Power BI Report vs Dashboard: Do You Know These 7 Key Differences?

Wait, aren’t Power BI reports and dashboards the same thing? Well, you are partially correct. Dashboards depend on reports, but they are not the same thing. When asked about the key differences, most analysts say that reports are detailed tabular reports while dashboards are for visualization.

However, the actual differences are much more nuanced than superficial definitions.
By the end of this blog, you will learn what Microsoft Power BI does and what is more important for your business reports or dashboard.

With the help of our experienced developers, we have curated in-depth differences of Power BI reports vs dashboard. Let’s first look at what a report and dashboard is.

What is a Power BI Dashboard?

Dashboards are exclusively created on a single page, called the canvas. Usually, Power BI designers create dashboards and do not require any templates. Dashboards display the true visualization prowess of Power BI service. These visuals tell a story. The module visualization areas on the dashboards are called tiles. Different reports go into creating these well designed dashboard tiles.

So, you can say, dashboards are dependent on reports, but reports are not dependent on dashboards and have their own attributes to read data. Dashboard visualizations may come from one or multiple datasets or one or many underlying reports. And a dashboard provides a consolidated view irrespective of where the data lives by combining on-premise and cloud data.
Have a look at the example of Power BI reports

Power BI Dashboard

Source: microsoft.com

In addition, dashboards give you an idea of key performance indicators and enable data owners to make better decisions around profit and loss. To know everything about Power BI reports and dashboard, you need to take time and learn Power BI. If you are wondersing how much time does it take to learn Power BI; then it takes around 1-2 months to learn Power BI. However there are online courses available which provides you the complete timeline.

What is a Power BI Report?

Power BI report provides you with multiple perspectives of the data model. Reports have limited visualization capabilities to augment the understanding of these models but create summary pages.

Now, you can create microsoft Power BI reports either in a couple of pages or a few hundred pages. This depends entirely on the amount of data at your disposal. There are pre-built templates to make it easier for you to create these reports. You can apply pre-built machine learning models on top of these data sets.

Let’s understand report with example:

  1. Below image is a dashboard containing tile “This Year’s Sale Last Year’s Sale”.
  2. Power Bi dashboard

    Source: microsoft.com

  3. On clicking this tile, it opens to the direct monthly sales report.
  4. direct monthly sales report

    Source: microsoft.com

    So precisely, report is a detailed summary of the large dataset.

After this overview, it’s time to look at the major differences between the two.

Difference between Power BI Report and Power BI Dashboard

Features Power BI Reports Power BI Dashboard
Pages There is no upper limit for the number of pages you can add to the reports. You only get one massive page, known as canvas, to display only the highlights (important metrics) and compilations.
Data sources Single dataset is used to create reports to thoroughly analyze without any external influence. Dashboards can connect to almost 1000 data sources and reports to display data structures.
Templates There are numerous reports templates in Power BI. You can even download more from the Microsoft Store. There are no such templates for dashboards. You have to create each new Power bi dashboard from scratch.
Filter and slicers There are numerous filtering options available in reports to better locate and understand underlying dataset tables. There are no filters and slicers available for Dashboards.
Visualization The visualization capabilities are limited as more emphasis is put on understanding and streamlining the data. Visualization possibilities are virtually limitless with dashboards. You can use charts, graphs, and diagrams to compile and display data.
Target audience Reports are for people that regularly deal with solid numbers. Analysts, marketers, and salespeople are the kind of people who rely on reports. Dashboards are for people that only want an overview of the data to make important financial and business decisions. Business owners, stakeholders, and senior management rely more on dashboards.
Real-time data usage You can live stream data in your reports. Dashboards also have live streaming capabilities, provided they are created from real-time reports.

Let’s understand the in-depth difference between Power BI report and dashboard.

In-Depth Difference Between Power BI Report and Power BI Dashboard

  1. Power BI Dashboard vs Report: Pages

    Power BI Reports:

    Due to the nature of reports, multiple pages go into creating them. As such, there is no upper limit for the number of report pages you can add to reports. Some ardent business users have added over 1000 pages filled with graphs and charts without any throttling issues.

    Power BI Dashboard:

    In context of pages, Dashboards are only built across a single page called the canvas. You can concentrate all the detailed information on that one page using interactive visualizations, highlights, and interactive graphs. You can hyperlink each information on the dashboard to its respective Reports. You can also change the canvas size by tinkering with aspect ratios and other settings provided by Power BI.

    Winner: Reports

    Reports is an easy winner here when it comes to the number of pages. But, Power bi dashboards are also useful for providing concise information to the stakeholders.

  2. Power BI Dashboard vs Report: Data Source

    Power BI Reports:

    Generally, reports are created from only one dataset without any connections to other tables. This is because reports take deep dive into understanding all the nooks and crannies of the single dataset without the influence of any other external factors.


    Since Power BI Dashboards show highlights and highly concentrated data structures, they are created using multiple interconnected data sources. Sometimes, you can connect a single Dashboard with multiple reports. However, the total number of data sources per user is limited to 1000 data points. If you want to learn more about data source in dashboard, here are the best Power BI books to read.

    Winner: Power BI Dashboards

    Power BI Dashboard is the clear winner here as you get a higher data limit.

  3. Power BI Dashboard vs Report: Templates

    Power BI Reports:

    Power BI offers multiple templates for its Reports. You can find and download more from the Microsoft store. After you have selected a template, you have to enter the data. The template will automatically generate the table for you. The template will also use the formulas entered in the data table.


    There are no templates available for Power BI dashboards. It is just one single blank page. You are free to visualize and arrange the data as you see fit for the organization.

    Winner: Tie

    The availability of templates makes it less daunting for you to use reports. However, if you want to exercise your creativity, it is better to go with Power BI dashboards

  4. Power BI Dashboard vs Report: Filter and Slicers

    Power BI Report:

    You can slice and dice the data as you desire. Report pages allow you to use multiple filtering options like page level, visual level, and cross-filtering capabilities.


    There are no filtering options for dashboards as they utilize a single page.

    Winner: Reports

    Power BI Reports wins here as the filters and slicers make reports easy to understand, saving time and effort.

  5. Power BI Dashboard vs Report: Visualization

    Power BI Reports:

    Reports focus more on summarising, creating tables, and data manipulation, to some extent. As a result, they are not much scope for reports visualization.


    On the other hand, dashboards are all about visualization. You have complete freedom to fill it with visuals and related insights of your choosing.

    Winner: Dashboards

    The sheer possibilities of visualization in dashboards put it on the podium’s top step.

  6. Power BI Dashboard vs Report: Target Audience

    Power BI Reports:

    Reports are a bit more technical as it requires data manipulation skills and knowledge of some mathematical formulas. This is why most analysts, marketers, small business owners, and sales teams rely more on Power BI reports.


    Dashboards are for perusing the data to make impactful decisions. Hence, dashboards are created for higher-level executives, upper management, and business owners to make more prudent financial decisions for their companies. This also makes them more efficient and enables them to focus on more critical aspects of the organization.

    Winner: Tie

    Reports and dashboards cater to different groups of people. Therefore, you cannot compare them head-to-head.

  7. Power BI Dashboard vs Report: Real-Time Data Usage

    Power BI Reports:

    Reports have live data streaming capabilities. This allows the analysts to monitor the data input and make modifications as required constantly. The data on the report is always fresh depending on the length of the intervals between the refreshes. And, to top it off, you live stream data from multiple sources without any hurdles.


    Since dashboards utilize reports for creation, they, too, have live data streaming capabilities. The tiles update as soon as the underlying data changes. The dashboards instantly reflect the changes when you upload the underlying dataset and detailed analysis to the reports. But, you have to select the live dashboard option before creating them.

    Winner: Reports

    Reports wins due to a technicality as you cannot create live dashboards using stand-alone data sources.

    Above we have mentioned detailed differences between report and dashbaord. These differences helps you to know on which should you focus more. To know about Power BI reports and dashboard, you can need to learn Power BI. Is it easy to learn to Power BI? – this question generally comes in mind when you think to learn Power BI. With the tools and online courses, you can hassle-free learn the concepts of it.

Still have doubts, let’s understand in frequently asked questions.

FAQs About Power BI and Dashboard

Can you create dashboards without reports?

Yes, you can create static dashboards using independent data sources and tables. But they will not be as informative as the ones you create using reports.

Can you access both Power bi dashboards and reports on your mobile?

With Power BI Mobile, you can access the dashboards and reports from anywhere in the world. Even though the users can share and open these reports, they will not be able to make any changes through their phones.

Can you collaborate with your colleagues to create Power BI reports and dashboards?

Power BI service does offer collaboration and sharing functionalities to its users. However, to unlock this feature, you must be a Power BI Pro or Premium user.

Is it possible to create dashboards in the free version of Power BI solution?

You can only create reports in the Power BI desktop version. To access dashboard creation facilities, you need Power BI online service.

Can you set multiple dashboards or set multiple reports as favourite?

Yes, you can set multiple dashboards and reports as favourite.


Understanding the difference between the two makes it easier to learn Power BI service and communicate with your data analytics team which gives you a multi perspective view. You do not want a 250-page detailed report when you want an overview in your dashboard, do you? The best part about the dashboard is it helps the user bring in data from multiple reports and display it on a single page. Meanwhile, reports enable understanding and analyzing data, and compiling live data. The more you know, the better you can use Power BI service to improve your particular business.

Gaurang Bhatt

Written by

Gaurang Bhatt

Gaurang has 15+ years of experience solving complex business problems and enabling businesses with data-driven decisions using data analysis and predictive modeling tools like Tableau, Power BI, Looker, and Google Data Studio. His expertise lies in data visualization, reporting, and creating ETL pipelines. In addition, he is passionate about exploring different technologies like machine learning and AI. He shares his knowledge and learnings on the LabsMedia platform.