← Back

Power BI vs Tableau Pros, Cons & Pricing Comparison

2024-05-06 // Tom Ward, Software and Analytics Consultant

Tableau and Microsoft Power BI are two of the largest business intelligence software applications by market share. Both applications are consistently ranked as leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for business intelligence and analytics software. If you are purchasing a BI solution for your organization in 2024, Tableau and Power BI will almost certainly be on your short list of applications to evaluate. Contrinue reading or use the table of contents to skip straight to a section below.

  1. Introduction to Power BI and Tableau
  2. What is Power BI? Key features and advantages
  3. What is Tableau? Key features and advantages
  4. Comparing Power BI and Tableau
  5. Pros and Cons: Power BI and Tableau
  6. Choosing the right tool: Power BI or Tableau
  7. How much do Tableau and Power BI cost?
  8. What is Row Zero? Key features and advantages
  9. Conclusion

Introduction to Power BI and Tableau

Power BI is a business intelligence tool available as a cloud service or desktop application in Microsoft’s Power Platform that allows organizations to pull data from various data sources and create data visualizations and interactive dashboards. Power BI was originally released in 2011 and has grown a lot in recent years to rival Tableau as a top BI and analytics application.

Tableau is also a business intelligence and analytics tool with a strong focus on data visualizations and interactive dashboards with an easy-to-use, no-code user interface. Tableau was founded in 2003 and acquired by Salesforce in 2019.

What is Power BI? Key Features and Advantages

Power BI’s focus is on interactive data visualizations and reports, but in recent years, Microsoft has expanded the Power BI ecosystem to include services and applications deeper in the BI software stack, like data source connectivity and integration services, data preparation applications, and tighter integration with data services from Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing platform.

For organizations heavily invested in the Microsoft stack (Windows, Office, SQL Server. Azure, etc.), Power BI’s seamless integration with other Microsoft products is one of its key features.

Users generally find Power BI to be a more intuitive application if they are familiar with the Microsoft ecosystem because Power BI borrows a lot of the look and feel and features of other Microsoft products.

What is Tableau? Key Features and Advantages

Tableau is first and foremost a data visualization tool and the visual appeal of Tableau visualizations and dashboards is second to none in the BI software market.

Tableau’s easy to use, drag-and-drop interface for creating visualizations and dashboards is also one of its key features. Novice users can generally be up and running creating new dashboards from basic data sources within a day or two. Tableau also has a very robust user community, making it easy to get external help in a variety of forms.

Comparing Power BI and Tableau

Tableau Power BI
Ease of Use
  • Intuitive, drag-and-drop UI to create reports and visualizations that don't require coding knowledge.
  • Intuitive for users familiar with Microsoft products. Simpler use cases can be built with drag and drop tools, but more complex analysis may require knowledge of the DAX programming language and formulas.
  • Easy to connect to basic data sources like .csv and text files as well as commonly used databases.
  • Limited options for doing complex transformations on data from data sources, although Tableau Prep offers some additional capabilities at an additional cost.
  • Seamless integration with other Microsoft products.
  • Easy to connect to basic data sources like .csv files and database connections.
  • Other tools in the Microsoft Power Platform allow for more complex integrations, generally at a higher cost.


  • Creator licenses are $75/user/month , Explorer licenses are $42/user/month, and Viewer licenses are $15/user/month at the time of this writing.
  • If you have a dashboard that you want to share widely within your organization, the cost of providing Viewer licenses to everyone who needs access to a dashboard can add up quickly.
  • Also be aware that Tableau uses compute resources from your data warehouse every time a dashboard is loaded or modified, which will increase data warehousing costs, sometimes significantly.
  • Microsoft’s licensing and pricing structure for Power BI is rather complex and ever-changing. At the time of this writing Power BI Pro, the more barebones offering is $10/user/month and Power BI Premium is $20/user/month.
  • However, these licenses come with throttled performance, size, and refresh rates and larger organizations and organizations with more complex data needs will likely get into paying for Power BI Premium per capacity, which has a minimum cost of $4,995/month. PowerBI can also increase data warehousing spend. If connected to a data warehouse, modifications to PowerBI dashboards will accrue additional data warehouse costs.

Pros and Cons: Power BI Versus Tableau

Both Power BI and Tableau are solid software applications for creating data visualizations and interactive dashboards in a relatively simple-to-use interface. Power BI and Tableau both start at a low, per-user price point, but pricing for both can start to add up quickly as the complexity and size of data sources grows and as your use cases and analysis become more complex.

