Power BI Dashboard vs. Report: The Pros and Cons

Written by co-founder Kasper Langmann, Microsoft Office Specialist.

Power BI features both dashboards and reports. 

Because of this, a lot of people get confused between the two.

Some say that a Power BI dashboard has interactive visualizations while a report has tabular information like an Excel spreadsheet.

So what’s the difference between a Power BI dashboard and a report? What are the pros and cons of each one?

In this article, we’ll be discussing Power BI dashboards vs reports and how they differ from each other.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Let’s go! 🔎

*This tutorial is for Power BI Online (also called "Power BI Service"). If you have Power BI Desktop, then click here and go to the online version.

Power BI Dashboards

A Power BI dashboard is a page or canvas where you can pin visualizations to highlight your data from your reports.

A dashboard in Power BI

Yes, dashboards and reports are connected.

The “pinned visualizations”, which we’ll be calling “tiles”, came from Power BI reports sourced from datasets.

Here’s a graph from Microsoft Documentation that clearly shows how dashboards, reports, and datasets are related:

A diagram that illustrates the relationship between dashboards, reports, and datasets in Power BI

Telling a story is more effective with a dashboard. On the downside, you can’t interact with a visual since clicking one would bring you to the reports where it’s taken from.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Your tiles should represent a high-level view of your business’ key performance indicators.

Some of the features unique to a Power BI dashboard include:

  • Easy customization
  • Featured dashboard
  • Alerts
  • Related Insights
  • Power Q&A

Easy Tile Customization

Again, the visuals on a dashboard came from reports. So if you would like to make specific edits on the visual itself, you would have to go to reports.

But if you only need to customize the tiles — size, order, add news one, etc. — doing them on the dashboard is easy.

In fact, when it comes to resizing to tiles, all you have to do is hover over it and drag its corners:

Resizing a dashboard tile by dragging its corners

There’s no need to go to an “edit mode”, do the necessary changes, and then save. 👍

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Alerts

You can also set up Power BI to alert you about a specific report in your dashboard. You can add an alert when a number goes up or down with a maximum notification frequency of either a day or an hour.

The ‘Manage alerts’ button

Power Q&A

Power Q&A is one of Power BI’s vital components. This is a question and answer engine where you can ask questions in your natural language. Power BI would also suggest questions to get you started.

The Power Q&A view

Power BI Reports

A Power BI report is a multi-page canvas where you can view your dataset using visuals that represent findings and insights.

A report in Power BI

These visuals came from a dataset which can then be pinned into dashboards.

Some of the features unique to a Power BI report include:

  • Multi-page
  • Slicers
  • Interactivity
  • Publish to Web
  • Show Data

Multi-page

If you would like to categorize or group your visuals, it’s possible to do so in reports. You can make as many report pages as you need. There’s no need to worry about navigating on each since there’s a navigation pane where you can go through your different reports.

Slicers

You can create and use Power BI slicers in reports. Slicers are interactive, visual filters you can use to highlight the relevant data within the report page.

A slicer visual in Power BI

Unfortunately, you can’t pin slicer visuals to the dashboard.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Interactivity

When clicking a visual on a dashboard, Power BI will bring you to the report page where that visual was taken. However, when you click a visual on a report page, every visual on that page gets filtered according to that particular element you clicked.

Interaction of visuals in a report page

This creates an interaction between the elements which helps the user gain more insights about the report.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Publish to Web

Both Power BI dashboards and reports support a “Share” feature. However, you can only publish to web Power BI reports.

Show Data

One of the best features in a Power BI report is that you can see the data behind that particular visual without having to leave that report. With this, you’re able to view and see the roots of those values you see on the report.

Focus view of a report while showing the data behind it

Power BI Dashboard vs Report

As you can see above, there are a few differences between a dashboard and a report.

A dashboard is simply a 1-page canvas where you pin visuals coming from your reports.

Pros of Power BI Dashboards:

  • Great for a quick glance on KPIs
  • Ability to set up alerts
  • Automatic insights via “Related Insights”
  • Easy to customize

Cons of Power BI Dashboards:

  • Only one page
  • Visuals could come from more than one report or dataset
  • Not available on Power BI Desktop
  • No filter or slicer feature

On the other hand, a report is a multi-page canvas you can fill with visualizations from one dataset.

Pros of Power BI Reports:

  • Ability to use slicers and filters on all report pages
  • Interactivity between visuals of a report page
  • Available on both Power BI Desktop and Service
  • Ability to see underlying dataset tables and fields

Cons of Power BI Reports:

  • No alerts
  • No featured report
  • Only a single dataset per report

Wrapping things up…

Both Power BI dashboards and reports are great Power BI features. Both are canvases you can fill with visualizations.

If you’re confused about what to use, feel free to use both. Dashboards are for a quick glance and good for telling a story about your data. Reports are more suited for a more in-depth analysis.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto