It’s no secret that Power BI and Tableau are the top dogs for data analysis in 2021. A glance at Google Trends shows many more searches for Power BI and Tableau than for the nearest competitor. Clearly, both Tableau and Power BI are doing something right. But that doesn’t mean the two BI platforms are exactly the same. In this article you’ll get a clear breakdown of the Power BI vs Tableau pros and cons.

Before that, let’s briefly cover what Power BI and Tableau have in common. Both allow you to:

  • consolidate and aggregate various sources of data
  • view that data in relation to your company KPIs
  • create visual dashboards that represent that data
  • share reports and dashboards to groups of users

And both tools are very popular in the BI space. However, Power BI has significantly more reach – around 5 million users in 2016, compared with Tableau’s 350,000 in 2017.

This leads many people to ask, “Why does Power BI have more users? And which is better: Power BI or Tableau?”

The answer is, it all depends on how your business plans to use data. To understand the pros and cons for your business, check out the key comparisons below.

Side note: declaration of (dis)interest

We don’t want you to reach the end of this article and think, “Hey, these guys were rooting for Power BI all along!” So here’s our declaration of interest: yes, Influential is a Microsoft Gold Partner and Power BI consultancy.

Microsoft competencies badge for Power BI use cases

But that doesn’t mean we can’t give objective advice. We’ve partnered with SAP and IBM for decades, so who’s to say we won’t also partner with Tableau some day?

In fact, one reason our BI consultancy retains hundreds of clients is because we’re tech-agnostic. That means we put our clients first — not Microsoft, or any other tech company.

But enough of the sales pitch. You came here for a comparison of Tableau and Power BI. Let’s dive in.

1. Tableau vs Power BI: pricing comparison

We noted above that Power BI has more users than Tableau. So you won’t be surprised to hear that Power BI tends to cost less.

First let’s look at the starter-level pricing.

Power BI’s lowest price point is Power BI Pro, at £7.50 per user per month.

Tableau’s lowest price point is Tableau Viewer, at $12.00 (£8.64) per user per month.

The difference is that Tableau Viewer is view-only, while Power BI Pro lets you create reports and visualisations as well. So Power BI offers more for less.

Now let’s compare the enterprise-level pricing.

Power BI Premium costs £15.10 per user per month or from £3,766.70 per capacity per month. The per capacity option allows for reports on-premises, unlimited distribution, and multi-geo support.

Tableau Creator costs $70.00 (£50.39) per user per month. This includes Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep Builder, and one Creator licence for Tableau Server.

Again, we see that Power BI has a significantly lower price per user. But while price is important, of course you care about the functionality first of all. You’ll find our answer to the question “What is the difference between Power BI and Tableau?” below.

2. Ease of use

Power BI
Users of Microsoft Office will find the Power BI interface familiar from Excel and PowerPoint. Overall, Power BI is suitable for all business users.

Tableau has a less familiar user interface. The software is aimed primarily at professional data analysts, so there’s more of a learning curve.

Both BI platforms have more advanced features that can improve your productivity further. If you choose Power BI, we recommend training users on an instructor-led Power BI course.

3. Data connections

Both Power BI and Tableau connect to multiple data sources either by import or by live connections.

Power BI
As of May 2021, there were 166 connectors listed for Power BI.

As of May 2021, there were 86 connectors listed for Tableau.

It’s also possible to build custom connectors for Power BI or Tableau. Unlike the software’s pre-built connectors, you’ll need an experienced Power BI integration team or Tableau developer to achieve this.

Power BI vs Tableau visualisations

Examples of Power BI and Tableau visualisations

4. Dashboards and visualisations

Power BI
The standard visualisation types in Power BI include:

  • area chart
  • bar chart
  • clustered column
  • combo chart
  • doughnut
  • funnel
  • gauge
  • line
  • pie
  • scatter
  • waterfall

As well as these built-in visualisations, Power BI also allows for highly customised graphics. If you’re looking for custom visualisations, our Power BI development team is happy to help.

Data analysts often talk about the wide range of visualisations available in Tableau. The visualisations you can use include:

  • area chart
  • bar chart
  • box and whisker plot
  • bullet chart
  • scatter plot
  • pie chart
  • bubble chart
  • line chart
  • histogram
  • highlight table
  • Gantt chart
  • heat map

5. Extra features

Power BI
Beyond the standard BI capabilities, Microsoft is investing a lot in making Power BI more useful and user-friendly. The software’s native apps mean you can access data anywhere and get alerts on the move. Power BI Embedded also allows you to incorporate BI functionality into your own apps or websites.

But perhaps the most unique feature of Power BI is its natural language query tool. This lets you ask about your data with Google-like search queries. For example, you can type “What is our marketing ROI in Spain?” and the tool will find the answer in your data.

Tableau has a mobile app that lets you access and manipulate data wherever you are. There are also shared dashboards that let whole teams collaborate on BI projects. Tableau doesn’t have its own natural language query tool, but its acquisition by Salesforce has added data discovery with Einstein AI.

Summing up the comparison of Power BI vs Tableau

As we’ve described, there are a number of advantages of Power BI over Tableau. But that doesn’t mean Power BI is the best option for every business.

If your business sounds like this, you might be better off with Tableau:

  • you have a team of trained data analysts
  • you have a larger budget to spend on BI
  • your business hasn’t invested in Microsoft software

On the other hand, these types of business should opt for Power BI:

  • you want to open up BI to users with little data experience
  • you want a more manageable starting price
  • your business is familiar with Microsoft software

Get your free BI consultation

As independent digital experts with 30 years of BI experience, we want to help your business get the best BI. Send us a message and we’ll get back to you with an impartial recommendation. We also provide end-to-end consultancy for Power BI.

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