Power BI Premium P1 vs P2 vs P3

Microsoft Power BI has been in the market since 2015. In that time, the product has grown quite quickly. As of June 2017, Microsoft is releasing the premium version(s) of Power BI under the labels P1, P2, and P3.  In case you didn’t know, Power BI is included free in most Office 365 plans, but you might want to add some extra functionality with Power BI Pro or Power BI Premium.

In this article, I’m going to explain the difference between Power BI Premium P1, P2, and P3. This blog draws heavily from Microsoft’s Power BI Premium White Paper. As such, you should know that most of what is in this article represents “planned” functionality.

Introduction to Power BI Premium

Overall, Power BI Premium has been designed to meet the needs of large companies with lots of data. Microsoft has re-structured the architecture underlying Power BI to allow for lots of “read-only” users. There are also numerous new features that Premium subscribers will be able to leverage.

Dedicated Processing Power

New to Power BI Premium is the concept of “dedicated capacity”. What this means is that the hardware that runs Power BI Premium only runs one instance of Power BI at a time. Previously, everyone who used Power BI had to run on the same pool of hardware resources. Now, if you subscribe to Power BI Premium, you get a dedicated server up in Microsoft’s Azure Datacenters that runs your Power BI. This allows for a lot of new features and functionality, which is what Power BI Premium is all about.

There are three kinds of “cores” in Power BI Premium that describe the incremental power you get in different Power BI Premium tiers:

Frontend Cores

These power the user experience processes such as the web service, APIs, uploads/downloads, etc. These cores are actually often shared between users.

Backend Cores

These power the query processing, data refresh, and other heavy-lifting. They are dedicated to you.


You might come across this term. In truth, “v-Cores” just refers to the combined power of your frontend and backend cores.

More Power BI Premium Features

Storage Capacity

When you subscribe to Power BI Premium, you get up to 100 TB of data storage.

Refresh Limits

You can refresh your data up to 48 times per day. In addition, you used to only be able to refresh hourly, now you can refresh any minute of the day.

Dataset Size

You will be able to use datasets all the way up to the size of the RAM in your Power BI environment. See below for the RAM included in each tier.

Incremental Refreshes

When you refresh your data, you will be able to only refresh the newest data to save processing power.

Pinning Datasets to Memory

Normally, the space in your RAM is occupied by whatever data you’re using at the time. With Power BI Premium, you can override this behavior – any data can be available directly from the RAM at any time.

There are more features that come with dedicated processing power, but they are pretty technical. Read more here.

Power BI Free

Power BI Free is still hosted in a shared environment. If you use Power BI for free, you will have to share resources with other users; and you will be subject to various limits.

Power BI Pro

There is also something known as Power BI Pro. This will continue to exist. Power BI Pro allows you to better collaborate with other users. It provides you with advanced sharing features and raises limits regarding storage capacity and data refreshes. However, it is also in a shared environment unless you invest in Power BI Premium. If you’re going to get Power BI Premium, at least some of your users will be Pro users.

Power BI Premium P1

Power BI Premium P1 has the lowest capacity dedicated environment:

  • 8 v-cores:
    • 4 Frontend Cores
    • 4 Backend Cores / 25 GB RAM

It costs $5000/month USD per environment/node.

Power BI Premium P2

  • 16 v-cores:
    • 8 Frontend Cores
    • 8 Backend Cores / 50 GB RAM

Power BI Premium P2 costs $10000/month USD per environment/node.

Power BI Premium P3

  • 32 v-cores:
    • 16 Frontend Cores
    • 16 Backend Cores / 100 GB RAM

Power BI Premium P3 costs $20000/month USD per environment/node.


Power BI Premium is all about dedicated capacity and the power that it can bring to large organizations with many users. When you invest in Power BI premium, you’re not just purchasing software: you’re getting a borderline super-computer that can process mass amounts of data. You’ll appreciate this high-performance data visualization experience if your company is large, and your datasets contain millions upon millions of rows. It might be overkill for other users.

If you want to figure out which tier is right for you, try out Microsoft’s interactive tool or contact Encore. You can also dig deeper here.

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