Tableau vs Power BI – Which is the best tool for you?

Tableau vs Power BI

The two top business intelligence and data visualization tools are Power BI and Tableau. The products are similar and the decision between the two is dependent on the specific needs of the company including budget, organization, and intended use.

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Quick Power BI and Tableau Product Comparison

Products Products Price Tableau Products Price Comparison
Basic Desktop Product Power BI Desktop Free Tableau Public Free The on-premise version for Power BI is free compared to the $35 to $70 dollar a monthly investment for Tableau. Tableau requires 4 products from Tableau compared to 1 single desktop product from Microsoft’s Power BI. This level of products allows for online publishing to public galleries and on-premise sharing.
Tableau Reader Free
Tableau Personal $35/month
Tableau Profesional $70/month
Online Product Power BI Pro $9.99/month Tableau Online $42/month A slightly scaled down version of the desktop version is available for report creation. However, Power BI Pro allows for private sharing to other online users. Tableau users will need the Tableau Personal and Tableau Online. Readers need Tableau Desktop/Tableau Online and Power BI Desktop/Power BI Pro.

Tableau Software Quick Summary

Tableau was founded in 2003 and is considered the gold standard for data visualization. In 2013 the company went public, and they have a ten-year head start on Power BI. To be frank, Tableau serves a single purpose of advanced data visualization. It doesn’t perform any other function beyond this core purpose. However, serves this purpose extremely well by producing amazing visuals from a second to none graphics engine built from the ground up.

The Key Strengths of Tableau

Tableau is the cream of the crop when it comes to data visualization. They have spent a decade dedicated to data visualization and this is evident in their product usability, flexible deployment options, product support, and the Tableau community. Tableau has an edge over Power BI due to their visualization engine, range of visualizations, intuitive data exploration capabilities and user interface layout. Tableau is more flexible for designing dashboards, and the functionality in this department far exceeds Power BI. For more on Tableau Advantages and Disadvantages

Tableau’s product was built with the idea of limiting the user exploring data through visual means. The engineering of Tableau is in the creation of interactive visuals. The way the product capabilities were implemented enables the user to ask their data a question and receive a nearly immediate answer. All that is required is manipulating the Tabular data. Tableau stopped aggressively perusing everyday user and positioned itself as an enterprise level tool.  Therefore it has a high learning curve. Tableau is overkill for any company only interested in generating reports.

Tableau has a more flexible deployment than Power BI. The purchase can be made by subscription or a perpetual license up-front. The installation is either on an on-premise server or in the cloud. Tableau understands the communities needs regarding all-in on data visualization. The expectation is they will provide significant improvements in the future for new visualization options, loading large datasets and additional ETL functions which they are rolling out with Tableau Prep.

The Weaknesses of Tableau

Tableau is a more expensive investment and costs a lot more than Power BI.  Although Tableau has basic data cleansing and some analytics capabilities, its primary strength is visualization.  It’s not a statistical or business intelligence tool in the traditional sense. So many of the data modeling needs to be done in another tool. Also scaling Tableau across a large organization can be very expensive.  implementation budget of a minimum of due to adding to the cost of the Tableau licenses.  A  data warehouse is not required.

Tableau connects to more enterprise systems when purchased than Power BI.  However, users have reported connecting to more data sources than with most of the competing tools. Also, many visuals require hacks and optimization to create which takes time away from analysis. Power BI allows easy implementation of custom visuals.  There are my other option and   Tableau Alternatives

Price for Power BI and Tableau

Power BI Products Pricing
Power BI Desktop Free
Power BI Pro $9.99/user/month
Power BI Premium $4995/month/8 cores
Power BI Report Server included with PBI Premium
Power BI Embedded $625/month
Power BI Gateway Free
Power BI Mobile Free
Tableau Products Pricing
Tableau Public Free
Tableau Desktop Personal $35/month Professional
Tableau Online $42/month
Tableau Server $35/user/month or $175,000 /year/8 cores
Tableau Bridge Available with Tableau Desktop
Tableau Mobile Free


Power BI Quick Summary

Power BI is a data visualization and business intelligence tool from Microsoft and was released in 2013. In terms of functionality, Microsoft and Tableau are not equal. Power BI outpaces Tableau in the completeness of vision and overall functionality. The most prominent advantage to Power BI is it is part of the Microsoft stack, and this is a contributor to the strength of Microsoft’s position within the quadrant and that it is an all-around end-to-end BI tool.

