Microsoft Power Platform

Power BI Desktop, Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium – What’s the difference?

Jessica Compton,

February 1st, 2024

6 min read

Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based data and analytics reporting tool that delivers insights to enable fast and informed decisions. There are several licensing options of Power BI available which each come with varying levels of features. This often leads to us being asked – “Which version is the best fit for my business?”. Within this blog, we discuss the differences between the Power BI licences, highlight the features available at each level, break down the pricing structure and detail what type of organisation they best suit.

What are the types of Power BI Licenses available?

There are three kinds of Power BI per-user licenses: Desktop (Free), Pro, and Premium. Which type of license a user needs is determined by where data is stored, how they’ll interact with that data, and if that data requires Premium features. Where data can be stored is determined by your organisation’s license type.

  1. Microsoft Power BI Desktop (previously referred to as Microsoft Power BI Free)
  2. Microsoft Power BI Pro
  3. Microsoft Power BI Premium

View our Power BI Demo

What is Power BI Desktop?

The Power BI Desktop Application can be downloaded for free from Microsoft. Despite Microsoft Power BI Desktop being free, it includes a surprising amount of functionality and features.

Features in Power BI Desktop

  • Connect and import data from over 70 cloud-based and/or on-premise sources
  • Clean and prep data easily with modelling tools
  • The same visualisations and filters as in Power BI Pro – learn more about Power BI visualisations
  • Gain advanced insights into trends, patterns and more
  • Export your reports to CVS, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint and PDF
  • Auto-detect finds and creates data relationships between tables and formats
  • Ability to share reports on the web
  • Storage limit of 10GB per user

The core functionality and features available in Power BI Desktop are also standard in Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium – cleaning and preparing data, connectors to data sources, custom reports, visualisations and exports to Microsoft apps.

Power BI Desktop Limitations

As you would expect, there are limitations with the free version which provide incentives to upgrade:

  • No app workspaces
  • No API embedding
  • No email subscriptions
  • Cannot share created reports with other users without a Power BI Pro licence
  • No support to analyse in Excel within Power BI Desktop

Why Pick Power BI Desktop?

Power BI Desktop is ideal for those doing their own analysis who don’t need to distribute it to other users. You don’t need a Microsoft 365 subscription to use Power BI Desktop and it is available directly from Microsoft as a free download.

Power BI Pro provides users with the complete abilities available in Power BI Desktop as well as many additional features such as unlimited viewing, sharing and use of reports. The features included within the application are listed below.

What is Power BI Pro?

Power BI Pro provides users with the complete abilities available in Power BI Desktop as well as many additional features such as unlimited viewing, sharing and use of reports. The features included within the application are listed below.

Power BI Pro dashboard showing company report

Power BI Pro Features

  • Ability to connect to over 100 data sources
  • Easy to embed Power BI visuals in apps such as PowerApps, SharePoint and Teams
  • Mobile App
  • 1GB model size limit
  • 10GB per user storage
  • 8 Data refreshes daily
  • Embedded APIs and controls
  • AI visuals
  • Data security and encryption
  • Metrics with content creation and publishing
  • Native integration with other Microsoft solutions
  • Share dashboards, datasets and reports with other Power BI users

What does Power BI Pro Cost?

Power BI Pro is licensed per individual user, therefore if you are an organisation of 10 employees who all require the full capabilities of Power BI you will need 10 licenses. The Power BI Pro license will provide these users with the ability to create reports and unlimited viewing of any created content.

Power BI Pro Licenses

  • £8.20 per user/month

*It should be noted that prices can be subject to change

What is Power BI Premium?

Power BI Premium is the most expensive option currently available for Power BI and is designed to address the challenges of large enterprise deployments and workloads. Given the enterprise-scale demands, Premium comes with considerably more features and advanced functionality. On top of the standard features and functionality that come with all of the Power BI options, users of Power BI Premium can take advantage of the following:

Power BI Premium Features

  • 100GB model size limit
  • 100TB of storage
  • Access to one API surface
  • XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity
  • Data flows
  • Analyse data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage
  • Application lifecycle management
  • Ability to embed Power BI visuals into apps such as PowerApps, SharePoint and Teams
  • Larger storage size for extended deployment
  • Advanced AI features
  • 48 data refreshes daily
  • Geo distribution, pin-to-memory and read-only replicas

What does Power BI Premium Cost?

Previously, Power BI Premium licenses were only available per capacity/month, however, a new offering is available covering per user/month, pricing is as follows:

Power BI Premium Per User

  • £16.40 per user/month

Power BI Premium Per Capacity

  • from £4,105.60 per capacity/month
  • access to the rest of Microsoft Fabric

This includes the additional following features:

  • On-premise reporting
  • 400GB model size limit
  • Multi-location deployment management
  • Azure Autoscale add-on

*It should be noted that prices can be subject to change

If you would like more information about Microsoft Power BI, please get in touch by emailing us at or calling us on 01908 038110. 


Want to keep in touch?

Sign up to our newsletter for regular updates.

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Enquire Now