Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium – what license should you choose?

So, what should you choose when looking at the different licences in Power BI? Do you really need to pay for Premium? Or is Premium in fact cheaper for your organization? What features could you take advantage of for the different licenses? And what considerations should you take when evaluating this?

Let’s have a look!

  1. What Power BI licenses are available?
    1. Free
    2. Power BI Pro
    3. Power BI Premium per User
    4. Power BI Premium per Capacity
  2. What should you consider when deciding on a Power BI license?
    1. What flexibility do we need when it comes to changing the licence in the future?
    2. Do you have any technical deal-breaker requirements?
  3. So, what should you choose?

What Power BI licenses are available?

There are four Power BI licenses to choose from. Free, Pro, Premium per Capacity (PPC) or Premium Per User (PPU).

Ordinary Workspace/AppWorkspace/App PPUWorkspace/App PPC
Free licenseNot able to accessNot able to accessGot access
Pro licenseGot accessNot able to accessGot access
PPU licenceGot accessGot accessGot access
Premium per Capacity vs Premium per User


Without a license (or with the free license), you can still take advantage of Power BI Desktop. Still, you cannot share your content with others. The free license is a great place to start learning Power BI if you are curious, but not in a position to purchase a license.

If you are a report consumer and the content you want to consume is placed in a workspace connected to a Premium per Capacity, you do not need any other license than the free one.

Power BI Pro

With a Pro license, you get full developer functionality (with some exceptions that are listed in the next chapter). You can share your content with others.

If you are a report consumer, and you want to consume reports that are inside a workspace that is NOT linked to a premium per capacity license, you also need a Pro license to consume that content.

Power BI Premium per User

With a Premium per User (PPU) license you get full functionality as a developer. Essentially, you get all the Premium features on a per-user basis. You do not need an additional Pro license if you have a PPU license, as all Pro license capabilities are included.

However, if you are a report consumer you also need a Premium Per User license to be able to consume the content within a workspace that is linked to a Premium Per User license.

Power BI Premium per Capacity

With a Premium per Capacity (PPC) license you get full premium functionality. Still, as a report developer, you need a Pro or PPU license to share your reports.

If you are a report consumer, you only need the Free license to consume content that is linked to a Premium per Capacity license.

What do you get with the different licenses?

So, what are the differences between the Pro, Premium per User and Premium per Capacity licenses?

Microsoft got a great overview page where you can compare the licenses and their features HERE.

Below I have listed the differences that in my experience are the most important when considering what license to choose.

PROPremium (Per user)
$ 9.99 monthly price per user$ 4.995 monthly price per dedicated cloud computing and storage resource with an annual subscription.
($ 20 per month per user)
1 GB model size limit.
Your .pbix file cannot be larger than 1 GB
400 GB model size limit
(100 GB model size limit)
8 daily refreshes on dataset in Power BI Service48 daily refreshes on dataset in Power BI Service
Deployment Pipelines available (Application lifecycle management)
Read more on deployment pipelines in my article
Dataflows (minus the dataflow premium features)Dataflows premium features:
– The enhanced compute engine (running on Power BI Premium capacity / parallel execution of transforms)
– DirectQuery connection to dataflow
– AI capabilities in Power BI
– Linked entities
– Computed entities (in-storage transformations using M)
– Incremental refresh
Read more on dataflows in my article
Datamarts available
Read more on datamarts in my article
Embed Power BI visuals into apps
Advanced AI (text analytics, image detection, automated machine learning)
XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity
Configure Multi-Geo support (Only PPC)

What should you consider when deciding on a Power BI license?

Choosing what license fits best for your organization is not easy, and depends on individual requirements. Still, let’s see if there are any questions and considerations you could take into account when trying to decide what license you need.

What flexibility do we need when it comes to changing the licence in the future?

Deciding between the licences can for sure be a difficult decision. The great thing is that you do not have to choose and stick to that solution forever. Many start out with a Pro license, and then as the Power BI usage and adoption within the organization grows, they move over to Premium.