The Key Strengths of Power BI

 Power BI is both used for data modeling, analysis and visualization while Tableau is mainly used for visualization. Many individuals in the industry regard Tableau as the gold standard, of visualization but Power BI has its strengths. It is comparable to all the bells and whistles of Tableau. Big time data viz artist may see visual features offered in Power BI as inadequate but has a robust custom visuals gallery that can be imported into reports. Power BI is becoming more integrated into the Microsoft stack and is included with Office 365. Microsoft is encouraging using Power BI for visualizing data coming from their cloud services. Power BI connects to many external sources extremely well.

Originally, Power BI was mainly an Excel-driven product, and technical users are generally the first to adapt to Microsoft products. Power BI is extremely suitable for displaying and creating quick reports and dashboards. KPI’s can be accessed from the Office portal, and the creation, interactivity, and sharing of reports do not take much time. These are many shared through Power BI Pro at $9.99 per user monthly.

Power BI is a data cleansing, data modeling and visualization tool which is capable of making a robust and complex data model composed of many different sources. This functionality is not present in Tableau Desktop it requires the incorporation of another tool which essential drives up cost.

The biggest strengths of Power BI are the fantastic value and very low cost. Considering Power BI is comparable to the leader in the category, the costs are impressive. It is included free for basic use in Office 365, and a Pro license is just $10 per user each month. This makes the product more adaptable since Power BI can be used risk-free. Power BI is very attractive for companies unable to afford a substantial business intelligence project including dedicated analysts, a data warehouse, and a few months for implementation. Many of the companies ready to invest in Power BI are adding Tableau to their future options. and adopting Power BI first.  Microsoft has made heavy investments in Power BI, and are quickly closing the little gaps in functionality. There have been reports of entity relationship issues experienced when joining data. Also sampling when exporting large files with Power BI are expected to disappear in the near future versions.

The Weaknesses of Power BI

When it comes to product functionality, Tableau has an edge on Power BI on visual data computation. This is mainly because they had a ten-year head start. Another weakness of Power BI is the lack of flexibility in deployment. SaaS is the only model Power BI is available with. Power BI must be in the cloud, and rented through a per month, per user licensing agreement. If the business intelligence project will not allow this because a more customizable solution is required, or there are concerns regarding data security, Power BI will not work. Tableau is excellent for users with on-premise systems w, and large amounts of data, but Power BI is adding new features to Power BI Premium that will decrease the gap in these capabilities. These features are new, and the cost of Power BI Premium is significantly higher.

The Summary of Tableau vs Power BI 

Due to the similarities in the products, there are specific factors influencing the choice between Tableau and Power BI.

  • Power BI is the best product for companies with a smaller budget who need a full-service business intelligence tool.
  • Tableau is a superior data visualization tool and an integration in a large business intelligence system who prefer on-premise solutions.
  • Power BI is a superior analytics tool than Tableau due to its data modeling and data prep tools native to the software.
  • For companies wanting to pay up-front, and not interested in renting software monthly, the choice is Tableau. Company willing to higher tech savy users s who have more than  couple hours per dedicated to data visualization, the choice is Tableau.
  • Tableau’s range of visualizations are better, and there are more bells and whistles is better Tableau
  • User looking for an true business intelligence and analytics tool with visual capabilities, then Power BI is a better option.


Gaelim Holland

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