February 16, 2024

Power BI vs Tableau: Data Analytics Duel 2024

Written by
Why is TechnologyAdvice Free?

Key takeaways

  • Power BI comes at a lower price point than Tableau, but scaled features and additional users will increase that price.
  • Tableau is built for data analysts, while Power BI is better suited to a general audience that needs business intelligence to enhance their analytics.

The world of data visualization and analytics is moving fast, with new players hitting the market and established brands absorbing smaller up-and-comers every day. To stay at the forefront of the data analytics field, a tool must have that special mix of power, ease of use, brand recognition, and price. Both of these tools have this secret sauce, which is why many teams find themselves comparing Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau when looking for the perfect data analytics tool. Power BI and Tableau aren’t the only market leaders in the business intelligence space.

Looking for the latest in Business Intelligence solutions? Check out our Business Intelligence Software Buyer’s Guide.

Power BI: Best for ease of use


Pros

  • Lower cost, especially for SMBs and startups
  • Seamless integration with Microsoft products like Azure, SQL, and Excel
  • User-friendly for a general audience
  • Real-time data access and intuitive drag-and-drop
  • API access and pre-built dashboards for popular services
  • Native apps and alerts

Cons

  • Lacks some advanced analytics features compared to Tableau
  • Limited visualization capabilities in free version
  • Can become more expensive with scaled features and additional users

Microsoft Power BI combines software services, apps, and connectors to transform disparate data sources into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights. 

It integrates easily with Excel spreadsheets, cloud-based, and on-premises data warehouses, enabling users to connect to their data sources, visualize and discover significant insights, and share those insights across their organization or with anyone they choose. 

The platform comprises several components, including Power BI Desktop for report creation, the Power BI service for sharing and viewing reports and dashboards online, and Power BI Mobile apps for accessing business insights on the go. Power BI supports a flexible and efficient workflow, starting from data connection and report building in Power BI Desktop to publishing and sharing through the Power BI service.

Integration with Microsoft ecosystems like Azure and Office 365.

Affordable pricing, offering a strong free version and scalable premium options.

User-friendly interface with intuitive drag-and-drop functionalities.

Real-time data access for up-to-date insights.

Comprehensive API access and pre-built dashboards for data sources.

Advanced natural language query capabilities for easy data interrogation.

Pricing: 4.4/5

General features and interface: 4.5/5

Core features: 4.6/5

Advanced features: 3.8/5

Integration and compatibility: 4.4/5

UX: 3.8/5

Also Read: Top Tableau Alternatives For Visualizing & Analyzing Data

Tableau: Best for data visualization


Pros

  • Integration with Salesforce ecosystem
  • Variety of data source options, including Alibaba Data Lake and Google Ads
  • Granular control over visualizations
  • Massive user community and excellent customer support
  • Strong performance with large data sets
  • Supports R and Python

Cons

  • Higher learning curve
  • Higher Cost
  • No versioning or change management

Tableau is a visual analytics tool that simplifies data analysis and sharing insights through its intuitive drag-and-drop interface. 

With Tableau, you can analyze data from multiple sources like Excel and cloud services without needing advanced programming skills. You can also create interactive dashboards to display data trends and patterns. Originating from a Stanford project, Tableau has grown into a leading business intelligence platform, being acquired by Salesforce in 2019.

  • Geospatial analytics: Tableau enables the plotting of geographical data for deep location-based insights​​.
  • Hyper: A fast SQL engine in Tableau for real-time analytics and quick data processing​​.
  • Data management: An add-on in Tableau ensuring data accuracy and automated updates​​.
  • Tableau Reader: A free application for interacting with shared Tableau visualizations​​.
  • Tableau Pulse: Provides natural language search within Tableau for easy visualization creation​​.
  • Miscellaneous features: Tableau includes cross-database join, nested sorting, and drag-and-drop integration​​.

Pricing: 4.2/5

General features and interface: 4.3/5

Core features: 5/5

Advanced features: 4.5/5

Integration and compatibility: 4.7/5

UX: 3.3

How is Power BI different from Tableau?

A dashboard in power BI from Microsoft.
A dashboard in power BI from Microsoft.

Power BI uses the existing Microsoft systems like Azure, SQL, and Excel to build data visualizations that don’t break the bank. This is a great choice for those who already work within the Microsoft products like Azure, Office 365, and Excel. It’s also a fairly good low-price option for SMBs and startups that need data visualization but don’t have a lot of extra capital.

Tableau sales and marketing dasbhoard.
Tableau sales and marketing dashboard.

Tableau specializes in making beautiful visualizations, but much of its advertising is focused on corporate environments with data engineers and bigger budgets. The tool has a public (free) version, but with limited capabilities. The more you pay, the more you can access in Tableau, including benchmarked data from third parties. The software also has a non-profit tool and versions for academic settings.

How is Power BI similar to Tableau?

Power BI and Tableau share the goal of transforming data into actionable insights through advanced visualizations. Both platforms offer data analytics and have a wide range of dashboard and reporting features that cater to diverse user needs. 

