Tableau vs Power BI – how do you choose? Both of these data visualization tools have been on the market for quite a while, and both already got an army of fans and a group of haters. 

Both are quite similar in some respect, and both are quite different in others. To help you choose the best data visualization software solution for your business we created this comprehensive comparison article. 

Ready to dive in? 

Similarities & Differences

If you are all about the interface, the Power BI or Tableau dispute can be solved quite easily – Power BI only works on Windows Operational System while Tableau work on every OS. Power BI logic also looks and feels like their Microsoft Suite Products, so if you or your team has experience in working with the latter you won’t experience any issues with onboarding. 

Property / PlatformMicrosoft Power BITableau
PriceHas a free plan, and a Pro at $9.99 per user a month:$70 per user a month:
Trial60 days14 days
Data refresh8 Automatic refreshes per dayCan be scheduled for any time
Application speedRelatively slow on desktop, becomes faster when loading inputted data on a cloudDisplays all received info right away, making the heaviest dashboards load fast
ImplementationProgram for Windows desktop + small changes in CloudProgram for any desktop + changes in the Cloud 
OtherNatural language query tool – Siri for visualization
Easy to use
Limited access to databases and connectors 
Handles large volumes of data with fast preformance
A broad range of database, servers, and native connectors

Tableau is generally faster and offers more capabilities, although this convenience comes at a higher price – 7 times that of a Power BI membership. Both of the platforms possess an increasing number of data source connectors, although if you have a lot of info from different sources, you’ll have to use a developer or a third-party to connect them – from both. 

Different trial periods and other differences can be found in the table above for your convenience. 

Desktop & Cloud Versions

Good news everyone – both of the interactive data visualization tools have a desktop and a cloud version. But regardless of this fact, there is a big difference between the two. Both of these data analytics software & data visualization tools are quite proficient in both desktop and cloud versions, but how proficient is where the difference comes from. 

Power BI is mostly for desktop use. Only a small number of changes can be done from the cloud when the majority of the functions are reserved exclusively for the desktop. Now, Tableau in this regard is a bit more flexible. Tableau data visualization is way more functional online, which means you can allow more team members to participate in the data visualization process without having them to install the desktop version first.

Although you can’t yet use Tableau’s cloud version to perform the whole range of the data analytics and interactive data visualization operations, it’s enhanced online usability can be a distinct advantage for the companies with the large analytics and marketing teams interdependence. 


Microsoft Power BI

Well, here it goes –  if you are looking for an interactive data visualization software that does not require a deep understanding of analytics and background knowledge in data science – Power BI is your guy.  

If what you are looking for is to make your data pretty in order to show investors, stakeholders and other company members your current progress and future aspirations, Power BI will be great at doing just that. 

It is widely used for marketing, IT and advertisement needs, as it’s interface is considered a bit more intuitive and a bit less overwhelming when compared to the Tableau data visualization tool.  


If you are serious about your data, Tableau is your best option. It is not only a great data visualization platform but also presents all the perks of the data analytics software, which allows you to get deep insights into your operation’s performances using Tableau’s advanced data processing tools. 

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

This interactive data visualization software is used not only for your typical media and marketing needs, but more so for multifarious calculations in Healthcare, Manufacturing, Transportation, Energy, Finance and Public Sector industries.


Microsoft Power BI

As you remember from the comparison table earlier, Microsoft Power BI is a more democratic option. You can start with a free 2-month trial, and you can have a free plan for a single user that allows for custom visualizations, data cleaning and preparation. 

You can become a Pro for $9,99 or go Premium for only $4,995 a month (yes, you read that comma right)!

You can also publish your completed data visualization projects to the Power BI service i.e. online, although this opportunity comes with strings attached. If using a free plan you decide to give a link to your project to anyone, you have to agree to share your data with Microsoft giant, which can later be used for research, articles, examples, and in the learning center.


Now, Tableau is a whole different story. First of all – no free version, although there is a 14-day free trial. Their packages rate depending on your individual or team objectives. If you are an individual, you can start with a $70 a month yearly plan (yes, you can only go annually). 

If you are an organization though, payments get a little more complex than that. Your final data visualization cost will largely depend on the type and the number of roles you are buying, which also increases by a tiny portion (from $12 to $15 for a Viewer Plan) if you are planning to host on the Tableaus server. 

There are 3 access levels: Creator, Explorer, and a Viewer, with different capabilities and sharing rights, a combination of which determines your final monthly payment. When purchasing Tableaus SaaS team subscription, you will also have to buy at least 1 creator, at least 5 explorers and a minimum of 100 viewers.


Microsoft Power BI

Generally speaking, the Power BI’s dashboard is more user-friendly. The intuitive drag-and-drop approach of this visualization software allows users to utilize all of its functionality quite easily, without being overwhelmed with a large number of data science parameters. 


Unlike with the other data visualization tool called Google Data Studio, you can’t draw any custom shapes or elements with the graphic interface in the Power BI, or Tableau. There are also a large number of pre-set colour schemes in Power BI you can use to save time on your visualization design development. 


Tableau might not be the more intuitive one, but that’s due to offering more advanced visualization features serving comprehensive industry-specific needs. Tableau also offers more customization in terms of design and is more flexible when it comes to colours, shapes and fonts’ adjustments. 


There is also a great shortcut when it comes to functionality unique for this data analytics software called Tableau Public. By using this sacred visualization space you can download dashboards uploaded by other creators, modify and then use them.

On top of using visualization designs from Tableau Public, this platform has pre-built default templates you can use instead of simple colour themes available with PowerBI.  


Data Visualization tools are sophisticated multi-level solutions that can encounter bugs and unresolved errors simply due to the complex nature of the tasks solved by the Power BI and Tableau platforms.

This is why the question of proper support becomes so crucial. Both of these platforms have large support centers – articles, videos and webinars that will help you master the processing data visualization tool. Both Tableau and Power BI have communities you can access by clicking on the corresponding links here, which means you can find answers using the power of like-minded individuals, where everyone helps each other. 

When it comes to the troubleshooting support kind, Tableau has a big advantage. Huge. The Standard Support is available during 8 AM – 5 PM business hours, while Extended Support gives you a priority on solving your issues and “the additional availability of 24 x 7 weekend support for critical P1 issues”. And Premium Support offers extended availability and the fastest response time imaginable, including a 30-minute reply and a “24×7 Mission Critical Phone Support”.

And Power BI, on the other hand, allows you to file a support ticket on your free plan and doesn’t exactly disclose the kind of support you get with your Premium Package.


This is a concluding part of the article, which means now you know all about the best data visualization tools – Power BI and Tableau – on the market.  

But here’s a visualization software breakdown in general. If you have a small to medium business that values and requires data visualization, but in no way is focused or dependant on data science – go for Power BI. It requires little resources to operate and will satisfy your data visualization needs at a low cost (if you don’t need advanced features coming with a Power BI Premium Package). 

If you are a large enterprise that relies on data, loves data and breathes data – go with Tableau. It will provide you with deep insights and data science findings specific to your industry you will not find elsewhere. It might require a couple of data scientists or other specialists of a similar kind, but hey, isn’t it worth it? 😉

Contact us in case you need help deciding between the two platforms or you just feel like chatting about data visualization.