space.
- You can’t find out which node of the mesh — the main router or which of the satellite nodes — a client connects to at a given time.
- You can’t adjust the Wi-Fi settings, such as band-steering or roaming assistance which give users more control to which band or which node a client should connect when you move around the house.
In short, all the M2 mesh does is extend the Wi-Fi coverage and nothing else.
Slow Wi-Fi speeds
The M2 is the slowest mesh-capable Wi-Fi router I’ve tested. As a single unit, it topped at just about 240 megabits per second at a close distance of 10 feet or less. When I increased the range to 40 feet, it now registered slightly less than 100Mbps.
As a mesh system, its performance was by far the worst. In my testing, the slow speed of the M2 working as the primary router combined with the signal loss resulted in the satellite unit’s net Wi-Fi speed being between just around 30Mbps on average and around 100Mbps at best.
Decent, reliable Wi-Fi coverage
In terms of coverage, a single M2 router could handle some 1800 ft² (167 m²) of residential settings with decent Wi-Fi speed (50 Mbps or faster) at the far end. With two units, I now got some 3000 ft² (279 m²), and with all three hardware units, about 4300 ft² (400 m²).
Wi-Fi signals change a lot depending on the environment, and it’s impossible to determine the precise area of coverage. Overall, as a mesh, an M2 Swarm system doesn’t deliver more coverage than any other setups I’ve tested, but its coverage isn’t inadequate.
I used the M2 for about a week, and during this time, it appeared quite reliable without any unexpected disconnection. However, due to its slow speeds, I often experienced delays or long buffering during big tasks, such as TV or movie streaming.
Other than the insect-inspired names, like Swarm, Hive, or Bee, I don’t understand the idea behind the M2, especially its mesh aspect. A few years ago, its easy-of-use might have had some appeal.
With Wi-Fi systems being rather commonplace these days — and most of them are quite easy to use –, one would expect the M2 to have something new or different to offer.
Unfortunately, it has nothing and, for now, even falls short in delivering standard networking customization options available in all other systems/routers.
That said, though, if you have a modest Internet connection and only need a reliable Wi-Fi network to share that, the M2 will work out (and so will most other systems). If you expect anything more, you’ll likely feel stung by the M2’s lack of performance and, frankly, everything else.