Comparing Popular Data Visualization Tools


By Jared Bergantino

Effective data visualizations enhance underlying quantitative and qualitative data by highlighting discrepancies and illuminating insights. In a 2014 TED Talk, renowned data journalist, David McCandless, stated “data is the new soil. [Data] is a fertile, creative medium…[and] data visualizations feel like flowers blooming from this medium.” While data visualization is certainly not a new concept (dating back to the ancient Egyptians in 200 BC), the increased proliferation of robust visual analytics tools over the last twenty years has drastically expanded the use and usefulness of data visualizations.

Many software solutions exist to help organizations build out visualizations (such as Sisense, SAP Analytics Cloud, IBM’s Watson Analytics, Qliktech, and many more). Two tools, however, stand out from the rest, being the most widely adopted products (with the highest market shares) within the visual analytics space: Salesforce.com’s Tableau and Microsoft’s Power BI. When trying to determine the best tool to use, are either of these clearly the better choice?



Founded in 2003, the Seattle-based company is consistently regarded as the market leader among BI vendors, particularly for self-service analytics. Acquired by Salesforce in 2019 through a $15 billion all-stock transaction, Tableau offers users a blend of powerful data transformation and computation capabilities paired with an intuitive user interface.


  • UI is modern and efficient to use
  • Links to a vast amount of data connectors (60+)
  • Handles datasets larger than 10 GBs with ease


  • Expensive (pricing here)
  • Significant learning curve (especially with users unfamiliar with BI tools), with many features and customizations to become familiar with, requiring in-depth training before being able to use it with efficacy


Power BI

Ever since Microsoft made Power BI available to the public in 2015, it has become an invaluable tool for many organizations. Power BI is simple to use, and is easier for non-data analyst users to maneuver (operating similarly to Excel).


  • Integrates well with other Microsoft service offerings
  • Lower cost BI tool (pricing here). Power BI Desktop is free for everyone
  • The interface is similar to other MS products such as Word, PowerPoint, Excel, etc. which many users are already accustomed to
  • Custom visualization repository for third-party solutions


  • Unable to process data sets greater than 10 GBs due to design limitations
  • Options are not as robust as Tableau
  • Fewer connectors than Tableau (20+)



While the above provided a high-level overview of two key players within the BI software sector, selecting a vendor is dependent upon the use case, organizational demographics, and budget. There is no “one size fits all,” but leveraging a BI tool to drive faster, more intuitive insights into your data is table stakes. If you need help selecting a service or implementing a BI tool, contact NEOS via our website or by phone at (860) 519-5601. We have over 80 highly specialized industry experts who can assist with your technology modernization needs.

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