Tableau vs Power BI: Compare Core BI Capabilities and More

Tableau and Microsoft Power BI are the two front-runners in the business intelligence (BI) and data visualization software industry.

Tableau offers visualization tools to make data approachable for all users and allows users to leverage any number of datapoints for conducting analysis. Power BI caters to smaller businesses, both in price and functionality, and offers an easy-to-use interface with the ability to create powerful dashboards. Both Power BI and Tableau offer advanced reporting and visualization capabilities.

In this post, we’ll compare Tableau and Power BI on various factors.

What is the Difference Between Tableau and Power BI?

  • Tableau’s pricing focuses on users’ data needs, whereas Power BI’s price tiers focus on features.
  • Tableau offers optional premium support, while Power BI doesn’t.

Product Overviews

Here are excerpts from our detailed Tableau and Power BI reviews:

Tableau

Tableau provides all types of users with intuitive business intelligence (BI) tools to enhance data discovery and understanding. With simple drag-and-drop features, a user is able to easily access and analyze key data, create innovative reports and visualizations, and share critical insights across the company.

Tableau has three main products for robust data discovery:

  1. Tableau Desktop – Tableau Desktop is used to connect and analyze disparate data, and create highly innovative reports in just a few clicks.
  2. Tableau Server – Tableau Server allows users to securely collaborate and share critical insights and information through comprehensive dashboards created in Tableau Desktop or directly in Tableau Server.
  3. Tableau Cloud – Formerly Tableau Online, Tableau Cloud is a cloud-hosted version of Tableau Server. It not only saves time and money by skipping hardware setup, Tableau Cloud also supports mobile access.

Tableau serves a variety of industries, including major corporations and banks, educational institutions and healthcare providers.

Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based business intelligence and analytics service that provides users with a full overview of your most critical data. Connecting to all of your data sources, Power BI simplifies data evaluation and sharing with scalable dashboards, interactive reports, embedded visuals and more.

There are several versions. Power BI Desktop is an on-premise solution that connects to a cloud-based service to easily upload and share data and information across the company. Power BI Mobile has the same capabilities, but in an app, so you can have a 360-degree view of your company anytime, anywhere.

Power BI has two additional versions with advanced features: Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium. Power BI Pro allows users to share insights with collaborators. They can analyze data by using conversational language (the Q&A feature) and get insights from pre-built visualization and reporting templates. Users can share data in other Microsoft platforms like Teams or Dynamics 365. Power BI Premium allows an organization’s internal or external users (e.g., clients) to view Power BI reports without a license. It also empowers users to prepare and transform big datasets.

Features Comparisons

Data Visualizations and Dashboards

Tableau

Users can create a dashboard in a few clicks, including combining data sources and adding filters, and they can also share their dashboard with their colleagues.

Tableau has advanced dashboarding features, such as the Story Points (users arrange their data in a narrative style) and the Device Designer (dashboards are optimized for phones or tablets). In addition, Tableau Cloud’s Dashboard Starters feature allows users to develop dashboards by pulling in data from specific software (e.g., Salesforce, LinkedIn Sales Navigator, Oracle Eloqua, Marketo and ServiceNow) directly within Tableau. After a dashboard is created, users can set up thresholds in the data that trigger alerts, and they can specify who the alerts are sent to, as well as the type of notification (e.g., email notification).

Power BI

Users can create visualizations using the drag-and-drop tool by choosing from many templates from Microsoft and third-party providers or by creating their own. They can create mobile-optimized reports by selecting the Phone Layout button, and then adjusting the chart or graph. The Power BI Pro tier lets users share the reports with their external or internal colleagues. Those colleagues can add comments to the visualization, as well as subscribe for updates or alerts.

Bottom Line

Both Tableau and Power BI provide similar visualization features.

Data Sources

Tableau

Tableau offers support for hundreds of data connectors including online analytical processing (OLAP) and big data options (such as NoSQL, Hadoop) as well as cloud options. When users add data from multiple sources the relationships are determined by Tableau automatically. In addition, Tableau gives users the ability to modify data links or create them manually based on their company’s preferences.

