Looker vs. Tableau: Pricing and Features Comparison

Looker and Tableau are two of the more popular self-service business intelligence (BI) products on the market that help companies better visualize and understand their data.

Business Intelligence comparison: Looker and Tableau

Product Overviews

To summarize each product, here’s some information from our reviews of Looker and Tableau:

LookerLooker Data Platform is a data-discovery platform that helps companies make better business decisions through real-time access to data. No matter the size, data can be analyzed within Looker’s 100% in-database and browser-based platform. Looker analytics integrate with any SQL database or data warehouse, such as Amazon Athena, Greenplum and Microsoft Azure SQL Data Warehouse.


Tableau: Tableau offers robust BI tools that enhance data visualization and discovery for all types of organizations and business users. With simple drag-and-drop features, users easily analyze key data, share critical insights across the enterprise, and create innovative visualizations and reports. In addition, Tableau offers the option to embed dashboards into existing business applications such as Jive, SharePoint and Salesforce.

How They Stack Up


Looker: Looker has its own proprietary modeling language called LookML, which is described as a better way to write SQL and define queries. LookML helps users develop custom models within the platform. The data models build allow non-technical users to scan an SQL database successfully because there’s no complicated coding needed.

Looker’s API integrates data into different applications such as Google Docs, Excel and even customer and third-party applications. Data can also be manually exported in .csv or text files.

Looker allows users to create new metrics, edit the existing model and explore a variety of data visuals, including charts, graphs and maps. Looker’s easy-to-build dashboards – with customized visuals – are accessible from any device. Looker doesn’t support online analytical processing (OLAP).

Tableau: Tableau supports hundreds of data connectors, including OLAP and big data options, such as NoSQL and Hadoop, as well as cloud options. Tableau can also pull data from a SQL database for analysis. Tableau loads and extracts data through its many connectors that can link to a number of data sources. Although Tableau performs data preparation and manipulation quickly and in a straightforward manner, first-time users will require some extensive training.

Tableau’s Device Designer tool lets users design, customize and publish dashboards that scale for desktops, phones and tablets. Users can also embed dashboards into their existing applications, such as Salesforce, SharePoint and Jive.

Bottom Line: Both Looker and Tableau are able to pull data from an SQL database for analysis. However, because of its powerful SQL modeling capability, Looker is easier to run. Users don’t have to be experienced data analysts, and they don’t have to have SQL knowledge. Tableau, on the other hand, has a steep learning curve for first-time users.


Looker: Because Looker is browser-based, deployment is faster than traditional BI models. Instead of waiting weeks or months, Looker customers can deploy the platform in hours because it ‘s packaged in a .jar file. The platform can be installed within the customer’s existing infrastructure and hosted on either the customer’s servers or Looker’s servers. Looker’s implementation team can also build a customized deployment plan that aligns with the client’s needs and requirements.

Tableau: Tableau offers a variety of implementation options. It comes with quick-start options for small-scale deployments that can be set up in just a few hours.

However, enterprise-level deployments necessitate a four-step process:

  • Step 1 involves IT planning, architecture consulting, pre-install check-up, server installation and verification, and security configuration.
  • Step 2 involves working with data and data migration, including data modeling, data mining, data extraction, data sources and business workflow.
  • Step 3 includes a two-day classroom training covering Tableau fundamentals, hands-on advanced coaching, as well as building and formatting visualizations.
  • Step 4 helps companies expand Tableau usage across the business. It includes implementation workshops where topics such as evaluating action plans and defining measurable outcomes are discussed.

Bottom Line: Although small and midsize businesses can take advantage of Tableau’s quick-start options, large enterprises must follow the more complicated four-phase process. Companies of all sizes, however, can implement Looker in just hours.

Customer Service and Support

Looker: Looker offers a public help center that contains a wealth of information, in published documents and videos. It also offers email support and provides training on its platform.

Tableau: Users can submit support tickets via a webform or the customer portal. Tableau also offers a comprehensive knowledge base, which is categorized by its three subscription categories: Desktop, Server and Online. Users can access support resources tailored to their versions of the software, including getting started, best practices and optimal use of the platform’s top features. Users can also access the Tableau community forum and attend training and other events.

Bottom Line: Both Looker and Tableau offer extensive online support resources. However, while Looker customers can access technical support via chat, Tableau customers can only communicate with the Tableau team through their private customer support portals.


Looker: Looker doesn’t publicly release pricing information. Instead, Looker offers a customized approach, where its pricing specialists work to create an ideal pricing structure for businesses. Companies are asked to contact the vendor for quotes.

Tableau: Tableau’s subscription offerings tailor to user needs. They are: Creator, Explorer and Viewer. Prices are listed per user, per month, billed annually. The Creator plan includes full functionality of Tableau, and costs $70/user/month, regardless if whether the platform is deployed on-premise on in the cloud. The Explorer plan targets users that want self-service analytics without the data prepping and cleaning. It costs $35/user/month for on-premise deployment, and $42/user/month if deployed in the cloud.

Finally, there’s Tableau Viewer for users that want to access already-created visualizations. Companies can deploy it on-premise for $12/user/month or have Tableau host it for $15/user/month. Note that Tableau Viewer requires at least 100 viewers in order to purchase the plan.

The platform offers a 14-day free trial for users who wish to test it before making a purchase.

Bottom LineWhile Tableau offers a straightforward pricing plan, Looker appears more focused on customizing costs for users based on their needs and preferences. But both products may be too expensive for smaller businesses.

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Looker and Tableau have varying strengths and weaknesses that are common when comparing BI tools. Tableau’s more sophisticated design allows users to integrate an infinite amount of datapoints in their analysis and offers comprehensive support options thought its OLAP functionality. However, while such SQL sophistication appeals to the veteran BI analyst, first time-users encounter a steep learning curve.

Looker is easier to use and offers its LookML proprietary data modeling language, so both first-timer and experienced SQL users can perform simplified data analysis. Plus, Looker can be implemented in hours rather than days or weeks.

OLAP veterans, however, may well prefer Tableau’s OLAP Cubes for selective data extraction and handling over Looker’s LookML. Before choosing between Looker and Tableau, it’s important that organizations evaluate each tool to decide which best fits their needs.

Looker and Tableau aren’t the only BI solutions out there. If you’re looking for software alternatives, our detailed reviews is a good place to start.

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  1. A data analyst is not going to write Look ML queries.
    Looker and Tableau are just very different tools. Looker makes life easier for IT and BI teams. Tableau makes life easier for data analysts who simply interact with data and don’t quite have to deal with the data prep etc.

  2. I kind of agree with Sebastien’s comment.

    On Looker documentation they said “Looker’s 100% browser-based experience eliminates the need for desktop client software installation and maintenance”

    1. Tableau Server/Online also have a web authoring tool, but I always preferred to work on a client than a web browsed app.

    2. I don’t believe you can use Looker win an air gap environment ?

    3. I was always worried about my personal data using Google (Gmail, youtube etc.). Should I trust them with the sensitive data of my company ?

    4. I’m working with Tableau Server for a long time, and the steps to connect Looker to a database seem to be infernal.

    5. Looker support 50 Databases, when Tableau has around 80 connectors (without talking about the Web Data Connector, and ODBC/JDBC)

    6. You would like to eliminate the maintenance ? Tableau Online + Web Authoring.

    7. Looker is cheaper and seems pretty easy to use, however it doesn’t seem to be enough mature.