Power BI vs. Tableau:
Pros and Cons

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

If you’re on a hunt for the best Business Intelligence (BI) tools, you might’ve heard about Power BI and Tableau already.

When it comes to BI tools, these two are considered as the ‘best’ out there.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find any pages that discuss these two front-runners without biases.

That’s why in this article, we’ll introduce you to Power BI and Tableau and discuss what we like and don’t like about each of them.
Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Let’s get started! 🔍

*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

Getting started with Power BI for free

Power BI is Microsoft’s business intelligence tool that’s closely related to Excel. It’s fairly new in the market seeing that it only debuted last 2013.

One of the things you should know about Power BI is that it’s not just a single app or software. It’s basically a group or an umbrella of cloud-based apps and services.

What we like about Power BI

With the main components of Power BI — Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View, Power Map, and Power Q&A — Power BI is more than enough for your business intelligence needs.

One of the areas where Power BI shines the most compared to its peers is its integration with Office 365. By the numbers, Office 365 is the most used cloud service by user count.

Because of that, Office 365 users are intuitively drawn to Power BI for business intelligence and analysis. On top of that, Microsoft is really pushing its users to use Power BI in visualizing their data.

Retail Analysis Sample Dashboard

With Power BI, it’s super easy to create dashboards and reports. Well, that’s not to say that doing that in Tableau is hard.

However, one of Power BI’s target market is naive and inexperienced users. And for Office 365 users, navigating Power BI is almost a no-brainer.

What we like best about Power BI is its price value. You can literally use Power BI’s desktop version for free. And if you have a company email, you can also use Power BI service (online version) for free.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

What we don’t like about Power BI

Power BI also has its own disadvantages. For one, Power BI’s functionality is a bit inferior to older BI systems like Tableau.

This could be due to the fact that Power BI is fairly new. But only advanced users and those with monstrous data sets could feel the difference.

Unfortunately, Power BI falls a little bit flat when it comes to on-premise deployment. To enjoy the full power of Power BI on-premise, you need to install Power BI Report Service and the SQL Server.

But again, Power BI is more of a SaaS (Software as a Service) model. In reality, Power BI is better with Microsoft’s other apps, services, and tools.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Microsoft calls the combination of different Power BI tools and apps “Microsoft Power Platform”. It includes Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, Power Virtual Agents, and more.

Tableau Software

Tableau: Changing the way you think about data

Tableau is an analytics platform that’s been around since 2003 — 10 years earlier than Power BI. It’s also known as the ‘gold standard’ in data visualization.

Because of Tableau’s headstart over Power BI, it’s understandable that Tableau is more powerful and refined than Power BI.

What we like about Tableau

As mentioned above, Tableau is known for its data visualization prowess which shows in different areas like user-interface, data exploration, interactive visuals, deployment, and others.

Tableau’s community is also massive with lots of conferences year-round. Because of this, Tableau has a firm grip on the needs and desires of its target audience.

Tableau Community: Connect with some of the smartest people we know

Tableau got you covered end-to-end — from collaboration, analytics, content discovery, data prep & access, down to deployment.

When compared to Power BI, Tableau has a more flexible deployment. You can install the desktop version without having to install the SQL server.

Suffice to say, Tableau really packs a serious punch that using it for reporting would seem overkill.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

What we don’t like about Tableau

Unfortunately, Tableau’s features come with a heavy price, literally. What you can do with Power BI will cost you 7x more with Tableau.

In addition, using Tableau seriously means building your own data warehouse. Its implementation plus the incremental cost of Tableau licenses will require a big investment.

In addition, connecting to more third-party applications will cost you more. In terms of pricing, Tableau is costlier than Power BI by a wide margin.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto

Power BI vs Tableau

From the details above, you probably have an idea already which platform suits you best.

But if you’re still having a hard time, here are some questions to help you decide:

  • How much is your budget?
  • How much functionality do you need?

When it comes to pricing, Power BI is a lot cheaper than Tableau.

Power BI’s pricing plan has a free one and 2 paid plans. You can use the Power BI’s desktop version for free. You can also use Power BI service without its sharing feature by using a company email.

Power BI: Create data dashboards and visualizations in minutes

Power BI Pro is the first paid plan which costs $9.99 monthly per user. With this, you can share reports and dashboards with others.

The highest plan — Power BI Premium is for large businesses. It currently stands at $4,995 per month. This plan is complete with advanced administration and deployment controls as well as dedicated cloud compute and storage resources.

On the other hand, on Tableau’s pricing, the basic plan is called “Tableau Creator” which allows authorship on a report that costs $70 per user per month.

Tableau pricing for data people

There’s also a Tableau Explorer which costs $35 per user per month and Tableau Viewer which costs $12 per user per month.

Explorers can access, interact, and collaborate the same with creators can. However, their authorship is limited only to existing workbooks, visualizations, and data sources. They can’t create new workbooks from a new data source.

On the other hand, a viewer can only access and interact with reports and dashboards. They can comment on a dashboard or visualization and even set up alerts. But that’s it.

In addition, there are Tableau add-ons which are required for all plans on an account. These could easily stack up on the price you’ll have to pay so better watch out if you’re planning on using Tableau.

Now, just because Power BI is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s worse than Tableau. Power BI is more than adequate for your business needs.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto
Create a data-driven culture using Power BI

But if you’re an analyst who probably spends more than 2 hours on the tool per day, you should consider Tableau.

Tableau: Designed for the individual, scaled for the enterprise

The range of data visualizations in Tableau is unmatched as of now. If you’ve got deep and specific BI needs, Tableau just might be right for you.

Conclusion

Still confused? 🧐

Here’s the short version:

If you’re tight on budget and don’t need much functionality (a.k.a. you’re not an analyst that needs more than 2 hours per day on the tool), go with Power BI.

On the other hand, if you’re serious about investing in a business intelligence tool (and probably has the need for it), Tableau is the better choice.

Whichever you choose, the important matter is to learn how to be efficient at using the tool. If you opt with Power BI, feel free to check out our Power BI tutorial.

Kasper Langmann, Co-founder of Spreadsheeto