Looker versus Looker Studio: What are the differences?

1 February 2024 | 3 minutes of reading time

Looker versus Lokker Studio by i-spark
  • We often see this question come up. But we also notice that people sometimes confuse the two Lookers.
    There seems to be some confusion between the ‘big’ Looker and the ‘small’ Looker Studio. Understandable, since both are reporting solutions and they also share almost the same name. However, there are significant differences, and through this article, we aim to clarify the differences and similarities between the two.

What is Looker?

Looker is a platform designed to help businesses structure data through its own developed ‘semantic layer’ that uses LookML, a language developed by Looker to define dimensions and metrics for use in reports. These can then be used in analysis, data exploration, and for dashboarding, among other things. Regular end users can perform data analysis and gain insights through the user-friendly interface without programming.


  • Extensive data modelling via LookML, the proprietary ‘semantic layer’.
  • User-friendly interface with extensive data exploration and visualization options, for self-service BI.
  • Numerous options for self-service BI.
  • Many options for collaboration and sharing information. For example, you can schedule reports to receive them daily, weekly, or monthly in your mailbox.
  • Version control of code through Git.
  • Good governance capabilities such as access rights for (groups of) users, audit trails, and specific users can log in to investigate any issues.


  • A significant learning curve for analysts who want to work with LookML, in contrast to the user-friendliness for end-users.
  • Looker requires a higher investment than most visualization tools.
  • Looker can only process structured data from databases. It cannot directly process data from APIs or other sources than a database.

In summary, Looker is a particularly suitable platform for organizations that need a solution for advanced data analysis and have high demands on the availability of data and governance. It is useful to assess beforehand whether the resources and expertise are available to fully utilize the capabilities of this platform. If desired, we are ready to carry out the inventory with you or provide the required expertise, so that you can make optimal use of the possibilities of this platform.

What is Looker Studio?

Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio) is a data visualization and business intelligence tool developed by Google. Studio can connect to over 800 different data sources via a library of partner connectors and visualize this data. These insights can be placed on interactive dashboards and then shared with other users.


  • Looker Studio is free to use, making it attractive for organizations with fewer requirements for governance or advanced analyses.
  • Good integration with Google products such as Sheets, Analytics, Bigquery, and Ads.
  • Easy to use for both analysts and end-users.
  • Collaboration and sharing of dashboards are easy to achieve, just like with other Google products.


  • Less suitable for large, complex datasets due to limited data processing capacity.
  • Being a free tool, it has its limitations, such as in analysis capabilities.
  • No version control, governance capabilities, and fewer advanced collaboration options.

In summary, Looker Studio is a user-friendly and free solution for data visualization and reporting. For teams and organizations without extensive data issues or high reporting requirements, this tool can be very suitable.

The differences at a glance

They are both good platforms for data analysis and visualization, but they target different user groups and offer different functionalities. Here is a summary of the key differences:


  • Developed to assist businesses with advanced data analysis through a semantic layer (LookML).
  • Offers extensive capabilities for data modeling, integration with various data sources, and advanced visualization options.
  • Aimed at both regular users and data analysts, with possibilities for self-service BI.
  • Provides functionalities for collaboration, version control via Git, and good governance options.
  • Its disadvantages include the complexity of LookML, higher costs, limitation to structured data from databases, and potential performance issues with large datasets.

Looker Studio (formerly Google Data Studio):

  • A free data visualization and business intelligence tool developed by Google.
  • Can connect to over 800 different data sources via a library of partner connectors.
  • Easy to use, with good integration with other Google products and easy collaboration options.
  • Less suitable for large, complex datasets due to limited data processing capacity.
  • Lacks advanced capabilities such as version control, governance, and has limited analysis capabilities compared to Looker.

In summary, Looker is a platform that is more suitable for organizations that need comprehensive data analysis, integration, and governance capabilities. Looker Studio, on the other hand, is an accessible and cost-effective solution for smaller companies or teams that need basic data visualization and reporting without the need for complex data analysis.

Our advice?

Good and reliable visualizations depend on the quality of the entire architecture and data flow before data even reaches the tool. This applies to all visualization tools. We therefore advise companies to take a good look at the entire architecture and data flow before choosing a visualization tool, whether it concerns Looker, Looker Studio or another tool. In this way, the company’s growth ambitions can also be better aligned with the tool and a sustainable visualization solution can be chosen.

Need more advice?

Do you have any questions after reading this comparison? Or do you want advice about visualization tools and/or your data architecture and data flow? Please feel free to contact us.