Power BI really stands out if your organization is already using a lot of Microsoft products that will serve as data sources for dashboards and visualization. The newer products in the Power BI ecosystem that focus on data preparation and pulling data from complex data sources probably give it the edge over Tableau in terms of scalability.

While both tools have a focus on data visualizations and dashboards, Tableau stands out if you want your visualizations and dashboards to be really visually appealing, for something like a customer-facing dashboard. Tableau’s no code, drag-and-drop UI is also probably a bit simpler to use for most analysts new to either software.

If your data consumers are more analytical users who are expecting to do their own analysis and really slice and dice data in a self-serve manner, Power BI and Tableau may not be the right fit as the emphasis is really on creating shareable analysis artifacts like dashboards and reports. While Power BI does give users the ability to export data to Excel to do their own analysis, the data then becomes subject to Excel’s data limitations.

Row Zero is a great option if your organization is looking for a way to give users more direct access to large data sets with the ability to conduct their own analysis.

Choosing the Right Tool: Power BI or Tableau?

If you are determining if Power BI or Tableau is the right BI and analytics tool for your organization, there are a number of factors that you should consider. The advantages and limitations of both software suites are highly dependent on your organization and your data analytics goals.

Below are some questions you should ask to determine if Power BI or Tableau is the right tool for your organization’s needs.

Does your organization use other Microsoft products?

Power BI’s look and feel matches a lot of other Microsoft products, like the Microsoft Office suite of products. Power BI is also easy to connect to other Microsoft products as data sources. If your organization is heavily invested in Microsoft products, this may make Power BI a more natural choice than Tableau.

Who are your data consumers and what do they need?

Tableau and Power BI are first and foremost data visualization tools. If your data consumers can gain the insights they need from looking at a series of graphs and visualizations of data, Power BI or Tableau are a solid option.

If your data consumers expect really polished, heavily designed dashboards (for instance, if they are customer-facing), Tableau is likely to be the better option.

If your data consumers are expecting to really dive into row level data and conduct their own analysis and explore large data sets, a more self-service analysis tool like Row Zero may be a better option.

What type of data analysis are you doing?

Again, Power BI and Tableau are both well-suited to producing data visualizations and dashboards.

If you are looking to do more complex data analysis and need access to things like the Python ecosystem of machine learning and data science libraries and modules, a more powerful data analysis tool like Row Zero may be a better fit.

How much do Power BI and Tableau cost?

Both Power BI pricing and Tableau pricing offer affordable options if you are planning to build pretty basic data visualizations and dashboards for a handful of users. However, if you anticipate your needs scaling in terms of number of users, quantity of data, or complexity of source data, you will likely want to take a deeper dive into the complexities of licensing and pricing for both Power BI and Tableau, which can get very expensive when deployed to an enterprise. Businesses often complain about low engagement with Tableau and PowerBI dashboards, so you may be paying for seats that aren't being used.

What is Row Zero? Key Features and Advantages

In contrast to Power BI and Tableau, Row Zero is a simple and powerful tool every data consumer can use to analyze big data sets and create dashboards. Without access to underlying data and the ability to manipulate, pivot, and graph it, dashboards and data visualizations are static assets that don’t answer the questions that help businesses progress. Tableau and Powerbi are great for high level metric monitoring and dashboards but when insights are drawn from those tools, the business needs a last mile analytics tool, like Row Zero to enable departments like finance, marketing, sales, and operations, to work with big data sets. Teams performing revenue recognition, pricing analyses, internal audit, and revenue operations audits.

The spreadsheet is the pinnacle of a flexible analytics tools, which is why they are so hard to build. Row Zero enables users to analyze data in the spreadsheet format they all know. Pivot tables and graphs are standard but a spreadsheet can support longitudinal forecasts, sensitivity analyses, conditional formatting, and all the cell level computations users can construct.


Tableau and PowerBI are both great tools for dashboards and data visualizations. If beautiful visualizations are most important, Tableau is likely the better choice. Use cases in which the dashboards are public or customer facing might benefit from using Tableau. If you are choosing a tool for a group of technical data analysts that want as many features and capabilities as possible, PowerBI is a better choice. The newer features in PowerBI that focus on data preparation and pulling data from complex data sources probably give it the edge in capabilities for analysts that are building data sources and dashboards for an entire company. If you need a last mile analytics tool for business teams who need speed, flexibility, and ease of use, a product, like Row Zero, may be best. Row Zero works just like Excel and Google Sheets but can connect directly to your data warehouse, open 1 billion row data sets, and be shared across teams. The product provides an easy to use spreadsheet UI for people who don't know how to use more complex BI tools.