microsoft power bi vs tableau

Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau – Features, Pros & Cons, Verdict

If you are considering using data visualization tools, then you surely must have heard about the long-standing debate of Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau.

Power BI is loaded with data analysis features, and Microsoft makes it further user-friendly with its unique value additions every month. On the other hand, Tableau is considered an awesome data visualization tool because of its prompt insights and drag-and-drop features.

However, as a decision-maker, having the dilemma between Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau is quite common. If you too are having difficulty in selecting between either of these two tools, a thorough comparison, along with the pros and cons, will surely help you decide. So, let’s learn more about the differences between Power BI and Tableau & choose the next BI tool for your business growth.

microsoft power bi vs tableau

Though Microsoft and Tableau both have been in Gartner’s Leaders’ quadrant, Tableau had led the BI Magic Quadrant report for four consecutive years.  After a close contest between Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau, from 2019 onwards, Gartner announced Microsoft as the leader.

Microsoft Power BI’s AI capabilities and features like the capability to understand natural language, text analytics, prompt insights, and image recognition left Tableau behind.

Overview of Microsoft Power BI

Released in 2014, Microsoft Power BI started as a remarkable alternative to Excel. Preparing basic dashboards with Power BI is much easier as compared to any other tool and it also has a steep learning curve.

It has both a cloud-based and desktop interface. Being Microsoft’s product, it is available with the Office 365 Enterprise E5 version pack. Power BI comes with innumerable visual options and templates that are easy to download and implement.

It’s a perfect tool for small to medium entities, both in functionality and price, with no compromise on the ability to develop powerful dashboards.

microsoft power BI top features infographic

Power BI standout features

  • Highly customizable dashboards
  • Drag-and-drop features make it easy for non-IT users
  • DAX formula with similarity to Excel formula
  • M formula language for manipulating dataset
  • Calculated measures do not increase the file size
  • QnA feature for natural language processing
  • Feedback and help buttons
  • Online Analytical Processing (OLAP)
  • Industry-specific graphs and charts
  • Interactive reports authoring
  • Real-time dashboards using Microsoft Azure’s service and Power BI’s streaming capabilities
  • Power BI Desktop is free
  • Access dashboards from any location and device
  • Customize dashboards for mobile-users
  • Data drill-through
  • Bookmark and filter features
  • Embed dashboards in SharePoint and web apps
  • Connects to multiple data sources, including most from Microsoft portfolios, and other data sources like LinkedIn, Marketo, IBM DB2, Hadoop, etc.

Recommended Read: Power BI Free vs Pro Features Comparison

Overview of Tableau

Tableau was introduced in 2003 and Salesforce acquired it in 2019.  This analytical platform has a higher reach in large organizations because of its agile features and its headstart over Power BI.

With Tableau, you can leverage any number of data points for conducting a critical analysis. It’s a robust data visualization tool with drag and drop features. Thus, making it easy to use for no-IT customers.

It’s a flexible tool, and if you are well-versed with calculations and statistics, you will enjoy analyzing and presenting your data with Tableau.

Tableau top features infographic

Tableau standout features

  • Data unification without limitation on data points
  • Coding knowledge not required
  • Real-time analysis and visualization of data-points
  • Data cooperation and data notifications
  • Cohort, what-if, and other complex analysis 
  • Stanford university’s patented technology – VizQL™
  • A clear distinction between measures and dimensions
  • Highlight and filter option
  • Embed dashboards in cloud-apps
  • Mobile-ready friendly dashboards
  • Free Tableau reader for viewing data dashboards
  • Dashboard commenting
  • Translate queries to data visuals
  • Import data from all popular data sources like Hadoop, Kognitio, flat files, Google sheets, etc.

Before researching any further, ask yourself…

Before digging deep into the Tableau or Microsoft Power BI battle, ask yourself 3 questions:

  • What is your business goal?
  • How much are you willing to invest in BI software?
  • Which BI features are important and relevant to your business?

