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A Comprehensive Review and Ranking of Power BI Features

28 June 2023

A Comprehensive Review and Ranking of Power BI Features: From Desktop to Datahub

In this comprehensive review, we'll take a deep dive into the various Power BI features, dissect their pros and cons, and most importantly, rank them based on criteria such as ease of use, functionality, flexibility, and cost. You can of course take our JBI Power BI training should you wish.

Power BI Desktop


What Is Power BI Desktop?

Power BI Desktop is a Windows-based application designed for creating interactive reports and dashboards. It allows you to connect to data from multiple sources, transform and shape that data to meet your needs and create powerful reports with detailed visuals.

Key Features and Benefits

There are so many key Power BI features. From seamless data integration to comprehensive data modelling, Power BI Desktop offers numerous features. Let's take a closer look:

  1. Data Integration: Connect to hundreds of sources, from Excel worksheets to cloud-based services.
  2. Data Transformation: Shape data according to your needs with Power Query.
  3. Data Modelling: Define relationships, and create calculated columns, measures, and tables.

Drawbacks and Limitations

Despite its benefits, Power BI Desktop does have some limitations. For instance, it's primarily a Windows-based application, so Mac users might find it challenging to use. Additionally, the software may seem complex for beginners.

Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Desktop shines in scenarios where detailed and interactive reporting is necessary. For instance, a business analyst can use it to transform raw sales data into a meaningful report to aid strategic decision-making.

Power BI Service


Understanding Power BI Service

Also known as Power BI online, Power BI Service is a cloud-based service where you can publish, share, and collaborate on BI reports created in Power BI Desktop.

Power BI Service: Features and Benefits

Power BI Service provides various features, including:

  1. Collaboration: Share reports and dashboards with colleagues or external partners.
  2. Real-Time Dashboard: Track data changes in real-time with live dashboards.
  3. Scheduled Refresh: Keep your data up-to-date with scheduled refreshes.

The Drawbacks

While Power BI Service offers excellent collaborative features, it requires a stable internet connection to function effectively. Moreover, its pricing can be a bit steep for small businesses.

When Is Power BI Service Most Useful?

Power BI Service is an excellent tool for teams that need to collaborate on data visualisation projects. For example, a team working remotely can share and update BI reports in real time.


Power BI Mobile Apps


Introducing Power BI Mobile Apps

Power BI Mobile Apps offer a portable solution for accessing business intelligence reports. Available for iOS and Android, these apps bring data visualisation and analysis right to your fingertips.

Features and Benefits

Here are some noteworthy features:

  1. Accessibility: Access your BI reports anytime, anywhere.
  2. Real-Time Alerts: Get notified when data changes occur.
  3. Annotate and Share: Annotate reports and share insights with your team.

What Are the Limitations?

One limitation of the Power BI Mobile Apps is that they provide a view-only experience; you can't create or edit reports.

Use Cases

A field sales executive can use the mobile app to access sales reports on the go and share insights with the team instantly.

Power BI Gateway


What Is Power BI Gateway?

Power BI Gateway serves as a bridge between Power BI, Power Apps, Power Automate, and data sources, allowing scheduled data refresh and live queries.

Gateway Features and Benefits

  1. Data Connection: Connects on-prem

uses data sources for cloud services.

  1. Scheduled Refresh: Schedule data refresh to keep dashboards and reports up-to-date.
  2. Live Queries: Execute direct queries to your data source.

Any Drawbacks?

Setting up Power BI Gateway can be technical and may require IT assistance. Additionally, it only supports selected data sources.

Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Gateway is useful for businesses that maintain on-premises databases but wish to use Power BI cloud services for data visualisation.

Power BI Embedded


What Is Power BI Embedded?

Power BI Embedded is an Azure service that allows developers to embed interactive visuals and reports into an application or website for a more tailored experience.

Key Features and Benefits

  1. Embedding Capabilities: Embed stunning, fully interactive reports and dashboards into apps.
  2. API Integration: Comprehensive API set for embedding and automating processes.
  3. Tailored Experience: Offer users a personalised, integrated BI experience.


Power BI Embedded requires a certain degree of technical know-how to implement and manage, which might pose a challenge for non-technical users.

Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Embedded is useful for software vendors who want to provide powerful data visualisation features in their applications without building from scratch.

Power BI Report Server


Introduction to Power BI Report Server

Power BI Report Server is an on-premises server that allows you to publish Power BI reports, ensuring data remains within your network.

Benefits and Features

  1. Data Security: Retain full control over your data and its security.
  2. Report Publishing: Publish Power BI reports to an on-premises report server.
  3. Scheduled Refresh: Keep your data up-to-date with scheduled refreshes.


Power BI Report Server may require a significant investment in infrastructure and IT resources, which might be out of reach for small to medium businesses.

Use Case Scenarios

Ideal for organisations in heavily regulated industries where data security is paramount, such as healthcare and finance.

Power BI Premium


What Is Power BI Premium?

Power BI Premium is a more advanced version of Power BI that provides enhanced capacity and flexibility to businesses that require more from their BI tools.

