These days, the ability to maintain a competitive edge relies on leveraging the vast amounts of data your company generates. And that takes a top-quality business intelligence platform you can deploy company-wide. If your teams are still mining data at the spreadsheet coalface, that just won’t cut it anymore.  

There’s no shortage of self-service BI tools on the market, all boasting similar features and benefits. But every business is different, so it can be hard to work out which is best for you. Depending on your data strategy and needs, you may value a tool that allows data analysts full control over what business users can access. If, however, bottlenecks caused by data requests are what’s holding you back, you’ll be on the lookout for a solution that democratises access fast.  

We analysed two leading tools, Looker vs. Power BI, and compared them with Trevor.io to see how they stack up on features, pros and cons, and determine what type of company each is best suited to.  

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Looker

Power BI

Trevor.io

Features comparison

Pricing comparison

Ease of use

Flexibility and customisability

Customer support 

Security 

Conclusion and recommendations

Looker

Now part of Google, Looker is an up-and-coming business intelligence challenger. Powerful enough for data analysts but simple enough for business users, it enables enterprise-wide, ad-hoc data analysis and exploration.

Main features & benefits

Looker enables complex data modelling using a proprietary SQL-based language, LookML, that allows data analysts to define dimensions and measures for business users to query in-database. Strong reporting features, a high degree of granularity and AI and machine learning enable advanced data analytics and insights. A complete semantic model for storing business logic provides a single source of truth.

Looker connects to on-premises or public cloud databases, so you can choose your cloud provider and migrate whenever you want.

01 Diagram showing LookML elements and relationships
Image source: https://looker.com/product/visualizations

Best for

  • Deployment in large enterprises, though Looker is also favoured by small businesses and SMEs with a data team that can leverage the full range of its functionality.   
  • Companies looking to apply enterprise governance best practices and with the time and budget to deploy a tool aligned with a well-defined data strategy.

Main drawbacks

  • Has a steep learning curve and requires upfront development and definition. Engineers must learn LookML to set it up and provide ongoing support for business users. 
  • Doesn’t work with raw data. Analysts must incorporate new tables or columns into the data model before they can be queried, so there’s a time lag before business users can access the most up-to-date information.   
  • An analytics-based database is recommended for optimal performance. 
  • Price. Looker is a significant investment (see below). 
  • Some user reviews report it can be slow to load or render certain queries.

Check out our post on Looker alternatives for an in-depth look at how this BI tool stacks up against competitors.

Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is one of the leading data platforms on the market. It integrates with the MS ecosystem (Azure, Office 365) and comes in six packages: Desktop, Pro, Premium, Mobile, Embedded and Report Server.

Main features & benefits

Power BI uses a proprietary formula and query language called DAX and requires a semantic layer for performance and governance. Following setup, it supports a wide range of reporting scenarios and enables self-service, enterprise-level analytics for business and technical users to ask ad hoc questions and drill down into data from various sources.

The Natural Language Query tool supports questions in conversational language, and machine learning models provide insights from structured and unstructured data like images.

Graphic showing returned results using Power BI natural language query tool
Image source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3c6myBPnmY

RELATED POST: Power BI vs. Google Data Studio vs. Trevor: Which Tool Suits Your Business Best?

Best for

  • Designed to work with MS tools, so ideal for companies using the MS ecosystem. 
  • Competitive per-user pricing versus competitors like Tableau makes it scalable for small businesses and SMEs with an internal data team for setup and troubleshooting.

Main drawbacks

  • Steep learning curve as engineers must learn DAX.  
  • Doesn’t work with raw data. 
  • Not compatible with Mac or Linux. You need MS tools to really leverage it and build a semantic layer. Being tied to Azure also makes database migration challenging. 
  • Six different products with variable features make it hard to work out what’s best for your users’ roles. 
  • Per-user pricing can get expensive as teams grow, so you may need to ration access. 
  • Reportedly slow to handle large data sources.

For more on Power BI features, pros and cons, check out our post on Power BI alternatives

Trevor.io

Trevor.io is a self-service data analytics tool designed to free up data engineers by empowering non-tech teams to become independent data analysts. It works out of the box so users of all skill levels can get up and running in minutes. 

Main features & benefits

A powerful, intuitive no-code query builder, numerous drill-down features and unlimited dashboards give users the freedom to explore, ask complex ad hoc queries and allow new insights to surface. For advanced users, it also supports SQL. 

Trevor works with raw data, so doesn’t require any modelling prior to use. New tables or columns added to the database are instantly accessible in real-time. No transformation stage also means no data manipulation, making it a source of truth.

