February 16, 2023

Looker vs. Tableau: An In-Depth Data Analysis Showdown 2024

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Jan. 29, 2024: Provided comprehensive scoring for Looker and Tableau, verified article information including pricing, and made small stylistic updates.

Key takeaways

  • Tableau specializes in creating visualization dashboards and has pre-made templates. It’s cost is based on a per-user license and is ideal for smaller businesses.
  • Looker is a browser-based intelligence software that can also operate on mobile. Looker’s cost is on a per-month basis and while it is more expensive than Tableau, it offers more extensive features.

When comparing Looker vs. Tableau, two of the most popular business intelligence (BI) software tools on the market today, it’s crucial to have the facts laid out as clearly as possible before making a decision.

Business intelligence software executes data preparation and management, data querying, predictive analytics, and many other analytical tools that help managers make better decisions based on BI outputs. We will look at the features of each BI software tool to give readers more insight into which product will best fit their companies.

Looker


Pros

  • Powerful data modeling
  • Scalable to handle large datasets
  • Highly customizable
  • Free tier

Cons

  • Cost
  • Mixed customer support reviews
  • Limited data security due to being cloud hosted

Looker is a cloud-based Business Intelligence (BI) platform developed by Google. Designed to offer insights and analytics, its strength lies in the powerful data modeling layer. This layer emphasizes a “single source of truth” model, ensuring accurate metric readings by consolidating information from various sources onto one dashboard.

Looker’s data modeling allows users to define intricate information and create reusable models. These can be used throughout the platform, ensuring data consistency and accuracy. This approach streamlines data exploration, giving users confidence in the displayed data.

The 23.4 release introduced the Looker Studio Connector and Connected Sheets for all Looker-hosted instances. This enhancement allows users to access and analyze Looker modeled data, expanding the platform’s capabilities. Another feature, the Performant Field Picker Labs, offers refined search options for large Explore field pickers.

Pricing: 3.1/5

General features and interface: 3.8/5

Core features: 5/5

Advanced features: 4/5

Integration and compatibility: 5/5

UX: 3.8/5

Tableau


Pros

  • User-friendly interface
  • Excellent data visualization capabilities
  • Ability to blend data from multiple sources

Cons

  • Slow performance when working with large datasets
  • Additional software required for advanced data cleaning

Tableau is a data visualization and business intelligence (BI) tool designed to help users interpret and understand their data.

Through its interface, users can create visual representations like dashboards, reports, and charts from raw data. The software allows for data integration from various sources, from databases to cloud services. Over time, Tableau has been adopted by many due to its straightforward features and ability to handle complex data sets. With each release, including the 2023.1 update, Tableau introduces modifications and improvements, reflecting feedback and the changing landscape of data analysis.

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

Looker vs. Tableau: A detailed comparison

Business intelligence software has many tools to provide insightful details managers can use. However, to get the most out of one of these tools, managers need to know the company size, the types of charts and graphs needed, and the business analytical requirements.

With that data in hand, one can use this comparison as a tool to help make your final decision the right decision. 

Looker vs. Tableau: Commonalities

Looker and Tableau are both comprehensive, flexible, and scalable solutions that prioritize user accessibility and collaboration. While they each have their unique strengths and weaknesses, these core commonalities make them leading choices in the realm of business intelligence software:

Looker and Tableau both offer an array of BI tools to help businesses make informed decisions using advanced Machine Learning (ML) concepts.

Both platforms are incredibly user-friendly.

You don’t need to be a data scientist to navigate through them; they’re built for everyone from the intern in the marketing department to the CFO. This universal appeal is what makes them so indispensable.

It’s like having a universal remote for all your data sources.

Integration is another area where both stand out. Whether your data lives in the cloud, in SQL databases, or even in good old Excel sheets, Looker and Tableau make it a easy to pull that data in.

Let’s talk about scalability.

Looker and Tableau have engineered their platforms to be highly scalable so they grow alongside your business.