They are designed to make data analysis accessible, supporting decision-making processes across various organizational levels. Each tool emphasizes user-friendly interfaces, albeit with different approaches to usability and complexity.

Also read: What is Data Visualization & Why is it Important?

Power BI vs. Tableau: Pricing

Power BI Price/user/monthTableau Price/user/month
Free version: $0Viewer: $12
Pro: $9.99Explorer: $40
$20 (per user plan) / $4,995 (per capacity plan)Creator: $70

Analysis

Power BI offers a free version with limited capabilities, making it accessible for individuals or small teams just starting with data analytics. The Pro version at $9.99/user/month is aimed at professionals needing to collaborate on and share analytics within and outside their organization. For larger enterprises, Power BI Premium offers advanced capabilities and dedicated cloud resources, with a per-user plan at $20/user/month and a capacity plan at $4,995/month, which supports broad distribution of BI content without requiring every recipient to be licensed individually​​​​.

Tableau structures its pricing based on the roles within an organization. The Viewer role, priced at $12/user/month, is designed for users who need to access and interact with dashboards and reports. The Explorer role, at $40/user/month, allows for more interaction and some editing capabilities within Tableau’s platform. The Creator role, at $70/user/month, is for those requiring full access to Tableau’s comprehensive suite of data prep and analytics tools. This tiered approach allows organizations to manage costs based on the specific needs and roles of their team members​​.

Power BI vs. Tableau: Deployment options

Power BI

Power BI comes in several forms: desktop, pro, premium, mobile, embedded, and report server. Depending on your role and needs, you might use one or all of these services to build and publish visualizations. The most basic setup is an Azure tenant (which you can keep even after your trial is over) that you connect to your Power BI through an Office365 Admin interface. Although that sounds daunting, most companies who use the software will already have the framework in place to get the server running quickly. Power BI is fairly easy to use, and you can quickly connect existing spreadsheets, data sources, and apps via built-in connections and APIs.

Tableau

In addition to the free public product, Tableau also comes in several forms: individual, team, and embedded analytics plans, which are available on-premises, via a public cloud server, or a private cloud server. Tableau lets you set up your initial instance through a free trial, which gives you full access to the parts of the tool. From the opening dashboard, you’ll see a list of all of your available connections. Connect your data sources, and then you can start building a worksheet where your visualizations will live. If you’ve built your visualizations in Tableau Desktop, you can share them with your team via Tableau Server or Tableau Online.

Also read: Looker vs. Tableau: An In-Depth Data Analysis Showdown

Power BI vs. Tableau: Integrations and key connections

Power BI

Power BI has API access and pre-built dashboards for speedy insights for some of the most-used technology out there like Salesforce, Google Analytics, email marketing, and of course Microsoft products. You can also connect to services within your organization or download files to build your visualizations. In order to connect any data to Power BI, use the “Get Data” button. You’ll need to go through a short authorization process in order to get fully connected.

Tableau

Tableau invested heavily in integrations with popular enterprise tools and widely-used connections. You can view all of the connections included with your account level right when you log into the tool. Tableau’s connection interface is a little more involved than Power BI because you’ll need to identify which data to pull into the tool when you make the connection. It might be helpful to understand what data you want to look at and why before you start making those connections.

Can Power BI connect to Tableau?

Some companies elect to use both Tableau and Power BI to improve their data visualizations. If that describes your company, you may want the option to examine Power BI models or datasets in Tableau. You can connect the two, although you may run into some issues if you have multi-factor authentication enabled or if a session remains idle for too long. Before attempting to connect the two, you’ll also need to make sure you have the latest versions of both platforms installed so that they can communicate correctly.

Power BI vs. Tableau: Dashboards and BI reporting

Power BI

Power BI has real-time data access and some pretty handy drag-and-drop features. The whole tool is built to speed up time to visualizations, and it gives even the most novice users access to powerful data analytics and discovery without a whole lot of prior knowledge and experience.

Real-time data access means that teams can react instantly to business changes fed to Power BI from the CRM, project management, sales, and financial tools. Considering live data access is where most SaaS products and especially most dashboard products are moving toward, Power BI certainly has the leg up here.

Tableau

Tableau’s features are just as powerful, but some of them are a little less intuitive, being hidden behind menus. Use the dashboards and reports to forecast revenue based on past customer behavior, and employ calculations to transform existing data based on your requirements. Tableau gives you live query capabilities and extracts, which is particularly helpful for data analysts who are used to stopping all work for the query process.

The interface uses a drag-and-drop table view to ask questions of the data. You put your data types in the x and y axes, and then Tableau instantly builds your visualization. The company line is that they “keep the focus on your questions,” but this really feels like Tableau lives somewhere in between query-based (and developer-dependent) data visualization and drag and drop. They balance it nicely, however, because, despite the UX’s somewhat cluttered appearance, Tableau is fairly easy to use, as long as you’re familiar with your data sets or are willing to spend some time studying.

