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Power BI vs Tableau: Which one should you choose?

Power BI or Tableau? This comparison will help you decide which of these tools to use for your data science and analytics needs.

A good decision-making process finds a balance between decisiveness and due diligence, so conveying information quickly is highly valued in business. This is the essence of visualization—oftentimes in a single graphic, charts quickly show and explain what would otherwise have been thousands of numbers and words. Charts can be created using Business Intelligence tools such as Tableau and Power BI.

Power BI vs Tableau - Similarities

According to Gartner they are the two main leaders in the business intelligence platforms market. Tableau was introduced in 2003 and grew into one of the most popular BI tools, while Power BI was more recently launched by Microsoft in 2011, and added to Office 365 in 2013.

They can be used to produce a variety of different visualizations.

These can include bar and line charts, treemaps, and geographical maps. On both platforms, you can interact with these visualizations, such as by hovering over them to get more information and applying filters, and they can also be combined to create dashboards.

They can connect to a variety of data sources.

These include MS Excel, CSV, and JSON, and the paid version of both platforms gives you access to 50+ additional data connectors such as Google Bigquery, Amazon Redsift, and Salesforce. Visualizations are updated if the underlying data changes.

Both are user-friendly with no coding involved.

This makes them an ideal first set of tools to learn if you are new to data analytics. If you are a business analyst they are two of the main data visualization tools you will need to work with data. They are by no means the only tools you’ll be working with, as the graph below demonstrates. SQL, R, and Python are also valuable tools, and adding one or more to your skill set is extremely valuable.

Thanks to recent updates, the two have become more and more similar.

For example, Power BI used to excel in data preparation, as users have always been able to model, clean, and add calculated columns to datasets through Power Query. However, Tableau has recently made its own inroads on this with the launch of Tableau Prep.

The first question you should ask when choosing between Power BI and Tableau is: do I need to?

If you are looking to upskill and enhance your value to potential employers, having a working knowledge of either Power BI or Tableau is great. Additionally, both are available here on DataCamp, and once you learn how to use one, learning how to use the other is simple.

Power BI vs Tableau—The Differences

However, there are a few points of difference that should be considered, and if you are considering using them within your business it makes sense to choose one or the other.

Power BI only works on Microsoft Windows.

If you will mostly be using a Mac Computer for your work, Tableau would be more useful.

The range of certifications available differs between Tableau and Power BI.

Tableau offers a wider range of options designed for specific professions. You can find out more about these on the Tableau website (some will be retired soon, and there is a new Data Analyst certification going live soon, so be sure to check this), and DataCamp also recently put our Tableau instructors up to the challenge of taking the exam themselves! Costs range from \$100 to \$250.

Power BI has one exam that covers all the main functionalities of the platform and costs \$165 (although at the time of writing they are still offering it for \$15 to students, people on furlough, and other individuals who have been negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic).

Tableau’s exam is (currently) only available in English.

Power BI offers its exam in multiple languages, while Tableau currently only offers it in English—although they have said they will be releasing translated versions in the future.

Their ease of integration will depend on what kind of software you use.

As Power BI was developed by Microsoft, it will be easier to integrate into your workspace if you use Office software. Likewise, Tableau was recently acquired by Salesforce so they are worth considering thanks to their native integration. However, both are capable of connecting to Excel and Salesforce, so this is more a question of which would run more smoothly.

There are different pricing levels.

This is where the most differences exist between Power BI and Tableau.

Name of license Cost (monthly) Description Name of license Cost (monthly, billed annually) Description
Power BI Desktop Free Allows you to use all basic Power BI functions on your local machine Tableau Public Free Can be used to create visualizations connected to Excel, CSV, and JSON files. All visualizations will be publicly viewable
Power BI Pro $9.99 (free if you have Office 365) Provides access to individual users, and enables them to build their own dashboards and connect to a wide range of data sources. Tableau Explorer \$35 on Tableau servers, \$42 online Allows the holder to build dashboards and visualizations based on a dataset provided by colleagues.
Power BI Premium (per-user) $20 Similar to Power BI Pro, but has increased storage capacity, allows you to refresh dashboards more often, and offers some additional features. Tableau Creator $70 Provides all Explorer permissions, plus the ability to create connections to data sources. Recommended for individual users.

The licenses above are designed for individual data analysts who are creating dashboards. If your company is interested in rolling out Tableau or Power BI, you will also need to consider viewer licenses:

Name of license Cost (monthly) Description Name of license Cost (monthly, billed annually) Description
Power BI Premium (per-capacity) From $4,995 An enterprise-specific license that enables viewing access to everyone in your organization, (PBI Pro license is still required to edit dashboards). Tableau Viewer \$12 per viewer on Tableau servers, \$15 online An enterprise-specific license that allows the holder to view dashboards created by colleagues and apply filters. Also offers custom enterprise subscription plans.

Which is better, Power BI or Tableau?

There is a lot of overlap between Power BI and Tableau, and ultimately both are useful tools to have. For some users, choosing to learn both can be the best option, however, for those who wish to decide between one or the other, there are differences in cost and accessibility that must be considered.

DataCamp offers courses in both Tableau and Power BI. Our courses enable you to practice with each tool’s interface without any installation involved and cover functions such as connecting data and building dashboards.

In summary

Tableau Power BI
Market leaders?
Variety of different visualizations?
Can connect to various data sources?
User friendly?
Type of machine it can work on? Macs and Windows Computers Windows Computers only
Certifications? Multiple One
Easier to integrate with... Salesforce Microsoft
Cost Varies, but Tableau is generally more expensive Varies, but Tableau is generally more expensive