Benefits and Features

  1. Greater Capacity: Handle larger data volumes and increased workloads.
  2. More Flexibility: Access more sharing and collaboration features.
  3. Enhanced Performance: Enjoy faster data refresh rates.


The cost of Power BI Premium can be prohibitive for some businesses, especially SMEs.

Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Premium is ideal for large businesses that handle extensive data sets and require advanced analytics and data refresh capabilities.

Power BI Visuals Marketplace


A Brief Overview of Power BI Visuals Marketplace

The Power BI Visuals Marketplace is an online store of visualisation tools designed to enhance your Power BI experiences. It offers a plethora of custom visuals built by Microsoft and its partners.

Features and Benefits

  1. Visual Variety: Choose from a wide array of custom visuals to enhance your reports.
  2. Community Support: Get access to a community of developers and Power BI users.
  3. Quality Assurance: Microsoft certifies many visuals, ensuring they meet specific quality standards.


Some visuals may not have the same level of support or updates as the standard Power BI visuals.

Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Visuals Marketplace is a great tool for users who want to customise their reports and dashboards beyond the standard visuals available in Power BI.

Power BI Dataflow


What Is Power BI Dataflow?

Power BI Dataflow is a cloud-based ETL (extract, transform, load) tool that allows users to transform raw data into a more usable format within Power BI.

Benefits and Key Features

  1. Data Preparation: Simplify the data preparation process with a user-friendly interface.
  2. Reusable Models: Create and reuse data models across multiple Power BI dashboards.
  3. Microsoft Integration: Integrate with other Azure services and Microsoft Power Platform.


There's a learning curve involved in using Power BI Dataflow, especially for users who are not familiar with ETL processes.

Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Dataflow is ideal for businesses that require advanced data preparation and modelling capabilities.

Power BI Dataset


Understanding Power BI Dataset

Power BI Dataset is a collection of data that you import or connect to in Power BI. It can come from spreadsheets, databases, or other cloud-based data sources.

Benefits and Key Features

  1. Data Accessibility: Make your data available to all reports across your workspace.
  2. Real-time Insights: Get real-time updates from your data sources.
  3. Relationship View: Visualise the relationship between tables in your dataset.


Managing large datasets can become complex and require careful governance.

Use Case Scenarios

The Power BI Dataset is fundamental to all Power BI users. It provides a robust and flexible way to utilise and analyse data within Power BI.

Power BI Datamart


What Is Power BI Datamart?

Power BI Datamart is a term used to describe a simplified version of the data warehouse, created with Power BI. It serves specific business line needs by focusing on a subset of an organisation's data.

Key Features and Benefits

  1. Data Simplification: Simplify data into understandable formats for specific user groups.
  2. Increased Efficiency: Enhance your business efficiency by focusing on data relevant to your department or project.
  3. User-Friendly: Users can easily analyse and understand the data.


Requires technical skills to set up and maintain. May not encompass the full scope of organisational data.

Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Datamart is suitable for departments or project teams within a larger organisation, that need a tailored view of the company's data.

Power BI Datahub


An Introduction to Power BI Datahub

Power BI Datahub is a hypothetical term to describe a centralised place within Power BI where data can be stored, managed, and shared.

Possible Benefits and Features

  1. Centralisation: Bring all your data sources into one manageable place.
  2. Data Governance: Improved data governance with a centralised hub.
  3. Sharing and Collaboration: Foster better collaboration with easy data sharing.

Potential Drawbacks

As of now, Power BI Datahub is not an official product, but an idea many users hope to see.

Hypothetical Use Case Scenarios

Power BI Datahub would be ideal for organisations that use multiple data sources and desire a streamlined way to manage and share them.

Please take a look at our Deep Dive into Power BI Comparisons: A Comprehensive Analysis of Competitors article.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Power BI? Power BI is a suite of business analytics tools developed by Microsoft that allows you to analyse data and share insights.
  2. Which Power BI tool is best for me? The best Power BI tool depends on your specific needs and capabilities. For example, if data security is paramount, then Power BI Report Server may be the best fit.
  3. How do I choose the right visuals for my Power BI report? The Power BI Visuals Marketplace offers a variety of custom visuals. Choose those that best represent your data and meet your audience's needs.
  4. What is the role of Power BI Dataset? Power BI Dataset is a collection of data you import or connect to in Power BI. It provides a flexible way to utilise and analyse data.
  5. What is the difference between Power BI Desktop and Power BI Service? Power BI Desktop is a Windows application used primarily for creating reports. Power BI Service, also known as Power BI online, is a cloud-based platform for sharing, collaborating, and publishing reports created in Power BI Desktop.


Power BI is a comprehensive platform with numerous components catering to various business needs. Understanding these components and their specific use cases will enable you to utilise Power BI to its full potential, thereby transforming your business intelligence operations.

About the author: Craig Hartzel
Craig is a self-confessed geek who loves to play with and write about technology. Craig's especially interested in systems relating to e-commerce, automation, AI and Analytics.

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