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I'm using a Raspberry Pi 3 running Raspbian with pretty standard settings and mostly manually triggered programs, except for a bot that synchronises two chats and a repeating Google Drive process. Usually only the power supply is plugged in, when I need it, I add keyboard, mouse and screen. So in general not much CPU/GPU and a moderate network load. The manually triggered programs need much more power, but I don't care much about that, since it's rare.

It's obvious that a WLAN connection needs quite a bit of power, but I've also heard that LAN is a significant factor. I wasn't able to find exact measures for both. What connection type needs less power, LAN or WLAN? And how big is the difference?

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LAN almost certainly uses less power. This benchmark claims:

  • The built-in Ethernet requires 2mA
  • Pi 3 built-in Wi-Fi consumes around 20mA when idle

So that's a factor of 10x, when idle. You could expect significantly higher power consumption when the networking is active, although I suspect that the Wi-Fi power requirements would grow much faster than the Ethernet power requirements.

The baseline power consumption for a Pi 3 with Wi-Fi is about 250 mA, so I'd expect nearer 230 mA for Ethernet-only (although sadly that wasn't tested in this benchmark).

Of course, you'll always get the best results testing it yourself. Plug-in energy meters tend to be a little expensive, though, so it might just outweigh any gains you do get, but it is interesting to know nevertheless.

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