Power BI

Power BI is also very capable of connecting to users’ external sources including SAP HANA, JSON, MySQL, and more. When users add data from multiple sources the relationships are determined by Power BI automatically. In addition, it enables users to connect to Microsoft Azure databases, third-party databases, files and online services like Salesforce and Google Analytics.

Bottom Line

Both Tableau and Power BI allow users to connect to various data sources. However, Tableau offers better support for connecting to a distinct data warehouse, whereas Power BI is heavily integrated with Microsoft’s portfolio, including its Azure cloud platform.

Pricing

Tableau

Instead of basing the prices on its products, Tableau’s subscription strategy focuses on individual users and their data needs. Each subscription includes maintenance, product upgrades and support at one cost, so there are no surprise fees. Note that the pricing is based on annual billing.

  • Tableau Creator – Tableau Creator is designed for individual analysts and power users, and costs $70 per user, per month. It includes access to Tableau Desktop and Tableau Prep, and companies can purchase a single Creator license for either Tableau Server or Tableau Cloud. Note that Tableau offers the same price for Tableau Creator whether the software is deployed in the cloud or on premise.
  • Tableau Explorer – Tableau Explorer is designed for users that prefer governed self-service analytics instead of relying on data from others. It costs $35 per user, per month for on-premise deployment, and it includes one license for Tableau Server. If deployed in the cloud, this plan costs $42 per user, per month, and it includes one license for Tableau Cloud.
  • Tableau Viewer – Tableau Viewer is designed for users that just want to access dashboards and visualizations. When deployed on-premise, it costs $12 per user, per month, and it includes one Viewer license of Tableau Server. When deployed in the cloud, it costs $15 per user, per month, and it includes one Viewer license of Tableau Cloud. Note that Tableau requires a minimum of 100 Viewers for this plan.

Companies can also purchase add-on features, such as Tableau Data Management and Einstein Discovery. Tableau has a 14-day free trial.

Power BI

Power BI Desktop is free to individual users. Here’s the pricing for Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium:

  • Pro – The Pro version costs $9.99 per user, per month and includes a mobile app, the ability to publish and share reports, a 1 GB model size limit, eight data refreshes daily, the ability to connect to over 100 data sources, embedded APIs and controls, AI visuals, data security and encryption, metrics for content creation and publishing and up to 10 GB per user maximum storage. Pro is available for free for companies that have the Microsoft 365 E5 solution.
  • Premium (per user) – The Premium per user plan costs $20 per user, per month. It includes all of the features of the Pro plan, plus paginated reports, a 100 GB model size limit, 48 data refreshes daily, advanced AI features, XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity, data flows, the ability to analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, application lifecycle management and up to 100 TB of maximum storage.
  • Premium (per capacity) – This version starts at $4,995 per month, per dedicated cloud compute and storage resource. It includes all of the features of the Premium per user plan, plus on-premise reporting, a 400 GB model limit, multi-location deployment management, Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) and autoscale add-on.

Bottom Line

When it comes to cost, Power BI is generally a more affordable option. For users who prioritize free trial capabilities, Power BI offers a robust 60-day Pro trial, while Tableau’s free trial is 14 days. Additionally, Power BI Pro starts at $9.99 per user per month, while Tableau Explorer starts at $35.

Customer Support

Tableau

Tableau offers complimentary online access to all users that includes:

  • A knowledge base
  • On-demand training videos
  • Live online training
  • Product documentation
  • Tableau Community forums

In addition, it has a Technical Support Program with three tiers:

Standard – Standard support is included in the subscription purchase or in the first year of the perpetual license. Coverage is during Tableau’s regular business hours (6 a.m. to 6 p.m. PST Mondays to Fridays). In addition to online access, the Standard tier has:

  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within eight hours
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within 24 hours
  • Three named contacts

Extended – The Extended Support tier includes all of the features of the Standard tier, plus:

  • 24/7 coverage for Priority 1 (Critical) issues
  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within two hours
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within eight hours
  • Five named contacts