It is however a bit harder to move back to a Pro license if you have started developing reports and datasets that exceed the size limit or have started to take advantage of deployment pipelines, datamarts or premium features in dataflows.
Another important aspect is that you commit to the Premium per Capacity for a year, even though it is billed monthly. This also makes it difficult to move back to Pro.

Still, if you have started taking advantage of these premium features, you probably see the value of keeping the premium capacity.

How many report consumers do you have?

Price wise there is a sweet spot to evaluate here. When you have a premium capacity, you connect your workspaces to that premium capacity. That means that all the reports you publish to an app from that workspace are visible to anyone. They do not need their own pro licence to be able to consume the reports you put in these premium workspaces/apps.

So, some quick math gives us a number of report consumers where the premium feature pays off.

500 report consumers. If you know that you have that many report consumers today or expect to reach that number soon as your company grows and the adoption of Power BI increases, the Premium per Capacity license is a good choice.

Are you using Power BI on an enterprise level?

Or how large is Power BI in your organization? Are there multiple workspaces, apps, reports, data domains and business areas?

How complex is your report development process? Are your report development teams organized in different business domains, but still collaborate on content?

Do you see the need to take advantage of Deployment pipelines to improve the lifecycle management of your content, or do you want to implement source control using an XMLA endpoint?

If you are considering starting with Power BI and know that your setup requires some level of complexity, these premium features can really help you out with large enterprise deployments and workloads.

How large are your reports?

First of all – try and reduce the size of your report. Microsoft got an article listing the techniques you could consider:

Now, if you are not able to reduce the size of your reports below 1 GB, or that does not make any sense to you, the Premium per Capacity or Premium per User license sounds like a solution for you.

Do you have any technical deal-breaker requirements?

When evaluating this question you should collect the technical requirements for your organization. Based on that list, you might see some deal-breakers when it comes to choosing the Pro license.

For instance, you might need an SQL endpoint for your datamarts, or an XMLA endpoint to automate deployment that requires premium features.

You might have some data residency requirements that can only be achieved through a Premium Per Capacity license.

You will be working with datasets that are above 1 GB.

Or you want to take advantage of an incremental refresh for real-time data using DirectQuery. This is only supported for premium licenses.

Getting an overview of these requirements, and evaluating if they require Premium features is a good starting point.

Do you need some of that additional premium features, but the premium per capacity is too much?

After having evaluated all of these questions above, you might still be in need of some of the premium features but are not in a position to choose Premium per Capacity as that might be too expensive. Then Premium per User could be the solution for you if you:

  • Want some of your Power BI Developers to learn or investigate the premium features?
  • Take advantage of the advanced AI features?
  • Want to take advantage of the Deployment Pipelines to improve the lifecycle management of your content?
  • Are working with large datasets that you cannot reduce the size of?
  • Want to set up a solution for source control taking advantage of the XMLA endpoint? Read my article on source control and your options HERE.
  • Want to centralize your BI solution in Power BI Service by building re-usable dataflows and datamarts, and reducing some of the development load on your data warehouse?
  • Do not have a proper data warehouse solution in your organization and want to take advantage of the datamart feature in Power BI Service?

Still, remember: If you go with a PPU license, all consumers of that conent also need a PPU license.

So, what should you choose?

The considerations listed above are probably not covering everything you need to consider if you are in a position where you need to decide between licenses, I am sure.

Still, they might give you a starting point in your evaluation.

The decision each organization falls on depends on the requirement that exists within the individual organization.

Let’s try to sum up some key take aways:

  • If you do not see the need for the premium features to start with –> Consider starting with Pro licenses
  • If you have more than 500 report consumers –> Consider Premium Per Capacity
  • If you are a smaller organization, but still need the premium features –> Consider Premium Per User
  • If you are using Power BI in a large organization across business areas, with numerous reports and datasets and development teams –> Consider Premium Per Capacity
  • Have a look at your technical requirements. –> Some of the limitations with the Pro licenses might make a premium choice obvious for your organization.

One thing that’s also worth mentioning is that Power BI for sure focus its investment on Power BI Premium. The value provided by Power BI Premium will therefore probably increase over time.

So, what license should you choose?
The short answer: It depends.

Useful links:

Thank you to all that contribute to improve this article!

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