Power BI vs Excel: 19 Features & Uses Compared

power bi vs excel

Power BI vs Excel is a question that’s cropped up a lot lately, so today, we want to share our thoughts on using Microsoft Excel and Power BI for business.

Both tools are incredibly useful, so it’s essential to know where each tool performs best and how you can use both to your advantage for collecting, sorting, analysing and visualising data.

What Is Microsoft Power BI Used For?

Power BI is a popular business tool for business intelligence that allows users to create interactive dashboards, reports, and data models.

The data visualisations produced in Power BI can be shared with a team or organisation to make informed decisions based on the analysed data.

Other Power BI uses include:

  • Creating interactive dashboards
  • Building reports and data models
  • Visualising data

Key features include real-time updates of information through live connections, the ability to transform data, calculated fields, and much more.

Using Power BI for business is a great idea if you’re looking to get started with data analytics and data visualisation. 

What Is Microsoft Excel Used For?

Microsoft Excel is used for data analysis, statistics, and spreadsheets. This program was designed to give users the ability to create complex calculations with ease.

There are plenty of uses for Excel that are specific to certain industries and personal projects. However, some common uses for Excel in business are:

  • Accounting & finance
  • Inventory management
  • Project management
  • Data collection and analysis

Microsft Excel is a great business tool because it’s so simple to use. It gives you the power to manipulate data quickly and can even be used offline or on mobile devices for convenience.

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3 Key Differences Between Power BI Vs Excel

It’s important to note that Power BI and Microsoft Excel are different tools with their own strengths. Power BI is useful for data visualisation and sharing reports and dashboards, while excel has more flexibility in terms of formulas.

Here are 3 key differences between Microsoft Excel and Power BI to consider.

1. Uses Of Power BI vs Microsoft Excel

Power BI is a highly scalable and flexible data visualisation tool that lets you create interactive reports. In its purest form, Power BI can be described as an Excel-like reporting platform.

On the other hand, Microsft Excel has been a trusted tool for creating and managing spreadsheets, charts and formulas since it was first launched in 1985. Microsoft Excel is the most widely used data analysis tool today across all industries due to its power, simplicity, popularity and affordability.

2. Power BI Vs Excel Pricing

The cost of Power BI depends on how many projects you need and the amount of power you’ll use to crunch and display your data. There are 4 Power BI subscriptions to choose from, including:

  • Power BI Pro Free Trial
  • Power BI Pro – $9.99 per user, per month
  • Power BI Premium Per User – $20 per user, per month
  • Power Bi Premium Per Capacity – $4,996 per capacity, per month

Excel is included in the Microsoft 365 Business Standard package and costs £9.40 per user per month. You also get a host of other software, including Outlook, Word, Teams and Exchange.

3. Skill Level Required To Use Power BI vs Excel

Power BI is straightforward to use even if you’re unfamiliar with data visualisation tools. With this program, all users have to do is connect different datasets, and it will automatically start visualising the data.

It’s so simple that Power BI users can build self-service business intelligence tools for their coworkers without requiring any specialised programming knowledge or experience with expensive tools such as Tableau.

Most employees should know how to use Excel, and it’s relatively easy to learn the basics if you find the right Excel training course. Once you’ve learnt the basics, the sky’s the limit, but ongoing training and refresher courses are usually required, not least because Microsoft Excel frequently gets new updates and features.

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Top 19 Power BI vs Excel Features & Uses Compared

So, now we’re up to speed, it’s time to compare 19 features and uses for Power BI vs Excel. Our Power BI consultants and Excel Experts have compiled their top 19 need to know comparisons between the two, so let’s get started.

Range Of Reporting Tools

There is a rich range of tools to produce impressive-looking interactive reports in Power BI, far more options than are available than in Excel. Power BI is also more intuitive for non-technical and new users of this software.

Customising Reports

As Power BI can handle multiple data sources, it makes your reports much more customisable. For example, if you wanted to change the colour scheme of a Power BI report or add custom visuals like maps or gauges which aren’t available in Excel – Power BI is an invaluable tool.

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Data Visualization Options

There are over 50 different visualisations in Power BI, including column charts, line charts, bar graphs and scatter plots. These allow you to analyse your data from every angle! There are less than 15 visualisation options in Excel, which can be a drawback if you’re looking to get creative with your analysis.

Dashboards

Dashboards in Power BI are more user-friendly than Excel dashboards. The drag and drop interface makes it much easier to create attractive, customisable dashboards, so you’re up to date on the key metrics in your business.

Excel’s dashboard tools are still great but fiddly. Power BI dashboards offer better access to charting options that can be used in their reports compared with excel!

excel for data analysis

Data Manipulation and Analysis

Power BI is a great tool, but Excel still has the upper hand in this area. It’s better suited to complex calculations with formulas such as SUM(), AVERAGE() or VLOOKUP().

Power BI is better suited for visualising data rather than analysing it. This makes it more useful in the early stages of analysis when you’re trying to understand your numbers and how they interact with one another before drilling down into them.

Mobile Device Ease Of Use

If you’re looking for software that can be used on a mobile device, Power BI is the better option! Power BI mobile apps for Android and iPhone users make viewing and analysing reporting on the go incredibly easy.

Excel is available as an app, but when used on mobile, it can be tricky due to the small screen size and simplified functionality. That being said, being able to access your Excel spreadsheets on your mobile device is still a massive win!

Advanced Filtering

Power BI offers advanced cross-filtering between charts. This means you can easily filter data in one chart and see the results reflected across all other charts on your Power BI dashboard.

