You are about to witness the review of the most popular self-service business intelligence solutions up to date – Looker and Tableau, and here’s the first heads-up.

There is no one-fits-all answer here, therefore we won’t be giving it to you, but what we will do is provide you with information that will drastically help you make that decision on your own.

Ready to explore? Let’s take a look! 

Looker Vs. Tableau: Overview and Key Features

Similarities & Differences

We’ll start this product overview with a rule of thumb on the Looker vs Tableau comparison. When it comes to specialty, Looker is mostly suited for serving the needs of IT and BI teams, while Tableau makes living and breathing much easier for agencies and data analysts who frequently work with said data.

Tableau is designed for easy in-memory data extracts, while Looker relies on its centralized modelling layer without any data extraction, leaving all the info in the database. This means Looker displays your real-time data directly in your dashboard, while Tableau offers data that has been first collected and imported, resulting in the information you see being a bit put off. 

Another crucial difference is whether you require the use of OLAP cubes in your data analytics. If you do, Tableau is a clear winner, as Looker works around them, allowing row-level data access and presenting a ROLAP-like edition of virtual cubes.

Property / PlatformLooker Tableau
Price$5,000+ per company a month$70 per user a month
TrialRequest trial through sales: 
14 days
UsersCalculated for the whole team 1
Data refreshEvery hour, can be changed for any periodCan be scheduled for any time
Application speedDisplays all received info right away, making the heaviest dashboards load fastBecomes slow on desktop past 20GB, loads faster on a cloud
ImplementationNo desktop, program for Cloud onlyProgram for any desktop + changes in the Cloud 
OtherOffers extensive modeling language
LookLM Intuitive interface
Real-time connection to any SQL infrastructure or database
Composes insights into a guided story
A broad range of database, servers, and native connectors

The third most important distinction between Looker and Tableau is, of course, the pricing of these majestic business intelligence solutions. Tableau has a user license system based on the set and the number of roles you acquire with each role costing a different amount. 1 creator license will cost you $70 a month, explorer goes for $35 and viewer for only $12 if you host publicly or on-premises. This price goes up a couple of bucks higher if you decide to host with Tableau.

This pricing model works great for individuals, agencies and large enterprises as you get to pick the number of roles you need along with their level of access. But also remember that when going for the team membership you are required to get at least 1 creator and 5 explorer licenses along with 100 viewers, if you decide to get any. But don’t get discouraged if that seems like a lot. By simply talking to sales before purchasing you’ll be able to negotiate a much better deal based on your specific needs and without any overpaying.

Now Looker is much less open about its pricing, and there is no way to find out how much they will charge you as they do not disclose any prices and ask you to request a quote. But in our experience, if you’re a medium to a large-scale company you’re looking at anything north of $5,000 a month, so if you’re currently smaller than that you should definitely look at other options. 

Desktop & Cloud Versions

Okay, so here’s the deal. Looker works on a cloud only. Tableau works on any desktop (Mac, Windows, you name it) and a cloud. There are numerous advantages and disadvantages to both of these options.

First things first, Tableau is largely a desktop-based BI platform, with only some functionality carried out on a cloud. The full toolbox and a hundred percent of its data analytics and interactive data visualization capabilities can be accessed solely through a desktop. 

The great news is when you purchase any Tableau Desktop plan you automatically get a license for Tableau Online, which allows you to get the best out of two worlds simultaneously.

Tableau dashboard

Tableau Online, which is the name of Tableau’s cloud version, is a fully hosted solution, which removes the need for setting up any servers or scaling hardware capacity. Here you have access to all of your filters, custom views, workbooks and dashboards from a browser, your phone or a tablet. 

On top of data being updated much faster, you also get an Ask Data function which lets you request questions regarding any data source with natural language processing and Explain data — an AI-driven helper that assists in driving smart insights you might have missed. 

Looker dashboard

On the other hand, Looker is a fully browser-based business intelligence solution. That means no need for any desktop installation and further maintenance. 

That also means all of your Looker users will have a continuous software experience. Instead of going from Tableau Desktop to Tableau Prep Builder and then again to Tableau Online to deploy tasks, Looker meets all of your needs in one place. 



According to Looker, those already familiar with an SQL database can easily add to Looker’s git version-controlled data model and outline or manage business guidelines for their company, while less equipped business users can quite without a stretch play around with curated content generally applicable to them and the work processes they uphold. 

Once you take a side-by-side look at both Looker and Tableau dashboards, you’ll notice that Looker is much more simple and user friendly for first-time users than Tableau. If you’re not looking for complex data structures and deep data drilling while enjoying clean design aesthetics, Looker is a great option for you. 

Looker lets you start without much previous background and presents a self-developed proprietary data modelling language called LookML that enables both newbies and advanced SQL database users to run simplified data analysis. Moreover, due to its cloud basis, Looker implementation can be done in a matter of hours as opposed to a couple of days or weeks.

While there’s a number of pleasant advantages, there are some drawbacks that can make you rethink your BI solutions decision. If you prefer OLAP cubes for selective data extraction it will take some time and patience in order to adjust to Looker’s new LookML system. 


If you are one of those brilliant companies who are all about the data, Tableau is your best bet. It is not only an outstandingly great data visualization platform but also a robust data analytics software, which leads you to discover deep AI-based insights on your company’s performance with the help of Tableau’s advanced data processing tools.

You can tweak numerous source dimensions, play around with various performance indicators and configure the most intricate data environments in minutes. 

Tableau, without a doubt, is a more grown-up version of a data analytics solution. It’s much more sophisticated layout enables it’s users to utilize an infinite number of data points in their analysis and presents all-way-round comprehensive functionality in building detailed, robust reports and data visualizations. 

This visual analytics and machine learning software is used not only for your usual marketing and media needs, but more so for complex predictions in Healthcare, Transportation, Manufacturing, Energy, and Finance industries. 


If you’ve recently been to Looker’s website you know that Looker is now part of Google Cloud, so if you have any current connections to Google BigQuery or any of their Google products it will be much easier to perform a transition. 

Unlike any previous data-driven experience you might have had, this business intelligence solution offers a support center called the Department of Customer Love, or DCL for short. As opposed to other platforms it also does not operate with a ticketing system, does not require an escalation path and utilizes a convenient in-app chat for developers and administrators. 

Now if that sounds incredible read on to what Tableau has to offer. Their Standard Support is available during 8 AM – 5 PM business hours, while Extended Support provides a priority on solving any possible errors with “the additional availability of 24 x 7 weekend support for critical P1 issues”, and Premium Support delivering true extended availability with a 30-minute reply and a “24×7 Mission Critical Phone Support”. 

Needless to say that both of these data industry giants invest big bucks into treating their customers right, which includes extensive communities to connect and share your passion with, step-by-step guides, webinars, blog articles, video tutorials, live-online trainings, virtual meetups and even bootcamps. 


If you read all of these product overview points and key features and still not sure which BI solution to choose, here’s a quick remedy. If you love data, if you love playing around with numbers and graphs and formulas then there could be no better gift for you this Christmas than a Tableau creator membership. 

If you don’t care much about decimal points and just want a visual analytics platform that kinda does everything for you, go with Looker. And if you’re looking for more options take a look at these other comparison articles, maybe Power BI or Google Data Studio is a perfect choice for you: