Power BI vs. PowerPivot

Power BI

PowerPivot was introduced as an advanced Data analysis tool that can be used with Microsoft Excel. Power BI came much later, but due to its core intention to be a business intelligence tool, it shipped with PowerPivot built-in. If we were to compare PowerPivot with Power BI, it would essentially become a comparison between Microsoft Excel and Power BI. To learn more about the powerful business intelligence tool from Microsoft, Power BI training from a reputed learning provider is highly recommended. Microsoft was referred to as a leader in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platform simply due to the abilities and market prowess of Power BI. Power BI has kept its position as the highest-rated Business intelligence or analytics tool on Gartner in 2021 as well.

Microsoft Excel never really heavily relied on PowerPivot, due to its core functions being data management, data entry, and data scraping. PowerPivot was provided in Excel as a means to an end, empowering Excel to become the one-stop solution to everything related to data, including big data analysis or analytics. PowerPivot also provided excel with the ability to handle big data and a massive number of columns/rows. 

Power BI was built with the intention to provide business intelligence from data, with PowerPivot being one of its core functions or engines. Power BI came with the PowerPivot feature by default and was one of the main focuses of Microsoft. Power BI took the features of PowerPivot that had been extensively used in excel and simply made it better and much more interactive. 

However, if one was to natively collect data or build data from the scratch, Power BI might not be such a great option. Here is where Excel again conquers the day. Being able to sustain data creation and analysis both, Excel’s core functionalities bring Power BI to shame in terms of data entry and creation. However, Power BI is better at importing multiple sources of data and connecting to multiple servers to acquire this data. Power BI is one of the best big data analytics tools that support massive business requirements that are data-centric.

What is Power BI

Power BI is a tool that was built with business analytics and intelligence in mind. Power BI was officially released by Microsoft in late 2013 and was based on Project Crescent. Project Crescent was the initial design of Power BI and was bundled with the SQL Server Codename Denali. Power BI was also initially based on Microsoft Excel with an additional focus on engines or functions such as Power Pivot, Power Query, and Power View. 

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Power BI’s main functionalities lie in building custom interactive visualizations and the availability to customize dashboards according to business or analytical needs. Power BI is available as desktop installations and as a cloud-based solution both. Power BI also provides data preparation, data warehousing, and advanced data discovery functions as well. Power BI can also be used extensively on Azure through Power BI Embedded from 2016 onwards. Power BI is one of the best solutions for businesses and corporations who wish to take these features alongside advanced security options and enterprise-level data connectivity.

What is PowerPivot

PowerPivot is a feature of both Microsoft Excel and Power BI. ‘PowerPivot’ was not the initial name of this feature and was introduced as ‘Power Pivot’, with a space between the two words in its name. Power Pivot was available since 2010 in Excel as additional downloadable plugins that eventually made it as add-ins that are provided by default in the 2016 version of Excel. Power Pivot is based on the local instances of Microsoft’s Analysis Services and builds ROLAP models alongside generating or exploring models using pivot tables. 

Fundamentally, it is a manually implemented business intelligence tool, capable of querying, advanced calculations, deep analysis, and other implementations for various metrics. Before Power Pivot, Microsoft had the option of using SQL Server Analysis Services as the core engine for Business Intelligence. Power Pivot changes this by complementing the SQL server components and integrating multi-dimensional analytics that are integrated on-disk or in local workstations. This allowed for a more flexible, tabular, and memory-conservative model that could be used for regular business intelligence requirements. 


Power Pivot used Data Analysis Expressions or DAX as its native expression language, fundamentally allowing measures that can summarise and extract millions of columns or rows of table data within seconds.

Difference between Power BI and PowerPivot

Now, let us understand the fundamental differences between Power BI and PowerPivot.

  • Power BI is a full-fledged business intelligence tool and can do multiple operations parallelly. Power BI can do everything including data warehousing, data extraction, data analytics, data projection, and advanced data remodeling. Excel is great for standard data modeling and calculations but cannot handle massive visually represented data models or graphs. The 32-bit version of Excel finds it hard to process large data models as well. However, Excel beats Power BI in the case of data entry, data scraping, and data creation.
  • Power BI is visually appealing and allows users to maintain a live (real-time) dashboard that can be customized massively. Power BI also provides multiple types of graphs, projections, and design elements such as interactive waterfall charts and even world maps for data projection. Excel has to be manually implemented and its list of visual charts are quite limited. Excel also lacks customization features and is quite basic in nature.
  • Power BI runs on M and DAX both, M being the Power Query formula language. PowerPivot in Excel runs on only DAX.
  • Power BI is centered around PowerPivot and it is not just another feature. In Excel, PowerPivot is one of the many features that are offered other than its core functionality of data handling, manipulation, and generation.
  • Power BI is easy to learn and simple to use. Excel requires prior training to learn and implementing advanced Excel functions can take some time to learn.


As discussed, PowerPivot is available in both Excel and Power BI, however, it depends on a user’s individual requirements when trying to ascertain which is better. Power BI is the better choice when it comes to interactive visualizations and advanced business intelligence. However, for general data functionalities and spreadsheets, Excel is undoubtedly the better choice.


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