Power BI vs. Tableau: Other BI and productivity features

Power BI

Power BI has native apps so you can access data from anywhere, alerts about changes. You can also use the publish to web feature that lets you add your visualizations directly to your blog or website. And don’t worry if the tool doesn’t make sense at first: there’s extensive online support with guided learning and documentation including the Power BI YouTube channel, webinars.

One of the coolest features included in Power BI is the natural language query tool. This is like Google for your data. You can literally ask questions of the data like “how much do we invest in each customer?” or “where do our highest value customers live” and the natural language query tool will find answers to the questions.

Tableau

Tableau also has extensive support tools that teach you everything from the basics of setting up the software through initial data analysis. You can access and manipulate data via the mobile app, and whole teams can collaborate around shared dashboards. Tableau doesn’t have a natural language query, but when the company was acquired by Salesforce, the tool integrated the Einstein AI for data discovery.

Power BI vs. Tableau: Latest upgrades

Power BI

The January 2024 updates for Power BI have introduced a range of new features aimed at enhancing the user experience and visualization capabilities:

  • Advanced ribbon settings: Users can now fine-tune the visual appearance of their charts with more control over series highlighting, color selection, transparency, border color, width, and spacing.
  • Extended customization for data labels: New options have been added for data labels, allowing for a higher degree of customization. You can display legend fields on data labels, add secondary metrics, and choose between single-line or multi-line data labels.

Tableau 

Tableau’s 2023 updates have focused on expanding its data visualization and integration capabilities, enhancing user flexibility, and improving data management:

  • Tableau Cloud add-on for Google Workspace: Users can now preview Tableau Cloud visualizations within Google Docs, thanks to the integration with Google Smartchips. This feature automatically converts links to Tableau Cloud visualizations into thumbnails.
  • Embedding playground: An interactive environment where users can develop custom code for embedding Tableau visualizations into applications.
  • On-demand access: A feature for Embedded Analytics Usage-Based Licensing customers to establish a connected authentication system with Tableau Cloud.
  • Line patterns in visualizations: Tableau now allows users to customize line marks in their visualizations with solid, dashed, or dotted patterns.
  • Multi-row calculations in Tableau Prep: This feature enables users to perform complex table calculations more efficiently during the data preparation stage​​.

Also read: Tableau vs. Google Data Studio

Which is better? 

Power BI emerges as the more budget-friendly option, especially attractive for those already embedded within the Microsoft ecosystem. Its integration with other Microsoft products like Excel and SharePoint enhances its appeal due to the seamless connectivity and familiarity for users within that environment. The availability of a free version and the relatively low cost of the Pro version make Power BI accessible for a wide range of users, from small businesses to large enterprises.

Tableau, although more expensive, offers superior data visualization capabilities and flexibility in handling vast amounts of data efficiently. It offers a broader range of data source integrations and an engaged community that can be a valuable resource for users. The pricing structure is designed to accommodate different types of users within an organization, from those who only need to view dashboards to those requiring full creation and analysis capabilities.

Making your choice

The choice between Power BI and Tableau may ultimately boil down to specific business needs, budget considerations, and the scale of data handling required. Power BI is a cost-effective, user-friendly option for those deeply integrated with Microsoft’s suite of products, making it a sensible choice for many small to medium-sized businesses. Tableau, on the other hand, is a powerful tool for organizations that prioritize advanced data visualization and analytics capabilities, and are willing to invest more in their BI tools.

Each platform has its strengths and is capable of meeting a wide range of business intelligence needs, from simple reporting to complex data analysis. Consideration of the total cost of ownership, including licensing and the potential need for premium support, will help inform the best choice for your organization’s specific requirements.

Featured partners: Business intelligence software

1 Wyn Enterprise

Visit website

Wyn Enterprise is a scalable embedded business intelligence platform without hidden costs. It provides BI reporting, interactive dashboards, alerts and notifications, localization, multitenancy, & white-labeling in any internal or commercial app. Built for self-service BI, Wyn offers limitless visual data exploration, creating a data-driven mindset for the everyday user. Wyn's scalable, server-based licensing model allows room for your business to grow without user fees or limits on data size.

Learn more about Wyn Enterprise

2 Zoho Analytics

Visit website

Finding it difficult to analyze your data which is present in various files, apps, and databases? Sweat no more. Create stunning data visualizations, and discover hidden insights, all within minutes. Visually analyze your data with cool looking reports and dashboards. Track your KPI metrics. Make your decisions based on hard data. Sign up free for Zoho Analytics.

Learn more about Zoho Analytics

FAQs

Power BI is often considered more user-friendly, especially for users already familiar with the Microsoft ecosystem, due to its integration with other Microsoft products and a more intuitive interface for beginners​​​​.

Yes, Tableau is optimized for handling large data sets efficiently, making it suitable for enterprise-level data analysis with its robust performance in data visualization​​​​.


Aron Vaughan Avatar

About the author


TechnologyAdvice is able to offer our services for free because some vendors may pay us for web traffic or other sales opportunities. Our mission is to help technology buyers make better purchasing decisions, so we provide you with information for all vendors — even those that don't pay us.
In this article...