Microsoft Power BI Vs Tableau: A Comprehensive Guide

Taylor Karl
Microsoft Power BI Vs Tableau: A Comprehensive Guide 3276 0

Microsoft Power BI Vs Tableau: A Comprehensive Guide

Power BI vs Tableau: Which is Better?

In this digital era, data is king, and businesses of all shapes and sizes need to be able to make the most out of their analytics — that's where Power BI and Tableau come in. These two industry-leading tools offer advanced features for visualizing complex data sets, making it easier than ever before to gain insights, inform decisions, and stay ahead of the competition. But with so many options available on the market today, what makes these two stand out? Also, of Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau, which is better?

In this guide, we'll break down both solutions side-by-side — from how much they cost to their pros and cons — giving you a better understanding as to which one fits your organization’s needs best. So read on to get started.

Power BI and Tableau Overview

Before we dive into a comprehensive comparison of Power BI and Tableau, let's take some time to understand the fundamentals of these two data visualization programs:

Power BI

Microsoft Power BI Logo

Power BI, Microsoft's powerful suite of business analytics tools, gives users the power to access multiple data sources and perform complex data transformations while building interactive visualizations and reports. Since it can integrate effortlessly with other Microsoft products like Excel, Azure, and Office 365, companies heavily invested in this infrastructure will find Power BI ideal. Plus, its user-friendly interface, buffered by a vast library full of templates and visualizations, means even non-experts can deliver remarkable dashboards easily.

Power BI consists of four key components:

  1. Power BI Desktop is a free-to-download Windows app used to author reports and visuals.
  2. Power BI Service is a cloud platform that lets you share and collaborate on projects.
  3. Power BI Mobile is an iOS/Android/Windows compatible mobile app for on-the-go access.
  4. Power BI Embedded is a service that enables developers to incorporate Power BI within their own applications.


Tableau Logo

Tableau is another go-to platform for data visualization and exploration. It's designed to make analytics accessible, providing an intuitive interface with powerful capabilities that help users explore their data quickly. From experienced analysts to business professionals and executives, Tableau appeals to a wide range of audiences who can leverage its comprehensive functionality and user-friendliness.

Tableau also consists of four key components:

  1. Tableau Desktop serves as an authoring tool for Windows and Mac users, enabling them to create visualizations, reports, and interactive dashboards to help better understand data.
  2. Tableau Server provides on-premises or cloud-based access.
  3. Tableau Cloud, a fully hosted cloud-based counterpart of Tableau Server, offers similar features without necessitating on-premises infrastructure.
  4. Tableau Public is a free option that allows anyone to generate visuals and then share them publicly – creating an invaluable resource for fellow data enthusiasts.

Pros and Cons of Each Platform

Power BI and Tableau are two of the most powerful data visualization tools available today. While both offer a wide range of features and capabilities, it's important to weigh their advantages and limitations before making a decision.

Power BI

Power BI is a great choice for anyone looking to build dynamic and sophisticated dashboards, reports, and data visualizations. It's easy to pick up from day one, plus its seamless integration with Office 365 makes it a no-brainer for those already familiar with these programs.

When compared to Tableau, Power BI has several advantages. Not only is it free if you own an Azure account, but also — for just $20 per user per month — you can get access to advanced features like predictive analytics and custom visuals.

However, Power BI does have some drawbacks that must be considered. For those seeking more advanced analytics capabilities, this platform may not always provide all that you want. There can be some scalability issues when dealing with large datasets or complex calculations. On top of that, its customization options for visualizations are somewhat limited compared to Tableau, which could be restrictive for certain users.


Tableau is a powerhouse when it comes to creating interactive, eye-catching dashboards and visualizations. Its capabilities for handling large datasets and complex calculations make it the perfect tool for businesses that deal with huge data. On top of this, its user community provides an invaluable resource where users can get help or share ideas with others who understand the software's nuances.

Tableau's advanced analytics features give users access to powerful tools for conducting thorough analysis and producing insightful reports with plenty of custom options available. The Tableau Prep Builder, accessible via license purchase, allows users to cleanse their data before combining sets into fields using formulas similar to those found in Excel or Crystal Reports — making the transition easy if you're already familiar with such programs.

The biggest downside? It’s more expensive than Power BI and has a steeper learning curve. Plus, additional skills are needed compared to what Power BI requires — but that just means even more possibilities in terms of customization.

Is Power BI or Tableau Easier To Use?

Tableau has a steep learning curve, making Power BI easier to use for beginners. But if you're an experienced data analyst, Tableau may be your preferred option due to its ability to handle large amounts of data while offering more customization options.

If you’re interested in learning to use Tableau, UT provides training in Tableau in three distinct formats: a two-day course covering Tableau Desktop 1: Fundamentals, a two-day course covering Tableau Desktop 2: Intermediate, and an accelerated three-day course covering both.

So what’s the answer to this question? Well, it comes down to experience, needs, and preferences.

Feature Comparison

The applications Power BI and Tableau exhibit striking similarities, sharing comparable workflows and capabilities to achieve virtually identical results. Power BI, a component of Microsoft 365, comprises a suite of applications, connectors, and services tailored for data visualization. Similarly, Tableau is part of a platform that includes applications, connectors, and services to facilitate data visualization.


You’ll find a lot of opinions online about which tool has the best features, but keep in mind that these opinions are subjective. Despite some differences in user experience, these tools maintain almost complete feature parity. As direct competitors, Microsoft and Tableau continuously enhance their respective applications by integrating new features to sustain or expand their market share.


When it comes to deciding which data visualization tool is the best fit for your organization, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Though you can achieve the same results with both platforms, this chart provides an in-depth look into the key features offered by both Power BI and Tableau and how they differ — helping you make an informed decision based on your unique needs and existing infrastructure.

