Superconducting QUantum-Interference Devices (SQUIDs) make magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) possible in ultra-low microtesla-range magnetic fields. In this work, we investigate the design parameters affecting the signal and noise performance of SQUID-based sensors and multichannel magnetometers for MRI of the brain. Besides sensor intrinsics, various noise sources along with the size, geometry and number of superconducting detector coils are important factors affecting the image quality. We derive figures of merit based on optimal combination of multichannel data, analyze different sensor array designs, and provide tools for understanding the signal detection and the different noise mechanisms. The work forms a guide to making design decisions for both imaging- and sensor-oriented readers.