Premium – The Premium Support tier includes all of the features of the Extended tier, plus:

  • Phone support
  • 24/7 coverage for Priority 1 (Critical) and Priority 2 (High) issues
  • Priority 1 (Critical) issue response time within 30 minutes
  • Priority 2 (High) issue response time within two hours
  • A technical account manager
  • Service level agreement for Tableau Cloud users only
  • Deployment reviews for Tableau Server users only
  • Recurring status calls and service reports
  • Online update guidance
  • Upgrade assistance for Tableau Server users only
  • Strategic planning
  • Access to the Senior Support team
  • Case escalation and oversight
  • Product roadmap participation
  • Prioritized feature request reviews
  • Root cause analysis
  • Sandbox site for Tableau Cloud users only

Power BI

Microsoft offers several resources:

  • FAQs
  • In-depth documentation on tools and features
  • Guided learning courses
  • A community forum
  • Samples of Power BI reports and dashboards

In addition, Power BI Pro users can submit a support ticket.

Bottom Line

While both vendors provide users with a knowledge base, a community forum, a ticketing system and training courses, Tableau offers optional premium support, while Microsoft doesn’t.

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Comments

  1. Tableau does support data integration with newer releases. this allows for querying across different datasources (a federated solution) like query across sql server and mysql.

  2. Christopher Barnes says

    The newer version of Power BI do allow you to more easily share reports and even allows users to subscribe to a specific report to be notified when data is updated.

  3. Visualizations are constantly improving in POWER BI. Tableau still has better visuals and more customization, but you can also import pretty good visuals if you need to. You can connect with R, and write your own complex queries, measures are calculated columns. Have not had a problem with sharing reports. You can even publish a report to the web in BI. One thing they should change is there refresh schedule, as it is only limited to 8 times per day. Not sure about the limitations for Tableau.

  4. Bill Grafton says

    Both come up short when looking to find a true enterprise platform. They’re great tools for visualizing, but if you want consistency across an entire organization you’ll have to look to other platforms.

    • Can you share more? What’s the root cause? The limitation of the integration/customization capabilities of both?
      If this is the fact, what are the options for a true enterprise platform?

  5. Power Bi is cheaper than Tableau. But still companies are going with tableau because it is very friendly in use. I am sure that power bi also working on their tool to more improvement.But by the time power bi reach to that level tableau will add more features. Because they work based on customer feedback.

  6. Venkatesan says

    I work with Power BI and Tableau.. I feel ,Tableau is user-friendly than Power BI. Creating insightful dashboards in Tableau very easy. Quickly build powerful calculations from existing data, drag and drop reference lines and forecasts, and review statistical summaries.

  7. While I use both Power BI and Tableau I find Tableau much more user friendly. Training videos are much more helpful in Tableau, along with the forums, it does not take much time at all to become accustom to the software. Power BI does have its advantages in that its free and the learning curve may not be as steep if you have an excel background.
    Overall, Tableau is the better software.

  8. The cost differences are huge when you have a medium/large org over 10 times more expensive with Tableau and from my research 99% of users have functionality/features in both (all users come from excel backgrounds) . The biggest (neg) issue for my org was BI premium in Azure but now there is an On Prem version. We are exploring this now.

  9. Tableau currently does not support semi joins and that is a mic drop. Power Bi having the ability to use semi joins means it can handle many, many times the multiples of data points that tableau can and at much faster speeds. I believe tableau will address this problem in a future release/update.

  10. Alex Rathke says

    I came across Tableau due my pure annoyance of Excel when I was trying to visual data for my Masters thesis 6 years ago. It took me a very short time to get the hang of Tableau and I have used it ever since. The training videos have been top notch and my past jobs have all had access to Tableau.

    My current job have started looking into Power BI and from the first instance of opening it, I experienced the annoyance and visual feel of “using Excel” again. Like a past coming back to haunt you. I may try and get over this in future, but I am perfectly comfortable with Tableau and enjoy using it on a day to day basis.

    In terms of pricing, I do not think the difference is that big. In addition, I would rather pay more for a software that I am able to easily use and understand.