I agree that the whole "pixel race" is very misleading. Sensor size is more important.
If you go back to the days of film cameras you can clearly see the difference. You had 35MM, Medium format and large format. The larger the area, the more information could be captured. In turn you would get better detail and tonal range.
The same goes for digital. Larger sensors capture more information. You can jam more mega pixels into a 35MM sensor but eventually you will reach a point where you're not adding any more quality to the photo.
about Sony A350, that
simple calculation shows that 14.2 mp sensor is a waste since it
should accept 192 pixels per linear millimeter and the best optical
system cannot reproduce more than 80, that's why any SLR other than
full framed camera is just a marketing trick, otherwise you overpay
either for lenses(if your lenses are for full framed camera) or you
overpay for camera (what's the point of having 14.2 mp if it cannot
accept it fully - same light spot will go to several adjacent pixels -
no additional information) and only in full framed camera there is a
chance your camera will match your lenses in quality.
Even 10 mp too much for not full frame SLR. Without any hardware using
software only I can get any size of picture just multiplying adjacent
pixels. It is a conspiracy of big names (Nikon, Sony, Pentax, Fuji,
Canon (in less degree since they manufacture full frame cameras))
against ignorant people.
The only way to improve quality of camera - make sensor bigger.
I wouldn't like to sound very opininated, so correct me if I am wrong.