To help you out with the above, we have another blog that highlights the 6 most popular free and paid tools on the market. You can read it by clicking the button below –

Power BI vs Tableau – Basic features comparison table

FeaturesMicrosoft Power BITableau
Ease of useDeveloping multiple reports on one page is easier. Changing sizes and changing positions of graphs are convenient.Reports are developed, which are then compiled into a dashboard, making the process more complicated.
Data points3500 data point limitations.No limitations.
Data SourcesConnects to a host of data sources from 3rd party and Microsoft applications, web services, and offline data sources.Hundreds of data connectors including Hadoop, OLAP, and NoSQL.
Customer SupportStrong community support and users can raise tickets for any concerns. But, Premium and Pro users receive better support than free users.Comprehensive Online Support is categorically divided for Desktop, Server and Online users.
Cost/PricingPower BI’s basic plan starts at $9.99 monthly/per user. Its desktop version with all visualization capabilities is free.Tableau’s basic plan starts at $70/user/month. Tableau Public is free but with no data security.
Best SuitedPower BI is perfectly tailored for small and medium organizations, with easy to use and intuitive interface.Tableau is better suited for large organizations with a big database.
Skills requiredUsers with limited data analysis skills and with Excel experience can build dashboards on Power BI.Tableau requires basic data analysis skills and acquaintance with primitive visualizations.

To help you make the right choice between Microsoft Power BI or Tableau, we have highlighted their pros and cons in the next section.

power bi dashboard gif
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Microsoft Power BI – Pros / Advantages


Power BI desktop with all capabilities, except publishing, is free. Small organizations can make perfect utilization of the same. And at minimum payment, you can also get the publishing rights.

Custom visuals

Apart from run-of-the-mill visuals which are available in Power BI, there is also an option to import custom visuals. Thus providing enhanced alternatives to the default ones.

Microsoft fraternity

Being a Microsoft product, it has strong community support, and you can also connect your dashboard with all of MS software. Every month, there’s a new update based on user experiences.

You can read this other blog to know more about the business benefits of Power BI

Microsoft Power BI – Cons / Disadvantages

Large database

Power BI desktop file (.pbix) cannot exceed the size limit of 1 GB. Thus, at times, using this tool can be challenging for large datasets & entities.

Difficult to master

To utilize all the features of Power BI, analysts should have knowledge of relational databases like MS-SQL, Oracle, etc and also knowledge of functional languages like DAX.

tableau features gif
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Tableau – Pros / Advantages

Remarkable visualization capabilities

With its impeccable designs and illustrations, Tableau can easily convert unstructured information into comprehensive outputs.

Large datasets

Since it can be connected to multiple sources and has no data points’ limitations, Tableau is perfectly tailored for large organizations dealing.

Tableau – Cons / Disadvantages

High cost

It’s much more expensive compared to other BI tools like Oracle, IBM, Power BI, etc. The pricing is both complicated and inflexible.

Security Issue

Using its free version is critical for sensitive data because the dashboards get published on Tableau’s visualization gallery.

Embedment Issue

Though it can be embedded into all IT landscapes, the process isn’t smooth.

You’ll be surprised to knowWhy Power BI is better than Tableau for small businesses

tableau vs power BI

Tableau vs Power BI – Final verdict

To conclude we can say although we do not have a clear-shot winner in Microsoft Power BI vs Tableau battle, but if you are:

  • Small-sized business owner –  you should opt for Power BI because of its impactful and easy-to-use BI features at the best price. 
  • Medium-sized business owner –  you should also opt for Power BI if the data size is within the 10 GB limit. And from the article, you might have understood that Power BI offers some of the best BI features at the most reasonable price.
  • Large-sized business owner – you can opt for Tableau. However,  companies like Walmart, Apple, and many others also use Power BI as their BI tool.

And again, in the end, it all comes down to the 3 main questions we asked earlier

  • What is your business goal?
  • How much are you willing to invest in BI software?
  • Which BI features are important and relevant to your business?

To answer these 3 questions from the point-of-view of a business owner who wants to implement data visualization, do read the following guide:

What is data visualization and how it can help SME businesses to evolve?

And if you have any more questions related to Microsoft Power BI, its applications, features, and use, don’t hesitate to contact our data visualization consulting team.