Example of Trevor.io dashboard
Image source https://trevor.io/features/#dashboards

Best for 

Trevor’s versatility and ease of use make it ideal for fast-growing SaaS and marketplace companies with an overworked data engineer. Flat-rate pricing and unlimited ad hoc queries, users and dashboards also mean the cost won’t grow as your company and data needs do.  

Main drawbacks

  • No template dashboards. E-commerce or other companies wanting a fixed number of insights and dashboards hand-delivered out of the box may prefer another tool.
  • No direct connection to multiple data sources like Google Analytics, Facebook Ads, etc, but you can use a tool like Stitchdata or Panoply to easily bring these into your own database.
  • Fewer embedding options than other tools, though more are in development. 

Looker vs. Power BI vs. Trevor: Features comparison 

All three tools offer strong exploration features, customisable visualisations and user-friendly, drag-and-drop dashboards. They diverge on supported data sources, integrations and sharing capabilities.

BI toolLookerPower BITrevor.io
Data sources and connectors50+ SQL-compatible cloud databases and warehouses. 

100+ Looker BlocksTM (pre-build pieces of code) connect to 3rd-party sources like Salesforce.
Numerous supported data sources, including Azure, flat files, SQL-based databases, Google Analytics, etc. SQL databases or warehouses. CSVs.
DeploymentPublic cloud, on-premises.MS Azure public cloud. Report Server is on-premises, with different features.Cloud, on-premises.
Data transformationYes.Yes.No.
Self-service query builderNo-code Explore function enables ad hoc queries using predefined dimensions and measures.Power Query enables ad hoc questions from combined data sources. 
Natural language query tool supports conversational language.
No-code Query Builder enables unlimited ad hoc questions and custom columns. Also supports SQL.
Data explorationNumerous customisable filters and drill-down features enable complex, granular exploration. 

Joins enable exploration of data relationships.

Google Cloud platform enables augmented analytics with AI, ML and advanced data analytics.
Dynamic, intuitive filters and data manipulation features.

Joins enable exploration of data relationships.

Machine learning models provide insights from structured and unstructured data.
Query JSON data and perform complex aggregations.

Row-level segmentation and drill-down functionality.

Automatically derived database relationships enable joins across multiple sources and exploration of connected data.
Integrations & workflow automationIntegrations with custom or 3rd party applications via APIs. 

Embed dashboards and analytics in 3rd-party websites, portals and applications using Looker BlocksTM.
Integrates with MS and other common business tools. 

APIs enable access to Salesforce, Google Analytics and more.

MS Power Apps and Power Automate enable workflow automation.

Embed reports and analytics in blogs or websites.
Automate workflows and send data to apps like Salesforce, Mailchimp and Trello with the Zapier integration. 

Embed dashboards in other tools.
Collaboration and sharingCross-enterprise sharing: real-time insights accessible from any browser or the mobile app.   

Schedule and share via email, links, Segment, Slack, etc.
Cross-organisation sharing via Office 365. Invite external guests via Azure Active Directory. 

Mobile app.
Live-streamed data updates hourly in G-Sheets, Excel and more. 

Slack and email notifications, custom alerts and updates. 

Share with unlimited collaborators via URLs, public charts, email, Slack, etc.

RELATED POST: Looker vs. Tableau vs. Trevor: Which Tool is Best For You?

Looker vs. Power BI vs. Trevor: Pricing comparison 

Power BI and Trevor are competitively priced compared to other providers

BI toolLookerPower BITrevor.io
PricingCustomised by number of users and deployment. Prices vary widely. Some sources suggest $3,000-$5,000 per month for 10 users on an annual subscription.Desktop – free for individual users. 

Pro – $9.99 per user/month.

Premium – $20 per user/month.

License your organisation from $4,995 per month.
Pro – $299 per month. 

Business – $499 per month. 

Enterprise – custom-priced.
Free trial?Not mentioned.60 days, Pro and Premium.14 days, Pro and Business.
What’s included?Direct database connection.

Looker Blocks®.

LookML data model.

Data actions.

Internal embedding.