Tableau offers a distributed server architecture that allows you to add more server nodes as your data and user base expand. This means you can handle larger data sets and more concurrent users without sacrificing performance.

Looker leverages an in-database architecture, allowing it to push queries to the database itself. This ensures that as your data grows, you can scale your database resources to maintain high-speed analytics. Both platforms also offer cloud-based solutions, providing the elasticity to quickly scale up or down based on your needs.

Both tools are big on teamwork.

They offer nifty collaboration features that make it easy to share insights, annotate findings, and even distribute reports. It’s like a virtual huddle for your team, where everyone gets to contribute to the game plan.

Also read: Tableau Alternatives

Looker vs. Tableau: Key differences

Looker is fully deployed as a browser-based intelligence software with no desktop installation requirement. In addition, Looker offers a mobile app solution. Tableau is a desktop-based platform with a Tableau license for cloud access but with limited cloud capabilities. Looker uses its version of structured query language called LookML with pre-built Looker Blocks. Tableau uses a spatial file connector to create maps.

While those are substantial differences, when it comes to team-facing features, the two titles serve the same overall purpose.

What are the key features of Looker?

Looker business intelligence dashboard presenting data and analytics.
Looker dashboard.

Looker offers several key features that will enhance the ability to view data in real-time, build applications with embedded analytics, and provide proactive insights with instant alerting for quicker decision-making. Here are some of the key features of Looker:

SQL-based type language used for data modeling and complex data analysis.

Used to create unique applications or modify existing applications with embedded analytics.

Allows users to develop reports in ad-hoc or governed data environments, which allows for data analysis in ad-hoc and governed data environments.

Looker API is used for calling data while providing a secure RESTful API that allows users to create custom applications, workflows, and scripts that can automate tasks.

Looker is owned by Google and is built on their cloud infrastructure that is available as a service to allow users to manage their Looker instances.

Predefined and pre-built code that expedites the development of applications, workflows, and analytics.

A development platform that helps developers build Looker applications while automatically performing some of the necessary steps to save time.

Looker has a mobile solution for any Internet-connected mobile device that users can access using a QR code or biometric authentication.

Provides expected authentication and access controls that help businesses stay within compliance regulations.

Interface code that helps developers create filter controls like radio buttons, sliders, and tag lists, which can be embedded in applications or dashboards.

What are the key features of Tableau?

Tableau business intelligence dashboards shown on desktop, tablet, and mobile.

Tableau’s focus is on creating sophisticated visual representations of data. As a result, Tableau allows users to quickly analyze large amounts of data that can be converted into reports. Tableau has a heavy focus on dashboards, but here are some other key features of this BI solution:

Offers a wide variety of visual objects and text elements that can form stories or provide multiple views, layouts, and formats using the available filters.

Provides instant data sharing for quick reviews of dashboards and data visualization.

The ability to connect to live data sources or extract data from external sources allowing a user to access data from multiple sources without limitations.

A primary feature that allows users to create a wide variety of data visualizations.

Pre-installed map information on cities, and the maps can contain geology layers.

Tableau has a foolproof security system that uses authentication and a permission methodology for user access and data connections.

The ability to create views to be seen on iOS and Android devices.

Allows users to type a query about data using their natural language and the ability of this feature to respond with text or a visual representation as an answer.

Uses time series forecasting by selecting historical time-stamped data

Looker vs. Tableau: Pricing

Looker pricing:

  • Platform pricing: Looker offers three editions—Standard, Enterprise, and Embed. The Standard edition costs $5,000 per month with a pay-as-you-go model. Enterprise and Embed editions require you to call sales for an annual commitment.
  • User licensing: Looker offers three types of user licenses—Viewer ($30/user/month), Standard ($60/user/month), and Developer ($125/user/month). These fees are consistent across all editions.

