I have wanted to write this post for a LOOOOONG time now.  I cannot delay this again, period.  Deep technical resources often ask me what is the difference between PowerPivot and the native Excel they have known forever, how is it different from various BI vendor product add-ins data exports to Excel or the Excel queries with raw Excel data connections capabilities, VLOOKUPs, etc.  Well, let me share some of my top of mind significant differences between these two technologies.  They do look alike from the user interface but behind the scenes, the actual engines are totally different!

– PowerPivot has the capability to load massive data volumes in  tens of millions, this capability does not exist in native Excel
– PowerPivot in-memory, highly-scalable VertiPaq technology is up to 100x faster than classic VLOOKUPs in in native Excel
– PowerPivot data models offer 10x and even 15x data compression, there is ZERO data compression in native Excel
– PowerPivot is truly a n-dimensional, in-memory analytic model that has 80+ contextual, dimensional analysis expressions (DAX) for measures and computations, advanced time intelligence, distinct count, and many other complex logical functions, this capability does not exist in native Excel
– PowerPivot allows true user-defined, reusable hierarchies, KPIs and easy self-service data modeling for reporting, this capability does not exist in native Excel
– PowerPivot automagically detects relationships between unrelated data sources, this capability does not exist in native Excel
– SharePoint PowerPivot Gallery and automated, scheduled data refresh features, this capability does not exist in native Excel
– SharePoint PowerPivot is surfaced as an OLAP reporting data source that can be used in Power View and many front-end OLAP reporting tools (not just Microsoft’s reporting tools) that supports Analysis Services, this capability does not exist in native Excel
– SharePoint PowerPivot has data source, usage and query source tracking for robust auditing/monitoring type reporting, this capability does not exist in native Excel
– PowerPivot has the ability to be directly upgraded to Analysis Services server and retain all calculations logic, user defined hierarchies, KPIs and data models in the upgrade for large scale deployment to billions/trillions of records, add partitioning and advanced dynamic security, this capability does not exist in native Excel

I am sure there are many more differences I could list here.  My top of mind points should be enough to give you a feeling for the true differences in the technologies and how much more powerful PowerPivot is than Excel without it.