At first glance the Table and Matrix visualizations in Power BI look similar. Both display data in a table format that reminds the user of Excel. However, understanding the difference between the Table and Matrix visualizations in Power BI is important to displaying data efficiently.
The basic difference is that Tables only display data in two dimensions. The user has the option to enter data fields as values and have them display as a column. Matrix visualizations give the user more options to display data as a table. The user has the option to specify rows and columns, as well as layer the data to take advantage of Power BI’s drill-down functionality. The image below shows data being displayed in a multi layered format in a Matrix.
Benefits to a Matrix over Tables
- Matrix visualizations also provides the ability to automatically calculate subtotals for number columns.
- Matrix’s provide a more robust drill down experience to the end user
An easy analogy to keep in mind is that a table in Power BI is basically just Excel columns. There isn’t a lot of functionality besides viewing the data. A matrix visual in Power BI is better compared to a Pivot Table. A pivot table is much more robust and Excel knows to treat the pivot table as a dynamic entity rather than static columns.
Best practice is usually to use a Matrix visualization because its much more robust than a table. Even if the extra functionality is not used, there’s no significant performance impact in using the Matrix visualization over the Table visualization.