Tableau pricing:

  • License tiers: Tableau offers three tiers—Creator, Explorer, and Viewer. The Creator license is $70/user/month for the cloud version and $35/user/month for on-premise. The Explorer license is $42/user/month for cloud and $20/user/month for on-premise. The Viewer license is $15/user/month for cloud and $10/user/month for on-premise.
  • Enterprise package: Tableau also offers an enterprise package with custom pricing.
  • Additional Costs: Some users have noted that Tableau may require additional tools for data extraction, adding to the total cost.

Key takeaways

  • Looker offers a more customized pricing model, allowing for tailored solutions. Tableau offers fixed pricing tiers, which may or may not suit all organizational needs.
  • Both platforms offer tiered user licensing but differ in costs and capabilities.
  • Tableau provides upfront pricing, whereas Looker requires you to engage with their sales team for most of their offerings.

Looker vs. Tableau: Feature comparison overview

As you can see, Looker and Tableau have different key features available to users. This section will look at some of the expected features of a business intelligence and data analytics software solution.

FeatureLookerTableauAdvantage
Data VisualizationLooker provides a dynamic dashboard filter feature that can filter for data visualization types and specific users or groups. Looker also has a mapping feature to aid in chart creation.Tableau specializes in visualization dashboards and infographics. Tableau provides pre-made templates and has a wizard feature that helps non-technical users.Tableau business analytics logo.
IntegrationLooker integrates with big data platforms and databases and can execute queries without extracting dataTableau has over 200 connectors that can connect to multiple sources such as RDBMS, spreadsheets, Presto, SQL Server, Cloudera, Hadoop, Amazon Athena, and SalesforceTableau business analytics logo.Looker Logo
Data ModelingLookML is a data modeling tool that is reusable and flexible. LookML has pre-built modeling called Looker Blocks used to build sophisticated query analytics  Tableau uses snowflakes and dimensional data models that help improve the performance of queriesLooker Logo
ReportingProvides basic reporting templatesUsers can build customized reports with extensive connectors to create dashboards and reportsTableau business analytics logo.
SpeedLooker is slower, and users may need several hours to share a reportAllows a user to create visualization reports in short periodsTableau business analytics logo.
Advanced AnalyticsLooker pre-built code blocks are configurable, and LookLM allows for a deeper analytical review of dataTableau does not have pre-built code blocks, but it is more configurable than LookerLooker Logo
SecurityLooker provides an admin panel to change security settings and 2-factor authenticationTableau allows a user to protect reports and dashboards, but not with the detail of LookerLooker Logo
Mobile SupportLooker’s mobile app allows you to view data using any browser with an Internet connection. Emails and chat sessions are available too. Users can log in using a QR code or biometricsAndroid and iOS devices can use Tableau’s mobile web applicationLooker Logo
PricingFor a company, $5,000/per month, but Looker offers a variety of business plans depending on sizeTableau’s creator license cost per user is $70/per month, and for a viewer, it’s $15/per monthTableau business analytics logo.

Looker vs. Tableau: Which BI software is right for your business

The best BI solution is subjective since every company’s situation differs slightly. For example, a company that uses Salesforce may lean towards Tableau since Salesforce purchased Tableau four years ago. Any company heavily invested in using Google products may lean towards Looker. Just because a company uses Google or Salesforce products should not be the basis for a decision.

Other factors to consider are the existing infrastructure, analytical data needs, and storage preferences, whether cloud or local, are only a subset of reasons why a company may choose one BI product over the other.

How to choose between Tableau and Looker

A business need for a BI software solution was identified as a requirement. Next, the company generates a list of requirements on why BI software is needed. These requirements vary from company to company, but they are the driving force behind choosing a BI solution. Finally, decision-makers are on track to make the right decision using the key features and the comparison overview along with additional research.

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

Featured partners

1 Yellowfin

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FAQs

What are the key differences between Tableau and Looker?

Tableau excels in data visualization and offers a more intuitive drag-and-drop interface, while Looker has the edge in data exploration and leverages an in-database architecture for real-time analytics.

How do Tableau and Looker handle scalability?

Tableau uses a distributed server architecture to manage increased data and user loads, whereas Looker relies on in-database processing to scale alongside your database resources.

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