Power BI vs Tableau Feature Comparison

Table 1: Comparing Features of Power BI vs Tableau


Power BI


Microsoft Integration

Part of the Microsoft 365 suite and integrates with Dynamics and Azure.

Available integration but not as seamless.

Data Visualizations

Does not share the same basic structure. Each has its own properties and rules. Limited customization.

Same basic setup: just change the chart type to change the view. Extensive customization options.

Ease of Use

Intuitive and easy to learn for beginners.

User-friendly, drag-and drop-interface. Has a steeper learning curve.

Connecting to Data (ETL)

Connect to data using Power Query, where data can be cleaned and shaped for use in the visualizations.

Connect to data using Tableau desktop, where data can be cleaned and shaped for use in visualizations. Tableau Prep is also available for more comprehensive cleaning and shaping for later use in Tableau Desktop.

Data Handling

Can have trouble processing large data sets and complex queries.

Effectively and efficiently handles large data sets and complex queries.

Community Support

Growing community. Not yet as significant as Tableau’s community.

Large, active user community.


More capabilities for advanced users.

More capabilities out of the box.

Operating System Compatibility

Only available on Windows.

Available on Windows and Mac.

Embedded Analytics

Power BI Embedded for integration in custom applications.

Tableau Embedded for integration in custom applications.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Robust capabilities in both Power BI Desktop and Online.


Robust capabilities – more online than in the Desktop version.

Pricing Models of Power BI and Tableau

Both Power BI and Tableau come equipped with different pricing models that cater to varying needs and use cases for data visualization. If you're looking to make an informed decision about which platform to choose based on their cost implications, consider the following pricing of each tool as of April 2023:

Power BI

When it comes to pricing, Microsoft Power BI is a much more cost-effective option compared to Tableau. Power BI Desktop is available at no cost to individual users. Let's dive into the paid plans and rates:

Table 2: Power BI Pricing


Power BI Pro

Power BI Premium

Power BI Premium


$10 per user/month

$20 per user/month



● Included in all Microsoft 365 E5 subscriptions

● Offers basic business intelligence capabilities

● Visualize data using live dashboards and reports

● Share insights across organization

● More advanced version of the tool

● AI capabilities

● Direct query dataflows

● Self-service data prep

● 100TBs of storage space

● 48 refreshes per day

● Everything in the Premium plan

● On-premises reporting

● 400 GB model limit

● Support for multiple deployment locations

● BYOK capabilities

● Autoscale add-on with Azure subscription


Power BI Pro stands out with its low price of $10 per user per month and is included in all Microsoft 365 E5 subscriptions — making it an excellent choice for those already embedded within the MS ecosystem or who just require basic business intelligence capabilities without the entire suite of apps.

But if you're looking for something more advanced — AI, direct query dataflows, and 100TBs of storage space — Power BI Premium might be more your speed. At double the Pro plan's price tag, it also offers 48 refreshes per day compared to eight offered by the Pro plan.

Sharing reports and information with users who have a free license is possible with Premium licenses priced per capacity beginning at $4,995 per month. With this plan, you get everything included in the Premium per user plan, plus on-premises reporting, a 400 GB model limit, support for multiple deployment locations, the ability to utilize your own private key (BYOK), and an autoscale add-on with an existing Azure subscription.


Tableau's price definitely puts it on the higher end when compared to other data visualization tools. The silver lining of Tableau is that you are able to control charges based on user roles and not have everyone pay the full amount if they're only viewing dashboards rather than building them. Let’s examine Tableau’s plans:

Table 3: Tableau Pricing


Tableau Viewer

Tableau Explorer

Tableau Creator


On-premises: $12 per user per month

Cloud: $15 per user/month

On-premises: $35 per user per month

Cloud: $42 per user/month

$70 per user/month


● View and interact with existing dashboards and reports

● Minimum for this plan is 100 viewers

● Connect to a wide range of data sources

● Explore data

● Create basic visualizations

● Author from curated data

● Full access to Tableau's analytics capabilities

● Server administration

● Advanced deployment monitoring

● Create and publish new data sources

● Ability to create and publish dashboards and reports

Users who are simply interested in viewing dashboards and visualizations can do so with the Tableau Viewer plan. On-premises deployment includes one Viewer license, costing $12 per user per month. Each cloud deployment comes with one Viewer license of Tableau Cloud, costing $15 per user per month. The Tableau minimum for this plan is 100 Viewers.

Users assigned an Explorer role will be equipped with more abilities but won't be able to publish data sources or manage server installations without upgrading their subscription plan respectively. For on-premises implementation, the price is $35 per user per month, and that price includes one license of Tableau Server. This plan includes one license for Tableau Cloud, costing $42 per user per month if installed in the cloud.

In short, with Tableau, all features come with the Creator license, which is $70 per user per month. Tableau Creator is the same price whether you use it in the cloud or on your own servers, so keep that in mind. Also, every deployment requires at least one Creator role.

Most businesses will have a variety of user roles when they roll out Tableau and scale it to meet their needs.

Pricing: The Bottom Line

If you're curious about Tableau vs Power BI, the best way to get a feel for each of them is by trying out their free trial versions. It's important not to rush into making a decision between the two — since similar skill sets are required for both platforms, take all the necessary time to evaluate which tool can provide the most benefits for your organization or career path.


Ultimately, prioritize what matters to you. Considering these factors laid out in this article thoroughly before committing is crucial — remember that neither platform is superior; they just have different strengths that should be taken into account when deciding which one works best with your needs. Whatever option you go with, each option is powerful in its own right to get the job done — so take time to consider each one before making a final decision on which tool you want to analyze data with.