Choose Wisely with This Quick Power BI License Comparison

power bi licensing

Power BI offers unparalleled flexibility for data visualization, modeling, and analytics. Alongside all of these wonderfully robust capabilities comes plenty of confusion, especially when you’re navigating the topsy-turvy world of Power BI licensing options.

If I had a dollar every time I heard someone ask “What Power BI License do I need?”…well, I wouldn’t “be rich” but I would definitely end up with a wad of cash.

The only way to escape Excel hell without running into Power BI chaos is to choose a Power BI license that meets your needs. This Power BI license comparison guide gives you a quick rundown of licensing options to help you make the right decision.

Is Power BI License Free?

One of the most common questions about Power BI licensing is, “what’s Power BI Free?”

Like it says on the can, this free Power BI license won’t cost you a dime. But we all know, nothing is really free. Power BI Free is ideal for personal use. But it doesn’t offer a direct query option and only includes one refresh per day. Also, Power BI Free doesn’t give you the capabilities to share reports.

It’s worth noting that the Power BI Free license doubles up as a viewer license for the Power BI Premium SKUs (we’ll get into that later.)

What is the Difference Between Power BI Pro and Free?

Power BI Pro is the most popular Power BI licensing option. It allows you to share and collaborate with all the end-users covered by your organization’s Power BI license. Unlike Power BI Free, you can publish reports to the Power BI Service.

Long story short, if you want to publish reports, you’ll need a Power BI Pro license (even if you have Power BI Premium.)

What Are Pro vs. Premium Licenses in Power BI?

The main selling point of Power BI Premium licensing (the P SKUs) is the dedicated capacity. Instead of pooling your storage into the cloud with other users, you get a dedicated instance.

What Does Power BI Pro Include?

A Power BI Pro license gives you a maximum dataset size of 1GB and maximum storage of 10GB per user. You can refresh datasets up to 8 times per day. Power BI Pro is part of the Office 365 Enterprise license. Otherwise, it costs $10 per user per month. If others want to view your reports, they’ll need a Power BI Pro license as well.

What Does Power BI Premium Include?

You get a maximum dataset size of 10GB and up to 48 dataset refreshes per day. You also access advanced features such as AI and machine learning cognitive services, paginated reports, deployment pipelines, and automatic page refresh. Additionally, Power BI Premium includes a report server.

Keep in mind that even if you have a Power BI Premium license, you still need a Power BI Pro license to publish reports to the Power BI Service. However, users with the Power BI Free license are able to view the reports within your Power BI Service tenant.

power bi premium features

What are the Power BI Embed Licenses (EM and A SKUs)?

The Power BI Embed licenses (EM SKUs), also considered a Premium license, allow you to embed Power BI reports within a Teams or a SharePoint site. This means end-users don’t need any Power BI license to view your reports. However, you do need a Power BI Pro license to publish and maintain reports in the Power BI Service.

Meanwhile, the A SKUs, another Premium license, allow independent software vendors to embed Power BI reports in existing web applications via Microsoft Azure. Essentially, it’s like white-labeling Power BI for your organization.

Side note: If you’re wondering whether or not something is a Premium license, these options are easily identified as “Premium” by the diamond located next to your workspaces in the Power BI Service.

What’s Power BI Premium Per User License?

This relatively new Power BI license option costs $20 per user per month. It allows you to access content published in the Premium Per User Workspace.

It covers most features available to the Power BI Per Capacity License, such as AI capabilities, paginated reports, 48 refreshes pre-day, and the deployment pipelines. However, you won’t get on-premise Power BI reports, which is part of the report server function.


How Much Does Power BI Cost?

Power BI Pro costs $10 per user per month, and Power BI Free is (obviously) free. The Power BI Premium pricing is more complex—we have summed it up in the table below:

power bi premium pricing

Power BI Pro vs. Premium: Which Power BI License Do I Need?

You’re a good candidate for Power BI Premium if you have at least 500 users. However, it’s not a hard and fast rule.

There are some scenarios in which you may want to get Power BI Premium even if you have fewer users. For example, you work with very large datasets, need dedicated capacities, or require a higher storage limit. If you have to refresh your datasets more than 8 times a day, you’ll also need Power BI Premium.

Power BI Premium also gives you access to the Power BI report server, which may be required if you handle critical information that must stay on-premise. You can get SQL Server Enterprise Edition with Software Assurance for approximately $40,000 for two years.

Still Need Help Choosing Your Power BI License?

This guide was a quick rundown of all of the different Power BI licensing options and your head might still be spinning. If you need help understanding which Power BI license will best meet your needs, get in touch with Collectiv or consider our Power BI Visioning Program.

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