In 2019, Tableau is changing the way it renders background maps to use vector tiles. This functionality is currently in the 2019.1 beta and in this blog post I’ll take a look at the differences between the raster maps, which are still in use in Tableau Desktop, and the new vector maps in Tableau Online.
Raster Maps in Desktop
The below video shows how the raster maps render when zooming in (to Manhattan) and panning across the screen. You can see the pixels enlarge as the map zooms in as well as temporary pixelated maps when panning before the higher resolution map-tiles have been loaded.
New Vector Maps in Tableau Online
With the new vector maps, the zooming process is much smoother and of course there is no pixelation. The rendering of the vector map while panning is also more responsive and feels much sharper as can be seen in the video below:
Not surprisingly, there are some minor differences between the raster and vector maps in the exact way they render. For example, in the below two images you can see some differences in the road styles and the exact details of what is rendered.
Raster Map on Desktop
Vector Map on Tableau Online
Note also the addition of the Mapbox copyright in the lower-left corner in the vector map, which is not surprising given the new Tableau vector maps are powered by Mapbox. You can read more about this partnership on Mapbox’s website here.
Demographic Data Layers
These optional layers – that can be switched on or off in the Map Layers dialog box – also render differently, however, the differences are more apparent.
The demographic layer on Desktop aligns almost exactly to the features of the base map:
However, in the vector map on Tableau Online, the outline of the demographic layer is more of an approximation of the underlying features:
Overall, I really like the new vector maps. In my testing, they loaded a lot faster and the clarity of how they rendered was better across different zoom levels.
Keep an eye on Tableau’s Coming Soon page for updates on new functionality.