Excel has excellent filtering, but Power BI offers the best all-around filtering options and is very easy to use.

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Interactive Analysis

The visual impact of reports and dashboards in Power BI is better than in Excel and allows interactive analysis and drill-downs. This is an important feature as Power BI allows users can explore data and discover more detailed insights.

Automatic Data Updates

Data in Power BI is automatically updated, which is very important when the source data changes. These changes are reflected live in Power BI reports, so you and your team are always updated on the number.

Excel also offers live data updates, but power bi provides more options. There are several ways to automatically update Power BI reports, including subscriptions and dataflow, making the process much easier!

Reporting Speed

Power BI reports are updated automatically, and the visualisations included make it much more user-friendly. Reports can be generated quickly with Power BI, whereas Excel requires a lot of time to set up calculations and formatting for each report or dashboard you create.

Excel is still useful when you’re working with a lot of data in an existing sheet, but Power BI’s quick reporting speed makes it an excellent option for those who need to generate reports and dashboards quickly.

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Analysis Tools

The capabilities of the analysis tools in Power BI are far greater than Microsoft Excel. Power bi has several different visualisation options and charts that provide you with more information to discover insights.

Microsoft Excel’s analysis tools are limited, but if these packaged visualisations aren’t enough, Power BI also offers the ability for users to create their own custom visuals! This makes it one of the most flexible data reporting software on the market.

Integration With Other Tools And Platforms

Power BI offers many different app integrations, which makes integration with other tools and platforms incredibly easy. These include Excel, Slack, Salesforce, SharePoint Online/On-Premise, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Analytics Premium, and Google Big Query.

Excel doesn’t offer Power BI’s level of integration with other tools and platforms, but it does work seamlessly with cloud-based services such as Microsoft OneDrive, Dropbox, Box.com and more! It also works well on mobile devices, which Power BI doesn’t support.

Complex Data Modelling

Power BI can cope with very complex modelling if you’re looking to build a complex data model, whereas Excel is not made for these purposes. Power BI Desktop offers users the ability to perform modelling with ease using drag and drop features and advanced filters, which can’t be done in excel!

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Report Sharing

Intuitive report sharing is built into Power BI. As we’ve mentioned, reports can be viewed across multiple devices, and Power BI makes it easy to share reports with your team members, even if they don’t have Power BI themselves.

Excel doesn’t offer as much support for sharing and collaborating on reports. Still, Power BI’s intuitive interface is a step in the right direction for those who want excellent report collaboration functionality.

Power BI Uses DAX

Power BI uses the DAX (Data Analysis Expressions) language, which is easier to use than MDX used by Microsoft Excel. You can customise datasets and add calculations yourself by using DAX in Power BI.

Excel uses the M language, which is challenging to work with and Power BI’s better functionality makes it a more logical choice for those who want power features without learning complex coding languages.

Get Data From Anywhere

With Power BI, you can extract data from virtually anywhere – any application, platform, or software. This gives Power BI users access to a massive range of data sources. Usually, this is done using Power BI desktop.

Excel can connect and use data from a huge range of different sources, but Power BI is still more intuitive when it comes to getting this kind of information into your reports and dashboards quickly!

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Collaboration

Power BI makes it easy to share and collaborate on dashboards – you can invite people, give them access rights and allow comments. With Power BI dashboard sharing is simple!

Using Microsoft Excel online, it’s straightforward to collaborate with other users in the same sheet. You can also set up security and access permissions to ensure that the only people editing and viewing your spreadsheet are people you have given access to.

Drag & Drop Interface

One of our favourite things about Power BI is the drag and drop interface. It is easy to connect separate data sources using the Power BI desktop drag and drop feature, making it much easier to use than Excel, especially for non-technical people.

Multiple Versions

As discussed in the cost comparison Power BI has 3 subscription options and a free trial version. This means you have total flexibility and can scale the price with your usage.

Excel comes as part of the Microsoft 365 package and is essentially a fixed fee per user. There is a free version trial too. As most businesses will most likely be using the Office suite, buying MS excel separately is rare.

power bi vs excel

When To Use Power BI vs Excel

Power BI is great for non-technical power users who are looking to get started with data analytics. Excel is better for more advanced power users who require the flexibility of sharing their work across multiple devices and platforms.

In most cases, users will use both products as part of their data toolkit!

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How Do Microsoft Excel & Power BI Complement Each Other?

Excel is great for capturing data, entering data and formatting it using a vast range of mathematical operations, many of which are not available in Power BI. Data validation and conditional formatting are beneficial to guide users when inputting data.

Power BI presents this data in a visually interactive way and is ideal for data exploration, and analysing huge data sets such as Big Data. Excel has a row limitation (1,048,576) which may sound enormous but may not be enough for some data sources.

Bear in mind that tabular style reports in Excel can be used as a data source into Power BI. Calculations can be done first in Excel using the vast range of functions available, e.g., statistical or engineering.

Power BI can export to CSV files which can be imported into Excel. For anything to do with Business Intelligence and Big Data, Power BI is superior to Excel.

power bi vs excel

Microsoft Power BI vs Excel – Who Wins?

Power BI and Excel are both handy tools for analysing data sets.

Excel is excellent for power users who want to get down into the nitty-gritty of their data, but Power BI’s intuitive interface makes it more accessible than Microsoft Excel.

Data collaboration features in Power BI make it easier to work together on reports with other team members.

It’s a real bonus that Power BI and Excel can be used together to get the best of both worlds! In most cases, Power BI complements Excel rather than replaces it.

Power BI consultants