API access.
See below.Pro – connection to first database, three types supported. 
Business – connection to first database, six types supported.
Enterprise – all databases supported. 
All plans include unlimited users, ad hoc queries and dashboards, live onboarding, training and support for all teams.
Discounts N/AN/A75% new customer discount.
50% 1-year discount for startups under 2 years old and 6 people.
Table showing prices for Power BI monthly subscription plans
Image source: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/
Table comparing features included in Power BI subscription plans
Image source: https://powerbi.microsoft.com/en-us/pricing/
Table showing prices for Trevor.io monthly subscription plans
Image source: https://trevor.io/pricing/

Looker vs. Power BI vs. Trevor: Ease of use 

Following setup, Looker’s intuitive interface and numerous filters make it easy for business users to explore and create dashboards. The browser-based interface also ensures a consistent UX regardless of where you access it from. There’s a learning curve, though, and non-techies will need help from data engineers to get started. The website has some entry-level videos but most resources are for technical users.  

A clean interface and similarity to MS tools make Power BI intuitive for anyone used to Windows. However, it started out as an Excel add-on, so power users will get the most out of it. Others may need in-house training and support to really leverage it and work out which of a long list of components they need. For advanced users, there’s an active community and endless online resources. 

Trevor has no learning curve and its out-of-the-box functionality and intuitive interface are designed for non-techies to easily get to grips with. They’ll get the most out of it with some training, of course, but this is provided so they won’t need to keep going back to your data engineer for help. 

RELATED POST: Metabase vs. Looker vs. Trevor: Find the Right BI Tool for Your Business

Looker vs. Power BI vs. Trevor: Flexibility and customisability 

Looker has good customisation, collaboration and sharing options for delivering enterprise-wide insights. But some users complain simplicity comes at the expense of flexibility, and that visualisations are more limited than other tools. Drill-down and ad hoc exploration is strong, but business users are limited to predefined fields. If they can’t find what they need, they’ll fall back on the data team. 

Power BI has good design flexibility and enables centralised data analysis and organisation of unstructured data. Cross-organisational collaboration using MS tools is easy, but you need a Premium license to share with non-Pro users. Again, though, business users can only access what’s been made available to them, and data teams will need DAX to create more advanced reports. 

Trevor’s ‘no limits’ policy means it adapts well to evolving businesses and data needs. Sharing and customisation options are good and real-time updates allow everyone to stay on top of things. It’s versatile enough to be used for applications beyond its intended use, like product development. However, it comes up short on the range of supported data sources, which limits the range of companies it’s suitable for. 

Looker vs. Power BI vs. Trevor: Customer support 

There’s a clear Looker vs. Power BI winner when it comes to live support: Looker, though it’s only available for admins and developers. Power BI support is free for all Pro users but isn’t live. Trevor provides free support for all users, forever.

BI toolLookerPower BITrevor.io
Customer supportAccess in-app chat within certain hours or submit a ticket via the website.Via website ticket. 

Admins can also create support tickets in the admin portal.
Live onboarding, training and in-app chat support.
ResourcesHelp Center with tutorial videos and documentation. 

Community.
Online learning resources and documentation.

Community.
Small resource and FAQ section on the website.

Looker vs. Power BI vs. Trevor: Security

Power BI prides itself on security but Looker and Trevor stack up well. 

BI toolLookerPower BITrevor.io
Security featuresSingle point of database access, encrypted connections, in-database queries.  

Returned results are cached, without long-term storage.

Granular user/group/role permissions down to model, row or column level. Limit access to sensitive results. 

Two-factor authentication.

LDAP, SSO integration.  

Customisable monitoring tools. Activity tracking. 

Git version control enables roll-back.

GDPR compliant.
End-to-end encryption. 

Azure services eliminate data exposure to the public internet. 

Configure role and access permissions. 

Real-time access monitoring. 

Oversight and behaviour analysis.

Permission controls and network isolation. 
100+ standards and certifications for compliance. 

Sensitivity labels.
Encrypted, read-only SSL-secure transaction; only returned results are retrieved. Trevor doesn’t write to or store a copy of your database. 

Load protections: returned results in-platform limited to 100 rows. One active connection per user.  

Table/column level access permissions.

Detailed activity reports for admins. 

GDPR compliant.

Conclusions & Recommendations

All three tools compare well on ease of use, reporting capabilities and data exploration. So, ultimately, your choice will come down to the best fit for your budget, the needs and skill level of your end-users and how involved you need your data team to be

Looker and Power BI are powerful tools but they have a learning curve and require ongoing involvement from your data team. So they’re great choices to deploy as part of a predefined data strategy that gives engineers full control over how business users access data. 

By contrast, Trevor is intended to democratise access to data while remaining powerful enough for technical users. Depending on your data source needs, its versatility and flat-rate pricing make it a good choice for growing companies.

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